The Best Homemade Vanilla Frosting

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The best homemade vanilla frosting! This vanilla frosting recipe is easy to make in 5 minutes with 6 ingredients! It’s delicious & perfect for decorating cakes & cookies!

vanilla frosting piped on top of a vanilla cupcake


This is a recipe for the best Homemade Vanilla Frosting Recipe that is perfect for decorating cakes, cupcakes, and cookies! There’s no reason to buy store-bought frosting again, when this frosting recipe is so easy to make in 5 minutes with 6 ingredients!

Not only is this the most delicious vanilla frosting recipe you’ll ever try, but it’s also excellent for decorating. The mixture of shortening and butter makes it easy to pipe, plus it hardens beautifully. It’s really a recipe you need in your tool belt.

I have used it to decorate every cake (this chocolate cake from scratch and this chocolate chip cookie cake) I’ve ever made over the last 13 years – which, with 6 kids plus one husband is a lot of cake decorating.  It also freezes very well.

vanilla frosting piped on top of a vanilla cupcake

Vanilla Frosting: Ingredients & Substitutions

This homemade vanilla frosting is made with only 6 ingredients, so we’ll chat about them quickly before we jump into the recipe!

Use Room temperature ingredients

An important note about the ingredients in this recipe is that they all need to be at room temperature. They mix much better if they are not cold. Frosting also pipes much easier at room temperature.

overhead view of the labeled  ingredients in this homemade vanilla frosting recipe
  • Salted Butter. I use salted butter to make frosting (and just about everything). Unsalted butter works perfectly as well. You can also try using vegan butter for a dairy-free version. 
  • Shortening. I use Crisco all-vegetable shortening to make this vanilla frosting. It works well and is easy to use because it comes in stick form. I don’t recommend making substitutions for the shortening. 
  • Whole Milk. Heavy cream, half and half or 2% milk are all acceptable substitutes.
  • Pure vanilla extract. Use pure extract for the best flavor. You can also use vanilla beans or vanilla bean paste. 
  • Sea salt. I like to add a pinch of sea salt to really bring out the flavors. This is optional, and you can omit it if you’d like. 
unicorn cake decorated with homemade vanilla frosting

 How to Make Homemade Vanilla Frosting 

This vanilla frosting recipe is very straightforward, but here are a few tips to ensure that it turns out perfectly!

The first step in this homemade vanilla frosting recipe is to cream the butter and shortening together. Make sure there are no lumps in the mixture before moving onto the next step. 

Next, add vanilla and sea salt and beat again until the mixture is smooth. 

overhead photo showing how to make vanilla frosting

Then, add half of the powdered sugar and beat until it is all incorporated. 

overhead photo showing how to make vanilla frosting

One the first half of the powdered sugar is incorporated, add the milk and the rest of the powered sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

You may need to pause, scrape down the sides, and continue beating to be sure to incorporate all the powdered sugar. 

Front photo showing homemade vanilla frosting on a beater over a mixing bowl

Food coloring

If you would like to dye the vanilla frosting, add coloring after your frosting is well-mixed and has reached the desired consistency.  

If you are making many colors, pull out small bowls and dye them one at a time.  I highly recommend using gel food coloring instead of the liquid variety, and always save some pure white just in case!

overhead photo of 3 bowls of frosting dyed with food coloring: blue pink and purple

Decorating with Vanilla Frosting

You can use this homemade frosting to decorate many different baked goods. From sugar cookies to cake, there’s no wrong way to enjoy this vanilla frosting! Here are some suggestions:

Overhead photo of vanilla frosting being spread onto a cake

Freeze Cake Before Frosting

If you are using this vanilla frosting to decorate a cake, I recommend baking the cake a day ahead of time and freezing it. That way after you make the frosting, it will spread onto the cake easily without catching crumbs. Remember, do not chill or freeze the frosting, it spreads and pipes easiest at room temperature. 

Front view of a cake being frosted with homemade vanilla frosting

Frost a Crumb Coat

Even if you plan on covering the cake in a design, roses, etc. I recommend doing a thin crumb coat with the vanilla frosting on the entire cake first. This also minimizes crumbs in the frosting so the final product looks pretty. I use this large pastry scraper to make smooth edges/tops. 

front view of a cake decorated with homemade vanilla frosting

Pipe a Design

For this video I made my daughters 5th birthday cake, and of course she requested a unicorn cake. I put 3 colors into a piping bag and piped on rosettes using a Wilton 1M tip.

overhead view of a cake decorated with vanilla frosting

Homemade Frosting Recipe FAQs

Here are some commonly asked questions about this vanilla frosting recipe. 

How do you store homemade frosting?

You can store the vanilla frosting for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
You can also store it in the piping bags in the freezer or refrigerator. I often use disposable decorating bags and if I have leftover frosting I just toss the bags into the freezer or refrigerator

Can you freeze homemade frosting?

This vanilla frosting recipe recipe makes a ton of frosting, and it freezes exceptionally well! Even if I know I only need half of the recipe I still make the whole batch so that I can have some on hand in the freezer!
When you’re ready to use it remove from freezer and let it come to room temperature gradually (do NOT microwave). 

How do you store a decorated cake?

