Skip to Content

The Perfect Buttercream (not too sweet and perfect for piping)

Share with your friends!

This twist on American buttercream frosting stands up to a warm day, is perfect for piping and it’s not too overly sweet.  It the perfect buttercream for summer!

holding container of cupcakes frosted with perfect not too sweet buttercream wearing I cupcake frosting shirt

     This frosting does it all without making your teeth ache! When decorating cakes in the heat and humidity, you have to break out a few tricks to make it work. This is the American style buttercream I have been loving.

     I am sure you all know I don’t need much of an excuse to play with frosting. It’s one of my favorite things after all. As the summer weather and outdoor entertaining season rolled in, I figured I had better update my frosting recipe to hold up better.

     Some of my favorite frosting recipes are soft to start with.  So delicious recipes like creamy caramel sweetened condensed milk frosting, ermine frosting, and even maple cream cheese frosting taste great but are not ideal if they are meant to be outside for too long in the heat.

     My favorite sweetened condensed milk buttercream does form a light crust that can hold up to transport.  But with my brother’s wedding on the horizon and 100 degree temperatures looming, I figured I had better take my heat proof frosting to the next level.

wedding cake frosted with perfect not too sweet buttercream

     So I studied a variety of recipes, read up on the tips of a variety of people who bake for a living and hoped for the best. The bride and groom preferred American style buttercream to the meringue varieties we tried.

That was fine with me as it’s what I’m most used to and helped to narrow the choices down. Everyone suggested shortening as a base to hold up to the heat.

    Part of what I love about buttercream is the buttery goodness though! So I ended up cutting my losses and going half and half.

     The next tip is tons of powdered sugar.  Of course that’s kind of a must with American buttercream anyway, but a nice high ratio of sugar helps promote the crust which helps your designs hold their shape in the heat.

    I was all for that, but didn’t want the frosting to be too cloying. So I used some lemon juice as part of the liquid. Not enough to make it taste like lemon, just enough to cancel out a smidge of the sweet.

sour cream drop cookies with swirls of not too sweet buttercream

     The next tip was to use some meringue powder to help take the crust to the next level. That is totally optional and doesn’t affect the flavor much, but did offer me a little piece of mind knowing my very first wedding cake was going to be in an un-air conditioned barn in the heat.

     My only other tip is to beat it on low for quite a long time to improve the texture and keep from whipping in too much air. Oh and flavoring… I wanted to be sure to add plenty of flavor to help boost the tasteless shortening.

     I like adding more than just vanilla to add a little depth too. Just a few drops of almond or lemon extracts or a bit of an emulsion like princess or creme bouquet can make a big difference.

layered cookie cake frosted with watercolor buttercream

    I am proud to report this frosting held up on both the cake and cupcakes at the wedding. It also made a great covering for my sister’s cookie birthday “cake” that I will tell you more about soon.

    Of course no butter based frosting is going to hold up to the heat forever. Chilling the cake before you take it into the heat and limiting the time it spends in the heat is going to be key no matter the recipe.

   I can say however, I was really pleased with how this recipe has held up to Mother Nature every time they have come in contact!

    What are your best tips for making heat resilient frosting?

If you are a frosting fanatic like me, check out my Frosting 101. It goes through the different types of frosting and links to all sorts of delicious recipes!

Yield: 36 Servings

Perfect Buttercream

tray of cupcakes with buttercream flowers

This twist on American buttercream frosting stands up to a warm day, is perfect for piping and it's not too overly sweet. It the perfect buttercream for summer!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • optional: 2 teaspoons meringue powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon other flavoring (Princes, creme boquet, almond, lemon etc)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3-4 Tablespoons cream (or milk)


  1. Beat butter and shortening until light and creamy.
  2. Add about a cup of powdered sugar, the meringue powder and a pinch of salt. Mix until incorporated.
  3. Continue to add the powdered sugar, a bit at a time and mix well between each addition. Be careful to only beat the mixture on medium-low speed, allowing it to run for as long as it takes. You don't want to incorporate too much air.
  4. Once the powdered sugar is all added, mix in the flavorings and lemon juice. Beat on medium speed for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the cream a little bit at a time, mixing well between additions, until you have the consistency you'd like.
  6. Store any extra in an airtight container and whip a bit to fluff before using.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please view my disclosure page for more information.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 202Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 45mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 0gSugar: 25gProtein: 0g

All nutritional information is estimated and will depend on the exact ingredients you use.

Did you make this recipe?

I'd love to see it! Share a picture on Instagram or Pinterest and tag me @carleecooks to let me know how it went!

This twist on American buttercream frosting stands up to a warm day, is perfect for piping and it's not too overly sweet.  It the perfect buttercream for summer!

Share with your friends!


Monday 15th of June 2020

Hi, how many cups does this make? Thank you


Saturday 28th of December 2019

Why is the powdered sugar listed in pounds? So does that equal to about 8 cups? Not quite sure as that sounds like an awful lot of powdered sugar for a not so sweet buttercream recipe.I use Australian metric cups and want to get the amount of sugar right.


Sunday 29th of December 2019

In America powdered sugar is generally sold in 1 pound boxes or two pound bags, so this is saying to add the whole bag... no measurement required. However, it would be in the 6-8 cup range depending on how fluffy your powdered sugar is. It is a lot of sugar, but it is a really big batch of frosting as well. Enough to easily coat and decorate a large layer cake. You could easily half the recipe for a smaller cake.


Monday 23rd of September 2019

I am looking for a buttercreme frosting that doesnt taste like pure sugar. N every frosting I've tried so far has so much powdered sugar in it, it's like eating pure sugar out of the bag. Is this any different?


Wednesday 25th of September 2019

Because of the way American buttercreams are made, it is hard to avoid the sweetness. The lemon juice helps a bit here. You may prefer doing a cooked frosting as they tend to be less sweet. Either an ermine frosting, Italian or Swiss meringue buttercream or even a German buttercream might be more your style. They get stability from things other than the powdered sugar, so there is less sugar required. I have recipes for all but swiss meringue buttercream here on the blog if you want to check them out. (Also there's Russian buttercream which can be made as simply as a can of sweetened condensed milk and butter!)


Saturday 27th of July 2019

Making this right now for my twin nephews' graduation party tomorrow. It's outdoors. It's 90° today and my house is not air conditioned. Cake is made, frosting is made. Wondering if i should frost today or wait until tomorrow? If I wait should I refrigerate the frosting?


Thursday 22nd of August 2019

It is not strictly mandatory, you could sub in milk instead. But adding a little helps cut the sweetness from the powdered sugar without leaving a strong lemon flavor.


Thursday 22nd of August 2019

Hi Carlee, is the lemon juice mandatory? Does it leave a strong taste?


Saturday 27th of July 2019

I would probably frost it today and refrigerate the whole cake if you have room in the fridge. Otherwise the frosting should be ok at room temp or in the fridge until tomorrow. I hope all goes well!


Thursday 31st of January 2019

Looks great, want to try this one out! Do you use salted or unsalted butter in your recipe?


Tuesday 12th of February 2019

Either works. I have used both. I just leave the pinch of salt out if I use salted butter. I hope that helps!

Skip to Recipe