Creamy, dreamy, fluffy vegan buttercream frosting that’s perfect for all of your cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and more. This 10-minute recipe is not only quick and easy to make, it’s great for piping and decorating. It’s also gluten-free, and dairy-free…it’s truly, the best!
Once you learn how to make vegan vanilla frosting (and see how simple it is to do), you’ll never rely on the store-bought stuff again. You’ll also find a few flavour variations below, so keep reading.
Every cake and cupcake is made perfect when it’s topped with an irresistible frosting. You know what I’m talking about…the kind of frosting that you can’t help but dip your finger into so you can give it a taste…the kind that not only looks good but smells and tastes amazing, too. That’s what this recipe is all about.
This vegan buttercream (aka vegan American buttercream!) is just what those cakes and cupcakes (and you!) crave. It’s rich, creamy, and packed with vanilla flavour. You’re going to love it.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Just FIVE ingredients are all you need to make this delicious dairy-free icing: vegan butter, powdered sugar, dairy-free milk, vanilla, and a little salt.
- Unsalted Vegan Butter – You’ll need to use the sticks, not the type that you get in containers / tubs, they’ll make your frosting too soft. See below for brand recommendations. Your butter must be at temperature before starting.
- Vegan Powdered Sugar – Not all sugar is vegan, some are processed using animal bone char, so to be sure that yours is, buy a brand that’s organic (organic sugar is not processed using bone char). There are also some brands that are not organic, but vegan, which can be confusing, so see below for some brand recommendations.
- Vanilla Extract – Vanilla is the main flavour in this frosting, so don’t skip it. You can also use vanilla paste instead if you have it.
- Salt – This is needed to balance the sweetness, so don’t skip out on this ingredient.
- Unsweetened non-dairy milk – Any type of dairy-free milk will work, just make sure it’s not flavoured and / or sweetened. (Note: you can leave the milk out if you need a more firm/stiff frosting for piping and decorating).
How to Make It
(Note: I’ve outlined the step-by-step on how to make this recipe here, but find the full recipe, ingredients, and directions at the end of this post.)
For the best texture and consistency, I recommend using either a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer. You can make it by hand with a wooden spoon, but it will take longer to get it to the consistency you need it to be.
IMPORTANT: Always make sure that your butter is at room temperature before making this recipe. Make sure it’s not melted or too soft, this will affect the texture.
If your powdered sugar has any lumps in it, sift it before starting.
Start by adding the butter and salt to a large bowl and mix until it’s smooth and creamy.
Next, gradually add the powdered sugar, making sure you have your mixer on low speed at first to avoid a mess. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Once the butter and all of the powdered sugar have mixed together thoroughly, add the vanilla extract and mix again at low speed. Again, stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of your bowl.
At this point, your frosting will be very thick, which is good if you’ll be using it to pipe decorations onto your cake.
If you want it to be softer, this is the time to add your milk. Add a teaspoon at a time and after each addition, keep mixing until the buttercream reaches the consistency you want. It will get fluffier the more you mix it!
While mixing, if you notice that your frosting has split (it looks lumpy and a little separated) either your butter was too warm, your butter was too cold, or you added too much milk.
- To fix buttercream made with butter that was too warm: Put the bowl into the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes so it can cool down. Remove it from the refrigerator and start mixing it again.
- To fix buttercream made with butter that was too cold: Let the bowl sit at room temperature to warm it up a little before moving forward.
- To fix buttercream that has too much milk: Add a little more powdered sugar, a little at a time, until it firms back up and no longer looks separated
This recipe, made as written, will give you the most delicious vegan vanilla buttercream frosting you’ve ever had, but another great thing about it is that you can use it as a base for pretty much any flavour, plus, you can also add colour to it.
Chocolate – Follow my recipe for Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.
Peppermint – Follow my recipe for Peppermint Buttercream Frosting.
Lemon – Use this recipe and replace the milk with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and add 1.5 teaspoons of lemon zest. Use just 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
There are countless other flavours you can make using this recipe as a starting point, those listed above happen to be the ones that I have personally made, as I make new flavours, I’ll add them here so you can make them, too!
When adding colour to my buttercream, I prefer to use food colour gels rather than water-based food colours. Two vegan brands to check out are AmeriColor and Chefmaster.
With gels, the colours are more vibrant, so you’ll use less than if you were using water-based food colour to achieve the same result. Using gels also prevents your buttercream from thinning out.
What to Put It On
It can also be used as a vegan cake frosting, or for brownies, cookie sandwiches, macarons, whoopie pies, sugar cookies, sandwich cookies, and more.
It’s also perfect to top gluten-free vegan vanilla cupcakes like in my pictures. Watch for that recipe, it’s coming soon!
TIP: If you’re new to cupcake decorating, I highly recommend this inexpensive cupcake decorating kit (Amazon Link) that comes with four of the most popular decorating tips as well as eight disposable decorating bags. I also recommend adding a 12″ reusable piping bag to your collection.
- If refrigerating for later use, store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week. When ready to use, bring it to room temperature, add to a bowl, and mix with your electric mixer or stand mixer for a couple of minutes to fluff it up before using.
- If freezing for later use, store in an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, bring it to room temperature, add to a bowl, and mix with your electric mixer or stand mixer for a couple of minutes to fluff it up before using.
Once you frost your cake or cupcakes, you can leave them out at room temperature for a day or two, but after that, refrigerate.
Expert Tips for Success
- Always make sure your butter is slightly softened before starting. To make sure your butter is at the right temperature, lightly press your finger into the butter. If it leaves a shallow indent, your butter is at the perfect temperature. If your finger sinks into the butter with barely any effort, your butter is too soft. Refrigerate it until it has firmed up.
