How to Ice a Cake

How to Make Buttercream Icing for Cakes

How to Make Buttercream Icing for Cakes

Unsure about the best icing for your upcoming cake project?

Don’t worry, when in doubt, you can never go wrong with buttercream, the “queen” of icing!

Incredibly popular and a staple for desserts, buttercream icing is great to coat, layer, and decorate cakes, cupcakes, etc. For the classic version, you need butter, icing sugar, and milk or heavy cream.

Although it’s generally easy to make, especially if you have the right cake decorating supplies, there are some tips that you should know so that it turns out perfect!

What Is the Perfect Buttercream Icing Consistency?

If you’re looking to create a smooth finish for your cake or create textures and shapes like flowers as decorative elements, it’s essential to know the right consistency of the buttercream.

There are three options. Which one you’ll choose depends on your dessert project!

These are soft, medium, and stiff.  The medium is the most universal of them. You can use it to create forms like dots and stars and other flatter decorations. 

The stiff is best for shapes that need to be piped and maintained well. For example, flowers and roses.

Choose the thin one if you need to pipe letters or lines or coat the cake. 

How to Make Buttercream Icing?

the image displays a buttercream icing cake

Cake decorating; Buttercream Icing


½ cup of butter, unsalted, at room temperature

2 cups of icing sugar, sifted

1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract

2 tbsp of milk 

Step-by-Step Instructions 

  • Mix the butter until smooth and fluffy
  • Gradually add the sugar 
  • Once you’ve added the whole sugar, add the vanilla extract 
  • Add the milk and keep mixing for additional three to four minutes

Worthy Variations of Buttercream You Should Know

American Buttercream Icing 

the image displays an american buttercream icing

Buttercream variation; American buttercream icing

  • The traditional version which is made with butter, icing sugar, and vanilla 
  • Versatile, soft, and spreadable 
  • Holds coloring pretty well 
  • An awesome base for flavors

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing

the image displays a swiss meringue buttercream icing cake

Buttercream variation; Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing

  • Made with egg whites and sugar 
  • Soft, fluffy, and tasty
  • Ideal for layers of cake or as a frosting 
  • It’s not the best for piping and decoration due to being softer

French Buttercream Icing

the image displays a french buttercream icing

Buttercream variation; French buttercream icing

  • Made with pasteurized egg yolks and sugar
  • Offers a rich and creamy texture and consistency similar to pastry cream 
  • Less sweet than the traditional variant 
  • Great as topping for chocolate cakes

German Buttercream Icing

the image displays a german buttercream icing cake

Buttercream variation; German Buttercream Icing

  • Light and tasty, but less sweet than other buttercreams 
  • A combo of custard and butter 
  • Ideal as a base like a chocolate cake

Italian Buttercream Icing

the image displays an italian buttercream icing cake

Buttercream Variation; Italian Buttercream Icing

  • Light and tasty 
  • Made with granulated sugar, egg whites, salt, butter, and vanilla
  • Durable
  • You can use it in between layers of the cake or as frosting 
  • Best when used the day you prepare it

Try Adding Flavors to Buttercream

Buttercream is awesome because you can enrich it with so many delicious flavors. It makes a great base for your favorite flavor/s that will result in a unique taste.

Some of the tastiest options for flavors are the following:

Vanilla Buttercream

Creamy and rich flavor with a lovely aroma of vanilla. 

Lemon Buttercream

The citrusy and lemony flavor of the icing pairs great with vanilla cakes.

Strawberry Buttercream

 This fruity flavor smells and looks awesome. To make it, you need to combine the buttercream with strawberry puree. 

Coffee Buttercream

Adding instant coffee to the buttercream will create a beautiful coffee flavor that’s a favorite among coffee lovers.

Add Colorings

Thanks to food colorings, you can create the desired color of the buttercream for your cake. When choosing colors, opt for the more concentrated and thicker ones, i.e., gel colors. 

You will need much less of them to color the frosting. They prevent the buttercream from thinning out, which is often the case with food colors based on water.


How to Fix a Runny Buttercream?

If you want thicker buttercream, add powdered sugar gradually, a teaspoon at a time. Add until the frosting is thick enough, yet still suitable for decoration or piping and spreadable.

How to Fix Lumps in the Buttercream?

In most cases, your buttercream has lumps because either you didn’t sift the powdered sugar enough or you didn’t work with soft butter. 

You can fix the lumps by beating the buttercream further, adding more liquid, or heating it up in the microwave. 

Final Thoughts

Buttercream icing is easy to prepare and offers a smooth and creamy texture. It doesn’t dry out quickly and it’s ideal frosting for cakes.


How To Ice A Cake

How To Ice A Cake

Compiled and written with love from our editorial team.

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