Buttercream 101

This post is dedicated to Buttercream Basics. Whip up a batch of my favorite Buttercream Frosting Recipe and let’s get creative!

Buttercream is basic, it’s delicious, and you need to know how to make it. Luckily it’s really simple to make, and WAY better than any canned frosting you could buy. And today I’m going to show you how easy it is to turn vanilla (white) buttercream into something completely unique!

Tips to Making Buttercream

If your buttercream is too stiff for your liking, add more milk.  Add it one teaspoon at a time while mixing until you get the consistency you’re after. If you’re looking for creamy, a little more milk will help you achieve that. If you want to pipe tall stiff roses, add a little less milk!

BUT if you have an oops and add too much milk, no worries!  Just add in some more powdered sugar.  Add 1/4 cup more at a time to get it back to the thickness you are after.

What Can You Add Into Buttercream Frosting?

Once you have your perfect buttercream, let’s get creative. You can add pretty much whatever you want.

Here are a few examples…

Here we have a delicious “Cookie Butter” (which is about the same consistency as peanut butter or Nutella), cinnamon and coconut extract.  These are just a few ideas…use your imagination!  What about caramel?  Or Strawberry jam?  Or pumpkin pie spice?  Or cereal?

** The Cookie Butter is the Trader Joe’s version of Biscoff spread.  It was just something I had on-hand that I thought would make a yummy buttercream.  It did.

Now.  Here’s where I want you to trust me.  I am not going to give you measurements…AND I want you to be ok with that.

For the experiment I separated some frosting into bowls…

For the first flavor I wanted to give the “Cookie Butter” a try.  (It tastes a little like the best graham cracker that you have ever eaten)

I took a large dollop and added that to the buttercream…

Then you know what I did?  I turned my mixer on.  That is all.

You can add more to create a more intense flavor or less for something a little more subtle.  You aren’t going to mess this up, people.

I repeated the process with peanut butter…If you add too much peanut butter and your frosting becomes too creamy what should you do?

Add more powdered sugar.  Trust me on this, the worst that can happen is your frosting will be too sweet…and is that REALLY a problem?  If you said yes, please leave now.

For my next batch I added some cinnamon and mixed away.  Use a light hand when adding spices, you can always add more…

This applies to extracts too…a little generally goes a long way.  If you MUST measure, start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more if you need to.  The only way to fix an over-extracted frosting is to add more frosting.

So with one batch of frosting I made four flavors of buttercream…Coconut, Peanut Butter, Snickerdoodle (the cinnamon) and Graham Cracker (using the “Cookie Butter”).

I frosted a batch of mini vanilla cupcakes with all the different flavors I made.

Garnish them however you like.

But see how easy that is?

Buttercream Frosting is really hard to mess up, so I want you to get creative with extracts and add-in flavors! Can’t wait to see what you create!

Hi! I’m Shelly and I’m an addict. Of the buttercream sort. I started this site a few years ago as a way to justify my sugary, buttery obsession with desserts. It has worked out well for me so far, because as it turns out you guys all love sugary, buttery desserts too! It feels good to know you're not alone, doesn’t it?

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93 Responses
  1. I’m not going to make intentions. I’m just gonna do what you do. Sounds good. If you blow one, be sure to tell me so I can give up! I’m not so good at non royal icing. EMBARRASSING right. I intend to get better at the stuff you teach me. And to exercise. And taste and spit. Ask me next week how it’s going, LOL!

  2. Cookie Spread has been added to my shopping list for this week!

    Plus, I love your playlist, it looks a lot like mine and I have no intention to change my tunes 🙂

  3. Darleen

    Ok, all is well for folks who don’t measure…I’m not one. Can you give me an idea about how much I will be going shopping for? I get it that I can play around adding different things to make different flavors but what is the butter/shortening/powdered sugar ratio?
    I would also love to see a tutorial from you on piping your beautiful buttercream on muffins. Mine never look as professional as yours.
    Thank you for having patience with us beginners. Keep up the good work!

  4. Kerry Varner

    You crack me up!! Love this post and the idea of adding flavor to such a yummy yet easy recipe, I really am like, duh, why didn’t I think of that. I do use vanilla extract when I make mine, and at times put a little dot of the extract behind my ears and on my wrist. I love the smell and why not! Very rarely I may add almond extract, but restrain from wearing it. I even added nutmeg to it once, which was very good. But I never thought of jam, or butters, imagine the flavor combinations now! Not only using one on a cake would be so good, too. Wow, making it cherry flavored and rolling it into balls and dipping them in melted chocolate, my mind is just a buzz with ideas, thank you!!!!

