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