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4 Minute Buttercream Frosting

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 fill and frost cakes and cupcakes and even for piping. If you're struggling with piping, check out my tutorial on 15 piping hacks and my MasterCourse on the Basics of Buttercream.

I'm going to show you how to make this 4 Minute Buttercream and how to check the consistency so it's perfect for frosting and piping. I'll also share tips for storing buttercream and adapting this recipe for hot weather.

This recipe makes 6 cups of buttercream, which is enough buttercream to fill and frost an 8″ cake. I almost 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 two 8" cakes or three 6″ cakes.

Ingredients for 4 Minute Buttercream Frosting

ingredients for 4 Minute Buttercream recipe | British Girl Bakes

Start by preparing your ingredients: the powdered sugar should be sifted to remove any lumps and the butter should be at room temperature. You'll know if it's at room temperature because you'll be able to slice through it easily with a spatula. 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.

room temperature butter for 4 Minute Buttercream frosting | British Girl Bakes

How to make 4 Minute Buttercream Frosting

In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer using the 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.

how to make buttercream with butter and powdered sugar icing sugar 4 Minute Buttercream

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

scrape to the bottom of the mixing bowl to make 4 Minute Buttercream | British Girl Bakes

Scrape down to the bottom of the bowl, add another quarter of the powdered sugar, mix for one minute on low and scrape again. As you scoop up the buttercream from the very bottom of the bowl you'll see clumps of sugar underneath and by scraping down with your spatula, you're incorporating that sugar into the buttercream.

scrape down to the bottom of the mixing bowl to make 4 Minute Buttercream | British Girl Bakes

Add the final quarter of the powdered sugar and the salt, mix for one more minute on low, and then add the vanilla and mix for about 30 seconds until everything is combined.

how to get the perfect consistency 4 Minute Buttercream with milk or cream | British Girl Bakes

The buttercream will be thick and stiff and the final step is to add liquid to loosen it to the right consistency so that you can frost a cake or cupcakes with it, or pipe with it. Add milk or cream, mixing for a few seconds until it's incorporated, and then check the consistency.

How to check the consistency of buttercream

how to check 4 Minute buttercream is the right consistency for frosting piping cakes and cupcakes | British Girl Bakes

Stir the buttercream with your spatula. It should be fairly easy to stir and when you pull the spatula out of the bowl it should leave soft peaks behind in the buttercream.

how to check that 4 Minute buttercream is the right consistency for frosting piping cakes and cupcakes | British Girl Bakes

Drag your spatula through the buttercream and look at the trail it leaves behind in the buttercream. It should be smooth with no air pockets or holes, which are signs that the buttercream is too stiff and needs more milk or cream to thin it out.

Troubleshooting common issues

Air bubbles are caused by mixing at high speed or with a whisk, because both of these things incorporate lots of air into the buttercream. Always use the lowest speed when you’re mixing and use a paddle or beater attachment, not a whisk.

why are there air bubbles in buttercream frosting

Graininess is caused by gritty sugar. If your butter is at room temperature, your buttercream should be perfectly smooth. If it isn’t, try a different brand of icing sugar or powdered sugar. Look for 10X on the label, which means it’s been sifted 10 times so it’s very fine.

why is my buttercream frosting grainy

There are a few tricks to take away the tinge of yellow buttercream. The easiest is to beat just the butter for one minute at the slowest speed before adding the sugar. You can also add a tiny bit of violet gel to take away the yellow tone.

how to make yellow buttercream white

I go into much more detail on how to 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.

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how to make 4 minute buttercream frosting british girl bakes

4 Minute Buttercream Frosting


  • Author: British Girl Bakes
  • Yield: 6 cups (enough to fill and frost a three-layer 8" cake)

Description

This buttercream is quick, easy, delicious, stable, and versatile!

Use the "US" and "M" buttons below to switch between cup and gram measurements for the ingredients.


