Vanilla buttercream icing in a bowl

Buttercream icing

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(23 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
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  • 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.

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Comments, questions and tips

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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
goosegirl123's picture
29th Oct, 2017
i find double the amount of sugar to butter is much too sweet
cheesypeas's picture
29th Jul, 2017
This makes a massive amount of icing. If you just want to ice a 20 - 23cm cake you would need 250g icing sugar, 125g butter. Mix first then add about a tbsp milk to loosen the mixture. I don't add th orange etc.
kitchen kate
21st Feb, 2016
I think you need to pull this recipe and start again. Your "Tip" is still advising people to use equal quantities butter and icing sugar, and even the 2:1 ratio doesn't work properly - it's way too stiff and needs more butter. And these quantities are way to much for a 20cm cake. Disappointing.
katrinaridout's picture
10th Jul, 2016
Ive always found that equal butter and icing sugar is perfect. Some people like to add a dash of milk if it's a little stiff. Love this with vanilla essence!


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