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How to Make Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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Learn how to make vanilla buttercream frosting without using icing sugar! This incredibly creamy and fluffy vanilla frosting is naturally sweetened with agave syrup and pure vanilla extract for superior flavour. Use it as you would any other buttercream – to frost cakes and cupcakes, fill macarons, or even as a fruit dip!

demonstrating how to swirl on vanilla buttercream frosting from a piping bag onto a yellow cupcake

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A fluffy vanilla buttercream frosting without icing sugar

I’m not lying when I say that this is the best vanilla buttercream frosting I have ever made or had in my entire life.

What makes it the best? First, it doesn’t contain any icing sugar and is naturally sweetened with agave syrup, making it a lower GI frosting recipe and just that little bit healthier. Not a bad thing when it comes to cake.

Second, it’s not cloying nor gritty like American buttercream. I don’t know about you, but I hate super sweet frostings. This vanilla buttercream frosting is sweet, but it doesn’t overpower the other flavours of whatever dessert you’re using it on AND vanilla is the central flavour here, not sugar.

If you like the flavour and texture of meringue frostings (ie. Italian or Swiss), you’ll love this one. It has the same texture and flavour without all of the work and stress tempering egg whites!

a bowl of fluffy vanilla buttercream frosting with a white spatula sticking out of it

What ingredients you’ll need for vanilla buttercream

The type of buttercream frosting we’re making is called ermine frosting. It’s my favourite because it’s not super sweet like traditional American buttercream icing and not as finicky as a meringue frosting. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • Agave syrup: We’re using agave syrup for this recipe because it’s the most neutral in flavour of all the natural sweeteners and doesn’t overpower the flavour of the vanilla.
  • Milk: The other main ingredient in our pudding (or roux) is milk. I prefer to use cow’s milk or hemp milk because I find they make the whitest frosting, but you can use any plant-based milk for this recipe. However, it will turn your frosting a beige colour.
  • Plain flour: Similar to how you’d make a roux for a sauce, flour is our pudding’s thickening agent. I’ve only tried this recipe with plain (all-purpose) flour.
  • Sea salt: A dash of sea salt elevates the flavours in the vanilla buttercream frosting and balances the sweetness of the agave syrup.
  • Unsalted butter: As this is a buttercream frosting, room temperature butter is necessary to make the icing super creamy and rich.
  • Vanilla extract: Ideally you want a high-quality extract – not essence – for the best flavour.
an aerial shot of 4 yellow cupcakes topped with vanilla frosting with a piping bag near the bottom of the image

What is ermine frosting?

Ermine frosting is a French-style icing also known as “cooked flour” or “heritage” frosting. It’s a buttercream made from butter and a thick roux (or pudding) of flour, milk, sugar, and salt.

The frosting itself is light and fluffy and uses a similar process to a meringue frosting, except in this case we’re adding the roux to the butter instead of the butter to the meringue. It’s much more forgiving than meringue frostings and no more difficult than an American buttercream.

Traditionally, ermine frosting was used for red velvet cakes, but they’re now usually done with a cream cheese icing.

a stand mixer with the paddle attachment lifted out of the bowl producing mixed up vanilla buttercream

How to make vanilla buttercream frosting

Although it may have a few more steps than a traditional buttercream recipe, I promise that making vanilla buttercream frosting without icing sugar is very easy to do. There are two main steps:

Make the pudding

  1. Add the agave syrup, milk, flour, and salt to a medium saucepan. Place the pan over a medium heat and whisk well to dissolve. As the mixture heats up, keep whisking.
  2. Once it starts to bubble, keep an eye on it. It will eventually begin to thicken. Once it reaches a thick pudding consistency, remove the pan from the heat and decant the pudding onto a large platter. Spread it out evenly and let it cool to room temperature.

Make the frosting

  1. Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale.
  2. Once the butter is pale, turn the mixer to a low speed and start adding your cooled pudding mixture one tablespoon at a time. After adding all the pudding, turn the mixer up to a high speed and give it a good whip up.
  3. Turn the mixer down to medium and add in the vanilla extract and keep whipping to incorporate. Use as desired.

Full details are in the recipe card at the end of this post.

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How to store vanilla buttercream

This vanilla buttercream can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 24 hours. After that, it will need to be refrigerated and will keep for up to 4 days.

You can also freeze it in a similar manner for up to 3 months.

Uses for refined sugar free vanilla buttercream

There are so many uses for vanilla frosting, I couldn’t possibly list them all! Here are a few fun and classic ways to use it:

  • Fill and ice a cake
  • Top some cupcakes
  • Fill a batch of macarons
  • Frost sugar cookies
  • Make a batch of cake pops/truffles
  • Use it as a fruit dip
  • Add it to a trifle
  • Make some whoopie pies or cookie sandwiches
  • Blend it into a milkshake
  • Top porridge, pancakes or waffles
a bunch of vanilla cupcakes topped with swirls of vanilla buttercream frosting

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting FAQ

Have a question about making naturally sweetened vanilla buttercream frosting? Let’s get you some answers! If your question isn’t answered here, feel free to leave a comment below.

