How to Make Buttercream Frosting

Not all buttercream frosting is created equal! Let’s go over how to make it the right way – smooth, fluffy, and flavorful.

soft loft house sugar cookies, frosted with sprinkles on top on a cookie cooling rack. One with a bite taken out of it.

Proper Buttercream Frosting

Have you ever had your well-intentioned friend’s cousin’s neighbor’s buttercream frosting that was riddled with butter clumps and was overly sweet and sludgy? Well, not saying that I have, but if I did, I would be inspired to teach you how to make buttercream frosting the proper way – smooth, perfectly sweet and fluffy.

Birthday cake cookie topped with buttercream frosting.

My Buttercream Frosting Rules

Here are my no-fail tips for creating perfect buttercream frosting, every time. 

  • Soft Butter – Always use soft butter when making buttercream frosting! I typically find that it works best when I let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before whipping it up. 
  • Fight Lumpy Buttercream, Use Room Temperature Liquids – It is best if the liquid you add is room temperature. I usually just microwave it for a few seconds to get it to my desired temperature. If you add super cold, straight-from-the-fridge milk or cream, it can cause your butter to seize up and make your buttercream lumpy (which is especially noticeable if you’re using food coloring).  
  • The Right Ratios – When mixing up your buttercream, your ratios are important! If you are using ¼ cup of butter, you will want 1 ½ cups of powdered sugar. Likewise, ½ cup of butter will need 3 cups of powdered sugar and so on.
Sugar cookie bar with buttercream frosting.

The Process: Focus on Texture

It is easier to keep your buttercream the correct texture the entire time rather than try to recover it at the end. This is how you do that: 

  1. Start with creamy butter and then add in ½ cup of powdered sugar at a time. 
  2. Then add just enough liquid (I always use heavy cream, but milk can be used too) to bring the powdered sugar and butter together. Repeat this process until all the powdered sugar has been added. 
  3. Next, add the flavoring and food coloring if desired! 
  4. If you feel like you’ve lost your desired texture a little bit, add in a little more liquid to adjust the consistency. Remember: work in small amounts!
Small crumbl sugar cookies stacked on top of each other with a bite taken out of the top cookie.

Answering a Few More Buttercream Questions

Can I use Margarine in Buttercream Frosting?

Yes, margarine can be used! In fact, my Lofthouse Cookies use margarine. Just know that it will crust when left out at room temperature while butter will not crust.

How do I make a crusting buttercream without margarine?

If you’re hoping for a buttercream that will dry and crust without margarine, use mostly butter but replace a tablespoon or two with vegetable shortening.

How do I store buttercream frosting?

I’m so glad you asked! You can store buttercream in the fridge for up to a week in an airtight container. You can also freeze this frosting in a resealable freezer bag for up to 3 months. When you are ready to use your frosting, just let it soften and come up to room temperature on the counter. Once it is soft, re-whip it to the consistency you’d like and serve!

A dollop of buttercream frosting on a lofthouse cookie.

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