follow along:

Sprinkles For Breakfast

Share your Sweet Side

which buttercream is best?

Buttercream can fix anything. That's what my boss at the boutique cake shop in NYC used to say all the time. I am not going to lie...she was a pretty terrible boss, but these words of wisdom have stuck with me over the years. And while I am pretty sure she was talking about fixing uneven cakes and fondant blemishes, I decided to adopt this saying into every aspect of my life. 

For example...

Last week I got STRAIGHT UP ghosted by a guy. I am not talking about a normal ghost - those happen all the time. I am talking about a HARD CORE ghosting situation. After 6 weeks of talking (which in online dating, is basically a lifetime), we finally picked a day to meet - and I was excited!  

I know what you are thinking. You have done this a million times LINDSAY! And EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. you are disappointed. So why do you get your hopes up?! 

And you are 100% right. After all my not so fantastic experiences in the dating trenches, I should know better. But you guys...this boy was really REALLY funny! And when you come from a family of seriously hilarious men - it is pretty important that a guy can make you laugh. And this guy could definitely do that.  

So everything was going great (lots of laughs happening on this end) until the day before we were supposed to meet, which happened to be Thanksgiving. We were texting in the morning about a podcast I had showed him, and then out of nowhere, he just stopped texting me. Like nothing...ever again.

Ummmm excuse me sir...WTF?! Who talks to someone for 6 weeks, makes a plan to meet and then ghosts them on a National Holiday?! Are you some kind of monster? Because I didn't even get to enjoy my mashed potatoes because of you...and that my friend, is a real crime. 

Long story short...ok it wasn't that short...that night I turned to my good old friend buttercream. I piled it high on some brownies and just WENT TO TOWN. In conclusion - buttercream > boys. Always and FOREVER. 

So now but back to the point of this post - which buttercream reigns supreme? I honestly think this is a personal choice, but I am going to tell you why I like and dislike the three main players.  

American Buttercream 

Frosting made with a base of powdered sugar and butter or shortening. Add a little flavor and milk and you are done! 

Pros - Super quick and easy peasy! It also pipes nicely.

Cons - This guys is a heavy duty frosting. It can be a little difficult to get super smooth on a cake, and it is also VERY sweet. 

This is the frosting I grew up using. It is a pretty good overall frosting, but I never use this one on the outside of a cake. I mainly use this icing for fillings, and on top of cupcakes.  

Swiss Meringue Buttercream 

Egg whites and sugar are cooked together over boiling water until they reach a certain temperature. It is then transferred to a mixer and whipped into a meringue before adding butter and flavoring.  

Pros - It is soft, smooth and not too sweet. SM buttercream is arguably the best frosting in terms of cake decorating because it is the easiest way to get those smooth clean lines. 

Cons - It is SUPER annoying to make. You have to have time and patience for this one (which I don't usually have either).  

While I rarely make this one, I will admit this is the best buttercream out there. I'm pretty sure my hatred for this guy comes from a time I had to make 17 single batches in a row. So you will have to make it and be your own judge.  

Italian Buttercream 

Sugar and water cooked over the stove while egg whites are whipped in the mixer. Once the sugar reaches the "soft ball stage", you add it to the egg whites. After it cools down, you add butter and flavor. 

Pros - It is soft, smooth and not too sweet. It also gives you those sharp edges on a cake - it is just not as easy to smooth as the Swiss.

Cons - It takes a while for the eggs whites/sugar mixture to cool down in the mixer. But you can just leave it running and go do other things. 

This is my go to. I use it ALL the time. 

Ok that is all I have for you today! Recipes are all below - and if you have any questions - feel free to ask! 

Which Buttercream Is Best?