  5. Patty Jensen

    I love your blog!!! Never thought about using the Cookie Butter. Without a doubt, Buttercream is my all time favorite frosting. For Christmas I used the cookie butter and made fudge. It was pretty awesome. Here is the recipe if you would like to try it out (I did post it on the http://www.cooktj.com website):


    1 c Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter
    14 oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
    8 oz Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
    3 T Butter, room temperature
    1 tsp Vanilla
    Sprinkle of Sea Salt (about ½ tsp)


    Prepare an 8×8 pan. To prepare either grease the pan with butter, or spray it with Pam, or line bottom and sides of pan with one large piece of parchment paper.
    In double boiler place first four ingredients (Cookie Butter, sweetened condensed milk, semi-sweet chocolate chips and butter). Please note: if you don’t have a double boiler use a heat proof bowl setting on top of a pan of water.
    Heat the water to a gentle boil (not a vigorous boil, as that will cause the end result to be grainy in texture).
    Continue to heat and stir until everything is melted. This should take about 8-10 minutes.
    Now add in the vanilla and stir to mix.
    Pour heated mixture into pan.
    Sprinkle with sea salt.
    Cover and place into fridge to harden. Should take about 2-3 hours.
    Cut into 1/2” pieces.
    Keep stored in tightly covered container and in fridge.


    Adapter from Giada DeLaurentiis and Cookin’ Canuck

  6. I love the idea of “intentions.” I made some goals but intentions is a much better word for them. Thanks for the inspiration! This is a great post, I’m hooked on that cookie butter, time to make some buttercream with it!

  7. Stephanie

    I have the TJ Cookie Butter and my husband has been eating it out of the jar. His bday is tmrw and he wants a dense chocolate cake….do you think the Cookie Butter flavored buttercream would taste good on chocolate cake?

  8. Great list of intentions! I think if you dipped those Brussels Sprouts into chocolate you might be able to choke down a few more of them… just a suggestion.
    Your cupcakes look great and I love the variation of color and texture. Very stunning picture!

  9. I spent some time today setting my intentions for 2012 and working on my Why Not List? I fully believe that Us Weekly counts as non-fiction. It’s not like it’s STARR Magazine or something!

    One thing I will have to add is to be more creative with my recipes. I had TJ’s cookie butter in the house, but never thought to add to frosting. I bet that is amazing!

    Wishing you a Sweet Year!
    Thanks for all of the fun and colorful recipes!

  10. oh delish! Those are great flavors. Cupcakes are my excuse to make and eat buttercream because you know when you swipe it out of the mixer there are no calories!

  11. I made cookie butter cookies out of Cookie Butter last week. And the week before, a cookie butter smoothie.

    I love Biscoff spread, TJ’s spread (but they are OUT in SoCal, no more of it…til a future date and no one knows when that will be….) so til then, it’s Biscoff spread OR the speculoos spread I found in Aruba that’s straight from Holland. The Dutch love their speculoos spread, too.

    Your buttercream looks amazing. Could I lick the bowl? 🙂

    1. elaine

      i just found out at the Original Trader JOes in Pasadena that they will have the Cookie Butter in stock mid February…i bought some candy bars with it last week, love it…

  12. Cookie Butter looks amazing! I want some. I live in rural USA, with nothing more than a walmart, so I’ll have to search around online 🙂
    LOVE buttercream. And you’re right, everyone needs to learn how to make this. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, it enhances so much in the pastry world.

  13. Chris

    I LOVE how you don’t give measurements! I myself use “blips” of shortening and capfuls of milk 🙂 I made peanut butter buttercream and fresh strawberry buttercream. Delicious! Put the strawberry buttercream on Kiwi cupcakes. Everyone loved them. Thanks for sharing!

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Shelly Hi! I’m Shelly and I’m an addict. Of the buttercream sort. I started this site a few years ago as a way to justify my sugary, buttery obsession with desserts. It has worked out well for me so far, because as it turns out you guys all love sugary, buttery desserts too! It feels good to know you're not alone, doesn’t it?

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