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1-2-3 Frosting

Makes about 4 cups

20 minutes

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American-style buttercream, made by beating butter with powdered sugar and a little milk, is one of the easiest frostings to make, but it tends to be cloyingly sweet, with a noticeable granularity from the sugar. This 1-2-3 formula—1 cup cream, 2 sticks butter and 3 cups powdered sugar—is nearly as simple and failsafe, but the cream, beaten in at the end, yields a more elegant frosting with a lighter flavor and fluffier, more supple texture. A stand mixer works best, as it frees up both your hands, making it easier to gradually add the sugar and cream, but a hand mixer gets the job done, too. If you like, replace the vanilla extract with a tablespoon of grated lemon or orange zest, or make the chocolate variation below. The recipe makes enough to fill and frost an 8- or 9-inch two-layer cake, with an additional cup or so for piping and decorating. If you wish to store the frosting or have some leftover that you’d like to save for another dessert, refrigerate it in a microwave-safe container for up to three days. To soften it for use, microwave at 50 percent power, checking every 15 to 20 seconds, until just soft enough to easily stir, then whisk until smooth, creamy and spreadable.

Makes about

4 cups


Don’t use cold butter. Be sure it’s at room temperature and take the time to beat the butter until light and creamy before adding the sugar. This helps ensure the proper aeration. Also, room-temperature cream helps the frosting better emulsify because it won’t lower the temperature of the butter as cream straight from the refrigerator would.

20 minutes


  • 226

    grams (16 tablespoons) salted butter, room temperature

  • 372

    grams (3 cups) powdered sugar, whisked to remove lumps


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Shelley G.
February 21, 2024
I always come back to the way I make yummy frosting. Follow the recipe-make sure butter is at room temp. Put all ingredients in stand mixer fixed with the whisk attachment, start slow then increase to high. Beat for five minutes. Also increase vanilla to a tablespoon. Enjoy! I do this with any buttercream frosting. Also use heavy whip cream for the milk.
Anastasia Z.
February 21, 2024
My new favorite frosting
Very good and easy to make.
Mary E.
March 20, 2024
So much better than American Buttercream and potentially easier for many than an a Swiss or Italian buttercream. It does tend to get stuck inside the whisk attachment, so important to stop and remove the clump along the way in addition to scraping down the sides to the bowl. Wondering if it can be frozen!!!!
Jan M.
March 3, 2024
Missing Cream?
I’m not seeing the 2nd half cup of cream in the instructions…. Can I assume that I finish drizzling the rest of the cream before adding the vanilla?