Buttercream 101

This post is dedicated to Buttercream Basics. There is a great buttercream recipe involved and all sorts of easy tricks for making the best buttercream frosting!

So 2012 is officially here.


I asked you in my last post if you make resolutions or not.


There was a pretty equal divide.


I’m not such a resolution person, but one reader said instead of resolutions, she makes “intentions”, which I thought was a good idea.

So here are my “intentions” for 2012:

  1. Take more walks in nature.  People SAY fresh air is good for you, blah blah…
  2. Try to read a nonfiction book every once in a while.  I am fairly certain that US Weekly is nonfiction, so this should be an easy one for me…which leads me to my next intention…
  3. Watch more documentaries.  Done.  The new season of The Bachelor is about to start and that is basically a documentary on one man’s quest to finding love in an alcohol soaked Los Angeles mansion.
  4. Only shop for myself when my socks get holes, my mascara RUNS OUT (which I don’t think I have ever experienced) or I see something on sale that I must have.
  5. Keeping my car clean of empty coffee cups.  My car has basically become a holding cell for Starbucks coffee cups.  Reason is, when I get home from Target I usually have so many bags that I can’t carry my coffee cup too!  BUT seeing as how I will be shopping less for myself in 2012 (barring any sales) I shouldn’t have as many bags and can easily throw away my garbage.  It’s all coming together, isn’t it?
  6. Eat less Reese’s and more Brussels Sprouts.
  7. Be more diverse in my music selections.  Which means that I will have to deviate from my comfortable Top 20 playlists and Taylor Swift…Here’s an example of my latest iTunes purchases.  I clearly have a long way to go on this “intention”.


So there you have it.

I like the “intention” idea because when #1, #4, #6 and #7 don’t happen I won’t feel too bad about myself…I never RESOLVED to do those things..I just intended to.

It’s always good to have an escape clause.



Now, for my first post of 2012 I would like to start the year with basics.  I “intend” to do Basics recipes throughout the year, but we’ll see how that works out.  Cool?

First up is Homemade Buttercream.

It’s basic.  It’s delicious. And you need to know how to make it.

It’s a life skill, like changing a tire or learning to apply false lashes.

Buttercream 101.

Here’s the link to my basic recipe.

It’s a no-fail buttercream recipe.  You will get yummy frosting every time.

There are so many small variations you can make on buttercream…

I use a combo of butter and shortening because I like the flavor of the butter but shortening holds up better to warm temps.  Using both gives you the best of both worlds…in my opinion

Some people do all butter, some do all shortening. Some people use meringue powder and some use unsalted butter.

I use salted butter.  I sometimes don’t sift. I never use vanilla extract.  And you know what?  It’s always good.

The thing about homemade buttercream is that you really can’t mess it up, there is almost always a fix.


So today we are gonna play around with buttercream.  Don’t be scared, it will work, trust me…I’m kinda the Mr. Miyagi of frosting.


If you’ve never made buttercream before you need to go now.  GO!


Here are a few tips first…if the buttercream is too stiff for your liking, add more milk.  Add it by the tablespoon while mixing until you get the consistency you’re after.

If you have an oops and add too much milk, no worries!  Just add in some more powdered sugar.  Really.


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.

Just to show you that it can be done I made a batch of buttercream.  For research purposes solely.

When you have your butter and shortening creamed together add in the powdered sugar and mix it up…then slowly add the milk and beat away until it’s smooth.

For the experiment I separated it 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?

Starting with a good basic buttercream can lead you down all sorts of creative roads.

You will be a true buttercream arteest!

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93 Comments on "Buttercream 101"

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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!

Katrina @ In Katrina

I’m not positive but I’m pretty sure everyone’s first 2012 post should include Biscoff …mine will later this week. Really I think it’s in the Food Blogger Law Book or something. Whew! You’re safe.

Cookbook Queen

Love this!! Buttercream is one of my favorite things…it’s so forgiving and really makes the cupcake. I want all those cupcakes!!


Thanks for sharing! I love your “intentions” list : )

Chaos Mommy

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.

Lauren at Keep It Sweet

And I’m about ready to pull my cookie butter out of the pantry…. that would be a good way to start the year:-) Love your “intentions” and US Weekly could definitely qualify as non-fiction.

Glory/ Glorious Treats

I love all of these variations, they all look wonderful! And I’ve been wondering about that “cookie spread”, I may have to give it a try now.

Happy New Year Shelly!

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga

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? 🙂


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…


I realize this is an old post but, Le Pain Quotidien in Pasadena (Colorado & Delacey) sells their own Speculoos.


