A simple and delicious recipe to make buttercream icing (or frosting) perfect for decorating cakes and cupcakes.

How to make buttercream icing - buttercream frosting for cupcakes and cakes. A simple recipe. Featuring buttercream icing in a Kitchenaid mixing bowl.

How to make buttercream icing

Buttercream icing would have to be our most-used type of icing.

There is just nothing (other than maybe chocolate fudge icing made with real chocolate) that tops a cake quite so deliciously.

What is buttercream icing?

Buttercream icing (or frosting) is a light and fluffy icing used to ice cupcakes and cakes.

It is the most common type of icing and is made of butter, icing sugar and a little bit of milk.

Why choose this recipe?

  • Easy – buttercream frosting should not be complicated. If you find a recipe that looks more complicated than this, skip it!
  • Perfect icing for decorating cakes – this icing is the perfect consistency for piping to make fancy looking decorated cakes.
  • Delicious – some icings are a little too buttery (eek can something be too buttery? With icing I thing they can) or too sweet. This one is just right.
  • You’re here – why keep looking when you have the perfect recipe right in front of you.
How to make buttercream icing - buttercream frosting for cupcakes and cakes. A simple recipe. Featuring buttercream icing in a Kitchenaid mixing bowl.

Ingredients to make buttercream frosting

To make buttercream icing you will need:


Obviously you will need butter. It needs to be softened which means it’s not solid from the fridge but not melted to liquid form.

We would describe it as the perfect consistency for spreading on a slice of soft bread without tearing the bread.

If you forgot to take your butter out of the fridge to soften, you can hasten the process but chopping it into small pieces.

Or if you’re in a real hurry, use a grater to grate the cold butter to the perfect consistency.

Icing sugar

Also known as powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar, it’s sugar in its finest form.

You can use store bought or make your own icing sugar.

Equipment for making buttercream

Unless you have very very strong arms, you’re going to want some sort of electric mixer.

A handheld beater or stand mixer will do the job.

How to make buttercream icing

  1. Start by beating the butter until it is light and fluffy. The fluffier the better.
  2. Add half the icing sugar and gently mix it in then add the rest and the milk.
  3. Beat until it is super light and fluffy.
  4. Ice your cake or cupcakes.

How to make different flavours

If you’re looking to make flavoured or chocolate buttercream here’s how to do it.

For flavours – use food-grade essential oils, citrus zest or food-grade essences.

For chocolate – add 1/4 cup cocoa powder when you add the icing sugar in step 2. You may need to add extra milk.

Chocolate – add cocoa

How to colour buttercream icing

You can use liquid, gel or powdered food colouring to colour buttercream icing.

Add a little at a time once the icing has been made and mix it through thoroughly. To make the colour richer, add a little more colour and mix it through. Never add a lot first up as you can’t reduce the strength of colour.

Our favourite recipes to use this icing on

How to make buttercream icing - buttercream frosting for cupcakes and cakes. A simple recipe. Featuring buttercream icing in a Kitchenaid mixing bowl.

More questions about buttercream icing

Does the frosting need to be refrigerated?

There is no need to refrigerate this icing.

In an air-tight container, cakes iced with buttercream will keep for 2-3 days. If the weather is quite warm, it may be better to put them in the fridge.

Take them out of the fridge at least an hour before serving so the icing is at room temperature.

How to store leftover buttercream

We like to pop it in a jar or air-tight container and into the fridge.

It will keep for up to a week or can be frozen for up to 3 months.

It’s great to make in advance for parties.

How to thin out buttercream icing that is too thick

Add another half a tablespoon of milk and mix again.

Keep adding at this rate and mixing completely between additions until you get it to the desired consistency.

How to fix buttercream that is too thin

Like with the milk, add a little icing sugar at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

Can you use alternative milks

Any milk will work, we just prefer dairy milk.

Can I double the recipe if I need more frosting?

You can as long as you have a big mixer.

To make sure it’s the right consistency, it’s best to make two separate batches.

Can you pipe this icing

This icing is perfect for piping onto cakes and cupcakes.

Buttercream icing

Buttercream icing

Prep Time: 10 minutes


  • 250 g unsalted butter, chopped, softened
  • 3 cups (500 g) icing sugar mixture, sifted
  • 2 tbsp milk


  1. Place the butter in the bowl 
of an electric mixer and beat 
on medium, using paddle attachment, until pale and fluffy. This will take a few minutes.
  2. Add ½ the icing sugar and beat on low until combined.
  3. Add the milk and remaining sugar, then beat on low 
until combined.
  4. Increase 
speed to high and beat until pale and fluffy.
  5. If it is a little too thick, add 1/2 a tablespoon of milk, mix and then re-assess texture.
  6. If it is too runny, add a little extra icing sugar.
  7. Add colouring if using and mix until thoroughly distributed.

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