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4 Minute Buttercream Frosting

4 minute buttercream frosting
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I love this recipe for buttercream frosting because it’s:

  • quick  – it only takes 4 minutes to make!
  • easy – it only has a few ingredients and if you can find 2 lb bags of powdered sugar you don’t need to do any precise measuring
  • versatile – instead of adding cream or milk in the final step you can add different ingredients to make different flavours – try strawberry puree, lemon curd, melted chocolate or peanut butter!

I use this buttercream to frost cakes and cupcakes and even for piping – it works amazingly well with Russian tips (flower nozzles) and I have a tutorial on those here.

Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch a video showing how to make this, check the consistency and add other flavour ingredients and also how to adapt the recipe for hot weather and how to store it.

This recipe makes 6 cups of buttercream, which is enough buttercream to fill and frost an 8″ cake. I always double the recipe, which is the biggest batch that will fit in my 6qt Kitchen Aid mixer and the doubled recipe makes enough buttercream to fill and frost three 6″ cakes.


2 1/2 cups (565g or 20oz or 5 sticks of 4oz each) unsalted butter*
907g or 2 lb (about 7 cups) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons cream or milk**

*If you use salted butter instead, omit the salt in the recipe

**Try adding different ingredients to make different flavours of buttercream. Depending on how liquid the ingredients are, you’ll need to add different amounts. For example, you can add 1 tablespoon of lemon curd for every cup of buttercream to get the right consistency but you can add 1/4 cup of stiffer ingredients like melted chocolate or peanut butter for every cup of buttercream.


Start by preparing your ingredients: the powdered sugar should be sifted to remove any lumps and the butter should be at room temperature. If the butter is cold, bring it to room temperature quickly by popping it in the microwave for 10 seconds and then flipping it over and microwaving it for another 10 seconds.

In a mixer with a beater (paddle) attachment, mix butter for a few seconds until smooth. If it’s not smooth and there are any lumps of butter, your butter is too cold.

butter for 4 minute buttercream frosting


Add 1/4 of the powdered sugar and salt (if using) and mix on the lowest speed until incorporated, about 1 minute. Scrape down to the bottom of the mixing bowl with a spatula to loosen any butter and sugar and add the next 1/4 of powdered sugar and mix for another minute on low.

4 minute buttercream frosting in mixer


Scrape down to the bottom of the bowl, add another 1/4 of the powdered sugar, mix for 1 minute on low, scrape, and add the final 1/4 of the powdered sugar and the vanilla. Mix for 1 more minute on low.

perfect consistency 4 minute buttercream frosting

Check the consistency of the buttercream by stirring it with your spatula. It needs to hold its shape but also be spreadable. When you smooth or spread it with your spatula if the buttercream breaks apart, leaving little air pockets like in the photo below, it’s too stiff and you need add liquid.

Add cream or milk 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing for about 30 seconds to incorporate it, and test again. Alternatively, if you’re making a flavoured buttercream using a liquid like strawberry puree or coconut cream, you can thin out the buttercream by adding that liquid 1 tablespoon at a time instead.

The buttercream in the photo below is the perfect consistency. When you scrape a spatula across it, it leaves a smooth trail of buttercream behind with no air pockets. I go into much more detail on achieve the perfect consistency of buttercream for frosting cakes and piping, as well as troubleshooting issues like graininess, yellow buttercream, lumps, and air bubbles, and how to colour it and store it and decorate it in my online course on The Basics of Buttercream.

smooth 4 minute buttercream frosting

Watch my video tutorial below on how to make this buttercream, check the consistency, and add other flavour ingredients.

To learn how to make buttercream, troubleshoot any issues, calculate how much to make, colour it, store it, and use it for various techniques including perfectly smooth frosting on cakes, take my online course on The Basics of Buttercream!

See below for tips on how to use this buttercream recipe in hot weather and how to store it.

More recipes

If you live somewhere with hot summers, you’ll be happy to hear that this is a great option for frosting cakes in high temperatures. I started out frosting cakes in a sweltering hot garage and used this recipe as it’s written with no problems but there is a substitute you can use and there are a few simple things you can do to make it even more stable in hot weather.

First, refrigerate your cake before and after frosting it. Having cold cake layers makes them firmer and easier to frost and after frosting your cake, putting it in the fridge will allow the frosting to firm up and set. If you’re adding decorations like icing sheets, piping with a 1M tip, or edible gold details or toppers like chocolate sails, keeping the cake in the fridge will make sure the decorations hold their shape.

To transport the cake, I recommend leaving it in the fridge until you put it in your car because when they’re cold, the cake, frosting and decorations will be most resilient to vibrations and sudden movements on the journey.

keep cakes in fridge

After all of the work you put into baking, frosting and decorating your cake, you’ll want to make sure it tastes perfect! Cakes taste best when they’re at room temperature so I take my cakes out of the fridge 2-4 hours before serving them, depending on the size of the cake. For example, I would take a mini 4″ cake out of the fridge just 2 hours before serving but a 10″ cake would need closer to 4 hours to come to room temperature. That time window gives the cake long enough to reach room temperature even in the very middle, but it’s also a short enough amount of time that the decorations on the cake won’t disfigure or melt.

rainbow cake with rainbow filling

If you’re going to serve a cake in the heat, for example, outside in summer, I would suggest keeping the cake in the fridge for as long as possible and then finding a place in the shade to display it, with a breeze or fan if possible.

the very hungry caterpillar cake

To make the frosting even more stable in heat you can substitute half of the butter with vegetable shortening like Crisco or Trex, which resists the heat better than butter does. This will change the flavour of the buttercream slightly so you can add a teaspoon of artificial vanilla essence to take away any hint of shortening. Add the artificial essence as well as the real vanilla extract already listed in the recipe. I don’t know why this works so well but I discovered this unique characteristic of artificial vanilla during years of cake decorating in Costa Rica, where the heat in summer was sometimes extreme.

You can store this buttercream in an airtight container or a bowl covered tightly with cling film or saran wrap, or even in a ziplock bag. It will be fine for 2-3 days at room temperature, for a week in the fridge, or for a month in the freezer. If you freeze it, take it out about 3 hours before you use it so that it comes to room temperature. Refrigerated buttercream will take about an hour to come to room temperature. You’ll need to stir the buttercream a few times to get rid of any air bubbles and if there are still any cold, hard chunks of buttercream, cover the bowl again and leave it for another hour.

If you have more questions about buttercream, I answer the 25 most commonly asked questions about buttercream here. To learn all about how to make, troubleshoot, colour, store, and use buttercream, check out my Basics of Buttercream online course.

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