The Easiest Four Ingredient Vanilla Buttercream
I have a confession to make…I don’t like vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. It’s like The Classic Flavor Combination, I know. But, I really don’t like it. It’s just not exciting enough. There’s too much of the same flavor without anything to break it up. Make it a layer cake and add some fruit filling, and I’m back on board. But just the two by themselves are blah.
I mean, when I’m at a birthday party where that’s the birthday cake, I obviously don’t say anything. And, let’s be real, I’ll either take a small piece or just eat the cake without the icing because I’m not a heathen who would dream of skipping dessert. (Who would ever skip dessert?! Unless it’s coconut cream pie, in which case I would definitely skip dessert.)
I love making this vanilla buttercream because it’s SO easy and only uses four ingredients, which I have on hand at almost all times. And I think it really stands out when paired with a chocolate cake or cupcake. The chocolate cake allows the simple yet decadent vanilla flavor to shine, complementing it perfectly. The flavors play well together, each allowing the other to stand out while still tasting harmonious. Like music to the…tongue? Weird, but I think you know what I’m getting at.
I love Martha Stewart’s chocolate cupcake recipe because it’s made in one bowl with a whisk. It’s important to sift the dry ingredients so you don’t get lumps in the batter, but it still tastes fine if you forget and end up a little lumpy. Also, you can use any kind of oil instead of safflower…because who keeps that in their pantry?? I’m currently working on making a few modifications to it to cut it in half, so stay tuned!
Vanilla buttercream is a great staple recipe to have in your repertoire because it’s so versatile. You can dye it any color to decorate any kind of cake or cupcake. It also pairs with so many flavors of cake. I’ve tried this particular vanilla buttercream on yellow cake (still pretty close to the vanilla scenario above, but it’s been for other people who loved it), pumpkin cupcakes, even almond or wedding cake (like the cake from this recipe, but with almond extract instead of vanilla). Chocolate cake is still the best, because duh, but sometimes switching it up is also a good idea.
If you’re doing a lot of baking or getting ready for a party, you can definitely make your vanilla buttercream ahead of time. Store it in an airtight container or a ziptop bag in the refrigerator, and let it sit out on the counter for a few hours to come to room temperature before you use it. The same goes for any leftovers. You also have some wiggle room with how long this will last in the refrigerator. The sugar acts as a preservative, so I’ve safely used it after a few weeks. Use your best judgement – you’ll know the butter is rancid by the smell, and you should also be mindful of the expiration date of your heavy cream.
Honestly, this recipe is so fast to pull together that there’s absolutely no excuse for using store-bought frostings. Heck, you can buy a one-pound bag of powdered sugar and not even measure it, just dump it in! Or buy a two-pound bag and double the recipe…just make sure you use a big enough bowl. And, don’t worry if you put this on a store-bought cake mix. No judgement, no shame – it’s a great way to elevate the cake mix, which, let’s be honest is sometimes better than homemade cake anyway. Yellow cake – I’m looking at you! But seriously, if you’re going to put the time into making one or the other from scratch, I vote putting your time into the buttercream.
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 pound (approximately 4 cups) of powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 5-7 tablespoons heavy cream (I used 6 in this batch)
- Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the butter until slightly fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar then vanilla extract. Beat in the heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency. Scrape the bowl between ingredients as necessary.
- Tint the buttercream using gel food coloring at this point, if you're coloring it.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container or ziptop bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
If vanilla buttercream isn’t your thing, check out the most amazing chocolate buttercream recipe! Which do you prefer?