Ingredients

Units
  • 2 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 lb powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons cream or milk

Instructions

  1. Sift the sugar to remove any lumps and check that the butter is at room temperature - you should be able to slice through it easily with a spatula.
  2. In a mixer with a beater (paddle) attachment, mix butter for a few seconds until smooth. Add a quarterof the powdered sugar and salt (if using) and mix on the lowest speed until incorporated, about one minute.
  3. Scrape down to the bottom of the mixing bowl with a spatula to loosen any butter and sugar and add the next quarter of powdered sugar and mix for another minute on low.
  4. Scrape down to the bottom of the bowl, add another quarter of the powdered sugar, mix for one minute on low, scrape, and add the final quarter of the powdered sugar. Mix for one more minute on low, adding the vanilla once everything is mixed together and continuing to mix until it's incorporated.
  5. Add the milk or cream and mix for about 30 seconds until it's combined with the buttercream. Check the consistency and add more milk or cream a tablespoon at a time until the buttercream is smooth and easily stirred.

Notes

If you use salted butter instead of unsalted, don't add the salt in the recipe

How to adapt buttercream for hot weather

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 hot and humid Costa Rica and used this recipe as it’s written with no problems but there is a substitute you can use to make it even more stable in hot weather: you can substitute half of the butter with vegetable shortening like Crisco or Trex, which resists the heat better than butter does.

how to make 4 minute buttercream frosting british girl bakes

How to store buttercream frosting

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 two days at room temperature, for two weeks in the fridge, or for two months in the freezer. If you freeze it, take it out the night before or a few 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.

Learn all about how to make, troubleshoot, colour, store, and use buttercream for various cake decorating techniques in my Basics of Buttercream online course - sign up now for 25% off!

Watch my video tutorial below for a more visual guide on how to prepare ingredients for this buttercream, how to make it, check the consistency, store it, and troubleshoot issues like air bubbles, graininess and yellow buttercream:

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88 comments on “4 Minute Buttercream Frosting”

  1. congratulations on your new web! I love all your recipes, and the tips are amazing!

    1. You can convert the recipe units by clicking "US" or "M". 2 pounds of powdered sugar is 907 grams. If you live in the US, powdered sugar is sold in 2lb bags so you just need 1 bag. Hope that helps!

  2. When I do round layer cakes I get blow outs on the sides. What am I doing wrong? I have a wedding cake April 2 please help.

  3. Hey if I wanted to make a bigger batch of this what would the measurements be ? Say enough for 2 9” cakes

    1. Yes it does! I love how many options there are for decorating techniques using a crusting buttercream like this one!

  4. I’m going to do a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream for my cousin’s birthday next Friday and I’m so exited to try it out but when you do chocolate buttercream do you add cocoa powder and how much or melted chocolate? Thanks Emily this looks delicious😍❤️

    1. I use a bit more than half of the recipe so I usually make the full recipe and freeze the leftovers in a big ziplock bag

  5. Hey, I only have a handmixer whit wisks, can I use them at low speed or do you have any suggestions on how I can do?

    1. Hi! Yes, use the lowest speed and after mixing the buttercream, use a spatula or spoon to stir it and knock it against the sides of the bowl to knock out any air in it.

    1. You can! The flavour will be slightly different but if you add vanilla extract and put it on a cake or cupcakes, it will be hardly noticeable.

  6. I tried the recipe today, omg what a wonderful and delicious frosting. I made the mistake of making too much and which made me tempted to bake another just to use up the frosting. Instead I decided to freeze the remaining batch for another occasion. Super yummy

  7. I've made this buttercream twice now, it is so smooth and tastes perfect, this will be my go to recipes from now on. I used it in your very vanilla cake, tastes beautiful. Thank you for sharing your recipes.

  8. I am finally able to achieve smooth icing! Everything else is read said to beat at high speed, blah, blah, blah and I spent way too long attempting to get a smooth surface!! Thank you so very much!!!

