American Buttercream Frosting

American Buttercream is a simple yet delicious frosting. A hint of milk and a drizzle of corn syrup make this buttercream frosting especially luscious and smooth.

A frosted cake on a cake stand

I can tell you what I learned after 10 years owning a specialty cake business – When many folks here in the US say “buttercream”, they mean American Buttercream.

If you’re making a cake for a child’s birthday party, this is probably the icing you want to make. Not only is it a kiddy favorite, it is pretty much the easiest icing to make.

What is American Buttercream?

American Buttercream at it’s simplest is just 2 parts powdered sugar and 1 part butter whipped together with a little vanilla for flavoring.


  • Unsalted butter – Allows you to control the amount of salt in your frosting.
  • Confectioner’s sugar – Powdered sugar combines more easily with butter for a smooth frosting.
  • Vanilla extract – A good dose of vanilla extract tames the sweetness of this buttercream.
  • Whole milk – Softens the buttercream a bit and helps dissolve the sugar so you don’t have a gritty buttercream.
  • Light corn syrup – Also helps dissolve the sugar and also adds a nice sheen to the frosting.
  • Salt – A little salt is needed to balance out the sweetness of the frosting.

How to make American Buttercream Frosting

a mixer bowl full of butter
  • Start with room temperature butter (65° -70°F).
  • Soften the butter with the paddle or beater attachment.
a mixer bowl filled with butter and sugar
  • With the mixer running on low speed, add the powdered sugar a little at a time.
  • Mix to combine then continue on medium speed for a few minutes to begin aerating.
a mixer bowl with unwhipped american buttercream frosting
  • Scrape down the bowl and switch to the whisk.
a closeup shot of a bowl full of american buttercream
  • Whip the buttercream until light and fluffy.
  • Use right away to fill and frost your favorite layer cake.

Why this American Buttercream is better

I use a slightly lower ratio of sugar to butter to tame the sweetness a bit. I also use a whopping 2 tablespoons of vanilla in the recipe to balance out the sweetness.

Another slightly unusual ingredient in this recipe is the corn syrup. Along with the milk, the corn syrup adds moisture to help dissolve the sugar. Corn syrup also makes the icing more glossy and luscious. You can leave the corn syrup out if you don’t have it on hand.

You can increase the sugar by up to a cup if you want a sweeter flavor or if you are looking for a “crusting” buttercream.


  • American Buttercream is best used as soon as it’s made.
  • American buttercream can be held at room temperature for 1-2 days.
  • This frosting can be frozen. Wrap it two layers of plastic so the buttercream doesn’t pick up any off flavors.
  • Previously refrigerated or frozen buttercream should be brought back to room temperature and whipped again before using.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between American buttercream and buttercream frosting?

American buttercream is a type of buttercream frosting. Other types of buttercream are Italian Meringue or Swiss Meringue Buttercream, German Buttercream, French Buttercream and this Ermine Frosting recipe.

What is American buttercream best used for?

American buttercream is the perfect frosting for a child’s birthday cake.

How do you make American buttercream not taste so sweet?

First you can reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe so it is less than 2x sugar to butter. To balance out the sweetness of ABC use a little salt and lots of vanilla.

Pastry Chef Tips for making light and fluffy American Buttercream Frosting:

  • Always start your buttercream with room temperature butter. Cold butter won’t incorporate enough air and warm butter will become greasy.
  • Scrape the beater and bowl often to eliminate any lumps of butter.
  • Once the butter and sugar are well-combined, switch to the whisk to get a super-fluffy buttercream
  • American Buttercream can be stored at room temperature for a couple of days.
  • Shortening can replace some or all of the butter in the frosting. For a shelf stable and heat resistant buttercream, use all shortening.

