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American Buttercream Frosting

Why American buttercream?

When I opened my first bakery, 20 years ago, most of my cake and cupcakes were custom orders. I offered all different types of frostings and fillings, including three different buttercream(s) – Swiss, Italian and American. I thought for sure that the European buttercream(s) would be the most popular due to their silky smooth texture and not being overly sweet, but I was wrong.

Not all buttercream is the same

European style buttercream (Swiss, French, Italian & German) is a meringue base with lots of soft butter slowly added. This style of buttercream is silky soft and must be kept refrigerated, or it will fall apart faster than a two-celebrity marriage (I stole that line from an episode of “Two Broke Girls,” LOL). While the texture of European buttercream is amazing, many people find it too rich and buttery. I quickly learned that my customers overwhelmingly preferred my American buttercream to all of the others.

American buttercream is made without any meringue and is just butter and/or shortening with confectioners’ sugar and flavoring. When made with all butter, I find that just like the European buttercream, the frosting is too buttery — like eating buttered cake. When made with all shortening, buttercream doesn’t have enough depth of flavor and can taste like cheap supermarket frosting.

The best of both worlds

This American buttercream recipe uses a combination of butter and shortening along with an extended mixing time to give it a balanced taste and mouth feel. Depending on what flavorings you use, the sweetness of the frosting will vary. You can use extra dark or unsweetened chocolate if you like a less sweet chocolate frosting, or you can use milk chocolate if you are all about the sugar.

You are in control

This recipe offers tons of flexibility and endless variations for flavoring. Once you have made the vanilla base, you can flavor the whole batch however you like — or break it up and make multiple flavors. You are also in control of the consistency. Depending on your personal preference, you can easily make this frosting thinner by adding a little water or juice. If you happen to add too much fruit puree or liquid, you can fix it by adding a bit of sifted confectioners’ sugar. Just be careful, because the frosting can get a bit sweet if this happens.

This buttercream is the perfect frosting for chocolate cake and cupcakes!

Buttercream Frosting

American Buttercream Frosting

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Buttercream, Frosting
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Mix Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 24 ounces
Calories: 150 kcal
Author: Alina Eisenhauer

I love this recipe, because it is simple, very versatile and everyone always loves it. This recipe is a blank canvas with endless possibilities. I have listed some of my favorite variations in the notes at the end of the recipe.

Depending on what you add in for flavorings, it can range from very sweet to moderately sweet.

This recipe makes enough to frost one 2-layer cake, 24 cupcakes or one quarter-sheet cake (9x13).

Mixing the frosting for a full 10 minutes is key to its texture and mouth feel.



  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature ½ cup)
  • 4 ounces shortening (½ cup)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar (3¾ cups)
  • Flavorings or your choice*
  • 3-4 tablespoons water


  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, shortening and vanilla. Mix on low speed until smooth and creamy.

  2. Scrape down the bowl and add the confectioners' sugar. Mix approximately two minutes until well combined.

  3. Increase mixer to medium speed, and mix for 10 minutes, scraping down the bowl at least once.

  4. Add additional flavorings if using.

  5. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, until frosting is your desired consistency. If you are using liquid flavorings such as pureed fruit, juice or liquor, add them before adding the water -- you may not need any.

Recipe Notes


Add flavorings in after the full 10 minutes of mixing. Continue to mix, scraping down the bowl as needed, until well combined.

Chocolate Buttercream:

Add six ounces of dark chocolate, melted and cooled until barely warm to the touch.

Peanut Butter Buttercream:

Add six ounces of peanut butter.

Fruit Flavored Buttercream(s):

Omit the water, and add four ounces of pureed fruit -- frozen fruit works fine as long as you thaw it a bit before pureeing. My favorites are raspberry, blackberry and peach.

Lemon Buttercream:

Omit the water, and add two ounces fresh lemon juice.

Margarita Buttercream:

Omit the water, and add one ounce of gold tequila, one ounce of lime juice, the zest of a small lime and food coloring (if desired).

Other fun ideas....

Bailey's Irish Cream, coconut cream, mint extract, maple syrup and/or maple extract, champagne, red wine.... have fun and be creative.

Nutrition Facts
American Buttercream Frosting
Amount Per Serving (2 ounces)
Calories 150 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 4g25%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 10mg3%
Sodium 1mg0%
Potassium 2mg0%
Carbohydrates 19g6%
Sugar 19g21%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 118IU2%
Calcium 1mg0%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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