My Recipe Box

Buttercream Frosting


Yields 7-1/2 to 8 cups enough to fill and frost a 9-inch four-layer cake.

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 78

This basic vanilla buttercream can be flavored in an almost endless variety of ways; see Variations below.

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. light corn syrup
  • 1 lb., 4 oz. (2-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract

Place the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on medium-high speed until foamy. Sprinkle in 6 Tbs. of the sugar and beat on high speed to medium peaks (the whites should be smooth, full, and shiny, and the peaks should curl a little). Turn off the mixer.

Combine the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. sugar and the corn syrup in a medium (3-quart) saucepan over mediumhigh heat, stirring briefly to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook just until the mixture comes to a rolling boil.

Immediately remove the syrup from the heat, turn the mixer onto medium-high speed, and slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a steady stream, being very careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk.


Reduce the speed to medium and continue whisking until the whites are barely warm, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the butter 1 Tbs. at a time. Add the vanilla and continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy.


In place of vanilla, add one of the following flavorings at low speed to prevent splattering, then increase speed to medium to blend.

  • Lemon: 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest.
  • Orange:1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed orange juice, 1/4 cup finely grated orange zest (from about 3 large oranges).
  • Strawberry or Raspberry: 3/4 cup berry purée (purée the fruit in a blender and strain).
  • Liqueur: 2 Tbs. liqueur (such as Frangelico, Grand Marnier, Baileys, Kahlua, Chambord), more to taste.
  • Chocolate: 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted.
  • Coffee:  1-1/2 Tbs. instant espresso dissolved in 1 Tbs. boiling water.

Photo: Scott Phillips

I will forever and always use only this recipe for my cakes!! Never will I again use powdered sugar!!!! I add all sorts of flavorings like coffee, coconut, almond, chocolate!! Deliciously silky smooth and not one calorie!!

This is the perfect buttercream frosting and my new default recipe for it. I've made it 3 times in the past few weeks, twice with the lemon variation for the Triple-Lemon Layer Cake here on Fine Cooking, and a third time I added 5 TBS of bourbon for a chocolate cake and it was amazing.

My new go-to for a buttercream. I made the Grand Marnier variation for an Orange Marmalade layer cake. This recipe is easy to make, light and spreads nicely. I'm looking forward to trying the other flavor variations soon.

I agree - this is delicious! And easy. Had not made before, so I watched the video which was helpful, especially with the cooking of the sugar, to know when to stop, etc. The hardest part was figuring out to make 1/2 the recipe - I also made lemon curd, so had 5 whites left over, so I weighed them..then halved them by weight! Half the recipe was perfect (with a bit over) to cover the cake (with lemon curd filling). I added Coconut flavor to the buttercream and it was wonderful. This is a keeper!

Made this for the first time yesterday and it was a success! I followed the recipe religiously and watched the video too o make sure that I did not miss anything. I left the butter out for a couple of hours but it still wasn't soft enough so I turned the oven on and placed the sticks of butter on the stove and that softened the butter quickly. I thought it would be tricky to pour the syrup on the side of the bowl, but it was actually quite easy. I added a mixture of instant espresso powder dissolved in Kahlua at the end and the Buttercream tasted wonderful at the end. It was light, buttery and tasty!

I made the coffee version and cut the recipe in half. I used it as a filling to the coffee French Macaroons I made. Sinfully delicious, although I ended up with a lot of left over buttercream. This recipe is really simple, too. Some recipes I've looked up for buttercream seem unnecessarily complicated, but this one was simple, fast and wonderful. Yum!

I made 2/5ths of the recipe for a single layer cake. worked pretty well, though perhaps a little more mess on the side of the bowl. Flavored with Cointreau and orange zest. Very delicate, though lacking a little of the richness of an egg yolk buttercream. Certainly easy enough

I made 2/5ths of the recipe for a single layer cake. worked pretty well, though perhaps a little more mess on the side of the bowl. Flavored with Cointreau and orange zest. Very delicate, though lacking a little of the richness of an egg yolk buttercream. Certainly easy enough

This was the first time I've tried buttercream frosting (I usually make quick frostings or ganache), and I have only tried this with the lemon variation. It was looking great until I added the lemon juice. Then it was MUCH too liquid to be frosting. I managed to barely rescue it by adding another 1/2 cup of butter and about 1-1/2 cups of icing (confectioners) sugar. So, if you want to make lemon buttercream, I'd recommend that you just go with the lemon zest - DON'T add the juice! Trust me, it will still be very lemon-y. That being said, I can't wait to try this in Chocolate.

Amazing, melt-in-your mouth deliciousness.

I've been making this since 2006 when I got the issue in the mail. I've made it probably 25 times since then. Its easy and takes on other flavors easily. I've added lemon, chocolate and almond and the frosting is perfect everytime. I had once started to add the butter at a point when the sugars were still too hot and just stuck the whole bowl in the freezer for a few minutes and the frosting recovered beautifully. Almost full proof! LOVE IT!

Easiest recipe for buttercream, and very delicious. To the first person who rated this and couldn't find the instructions about what to do with the butter and the vanilla, it's at the end, after the picture.

Easiest, tasties most versitle true buttercream recipe I have tried. Very rich, but it is what buttercream is supposed to be. For special occasions I agree, when only the best will do.

I think the previous reviewer just missed the directions for the vanilla and butter: the directions for these ingredients are toward the end of the recipe just under the image of the syrup being whipped into the egg whites. I've done this frosting - it's delicious but very rich, something for special occasions.

I think that some of the directions are missing from this recipe. The ingredients list calls for butter and vanilla, but the directions don't explain how or when to add them. Otherwise it sounds like an interesting approach to try.

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