Recipe: The Best Buttercream Frosting Ever

by Cate on March 11, 2010

My Buttercream

A friend asked me the other day if I thought about writing a cookbook.  No, I haven’t.  Truth be told, I have a nice cache of recipes I’ve created on my own, but my problem is writing them down.  I cook a lot like traditional grandmothers … a little bit of this, a little bit of that, wait, more of that.  I create the recipes based on feeling, intuition, how they look, tasting along the way.  That’s hard to put down in writing.  This buttercream frosting recipe is the perfect example.  To me, the frosting on the cupcakes from Billy’s Bakery in New York City was the one to beat.  I tinkered.  I played.  I improvised.  I created.  Four ingredients.  That’s all it needs.  Yet the finished result for me was always based on how it looked.  Its consistency.  And then, of course, followed by the taste.  But the measurements were what failed me.  I never measured.  I just did.  But a few months ago, a friend asked me to share my recipe, after having it one too many times here, and I decided it was time to figure it out.  There are some recipes I’d like to be able to pass down to my kids, and I can’t do that if I don’t find some way of getting them written down.  Another food goal for me this year.  Commit more of them to writing.

The ingredients are simple.  Butter.  Milk. Confectioner’s sugar.  Vanilla.  That’s it.  I tend to like my buttercream frosting a little on the stiffer side.  If you prefer yours a little thinner, just add a touch more milk until it’s where you want it.  Buttercream is my go-to frosting.  Whether it’s on a batch of homemade cupcakes, or atop a birthday cake or Rainbow Cake or smooshed between two Cinnamon Nut Spice Cookies (for that one, I make a maple buttercream version), I’m all about the buttercream. Forget Billy’s.  This one is now the one to beat.  And it saves me a trip into the city to boot.

Project 365
March 11, 2010, Photo #62

Crazy Dog

Eli never fails to get a laugh when he does this. He’d much rather walk himself than have someone else hold the leash, thankyouverymuch.

Cate’s Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks butter, softened
1/4 cup milk, plus two tablespoons
5-3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place softened butter in bowl and add confectioner’s sugar.  Mix well, and then add the milk and vanilla.   Mix until smooth.  Enough to frost a two layer cake or 30 cupcakes.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne March 12, 2010 at 7:13 am

I’m the same way as you when I cook, especially with my cream cheese frosting. There it’s all about the taste. And personal preference.

Thanks for sharing this! I’ve never been to Billy’s Bakery. Time for a taste test comparison I guess!

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Kris #40 March 12, 2010 at 8:12 am

This comes at the perfect time! I’m making devil’s food oreo cupcakes with oreo cream icing for a party on Saturday and have been debating using canned or homemade. Will now try this one.

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mandy March 12, 2010 at 11:17 am

This is incredibly similar to my mom’s buttercream frosting recipe give or take some milk. =)

Your dog is adorable!

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5 Star Foodie March 12, 2010 at 1:12 pm

The frosting sounds excellent, I love the bright yellow color!

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Debbie March 12, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Thanks for posting this. I’m printing this out and keeping it close by. I seem to always be looking for a good basic buttercream recipe for cakes and have to look high and low for one when I need it! If I wanted to turn this into chocolate buttercream, how much cocoa do you think I should use?

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Amanda Torres March 12, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Thanks for leaving a comment on my page. You have a super cute blog and a love for cooking too! Thanks for visiting and I will be back to your page!

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Kristi March 12, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Mmmm, if you’ve checked out my other blog yet, you’ll see how much I use buttercream! I have a cake biz and go through that stuff like crazy. I might have to try this recipe for buttercream, and yes, you should get your recipes down in writing. And then put them on here….

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Jen March 12, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Okay – now I am craving cupcakes! I’ll have to try making homemade buttercream frosting. Yours looks amazing.

Adorable dog!

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Alison March 12, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Hi there! Now you really have me hungry! Browsing your blog and everything looks delicious! Thanks for visiting, oh and by the way I agree, if you are going to have a nosy neighbor, birds are the ones to have! Thanks.

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Tammy March 14, 2010 at 11:47 am

They look absolutely delicious. I can’t wait to try your frosting – I am going to try it for my little one’s first birthday!

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Aimee March 14, 2010 at 7:04 pm

That frosting looks like the perfect topping to any cake!
And Eli looks like the perfect topping to any day – what a cute pooch!

