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The Ultimate Decorator’s Buttercream Frosting

If you’re looking for a buttercream that’s bright white, fluffy, and filled with sweetness, you’ve come to the right place. Best of all, this recipe is easy to make and requires very few ingredients. 

I’ll confess, I usually use my Dreamy Buttercream Recipe, which is loaded with butter, cream cheese, and shortening. But recently I put together my Simple White Cake Recipe and wanted to whip up a fast batch of icing for photos. 

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream Frosting

I hadn’t actually planned on eating any. (Ahem.) 

That all changed when I saw how light, bright, and fluffy the icing turned out. Heavens to Betsy, y’all. It’s the perfect consistency. You can decorate your own cake with this easy frosting!

Sometimes less is more and that’s definitely the case with this buttercream, which is a favorite with professional cake decorators and home cooks, alike.

And the taste! It’s got that sugar-bakery-icing taste we loved as kids and still cherish as adults.

There are Many Types of Buttercream

As I mentioned above, I usually use my Dreamy Buttercream, which is basically a cream cheese buttercream. Other people love a good Swiss Meringue or Italian Meringue. (I’m not a huge fan of those meringue-based ones, honestly.) Then, of course, there’s “traditional” buttercream (butter, powdered sugar, and a splash of milk). That’s yummy, too. 

But, for this particular project, I wanted white. . .as in white white. Not a trace of yellow from butter. And I wanted something that was super quick and easy, since I really only planned to use it for photos. But, as I said, I fell in love with it, all over again. 

This Buttercream is a Go-To Recipe for Many Decorators

By “all over again” I mean that I used to make my buttercream this way all the time, especially for wedding cakes, which need a pure white frosting.

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream Frosting

The very first wedding cake that I ever made was a decorator’s buttercream. I remember it specifically because the guests swooned and I whispered to one of them: “You know that’s loaded with shortening, right?” 

He didn’t care. He just took another slice of cake and gobbled it down! My buttercream got rave reviews that night!

This recipe isn’t just for wedding cakes! It’s a flashback to the past, a reminder of the birthday cakes of our childhood with their light, airy frosting.

Benefits of Shortening Based Buttercream

I’ve shared about the benefits of shortening in other posts. Here are just a few of the reasons most cake decorators love working with it: 

Unlike butter, it doesn’t leave a yellow tint. It’s pure white. A lot of bakery cakes are made with this style buttercream.

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream Frosting

Shortening based frosting holds its shape. It’s perfect for piping things like rosettes and trims. (It’s easy to put into the piping bag, too!)

Unlike cream cheese based frostings, shortening based icings don’t require refrigeration. Here in the south that’s important! (Hey, I once set up a cake for an outdoor wedding in 97 degree heat!) Shortening based frostings don’t melt or slide down the side of the cake. (Win!) They’re not prone to sweating.

A shortening-based frosting is a fluffy frosting. I’m nuts about my other frostings, but they’re definitely heavier. It’s hard to get them light and fluffy. My Ultimate Decorator’s Buttercream is fluff! (Hint: there’s a secret ingredient that helps with the fluffiness!) 

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream Frosting

Shortening-based frostings are easy to apply and smooth. It’s hard to get my dreamy buttercream perfectly smooth but this decorator’s icing is so easy to work with! 

This particular frosting is inexpensive to make. A little goes a long way. And let’s face it. . .it today’s current economy we need to cut back every way we can. (That’s one of the primary reasons I opted to frost my Simple White Cake in this easy-breezy buttercream, because of the cost involved. 

There’s no measuring required if you buy the shortening sticks. (Hey, I like to cut corners!) Each rectangle is exactly one cup. 

Finally, this decorating icing tastes great! Whatever extracts you choose to add will be the star of the show.

Now that we’ve covered many of the reasons you’ll want to choose this particular buttercream, it’s time to talk about the recipe. I’m going to start by giving you a list of the ingredients. You’ll find the measurements in a printable recipe at the bottom of this post, but for now, here’s a quick peek at what you’ll need: 

Ingredients for The Ultimate Decorator’s Buttercream Frosting

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream Frosting
  • Vegetable Shortening (like white Crisco shortening or a high-ratio shortening)
  • Powdered sugar
  • Whipping cream
  • Almond extract
  • Clear vanilla extract (optional)
  • pinch of salt

You’ll notice that I use whipping cream instead of milk. There’s a reason for that! Whipping cream makes the frosting lighter, fluffier, and easier to manage. It adds even more stability. Best of all, whipping cream helps eliminate some of that “slippery” feeling that some people associate with shortening-based buttercreams. 

How to Make Decorator’s Buttercream

This is by far the easiest frosting I’ve ever made. I pulled together a quick batch for my Simple White Cake in less than five minutes! And it’s truly the best buttercream frosting I’ve made for decorating.

First, put your shortening in a mixing bowl and whip until light and fluffy. I used the whisk attachment on my stand mixer but you can use an electric hand mixer if you prefer. (I don’t recommend doing this by hand! The more air you can whip into it, the better!) A paddle attachment would work fine if that’s all you have.

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream Frosting

Next, add your confectioner’s sugar and pinch of salt. For one stick of shortening I added 4 heaping cups of powdered sugar, but you can adjust the measurements to your taste. (Have I mentioned how versatile this recipe is?) Work in the sugar until the frosting is a light, white, fluffy delight! (Start off at a low speed and work up to high.)