- If you find that after you add all the ingredients (except the milk) and mix for about 3-4 minutes that the consistency is good, then no need to add any milk. Milk makes the buttercream smoother and softer, so if a stiff, more firm result is what you want, then feel free to omit the milk.
- If you prefer a more light and fluffy frosting, after adding the milk, continue mixing for about 5-6 minutes.
- If you find that you’ve whipped too long and the icing is too fluffy, give it a few good stirs with a wooden spoon to knock out some of the air pockets and make it a little less fluffy.
- Read this post from beginning to end before making the recipe, it contains lots of tips and tricks on how to make the perfect buttercream frosting, every single time!
- For the very best results, follow the recipe exactly as it’s written and don’t reduce the amount of powdered sugar or butter called for. The recipe can be halved if you need just a very small amount, or doubled if you need more.
Are you new to vegan gluten-free baking? If so, be sure to read all of my vegan gluten-free baking tips!
Use your favourite firm vegan butter, but make sure you buy sticks, not butter in a container since that type is too soft. If you can, buy the unsalted version so you control the salt. If you can’t find unsalted butter, simply omit the salt from the recipe. Personally, I like Melt Sticks and Becel Plant-Based Sticks, but other brands like Earth Balance and Miyokos will also work well.
Some brands use bone char to process their sugars, making them not vegan, but luckily, there are some brands that don’t use this process like Wholesome Sweeteners, Trader Joe’s brand, Whole Foods’ 365 brand, and Redpath (Canadian brand). If you can’t find any of these, your best bet is to look for organic powdered sugar which will always be vegan. And note that “powdered sugar,” “confectioner’s sugar,” and “icing sugar” are all the same thing.
If you don’t have an electric or stand mixer, you can still make this recipe by hand, but you’ll need to beat it for quite a while, especially after all the ingredients have been added and you’re whipping it to reach that creamy, fluffy consistency.
There is no substitute for butter in this recipe. And no, coconut oil cannot be used, stick with butter.
The more you whip it, the more air will be added to it, so it will become fluffier, and it’s possible that it gets so fluffy that you dislike the texture and that it won’t pipe decorations as you like. If this happens, simply stop mixing with your mixer and mix it vigorously with a wooden spoon to get rid of the extra pockets of air.
Powdered sugar is needed in this recipe to provide the structure and firmness needed for piping and for frosting your desserts with ease, so liquid sweeteners will not work. As for powdered sugar alternatives, I have not experimented with them, so I’m unsure if they will work the same.
You can sift the powdered sugar if you’d like, but I usually don’t, I find that if there are any small clumps, they get taken care of during the mixing process. However, if you find that your powdered sugar is very dry and lumpy, sift it for the best results.
This can be caused by a few things. First, make sure to always use powdered sugar. Using any type of granulated sugar will result in a grainy buttercream. Another cause can be that you need to add a little moisture. If you didn’t add any milk to the frosting, add a little to lighten it up and make it softer. The last cause can be overly lumpy powdered sugar. As powdered sugar sits, it can dry out and clump up, it will still work to make your icing, it just needs to be sifted first.
Make sure that your butter is soft and at room temperature before starting. You don’t want it to be too hot or too cold. Also, make sure to not add too much milk. If you find that it does split, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes before continuing (if the butter was too warm) or let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes (if the butter or milk was too cold). If you added too much milk, add more powdered sugar, a little at a time until the proper consistency is reached.
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Vegan Buttercream Frosting
- Add butter and salt to mixing bowl and mix for 1 to 2 minutes until soft and creamy.
- Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar and mix on low speed. Once there are no more spots of dry powdered sugar, add the second cup and mix again on low speed. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of your bowl.
- Add the vanilla and mix on low speed. Slowly add milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, continuing to mix. Add additional teaspoons until the desired consistency is met. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Turn mixer up to medium speed and mix until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix for a couple more minutes if you want a creamier, fluffier frosting.
- Use immediately, or refrigerate / freeze until needed. (Refrigeration and freezing instructions can be found above and below)
- Please read all of the information tips, and FAQ info above, as well as the notes below before making this recipe.
- This recipe makes enough buttercream to frost 12-16 cupcakes (depending on how much or how little you add to each one), OR one 9 x 13 cake, OR a single layer 8 or 9-inch round cake, OR a double layer 8″ or 9″ cake using a very thin layer of icing. The recipe can be doubled if you want a thicker layer of buttercream on your 2-layer cake or for a double batch of cupcakes. You can also triple the recipe for a triple-layer cake or a triple batch of cupcakes.
- If you have a scale, I recommend weighing your powdered sugar for accuracy. This is the scale I own.
- Sift your powdered sugar before starting if it is lumpy.
- Vanilla bean paste can be used instead of vanilla extract.
- Be sure you are using vegan butter that comes in sticks, not the type that comes in containers / tubs, since they will be too soft and will result in a very soft frosting. See above for brand recommendations.
- If the final frosting is too thick for your liking, add a little more milk. If you want it to be a little thicker, add a little more powdered sugar, a little at a time until you get to the consistency you like.
- If using a stand mixer, my preference is to use the paddle attachment. Follow the same directions above.
- If refrigerating for later use, store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week. When ready to use, bring it to room temperature, add to a bowl and mix with your electric mixer or stand mixer to freshen it up before using.
- If freezing for later use, store in an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to use, thaw frozen frosting in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, bring it to room temperature, add to a bowl and mix with your electric mixer or stand mixer to freshen it up before using.
- Once you frost your cake or cupcakes, you can leave them out at room temperature for a day or two, but after that, refrigerate.
- Nutrition info is based on 1/12th of this recipe, made as written, on its own with no cake or cupcakes. Nutrition info is only to be used as a rough guide. Click to learn how nutrition info is calculated on this website.