Buttercream Frosting comes in two varieties: uncooked which contains butter, milk or cream, and powdered sugar; and cooked buttercream where sugar and water are boiled together to make a syrup that is poured into egg yolks and beaten until cool enough to add soft butter. The following Basic Uncooked Buttercream Frosting is the easiest of the two, and is the one most often used to ice simple cakes and sugar cookies.
Unfortunately, grocery store bakeries and even some so-called specialty bakeries frost their cakes, cookies, and pastries with (because its cheaper) what they call “buttercream,” even though their versions contain nothing even remotely resembling butter. This practice is one of those culinary travesties that, while very common, borders on what should be considered criminal behavior. “Butter”cream should contain butter – not margarine or shortening or whatever other non-foodstuff these establishments choose to add.
Just a note on food coloring: Paste color is preferable, not only because it makes darker, brighter colors, but also because it is thick and doesn’t thin out the frosting. Powdered coloring is also available and works well in frosting. Liquid coloring can be used in frosting as long as the intended result is a light color – any more than a few drops will thin out the frosting and upset the balance of liquid to butter. Paste and powdered colorings are available at craft stores, some larger grocery stores, specialty food stores, and restaurant supply stores.
Basic Uncooked Buttercream Frosting
Makes enough to frost 1 9” round cake, a 9 x 13” rectangular cake, 2 dozen cupcakes, or several dozen sugar cookies depending on the size
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla, or other flavoring
Food Coloring, if necessary
- If the powdered sugar is lumpy, sift it in a regular sifter or shake it through a fine sieve, into a large mixing bowl.
- With the mixer running on low speed, pour in enough of the milk to make the mixture look thick but spreadable.
- Add the soft butter, turn the mixer up to high speed, and beat until fluffy.
- You may need to add a little more liquid if the mixture is too thick, or a little more powdered sugar if the mixture is too thin.
- If you plan to pipe the mixture, it should be thicker; if you plan to spread it, it can be thinner.
- Stir in the vanilla or other flavoring.
- If using food coloring, mix it in with the mixer on low speed.
Amount Per Serving (1 16th of the recipe)
Calories 232 Calories from Fat 71
Percent Total Calories From: Fat 30% Protein 0% Carb. 69%
Nutrient Amount per Serving
Total Fat 8 g
Saturated Fat 5 g
Cholesterol 21 mg
Sodium 81 mg
Total Carbohydrate 40 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 0 g
Vitamin A 6% Vitamin C 0% Calcium 0% Iron 0%