This is the perfect finish for any of your favorite cake recipes. It’s a classic filling and frosting for old-fashioned Vanilla Buttermilk Cake or Vanilla Butter Cake. It’s also great with Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake or Chocolate Butter Cake.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

a vanilla cake with a scoop of vanilla buttercream
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4.77 from 52 reviews

American Buttercream Recipe

Simple yet delicious buttercream. A hint of milk and corn syrup gives this buttercream a lusciousness and eliminates any gritty texture. This recipe makes enough to fill and frost an 8" cake.
Prep Time20 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
16 servings
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  • 12 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 20 oz confectioner’s sugar (5 cups)
  • 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 oz whole milk (¼ cup)
  • 3 oz light corn syrup (¼ cup)
  • ¼ tsp table salt


  • Place 12 oz unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, Use the paddle or beater to beat the butter on medium speed until it is softened and smooth.
  • With the mixer running on low, slowly add 20 oz confectioner’s sugar and mix until completely combined. Run the mixer on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.
  • Scrape the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Switch to the whisk attachment. On low speed, whisk 2 tablespoon vanilla extract, 2 oz whole milk, 3 oz light corn syrup and ¼ tsp table salt.
  • Beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Use right away. Can be stored at room temperature for 1-2 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

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Serving: 1e | Calories: 174kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 43mg | Potassium: 13mg | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 537IU | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 0.01mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This is truly the best buttercream I’ve ever had. The extra vanilla and corn syrup make such a difference to the flavour and texture. It is now my “go to” recipe for icing my cakes.

  2. I made this and it is way too sweet. Did I miss something here? 20 oz. powdered sugar and 12 oz. unsalted butter and the rest.

  3. 5 stars
    I’ve made this cake for several birthdays with rave reviews. Everyone loves it! I’d like to make a slightly taller cake this time…have you ever increased the recipe amounts with any success? I don’t need to double it. Maybe just 25 to 50% more batter? I can do the math, but it makes for some weird measurements, and I’m not sure which ingredients to round down and which ones to round up.

    1. You can multiply the recipe by whichever amount works for you. The frosting also freezes very well so you could just do a double batch and freeze extra to add to the next batch.

  4. As the recipe is written, how many cupcakes will it frost? I will be piping the frosting, and want a nice mound.

    1. @Eileen Gray, Thank you. I make cupcakes regularly for my students and am excited to try your recipe.

  5. Thank you for this recipe. I have been wondering how to make American Buttercream have a sheen. If I add more sugar to make the buttercream crust, will it still have a sheen? Also, does the corn syrup make it less stable? Thanks.

    1. I think if the buttercream crusts it will have a more matte finish. The corn syrup does not make it less stable.

  6. Does the corn syrup help it to harden? I’m searching for the flavour or buttercream, but something that will harden a bit for gingerbread cookies. Thanks!

  7. If I ice a cake with American buttercream will I need to refrigerate it?
    Can I add other flavours or some melted chocolate?

  8. Hello. I followed exactly the instructions, I measured everything but the buttercream is grainy and soupy. I don’t know what went wrong. I let it in fridge now and I will try to beat it again in a few minutes. Could you please help me?

    1. I can’t say what happened for sure. If you followed the instructions exactly and used the same ingredients as listed the recipe should work.

    2. Great recipe! I will definitely use again , I didnt have corn syrup but used a mixture of sugar and warm water instead! I filled and iced my nephews cake with this and it went down a treat! How best to store this and how long does this buttercream keep

      1. You can store it at room temperature for a couple of hours, in the fridge for a week or so or in the freezer for several months. If refrigerated or frozen allow it to come back to room temperature and then re-whip before using.

  9. I was wondering if this would be an okay icing for a carrot cake. Everything has to be dairy free, so I was wondering what you would substitute for the whole milk. Almond milk, plain or vanilla soy-milk?

    1. This would work for carrot cake. You might want to add a splash of lemon juice to get a slightly tangy edge as you would get from cream cheese frosting. You can use non-dairy milk as a replacement.

  10. Like you, I tend to avoid American buttercream, but this recipe looks intriguing and promising. Can’t wait to try this. Keep you posted on the results.

    1. I know there are plenty of folks who LOVE this type of buttercream. It is really good, just not my personal favorite.