Sundays with Friends: Buttercream Dream Icing

If you’ve been looking for a fool proof icing for birthday cakes (or just for leisurely consumption, no judgement here), this is your icing.  My mom has been making amazingly beautiful cakes for as long as I can remember, and she was great at it even before she took some college level courses.  Every year, I’ve had a homemade birthday cake.  While she typically lets me decorate them myself, she’s always there for decorative support and inspiration.  She’s amazing, and this icing is perfectly sweet just like her.  Thanks for writing this up, Mom!


IMG_2685I love to decorate cakes.  It is my creative outlet and to me, a way of showing love when I spend time planning and decorating a cake for someone.  The icing is the crowning glory on a well baked cake.  This recipe is called Buttercream Dream and is a crusting buttercream.  Using the Viva paper towel method, I can smooth this icing to look like fondant (and taste much better than fondant). I have modified and simplified the directions somewhat from the original.  Gotta make things easier! :)  This icing will keep nicely in the refrigerator if covered well, so you can make it days ahead of time.

Buttercream Dream


  • 1 stick butter (unsalted) **
  • 1 stick butter (salted) **
    • ** I use 2 salted sticks of butter instead of one of each –  SOFTENED
  • 1 cup shortening – 1 cup shortening weighs 7 oz
  • 2 lb bag of confectioner’s sugar – Different brands have different ratios of sugar to cornstarch.  Aldi’s is good.
  • 3 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
    • Alternate – 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 teaspoons flavor of your choice.
    • My choice – 2 teaspoon vanilla plus 1 teaspoon almond is what I use if you just want “birthday cake” icing.
    • Fun alternate – It is excellent with lemon (1 vanilla + 2 lemon)
  • 5-6 tablespoons of milk (cold) – Start with 4 tablespoons and add more if needed – If using to make a dam, you want it stiffer. 5 tablespoons is about right for spreading.


  1. I put the softened butter and Crisco, along with the flavoring, in the mixer and mix VERY well.  Get rid of all the lumps.
  2. Stop mixer and add the entire bag of sugar and 4 T IMG_2684of milk.  Cover mixer with towel or damp paper towels (to control sugar cloud) and mix on LOW SPEED.  Do not mix on high – that is what gives your icing air bubbles and makes your icing harder to smooth.  Mix until all blended.  You can hear it when it comes together and can remove the towel.  
  3. Add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.  You do not want it too thin.  You can make your icing days ahead and put it in refrigerator.  Be sure you put a piece of saran wrap directly on the top of the icing to keep it from crusting if you do not make “icing rolls”.   On the day you want to use it, take it out that morning.

**Fun fact – This icing does not need to be refrigerated after you decorate your cake.  The sugar acts as a stabilizer -it is like a super concentrated solution and draws the fluid out of the milk. When it does this, it also pulls fluid from any bacteria which may cause spoilage. Essentially, killing the bacteria through osmosis.  With that said, if it is hot – your icing will melt – and at that point you should keep it refrigerated.  Personally, I would not leave it out more than 2-3 days without refrigerating.  If your cake is not going to be eaten in that period of time, slice it and wrap it individually.  It makes a great treat when you need something special!


What is an icing roll?  It is a great way to store your icing and also to prep it for your decorator bag.  You place a long piece of Press n Seal on the counter, plop a nice amount of icing in the middle, and roll it up like a sushi roll.  Once you have it rolled up, grab both ends and twist it – closing the ends and making it tighter as you roll.  (This will make more sense when you do it).  When you have it nice and tight, tie a knot in the end as close to the icing as possible and cut the tail off.  Now, when you get ready to decorate, cut the knot off one end and drop it (cut end first) into your pastry bag and squeeze!  NO mess trying to fill your bag.  If you make your icing rolls small and different colors, you can even pipe multiple colors at once.  The rolls make a nice way to store your icing in the refrigerator also.

Now that is more than you ever wanted to know about icing!  I do hope you will bake a cake and share a great time with your family decorating.  There is no better way to share love than through a shared experience.


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