Which Buttercream is Best? | Sprinkles For Breakfast


American Buttercream

  • 2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 lb. powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoon milk
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 8 egg whites
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Candy Thermometer

Italian Meringue Buttercream

  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • water
  • Candy thermometer


American Buttercream

  1. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, cream butter until it is soft and smooth.
  2. Add powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  1. In a medium glass bowl, whisk together egg whites, sugar and salt.
  2. Place bowl over a pot of hot boiling water.
  3. Whisk mixture until the thermometer reads 140 degrees F.
  4. Place the mixture in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Whip on medium/high until soft peaks form.
  5. Add butter and mix until buttercream forms.
  6. Add vanilla extract.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

  1. In a small sauce pan put 3/4 cup of sugar and cover the sugar with a little bit of water until the sugar looks like wet sand.
  2. Cook on a stove top over high heat until it reaches 248 degrees.
  3. While the sugar is cooking, whip eggs whites in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment at a high speed until they reach soft peaks.
  4. Once the egg whites reach soft peaks add the other 1/4 cup of sugar and mix on a high speed until the egg whites reach stiff peaks.You can keep mixing the egg whites at a high speed until the sugar is done cooking.
  5. Once the sugar reaches 248 degrees, and the mixer is on high, add sugar mixture to the egg white mixture.
  6. Mix on a high speed for 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes, add the room temperature butter and mix on a high speed for 5-10 minutes until the butter is fully combined and the mixture resembles buttercream.
  8. Add vanilla and mix until just combined.

*1 batch of buttercream

Like this Post?

you aint seen nothin' yet

Sprinkle a little fun into your inbox! Sign up and get access to exclusive baking tips, newest recipes and my free e-book!

meet the author

Lindsay Nathanson - Baker and Author

I might be the only person in the history of the world that has ever been grounded from baking. That's right. When I was a teen, it wasn't the computer, or the phone or the tv that got taken away. For me, it was the unsalted butter.

Comments (17)

Rekha Sharma

Hi Lindsay. Thanks for the info. I'm making (another) unicorn cake. I've previously always made it using ABC. Do you think SM or ermine could work or would they be too unstable?

Lindsay Nathanson

You are so welcome! And SM will work just fine. A lot of people use SM to create buttercream flowers - so it can definitely hold it's shape.


Hi! What do you think of the Ermine buttercream?

Lindsay Nathanson

I have actually never tried Ermine buttercream before. Is it good?!


Hello! Thank you for this. But may I ask, for the American Buttercream, do I need to use some shortening to make it more stable?

Lindsay Nathanson

Hi there! I prefer using all butter for my buttercream because I think it gives it a better flavor and smoother texture. But you can absolutely substitute some shortening in there. It will allow it to be more stable in higher temperatures and allows it to keep its shape a bit better if you are trying to pipe buttercream flowers.

Caroline Ember

I made the Italian buttercream and used unpasteurized egg whites so I was wondering if there was any chance that my frosting could be raw. Is it possible that it could be?

Lindsay Nathanson

Hi Caroline - that is such a good question! But the hot sugar added to the egg whites does the trick! The temperature of the sugar is high enough that it "cooks" the egg whites.

Bracha Gefen

6 layers total

Lindsay Nathanson

If you are doing 6 layers of 8" cake I would do 3 recipes of the American buttercream and just 1.5 of the one you are using for the outside coating.

Bracha Gefen

hi, the recipes above are for what size cake? i making an 8-inch double barrel cake, going to fll with american, but want to cover in swiss or italian. how many recipes do i need?

Lindsay Nathanson

Hi there! So excited for you to make a double barrel cake! How many layers are we talking?


Would Italian or Swiss work well for wedding cakes? Or would American be better? They will be decorated on the day, possibly the day before. Then travel in the car for 2 hours and sit out for the wedding night. Do they melt? Or hold their shape? It will be a 3 layer cake Thank you

Lindsay Nathanson

I would definitely go with Italian or Swiss! I worked at a wedding cake shop and we did everything with Italian!