Your too funny. Buttercream is an essential life skill( is it really a skill?) Mmmmmm


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!


This is the same way I do buttercream!! Great post 🙂


that is such a lovely picture! My buttercream always seems kinda dry, thanks for sharing

Cookie Sleuth

Happy New Year! Thanks for the info on cookie butter. I’ve never seen that before!

luv what you do

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!


I like the approach of intentions. So much better than resolutions. Thanks for the tips.


Wishing u a very happy new year!


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!

Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe

Love the idea of intentions…resolutions never seem to stick for me, maybe I’ll be more successful with intentions. Happy new year!
PS. Please teach me how to decorate cupcakes as beautifully as you. My skills are seriously lacking.


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?


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!

Nicole @ Loving Simple Moments

I cannot wait to try this buttercream recipe!!

Carrie - Carrie

I do the same thing to my buttercream recipe. It normally gets vanilla, but I’ve substituted for strawberry purée, lemon juice, even soda for my soda cupcakes!


Love your intentions and I love the buttercream! Mmm!


I love buttercream. Like, serious love. And I rarely measure. I like to make it by taste testing. Lots of taste testing.

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): Ingredients 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) Instructions Prepare an 8×8 pan. To prepare either grease the pan with… Read more »

I’m glad to see you post on buttercream. I am so tired of cakes/cupcakes/cookies with fondant/gum paste.


Great post! I’ve never heard of cookie butter… that sounds like it’s worth investigating!!

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!… Read more »

Thanks so much for the easy tutorial. Now if I could just figure out how to pipe it on cupcakes I’d be in heaven!

Sarah @ See Sarah Bake

I love the idea of going back to basics. One of my goals this year to to perfect my oh-so-close-to-amazing vanilla cake recipe. Can’t wait to experiment with all these ideas for buttercream


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!


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 🙂


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!


roasted saigon cinnamon? be still, my heart!


Your intentions revolving around reading a biography and watching more documentaries are exactly my versoin {grin}


I’m really glad you posted this. I’m often afraid of trying new frosting recipes. I have a decorator’s frosting and that’s all I ever use.

I think I’d better go bake some cupcakes and see what I can come up with!



Shelly, I’m glad your sense of humor is still going strong for the new year! 🙂 Thanks for the heads up regarding the cookie butter! I need to take more time when I shop at T.Joe’s. I am going to get some cookie butter pronto!


I made this buttercream and used it to decorate Christmas cookies. Amazing! I am never going to use anything else. Thanks for the tutorial on how to change it up.

Christina @ Ovenadventures

thanks for the tips about shortening holding up better in warmer temps. I have totally had a couple buttercream fails last summer. hopefully this will remedy that.


Newbie here…in more ways than one. Hubs got me and our daughter a Kitchenaid for Christmas and we’re having a ball making cupcakes! I found a recipe for a flour-based icing (on pioneer woman’s website) that we REALLY like. However, I’m struggling with how to change it up to chocolate, or mocha, or any other flavor. Any suggestions? Buttercream is pretty straight forward and is a balancing act of milk vs. sugar. This other stuff…not so much. Help!!

bridget {bake at 350}

“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.” Haha! Did ANYone say yes?!? There is never “too sweet” frosting in my book!

I can’t wait to try this! I like that you use some shortening…sometimes buttercream tastes too buttery to me. Yes, weird.


Ok your music selection seems fine by me. I love Stereo Hearts by Gym Class Heros! Your frosting looks perfect! Now I want to make a cake. Cake is a breakfast food right?

Robyn | Add a Pinch

I love your intentions for 2012! Can’t wait to see what music you add to your playlist! And that buttercream – oh, you are so right! It is a life skill!


Great post Shelly!! I’ve never thought to make several flavors from one batch!!

question………I use half and half in my buttercream, I’ve never used milk – what % milk do you use? We drink 2% and I guess I always figured it would be to runny for butter cream


I finally made buttercream for the first time on Sunday (thanks to your post). Unfortunately, I tried someone else’s recipe which of course, was not nearly as good once I realized the differences between the two. (I prefer my buttercream more buttery than sweet.) Thank you for the instructions – it will be what I do next time.


I THINK I LOVE YOU!!! LOL thanks for the post… Sometimes its just nice to have a little inspiration 🙂

Stevie m

I seriously just fell in love with you… I suck at frosting. Thank you for saving me 🙂

Stacy {She

I am going to give this a go this weekend as a test run for my daughter’s Bake Shop birthday party in a few weeks! Thank you for the recipes and tips!!


you make it look so yummy and easy! I tried it the other night but it ended up being very grainy? I added a hint of concentrated food coloring gel, could that have had an affect?