Vanilla is one of the most versatile frosting flavors on the planet, and since it pairs so well with all things sweet, it's essential to keep an easy vanilla frosting recipe handy to use for cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and more. A good staple recipe is simple to adapt to your preferences and will work in a pinch, even if you don't have a lot of spare ingredients and equipment lying around.
Four Kinds of Vanilla Frosting
You'll need different ingredients depending on whether you're making a glaze, buttercream, buttercream meringue, or fondant frosting, but the common factor is some high quality vanilla. Use flavorful vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, or the scraped insides of a seed for the best flavor.
Vanilla Glaze Recipe
A thin vanilla glaze is ideal for gingerbread men or sugar cookies.
- 1 c. powdered sugar, sifted
- 1-2 T. milk or cream
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla-bean paste
- Place the powdered sugar in a small bowl, and mix in the milk or cream 1/2 T. at a time.
- As the frosting reaches your desired consistency, add the vanilla, and stir until fully incorporated.
Vanilla Buttercream Recipe
The below easy buttercream frosting recipe makes about two cups of frosting that isn't too sweet, because the lemon juice and salt take the edge off the powdered sugar. It's inspired by a version from My Sweet and Saucy.
- 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/2-3 c. powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 T. milk or cream
- 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste, available at specialty grocery stores or cake decorating stores (vanilla extract is a fine substitute with a slightly milder flavor)
- You'll need a stand mixer or powerful hand mixer to make this frosting. Put the butter in the bowl of the mixer, and cream it with the salt for about a minute or until it's becoming fluffy and light.
- Add 1/2 T. milk or cream and 1 1/4 c. powdered sugar to the bowl. Continue mixing steadily until the ingredients are blended.
- Scrape down the mixing bowl and then add the remaining cream and sugar as well as the lemon juice and vanilla paste.
- Beat the frosting on high speed for five minutes or more, until it's fluffy and very light in color and texture.
Vanilla Meringue Buttercream Recipe
This silky smooth vanilla frosting recipe, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, makes enough buttercream to cover the top and sides of a 9 inch cake and to fill the gap between the layers. If you have a vanilla bean, try flavoring it with the scraped insides of the bean rather than with vanilla extract.
- 1 c granulated sugar
- 4 extra large egg whites
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- Set up a double boiler by placing a metal mixing bowl in a pan of simmering water. Using a hand mixer, beat the sugar with the egg whites until the two ingredients are completely blended and the result is no longer rough or grainy.
- Remove the bowl from the heat, and continue whipping the egg whites and sugar until the mixture increases in size and becomes fluffy and white.
- Whisk in the vanilla, and add the butter one stick at a time. The mixture will decrease in volume, but continue to whip at high speed until it comes together again and thickens enough to spread.
Versions of Vanilla Fondant
Not too many people like the taste of fondant, as it can be chalky and overly sweet. Adding vanilla helps diminish those undesirable qualities and bring out a better flavor. The traditional rolled fondant recipe uses glucose and glycerin, specialty ingredients that you can get at cake decorating and baking supply stores. Simpler marshmallow versions also work. To get a strong vanilla flavor, double the amount of extract in any recipe, and knead it thoroughly into the mixture before the frosting is finished.
Versatile, Delicious, and Just About Perfect
No matter which flavor cake you plan to bake, vanilla icing is almost always a perfect flavor complement, and it's easy to color. Master these recipes and make this your go-to icing for any occasion.