LOVE this post! I agree that Swiss is divine, but what a pain in the arse it is. I'm currently whipping some Italian buttercream. It's currently chunky and soupy (also how I prefer my men...what?), so wish me luck. American buttercream makes me downright angry. I can't ever seem to get rid of its gritty grit, and the sweetness level even sends my lazy arse into cartwheel oblivion. Anyhoo, thanks for the tips and laughs. Screw that guy. He was probably a 70-year-old pervert in dirty underpants scannin' the world wide web for cake-makin' cuties. Gross. You'll find a nice boy when the stars align, and it will be more magical than Swiss buttercream on a chocolate lava cake covered in five layers of ganache. xoxo

Lindsay Nathanson

This is by far the BEST comment I have ever received on a post! Thank you. Kristy for making my day :) and keep whipping that Italian buttercream. It will eventually come together! And crossing my fingers that I find myself a nice boyyyyy sometime soon!

Leslie A

Thank you for answering my question. I think we will try the Italian one!!! Tomorrow is the day. Wish us luck!!!!

Lindsay Nathanson

Have so much fun!

Leslie A

Hey. Love your site!! My daughter and I bake together all the time and her 12th birthday is coming up and she wants a white two layer cake with strawberry filling. Which sounds delicious. Which frosting would be better...the Swiss or Italian?? We wanted to go with something less sweet. Thanks so much!!!

Lindsay Nathanson

That sounds like a delicious way to celebrate a 12th birthday. I think Swiss and Italian are similar in terms of sweetness - so it really is up to you. I prefer Italian because I find it is easier to make :)


Thanks. I’ll probably use the Italian again since it was so tasty on the sprinkle cake!

Lindsay Nathanson

The Italian is definitely my favorite!


So if you were piping the whole cake using #18 star tip, what would you use? BTW, LOVED your pink sprinkle cake for my daughter’s birthday. Everyone was impressed. Thanks.

Lindsay Nathanson

Hi Ciara! I am so sorry I missed this comment! You can use any of these buttercreams with a start tip! They will all work great. And I am SO happy to hear that everyone loved the cake!


Hmmm you forgot about French and German buttercreams? German is my personal favourite, less sweet and not meringue based. The classic filling in a bienenstich.

Lindsay Nathanson

I have never actually tried those! I will have to try them!

P Mac

The Italian is the best!! The Swiss tastes a bit too buttery for me but I love how these two don't have the too sweet taste of American buttercream.

Lindsay Nathanson

I love the Italian as well! And it is so much easier to make than the Swiss!


1) I’d like to know if the Italian or Swiss buttercream can be made like a day ahead, refrigerated, then used to decorate cupcakes the next day. 2) after I decorate the cupcakes with the Swiss or Italian buttercream...can I freeze them? (I often make about 5+ dozen for my grandnieces birthday parties - and making, decorating the cupcakes ahead of time (plus freezing them) is crucial. In addition, the cupcakes are much easier for me to transport to the destination as well as to get out of their plastic containers without dinging the icing.

Lindsay Nathanson

Hi Cheryl! All of the buttercreams can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days. They can also be kept in the freezer for about 3 months. After the freezer, place the buttercream in the fridge for 1 day and then you can take it out and use it! For the best results, I like to re-whip the buttercreams once they reach room temperature. This just ensures they are nice and creamy. And yes, you can totally freeze the cupcakes with the buttercream on them! You are so nice to make all those cupcakes for your grandnieces! Please let me know if you have any more questions.

Lizy Adams

SMBC 4EVA ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I can't get the Italian to work for me. I have trouble with Italian macarons too - I prefer the French method. Stupid hot sugar and egg whites. Ugh!! ????????

Lindsay Nathanson

Really?! What happens when you try to make it?


It is a known fact that the ridiculousness of ghosts is rampant in this technology ruled world, ,but who knew life had so many buttercream choices!? That pretty much makes up for the rude ghosts! ✨Just sayin✨ I def wanna try the Italian Meringue Buttercream ❣️????

Lindsay Nathanson

They are all pretty great!!!