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream Frosting

Now, for the secret ingredient. Your frosting will probably be a little thick at this point. (If not, add a bit more sugar.) Add half a cup of whipping cream (pour straight from the container into the frosting). I just eyeballed it, but I think it was about half a cup. Unlike using regular milk, you won’t really have to worry about making the frosting too thin. Once you turn on the mixer, that whipping cream is going to work its magic! 

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream Frosting

Whip, whip, whip! The whipping cream will make that frosting even lighter, even brighter! If you need more cream, add it! If you feel you’ve added too much you can also add a bit more sugar. The goal here is to land with stiff peaks.

How Much Buttercream will I need? 

This recipe was perfect for a two-layer 8” cake. (I didn’t even bother with a crumb coat this time around. I simply slathered it on!)

You should double the recipe if you’re using larger pans or an extra layer of cake. Scrape down your bowl with a rubber spatula so you don’t leave any behind!

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream Frosting

I used an ample amount between the layers of my cakes and even added a ring of the buttercream to hold in the strawberry preserves. Then I used a generous amount on the exterior of the cake as well. I came out with exactly the right amount for my project. 

If you have frosting left over, don’t fret! Just put it into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator up to a week. (You can place it in the freezer for a couple of months.)

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream Frosting

Variations on Decorator’s Buttercream: 

  • If you’re doubling the recipe, use half shortening, half real butter (salted or unsalted butter, your choice). The addition of the shortening will tone down the color of the butter, but the addition of the butter will add that delicious butter flavor and give it a creamy texture.
  • Add a bit of meringue powder to make it sturdier.
  • Change up your flavors!
    • Make vanilla buttercream frosting by adding vanilla extract and skipping the almond.
    • Add butter flavoring to add depth.
    • Add lemon extract or even lemon juice. 
    • Add cinnamon for a Snickerdoodle effect. 
    • Add a cup of chopped berries (strawberries, raspberries, or even blackberries)
    • Add a cup of chopped Oreos or other favorite cookies. 
    • Add cocoa powder to turn it into a chocolate buttercream. 
  • Change up your colors. This buttercream holds its coloring well. Use gel food coloring to make the frosting any color you like!

How to Use This Buttercream

If you’re looking for some great cake recipes to use as a base for this frosting, check out some of my favorites: 

And speaking of wedding cake, here are a few photos. As you can see, having a bright white frosting is key! 

Even a boxed mix will be greatly improved with the addition of this homemade frosting recipe.

This icing is even perfect sandwiched between cookies, like my Banana Biscoff Cookies

And you could easily use it to sandwich together my yummy Red Velvet Cake Cookies instead of using cream cheese frosting.

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream Frosting

The possibilities for this lightweight frosting are endless. It’s truly one of the best buttercream frosting recipes I’ve ever used.

Here are some Fun Decorating Techniques to Try! and while we are making this delicious frosting take a whip at my Dreamy Buttercream Frosting recipe! I also have a Swiss Merengue Buttercream recipe that is to die for!

Why not leave a comment with your favorite way to use buttercream? We’ll discover new ideas together! 


About the Author

Janice Thompson is an author, baker, and all-around mischief maker! She has overcome a host of baking catastrophes, including a toppled wedding cake, to learn more about the baking process. Janice has published over 150 books for the Christian market but particularly enjoys writing recipes and baking devotions. To learn more about Janice or to drop her a note, visit her About the Author page.

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream

The Ultimate Decorator's Buttercream

Yield: Will frost 2 8" layers
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shortening (like Crisco or a high-ratio shortening)
  • 4 heaping cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream (approximately)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • Clear vanilla extract (optional)
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    HOW TO MAKE DECORATOR’S BUTTERCREAM
    First, put your shortening in a mixing bowl and whip until light and fluffy. I used the whisk attachment on my stand mixer but you can use an electric mixer if you prefer. (I don’t recommend doing this by hand! The more air you can whip into it, the better!)

    Next, add your confectioner’s sugar. For one stick of shortening I added 4 heaping cups, but you can adjust the measurements to your taste. (Have I mentioned how versatile this recipe is?) Work in the sugar until the frosting is a light, white, fluffy delight!

    Now, for the secret ingredient. Your frosting will probably be a little thick at this point. (If not, add a bit more sugar.) Add half a cup of whipping cream (pour straight from the container into the frosting). I just eyeballed it, but I think it was about half a cup. Unlike using regular milk, you won’t really have to worry about making the frosting too thin. Once you turn on the mixer, that whipping cream is going to work its magic!

    Whip, whip, whip! The whipping cream will make that frosting even lighter, even brighter! If you need more cream, add it! If you feel you’ve added too much you can also add a bit more sugar.

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Ivy truong

Thursday 27th of July 2023

Can I double this recipe without butter?

Ivy truong

Thursday 27th of July 2023

@booksbyjanice, thank you!

booksbyjanice

Thursday 27th of July 2023

Yes!

Sandy Rigsbee

Friday 7th of July 2023

Can this be made as chocolate icing?

booksbyjanice

Monday 10th of July 2023

Absolutely! Just add a quarter cup of cocoa powder.

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