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Vanilla Buttercream

Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 12


  • 16 Tablespoons (8 oz) Spectrum organic shortening (see notes)
  • 8 Tablespoons (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream (or water)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (16 oz) powdered sugar


  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the shortening until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.

  2. Add the softened butter, heavy cream/water and vanilla extract to the shortening. Beat for another 1-2 minutes

  3. Sift half the powdered sugar into the shortening/butter mixture and mix on low until incorporated, then beat on medium-high for five minutes.

  4. Sift in the remaining powdered sugar, mix on low speed until incorporated then beat on medium-high for an additional five minutes.

  5. Store in an airtight container. Lasts 2-3 days at room temperature or up to a week refrigerated.

Recipe Notes

I always use Spectrum organic shortening to make this buttercream. It is not as greasy as traditional shortening and gives the buttercream a smooth and light texture. I have not tried the recipe with any other brand. 

This simple vanilla buttercream is a great base that can be flavored in a variety of ways. Here are some possible flavor alternatives:

  • Chocolate: Add 2/3 cup of cocoa powder (preferably dutch-processed) to the buttercream. Increase the heavy cream/water to 3 Tablespoons.
  • Cinnamon: Add 4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon to the buttercream.
  • Coffee: Heat the heavy cream (or water if using instead of heavy cream) until almost boiling. Dissolve 4 teaspoons of instant coffee in the heavy cream. Allow to cool before adding to the buttercream.
  • Honey: Reduce the powdered sugar to 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) and add 1/4 cup of pure honey.
  • Lemon: Add 1/4 teaspoon of pure lemon extract to the buttercream
  • Rum: Replace the 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream with 2 Tablespoons of rum
  • Tea: Replace heavy cream with 2 Tablespoons of boiling water. Steep 2 black tea bags in the water for 5-10 minutes. Squeeze the bags out to extract as much liquid as possible. Allow to cool before adding to the buttercream.
  • Other: Use a 1/4 teaspoon of just about any flavor extract. I love to use pure extracts to flavor my cakes and buttercream so I have a large variety in my pantry. Some of my favorites are almond, blueberry, raspberry, maple, coconut and key lime.