  9. I made this frosting and I absolutely LOVE it! It was definitely smooth sailing on the cake. Thanks for posting!

  10. Hello, I'm making a 9inch 3 layer cake, can you give me the quantity for this please, I keep seeing different amounts and now I'm getting confused, thank you

  11. I'm going to use this recipe on my Dads 53rd Birthday Tool Box cake
    Looks great, I can't wait to see how it turns out
    Thanks Emily

  12. This is the only buttercream o will ever use again. Simple and simply delicious!! No beating for half an hour like most others. Thank you

  13. Honestly so upset with how this turned out, followed the unstructions and trouble shooting, and it still looks grainy, not to mention a very weird taste (and yes i checked the butter) 🙁

  14. To store, should i leave it in the fridge or what is the best way to store the frosting in a way that it is still good for the next day?

  15. Hi just found you on you tube , new to caking and tried many recipes many stating you should whip butter for at least 10 mins prior to adding icing sugar . Yours is first I have come across that doesn't so keen to try it but can you let me know why yours doesn't ?

  16. This recipe is so amazing! I use it on all my cupcakes, cakes and sugar cookies and it comes out so smooth and delicious! It also colors so well! Thank you so much!

  17. Thanks for all the great information! Excited to get baking ..

    I wanted to ask for clarity on the quantity. It says this enough for a an 8” cake - does that mean one layer and you multiply it per layer? Or will the base recipe you provided cover a 3-layer 8” cake?

  18. I’m really inspired by your videos…very insightful,

    May I know what butter brands you recommend for perfect frost…

    1. Hi! It really doesn't matter which brand you use. Butter is more yellow in some countries that others so if you want a true white, you might have to beat it for longer before starting but other than that, any brand will be the same 🙂

  19. Hi Emily,

    If I make a 3 tier 8” cake, shall I times the ingredients needed by 3 too?
    Need enough to place each cake in top of each other. Let me know!

  20. Great help for a true beginner! Thank you for these videos so I don’t let my granddaughter down for her 10th birthday!

  21. Hi Emily,
    Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. But my family found it’s too sweet. So, I’d like to ask you if we’re able to adjust the amount of sugar (400g-450g) and if it’s still keeping a good consistency in order to do the decoration part?

    1. You can use less sugar and skip the milk/cream at the end of the recipe. If the buttercream is too runny just add more sugar a bit at a time until the consistency is right 🙂

  22. I like your recipe the one on 4 minutes on how to prepare butter cream frosting it is easier,do you give certificate after the course

  23. Hi When I first make this buttercream it is beautiful and silky smooth. After sitting awhile, I find tons of air bubbles that make holes and speckles all over my cakes. I can't seem to get rid of the air bubbles then. I always mix on the lowest speed and submerge the paddle fully in the buttercream. Please advise how to make buttercream without air bubbles. And, how to get rid of air bubbles if they show up. Thank you so much, Amy

    1. Air bubbles are so frustrating! If the buttercream sits out (covered) for a while, you can stir is quite aggressively to knock out any air before you use it. My two favourite tricks are:
      1) Put 1/3 of the buttercream in a bowl in the microwave for 10 seconds and then stir it back into the main bowl. After mixing it together, the consistency will be perfect and there will be no air bubbles!
      2) When you're almost finished smoothing the frosting, use a hot metal cake comb (held under hot running water and dried off, or heated with a blowtorch) to scrape around the cake once or twice. You'll melt the very outer layer of frosting and drag that around the cake as you scrape, filling in any air bubbles in the frosting.
      Hope that helps!

  24. Hi Emily
    Thanks for your great recipes and advice.

    I'm making a 10 inch 3 tier version of your Perfect Chocolate cake and wondered how much of your 4 minute buttercream I'll need to fill and cover it.

    Many thanks

    Helen

  25. Love all your recipes! 🩷 Just made your banana cake and want to use my home made Nutella in the frosting. Your buttercream is the best and I am wondering if I can adapt this recipe to include Nutella somehow?

    1. Absolutely! Sounds delicious! Stir the Nutella in at the end, using about 2 tablespoons of Nutella per cup of buttercream so that the consistency of the buttercream doesn't get too runny.

  26. So fluffy and yummy!
    Would this be enough to frost A sheet cake or should I half the recipe?