Does vanilla buttercream need to be refrigerated?

This vanilla buttercream will be okay for 24 hours at room temperature. If you need to keep it longer, it will need to be refrigerated in an airtight container. The frosting will get hard in the fridge because of the butter, but it will soften again at room temperature.

How can I make frosting less sweet?

You can make this vanilla frosting less sweet by decreasing the amount of agave syrup in the recipe. Keep in mind you will need to increase the amount of milk used to retain the correct ratio of liquid ingredients.

Why is my buttercream not fluffy?

Your buttercream probably just needs more air. Keep whipping it at a high speed and it should eventually fluff up.

a bowl of fluffy vanilla buttercream frosting with a white spatula sticking out of it

Why is my buttercream curdled?

This happens because your pudding or butter was too cold.

FIX IT: Usually you can just keep whipping and the vanilla buttercream frosting will come back together. Otherwise, you can try warming up the frosting using a hair dryer on the sides of the bowl for 60 seconds at a time to melt the butter a little.

Why is my frosting runny?

Usually this means your butter was too soft or your pudding was too warm.

FIX IT: Pop the frosting in the fridge for 20-30 mins and then try whipping it up again. You can also switch to the whisk attachment if it’s still not coming together.

Can I make vanilla buttercream frosting in advance?

Yes! You can make this frosting up to 3 days in advance and leave it out at room temperature for 24 hours, then refrigerate it in an airtight container thereafter. The pudding for the frosting can be made up to 1 week in advance and refrigerated until use.

I will usually make the pudding for my vanilla buttercream frosting on the same day I make the cake layers or cupcakes. The following day, I’ll finish the buttercream, frost, and decorate.

Learn how to make vanilla buttercream frosting without using icing sugar! This incredibly creamy and fluffy vanilla frosting is naturally sweetened with agave syrup and pure vanilla extract for superior flavour. Use it as you would any other buttercream – to frost cakes and cupcakes, fill macarons, or even as a fruit dip!

Tips for making this recipe perfectly

  • Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. Both the pudding and the butter need to be at room temperature for this frosting to work without a hitch. I spread my pudding out on a large platter so that it cools faster.
  • Use a stand mixer. Although you can use a hand mixer for this recipe, I do highly recommend a stand mixer as it will be easier to add the tablespoons of pudding.
  • Aerate your butter before adding the pudding. You need to whip up the butter until it’s pale and fluffy to achieve a light and creamy frosting – it usually takes about 3-5 minutes.
  • Don’t substitute the agave for any other sweetener. If you want the vanilla flavour to come through, it’s best to stick to agave for this recipe as it’s the most neutral in flavour and won’t overpower the vanilla.
  • If you have time, make the pudding in advance. I find it easiest when I’m making a cake to make the pudding for this vanilla buttercream frosting on the first day along with the cake layers and then finish the frosting and ice the cake on the second day.

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If you make this recipe, let me know by snapping a picture and tagging me on Instagram @naturallysweet_kitchen. I love seeing your creations and sharing them in my Stories. Or let me know you love this refined sugar free vanilla buttercream frosting recipe and tutorial by leaving a comment and rating below!

How to Make Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Learn how to make vanilla buttercream frosting without using icing sugar! This incredibly creamy and fluffy vanilla frosting is naturally sweetened with agave syrup and pure vanilla extract for superior flavour. Use it as you would any other buttercream – to frost cakes and cupcakes, fill macarons, or even as a fruit dip!

Category Dessert, Frostings & Fillings
Cuisine French
Keyword how to make vanilla buttercream, sugar free vanilla buttercream, vanilla buttercream, vanilla buttercream frosting
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Serves 3 cups
Author Amanda | Naturally Sweet Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 270 ml agave syrup
  • 300 ml milk
  • 55 g plain flour
  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt
  • 300 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Method

  1. To make the pudding, add the agave syrup, milk, flour, and salt to a medium saucepan. Place the pan over a medium heat and whisk well to dissolve the flour. As the mixture heats up, keep whisking to prevent it sticking to the bottom.
  2. Once it starts to bubble, keep an eye on it and keep whisking. It will eventually begin to thicken. Once it reaches a thick pudding consistency, remove the pan from the heat and decant the pudding onto a large platter. Spread it out evenly and let it cool to room temperature before starting the next step.
  3. To make the frosting, add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Whip the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale. You may have to stop and scrape down the butter from the sides of the bowl a few times.
  4. Once the butter is pale, turn the mixer to a low speed and start adding your cooled pudding mixture one tablespoon at a time. After adding all the pudding, turn the mixer up to a high speed and give it a good whip up for 30-60 seconds or until fluffy.
  5. Turn the mixer down to medium and add in the vanilla extract and keep whipping to incorporate it throughout. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and give the frosting a good scrape up to make sure all the butter was incorporated from the bottom of the bowl. Use as desired.

Notes

  • This recipe makes enough frosting to generously ice 1 double layer 8-inch cake or 18-24 cupcakes (about 3 cups of frosting).
  • Non-dairy milk can be used, but may change the colour of the frosting slightly.

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