This vegan buttercream is so easy, it should be a crime. Really. The stand mixer does all the work, and in about ten minutes (less if you don’t care about it being super silky smooth) you’ve got delicious, crave-worthy, allergy-friendly, infinitely customizable, perfectly pipe-able frosting to use on all your cakes, macarons, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and other confections.
It’s an American buttercream, but this icing is so good that I’ve sold it by the bucketful and even offered it as 2oz “frosting shots” to a begging and drooling clientele.
It CAN be made with just a hand mixer (if that’s all you’ve got), and it can also be turned into a “crusting buttercream” if you need that for your creation – just see the notes in the recipe.
Yeah, yeah, I know. “It’s not actually butter because it’s not made from dairy,” say the purists. Well, neither is peanut butter or apple butter, so let’s just go with it here. If it really bothers you *that* much, just imagine I’m calling it margarine.
Now, for this to be the “Easiest Vegan Buttercream Ever” you need a good quality, high fat butter. Most vegan butters are actually mostly water – so when they’re room temperature, they are EXTREMELY soft. The tell tale sign of this is if it calls itself a “spread”. These will not work well in this recipe.
Two good options for this recipe would be Earth Balance sticks and Country Crock Plant Butter (my personal preference). If you have another butter that’s at least 79-80% oil/fat though, it should be fine. Miyoko’s cultured butter should work well based on accounts I’ve read of it, but I’ve never tried it myself as the exclusive fat in a buttercream.
If you’re in Australia, Lis Armstrong of Treat Dreams, which specializes in vegan chocolates, treats, and desserts, advises that Nuttelex is a good choice. “For the oil percentage in Nuttelex it depends if you’re buying retail or food service…” She adds, “Retail sizes available from most grocers like Aldi (best price), Coles, Woolies and Costco (5kg tubs).
Food service comes in a 15kg box with plastic liner. It has a higher fat content of 80% and is used by some commercial bakeries in Sydney to produce vegan croissants.
Even with the food service version, melt is a factor in the warmth, so a little shortening can help, so personal trial and error really pays off.”
What if I can’t find a high-fat butter?
Great question. If you can’t find a vegan butter with a fat content of 79-80% or more, I have had success with Smart Balance (64% fat) for frosting cupcakes. Note that the buttercream will be EXTREMELY soft, and won’t hold up in between cake layers or macarons. But for cupcakes and frosting shots, it’s wonderful.
Another option is to cut your butter with veggie shortening or straight palm oil. I usually use a 50/50 ratio for easy maths’ sake. If you go this route, it won’t be the “easiest” anymore, as it’ll take an extra step and a good chunk of time, but it’ll still come out just as high quality and delicious as the full butter version (yes, I promise).
Don’t want to use shortening? There is another, final option. It’s going to take some time, and you’ll feel like you’re wasting money, but it’s a viable option for those who don’t have vegan shortening options OR high-fat vegan butter available (I’m looking at you, South Africa!) – you’re going to make your own.
You can definitely make your own butter from scratch if you feel like it, but I never do. So what is my alternative route? I cook the water out of my high-water butter and it suddenly turns high-fat.
Put your delicious-but-too-soft butter into a shallow pan and melt it. Let it cook over medium heat until it starts to boil, and let it go until it stops bubbling. You’ll be left with nearly 100% fat that’ll work great in your buttercream! Just pour it (carefully! It’s hot oil!) into a heat-proof container or butter stick molds and pop them into the fridge to solidify, and then proceed as normal.
What about flavors?
The sky is the limit! I add whatever liquid I feel like, up to the two tablespoon per stick limit. Coffee creamer, coffee concentrate, fruit juice, protein shake, citrus juice, chamoy, jellies and jams, and more!
And powders can pop in with ease, too! Freeze dried fruit powders, powdered drink mixes, matcha tea, cocoa powder, instant coffee, protein powder, etc. Just make a paste with them with a tiny bit of liquid before adding so they distribute evenly and don’t cause drying out or texture issues.
And what about food coloring?
For food coloring, I recommend using either gel or powder. You can use liquid, but any liquid you use will affect the consistency of your buttercream at the expense of flavor.
Some of my favorite vegan food coloring options are AmeriColor gels, ProGels, and Artisan Accents gels. Ultimate Baker has an amazing line of powdered colors that are both vegan and all natural, if you prefer the natural route!
Just remember that your colored buttercream will get darker and more vibrant overnight. This is especially important if you’re trying to make a dark color like black, navy, red, or burgundy. Try to make your buttercream a day early, get it to a few shades lighter than what you need, and let it “develop” in a covered container overnight.
The other side of the token though, make sure if you don’t want a dark color to not make your buttercream too far ahead of time! I once had to make a navy blue cake; I let the cake sit overnight and it was black by morning. Oops. If this does happen to you though, you can add in some white buttercream to lighten it a bit (unless it’s already on the cake like mine was).
And how do I store it?
In a bowl with a tight fitting lid or plastic wrap.
It can be kept at room temp for a week, in the fridge for a month, and in the freezer for six months. Just give it a quick stir before you frost your confections.
I’m so ready, but I forgot to take my butter out of the fridge!!
Don’t panic! And don’t microwave! I’ve got you covered:
Video Tutorial, Extended:
- 1 cup room temp high-fat vegan butter* (two sticks) (230g)
- 4 cups powdered sugar**** (450g)
- 2 tbsp liquid - any liquid you want (check the post above for suggestions)***** (30ml)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (5ml)
- Add butter and half the powdered sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment
- Mix on low/stir until completely incorporated. It’s important to do this slowly to avoid gritty buttercream!
- Add the second half of the powdered sugar, and mix again on low/stir until completely incorporated
- Add your liquid and vanilla extract
- Mix on low until completely incorporated
- Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of your bowl
- Mix on low just until the mixture is fully combined and smooth
- Adjust the consistency by adding more liquid by the teaspoon to thin, or more powdered sugar by the quarter cup to stiffen until desired consistency is reached
*if you use shortening, whip the mixture for 15 minutes or until it no longer has a greasy/waxy mouthfeel. Use pure palm shortening if you're avoiding soy.
**if you want the buttercream as silky smooth as possible, turn the mixer on low/stir and let it go for about a half an hour
***for butter without palm oil, give Miyoko’s cultured butter a try
***for butter without soy, use Country Crock Plant Butter Sticks (does contain a cross contamination warning), Earth Balance Soy-Free, or Miyoko’s cultured butter.
****feel free to sift your powdered sugar if it’s very lumpy
*****for crusting buttercream, add another one to two tablespoons of liquid, and use powdered sugar to bring back to consistency