Vanilla buttercream icing in a bowl

Buttercream icing

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
(41 ratings)

Prep: 10 mins


Makes enough to ice 12 cupcakes/fill and cover a 20cm cake

Foolproof cake frosting requires just butter and icing sugar - try out different flavourings and use our guide for quantities

Nutrition and extra info

  • Freezable

Nutrition: per serving (12)

  • kcal284
  • fat20.6g
  • saturates13g
  • carbs25g
  • sugars25g
  • fibre0g
  • protein0.1g
  • salt0.4g
Save to My Good Food
Please sign in or register to save recipes.


  • 600g icing sugar, sifted
  • 300g unsalted or salted butter, softened

Optional extras

  • finely grated lemon zest
  • finely grated orange zest
  • a dash of vanilla extract
  • few drops food colouring
  • cocoa powder, to taste


  1. Beat 600g sifted icing sugar and 300g butter together with your chosen flavouring and colouring if using, add 2-3 tablespoons of boiling water to loosen and beat until smooth.  

  2. Fill a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe onto cupcakes or smear in the middle and over the top of a 20cm cake using a palette knife.

You may also like

Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.
Matilda Rose's picture
Matilda Rose
15th Jul, 2020
There is a lot of ingredients in this- it's the perfect recipe, but a lot. You could work out how much you would need, but lots of people don't like maths.
Sarah Shaylor's picture
Sarah Shaylor
21st Apr, 2020
Far too much butter/margarine. I could not get this to stiffen up no matter how much icing sugar I put in. I’ve ended up just spooning it over the cake in a bowl like custard! The ratios are wrong.
3rd Jul, 2020
It's the correct quantities of each. But, unless you use butter (NOT margarine) it won't stiffen up.
Gemma Brown's picture
Gemma Brown
19th Apr, 2020
Even for 25 cm cake the ratio to much. I did 300g icing sugar to 150 butter this was just right for what made. If I was putting it over and not sandwiched between it would be ok
Bells the cat's picture
Bells the cat
27th Jan, 2020
Bit too sweet for me so the second time I made it I halved the sugar .
29th Sep, 2019
Made an account just to review this recipe. Friends made it and it ended up looking a bit like baby sick. WHO PUTS BOILING WATER IN BUTTERCREAM YOU USE MILK IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. Water + fat = no
3rd Sep, 2019
I lost my recipe for buttercream and couldn’t remember the ratios I used, so googled one and found this recipe, but I just used the ingredient ratios and not the method as I had my own. Be careful when adding the last 3rd of icing sugar, or the last bit, my buttercream was fine and then added the last 3rd of icing sugar and just turned into a crumbly, fondant like mess, tried adding more milk as that’s how I was always taught to make buttercream, and that didn’t help at all, I gave up at that point. I should’ve read the method to see about the boiling water but didn’t think I would’ve needed much liquid, probably use less icing sugar if you’re using this.
Caroline Fahey's picture
Caroline Fahey
3rd Mar, 2019
The recipe did not use enough liquid. I put in a few tablespoons of hot water and it worked out nicely
Gabriella Alge's picture
Gabriella Alge
18th Feb, 2019
very sweet I did not use the full amount of sugar I used 400grams but even that was too sweet
zahra ali's picture
zahra ali
16th Nov, 2018
brilliant butter icing


rosamund mackie's picture
rosamund mackie
1st Aug, 2020
How many fairy cakes is this quantity for
3rd Nov, 2018
What would the recipe be for a 32” round cake, please? xx
goodfoodteam's picture
3rd Nov, 2018
Thanks for your question. We'd suggest making 1.8kg buttercream.
25th Jul, 2013
I need to ice a 30 cm 3 layer cake, and also cover it completely with butter icing before covering it with ready to roll fondant icing. How much butter icing do I need to make ? Thank you.
goodfoodteam's picture
7th Feb, 2014
Hi there, thanks for getting in touch. To be on the safe side, we'd recommend making three times the amount statedin the recipe, though you may not need to use it all. Hope it goes well! Thanks, BBC Good Food team
2nd Jun, 2014
Add a cap full of vanilla extract to make it more yummy