For vanilla buttercream icing, mix 1 cup butter with 3 cups confectioner's sugar. Mix on low speed to combine ingredients, and then beat at medium speed for three minutes. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream, and beat at medium speed for an additional minute.
To make chocolate buttercream icing, beat 3 cups powdered sugar with 1/3 cup softened butter or margarine. Melt 3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, and let it cool. Blend the melted chocolate and 2 teaspoons vanilla into the butter and sugar mixture. Beat in 3 to 4 tablespoons milk until the icing reaches spreading consistency. If the icing gets too thin, use a small amount of powdered sugar to thicken it.
By using different extracts, it is possible to use the same base recipe for several icing flavors. To make almond buttercream icing, beat 1/2 cup of softened butter in a mixing bowl until it becomes creamy. Add 4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, 5 to 6 tablespoons milk and 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon almond extract. Beat ingredients together until the icing becomes smooth. For peppermint buttercream icing, prepare the same recipe, but omit the almond extract. Use 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract to add flavor.