To make vanilla buttercream frosting, beat 1/2 cup butter in a bowl until creamy. Add 4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 5 to 6 tablespoons of 2 percent milk, and beat well. This recipe makes 24 servings of frosting.
Alternatively, you can make vanilla frosting by combining 3 cups powdered sugar and 1/3 cup butter with an electric mixer. Then, stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk. Beat in additional milk, a few drops at a time, until the frosting reaches a smooth and spreadable consistency. If the frosting becomes too thin, add a small amount of powdered sugar. This recipe makes enough frosting to frost a two-layer 8- or 9-inch cake.
To make vanilla frosting with shortening rather than butter, begin by combining 4 cups confectioner's sugar, 1 cup shortening, 2 tablespoons water and 1 teaspoon clear imitation vanilla extract in a large bowl. Beat these ingredients on low speed until combined, and then turn the mixer to medium speed and beat for five minutes. This recipe makes 4 to 5 cups of icing. If the frosting is too thick, thin it down by adding 3 tablespoons corn syrup or an additional 3 tablespoons of water to the recipe.