Once you use this frosting to decorate a cake, I suggest storing the decorated cake in the refrigerator so that the frosting hardens faster. However, we are a room-temperature cake-eating family. If you are too, take the cake out of the refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving. If there are any leftovers, store at room temperature covered in foil for up to four days. Or in the refrigerator for longer.

vanilla frosting piped on top of a vanilla cupcake with a bite taken out of it

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Best Homemade Vanilla Frosting Recipe

Laura
The best homemade vanilla frosting! This vanilla frosting recipe is easy to make in 5 minutes with 6 ingredients! It's delicious & perfect for decorating cakes & cookies!
5 from 16 votes
Course condiment, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 24 (servings) Enough to frost a 2-layer 8-9″ round cake
Calories 283
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes

Ingredients 
 

Instructions 

  • Cream together butter and shortening until smooth.
  • Add salt and vanilla and beat until well combined.
  • Slowly add powdered sugar 1 or 2 cups at a time until your mixture is thick and a little lumpy (you can always add more later).
  • Add milk and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).
  • If necessary, add more powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency.
  • Use to frost your favorite cakes, cookies and cupcakes!**

Video

Notes

  • As you can see, my frosting isn’t pure white. This is because I used vanilla extract that is brown. If you want a whiter frosting, use clear vanilla.
  • If you plan to decorate with this frosting please keep it at room temperature. Cold frosting does not pipe well (or at all).
  • If you’d like to add color, simply mix it in after your frosting has reached your desired consistency.
  • I suggest decorating cakes the night before and chilling them in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving so they can come to room temperature.
  • This makes a lot of frosting! If you don’t use it all you can freeze it to use for later.
How to Store Vanilla Frosting
  • This vanilla frosting lasts in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
  • You can also store it in the piping bags in the freezer or refrigerator. I often use disposable decorating bags and if I have leftover frosting I just toss the bags into the freezer or refrigerator
Ingredient Substitutions
  • Salted Butter. I use salted butter to make frosting (and just about everything). Unsalted butter works perfectly as well. You can also try using vegan butter for a dairy-free version. 
  • Shortening. I use Crisco all-vegetable shortening to make this vanilla frosting. It works well and is easy to use because it comes in stick form. I don’t recommend making substitutions for the shortening. 
  • Whole Milk. Heavy cream, half and half or 2% milk are all acceptable substitutes.
  • Pure vanilla extract. Use pure extract for the best flavor. You can also use vanilla beans or vanilla bean paste. 
  • Sea salt. I like to add a pinch of sea salt to really bring out the flavors. This is optional, and you can omit it if you’d like. 

Nutrition

Serving: 2TBS | Calories: 283kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 0.2g | Fat: 16.3g | Saturated Fat: 84g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5.8g | Cholesterol: 25mg | Sodium: 63mg | Potassium: 9.3mg | Sugar: 34g | Vitamin A: 250IU | Calcium: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Have a question? Leave a comment below!

I made this sunflower cake for M’s first birthday in 2018 and it’s still my favorite cake I’ve ever made.

overhead view of a sunflower cake decorated with the best homemade vanilla frosting recipe

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50 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Just made this buttercream icing and WOW! It is even more delicious than I was expecting! I made a 3 tier 9 inch cake and unfortunately I was only able to do rosettes around the sides (not the top) but it was my first attempt and turned out pretty great! I will definitely be using this icing recipe many more times! Thanks!

  2. I’m curious about using this frosting on cookies. When I frost a big batch of Christmas cookies, and then try to store them, the frosting runs together and sticks to the other cookies, or wax paper I put between them. How did you find it worked with your cookies (or did you just eat them all up the first day or two)? 🙂

    Enjoy Bethany’s birthday and Sandy’s visit this month.!

    1. Hey Marci! 1) I can’t wait for Sandy to come! I miss her so much! 2) I frosted our sugar cookies this year and it worked really well! I just make sure to leave them out on the cooling rack in a single layer until the frosting hardens. Putting them outside in the cold or in the refrigerator helps speed this process up! But I recommend waiting to stack them until the frosting is hardened at room temperature! (So to clarify, if you want to speed up the process you an put them in the fridge but be sure they come to room temperature and the frosting is set before stacking)! I think the shortening really helps make this a great decorator frosting that sets up beautifully!

  3. 5 stars
    Been looking for a good vanilla frosting,and yours sounds great,gonna try it on my grandsons birthday cake December 4th will send you a picture of his cake.thanks

    1. Thank you Kathy! It is seriously the best vanilla frosting I have ever had! I would LOVE to see a picture of your grandson’s birthday cake! I can’t wait for December 4th!

  4. Nice to meet you Laura!! (I came from the Lean Green Bean!) I love baking for people too 🙂 Haven’t tried the 1M tip, but I totally need to!! The cupcakes are so pretty!

    1. Nice to meet you Tara! 🙂 I agree, I absolutely love baking for people! I love the 1M tip because it’s large so you can pipe a thicker amount of frosting and have it still look nice! 🙂 Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    This icing looks great! My husband is a big vanilla icing fan and I think he will love it! Thanks for sharing at Inspiration Thursday!

    1. My hubby and daughter are the vanilla people in our household (ugh! LOL)! Thankfully my son chose chocolate cake! 😉

  6. Your little guy is just precious! What a fun party with awesome goodies! Thanks so much for sharing them with us at Full Plate Thursday and come back soon!
    Miz Helen