To make vanilla cake icing, combine 3 cups powdered sugar, 1 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1-2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream and beat with an electric mixer for about five minutes. This will create a quick, buttercream-like frosting that can be used for many different types of cakes.
For best results, use unsalted, room-temperature butter. First, beat butter until it is soft and fluffy then slowly add sugar and vanilla. Once the butter, sugar and vanilla are fully incorporated, slowly add cream until the icing reaches desired consistency. You may wish to add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt for a more balanced flavor.
This basic vanilla cake icing recipe provides a versatile base for a wide variety of frosting flavors. Substitute almond, peppermint or other extract flavors instead of vanilla. Add a few tablespoons of espresso powder to create a coffee-flavored icing. Substitute half of the butter for peanut butter for a delicious peanut butter frosting. Add a few teaspoons of lemon zest, and substitute lemon juice for heavy cream, for a light citrus flavor that pairs well with white or lemon cake. For a festive look, add a few drops of food coloring to your icing. Colored icing is perfect for decorating birthday cakes, holiday cookies or cupcakes.