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How to make buttercream icing

Lynn Wright / 12 February 2016

Add the perfect finishing touch to your cakes with a delicious, sweet buttercream icing.

Cupcakes with buttercream icing
Buttercream icing can be coloured and flavoured to produce an endless range of lovely cupcake toppings

Sugar icing is the perfect way to cover and decorate cakes, biscuits and pastries. Make sure you use the right type of icing for the job. Some soft icings work best piped onto cakes, while stiffer icings are best used to cover cakes or biscuits.

Buttercream icing is made from butter, icing sugar, and a little milk. Light and fluffy in texture, it can be used to fill and top sponge cakes, or be piped onto cupcakes. You can flavour and colour your buttercream to suit the cake.

Firm and shiny, fondant icing can be kneaded and rolled out like pastry dough to cover fruit and sponge cakes, or cut into designs and shapes. Its smooth firmness helps keep cakes fresh.

Royal icing is a white meringue-like mixture made from egg whites, lemon juice and icing sugar. It becomes hard once set, and is ideal for decorating fruit cakes, and for piping cake and biscuit decorations.

Other types of icing include ganache (a mix of chocolate and cream), cream cheese frosting, and simple sugar glazes.

Use our easy recipe to whip up a batch of delicious buttercream icing to fill or top your cakes.

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Covers 12 cupcakes or one medium cake

  • 150g softened unsalted butter
  • 300g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 to 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

How to make a buttercream icing

1. Beat the butter in a bowl with an electric hand whisk or using a food mixer until it is light and fluffy.

2. Add half of the icing sugar and slowly beat it into the butter. Add the rest of the icing sugar, beating more vigorously until all the sugar is combined.

3. Add the vanilla extract and one tablespoon of milk, then beat until smooth, light and creamy. If the icing is too stiff, add a little more milk to loosen the mixture.

4. You can add food colouring or substitute the vanilla extract for other flavourings such as cocoa, cinnamon or lemon juice and zest at this stage.

5. Fill a piping bag with the buttercream and, using a star nozzle, pipe the icing onto your cupcakes. Alternatively, use a palette knife to spread the buttercream over the top of the cakes.

Visit our baking section for delicious cakes and biscuits.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.