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pamela March 14, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Great picture of Eli! This looks like a simple and very yummy butter-cream recipe. Thanks for sharing with your fans!

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Ramona March 16, 2010 at 11:53 am

Is 5 3/4 cups of conf. sugar a whole box or a 2 lb. bag?

looks good.

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Cate April 19, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Ramona – definitely more than a box. Don’t hold me to it, but I think a box is 2 cups.

Debbie – I would start with a 1/4 cup of cocoa and go from there.

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Patti March 24, 2012 at 9:22 pm

I used a half a cup of hersey cocoa. It was like a milk choc. if you want it darker add more, 1/2 was perfect for me, I also added 2 TBLS. of sour cream, just because it needed a little more moisture from the dry cocoa. Worked awesome!

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Faygie June 30, 2010 at 11:36 pm

I used your buttercream frosting for the cupcakes I made for my daughter’s 3rd b-day party this past Sunday – OMG, it was sooo good!!! Everybody loved it!

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Kazia November 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Is it possible to make this the day before? Or is it best if I make it and use it right away?
Thanks!

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Cate November 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Kazia – yes, absolutely. If you have extra, don’t refrigerate it, just leave it covered on the counter. It’s good for a few days. :)

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Kim December 2, 2010 at 1:03 am

A few questions from someone who doesn’t use buttercream often, and usually uses it for cupcakes and not larger cakes: Will your buttercream work well to decorate sugar cones to look like trees? Do you think I could decorate them a day ahead and still have them be okay? Also, when I frost my cake will your buttercream allow me to frost a smooth surface (for grass)? Sorry for the silly questions but I don’t do much in they way of cake decorating. Thanks!

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Cate O'Malley December 2, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Kim – Hi there! Yes, I think the buttercream would be find to decorate the cones as trees and alternately, allow for a smooth surface for grass. I use it when I make our rainbow cakes bi-annually, and you can get the frosting pretty smooth. Hope that helps!

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May December 3, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Can I just add cocoa power to this to make a chocolate butter cream frosting? If so, how much coca powder would you recommend?

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Christina October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Used your recipe this morning for a chocolate chip cookie cake bound for the school cake walk – it is delicious! Thanks for sharing!

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Barbara April 4, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I would like to use your frosting on a Castle Cake Im making for my grandaughters birthday sunday, will it work? Can I frost it on Sat, or
wait until Sunday morning?? thanks

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Cate April 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Hi Barbara! Yes, it should be perfect for that. You can frost it either the night before or the day of. Send pictures!

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Heather Holthouser June 6, 2012 at 11:23 am

Question…if I were to make a cake and frost it the day before I needed it, should it be refrigerated?

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Cate June 6, 2012 at 11:42 am

No, no refrigeration needed (good on counter, cool temperature, for a few days).

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victoria August 27, 2012 at 4:52 am

hi am going to try this looking for a simple buttercream, in past of others tried ive had an issue with it separating or looking a bit curdled does milk need to be room temp also? and if in a rush do you recommend microwaving butter a few seconds

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Cate August 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm

No, the milk should be cold, straight from the fridge. And yes, I have been known to use the microwave to soften the butter a bit (just make sure to catch it before it melts completely). Hope that helps!

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luz September 18, 2012 at 4:56 am

Hi..I have a question…is the butter salted or unslated? I hear alot of people complain about buttercream recipes when salted butter isused… Thanks!

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Cate September 18, 2012 at 8:31 am

Truth be told, I only keep one kind of butter on hand, salted, so that’s what I use, but the recipe will work with both.

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Megan November 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Awesome! I was just googling “best buttercream frosting recipe ever,” in an attempt to find something that compared to my favorite frosting in the world…and that is the frosting from Billy’s Bakery! Your’s was the first link I clicked on…read the words “Billy’s Bakery is the one to beat” and score, someone who loves Billy’s as much as I do! Can’t wait to try this recipe out!

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zonia April 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Do you use a certain brand of butter… examples; Land O Lakes, Blue Bonnet..ect….or does it matter?

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Cate O'Malley April 21, 2013 at 8:19 pm

I don’t think it matters. My go-to is the butter that Costco sells. If I buy at the grocery store, it’s usually Land ‘O Lakes.
Cate O’Malley recently posted..Visit: Atlantis Aquarium {Nassau, Bahamas}

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