I stumbled across this recipe online and I love it. Very creamy and makes decorations beautifully. Got best results with the VIVA paper towel method!

Crusting Buttercream Icing (VIVA Method)


  • 2 lbs. sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick butter, softened.
  • 1-1/2 cups solid vegetable shortening
  • 2 tbsp. clear vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup water for icing cake -OR- 1/4 cup for stiff consistency.
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract


  1. Cream butter, shortening, and extracts until creamy and smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar and water. Mix thoroughly on medium speed for hand mixers, low speed for stand mixers, until smooth and creamy. Do not overmix or mix on high speed.
  2. For whiter icing, use butter without dye (health food stores)
  3. For stiffer icing, use 1/4 cup of water instead of 1/3 cup.
  4. If you live where it is humid, you can add 1-2 tbsp. meringue powder.
  5. Let set for 15 minutes before smoothing with a VIVA paper towel.
  6. Icing can be refrigerated for 2 weeks in an airtight container. Iced cake can sit at room temp. for 2-3 days.
  7. *Any flowers made with this recipe remain soft enough to be cut with a knife.*


ps1984 Says... 2009-10-16 06:25:14

I used this to make a cake for my cousin and everyone loved it! Such an awesome recipe! Crusts very well and holds up better than any other recipe I have used. Thanks so much for sharing this! Will be my new most used buttercream frosting!

Karakri Says... 2009-11-25 04:46:39

I'm just wondering, how do you make the sugar melt? Do you boil it in the water? Otherwise there's gotta be grains of sugar in the icing, or does it just melt in the butter at room temperature?

cutiepiebaker Says... 2009-12-01 15:18:29

Can this be used on a wedding cake? Is it able to be perfected enough? And smoothed enough? Thank you!

Rowena1957 Says... 2009-12-06 07:50:50

Can't you just use all shortening instead of butter to make it all white?

ashk36 Says... 2009-12-27 14:50:29

Do you use salted or unsalted butter?

Luv2BakeMama Says... 2010-02-09 16:27:28

This is the second buttercream icing I've made so far and it's great! Very fluffly and made enough to cover 50 cupcakes. Excellent recipe!

Jeliz Says... 2010-03-19 09:57:32

Karakri, I believe you're referring to granulated sugar. To make frosting you should use powdered sugar, never granulated. And no you don't have to melt it.

Hope this helps.

Jeliz Says... 2010-03-19 09:58:08

ashk36, use unsalted butter.

Jeliz Says... 2010-03-19 10:00:32

Rowena you can use all shortening, but if the beige color is a concern you can always purchase a product called "Icing Colors - White - White" from Wilton. You can find it at any craft store.


ps1984 Says... 2010-03-20 12:40:10

I absolutly love this recipe!!! I use this buttercream for majority of my specialty cakes and I have to say it is perfect! Holds up well in humidity, even in Charleston, SC where I live. Never had such an easy frosting to work with until I came across this recipe. Thank you so much for sharing!!!!!

chefaddie Says... 2010-03-25 14:09:55

This is my new favourite hands down!!!!

Marianna46 Says... 2010-03-25 18:45:19

Yes, this one is definitely the keeper! I live in the most humid place on Earth and this is the one that holds up. An all-shortening buttercream like Wilton's works all right, too, but for some reason it tastes like pure shortening in this hot, damp climate. I was hooked from the first time I made it.

gcglittergirl Says... 2010-04-13 16:04:10

My favorite to use. It holds up very well even in the humid areas in the south - coastal NC. However, instead of almond flavoring, I add a bit of butter flavoring - it is out of this world! Thanks so much for posting.

madandlyla Says... 2010-05-05 19:36:33

how many cakes will one batch of this recipe cover?

jlkallred Says... 2010-06-02 07:31:19

I LOVE, love this recipe, and alot of people have commented on how smooth I can get it. However, the last time I used it, it was an Extremely humid day and I had a hard time getting it to stay on the side of the cake! It kind of wanted to slide down! I think maybe I used too much liquid, tho...I'm sure it was something I did b/c I'd never had it happen before (and I live in central TX, so it's usually very humid).

renee11 Says... 2010-06-08 20:19:54

Can someone explain the part where the VIVA paper towel comes into the recipe??

babycakes1234 Says... 2010-06-09 07:07:32

Re: Can someone explain the part where the VIVA paper towel comes into the recipe??

Allow your buttercream icing to crust on the cake ( you will be able to touch the icing without it coming off on your fingers ) After it has crusted to touch, you can use a viva paper towel and gently place in on the cake and run your hand gently over the paper towel to smooth the icing. If the icing sticks to the paper towel then it has not crusted enough and you should wait a bit longer then try again. If properly done the icing is really smooth like fondant. Good luck.

WickedSweetDebbie Says... 2010-06-17 23:00:23

I have the same question as Madandlyla-how much cake will this recipe cover? I have to cover a double-layer 8" and a double-layer 10", and enough left over for mounds to create hydrangeas...do you think if I triple this recipe that will be enough?

wpowell4 Says... 2010-06-19 05:37:09

I am so hooked on this recipe I LOVE IT!!!!!! And will not use anything else. I use salted butter to cut some of the sweetness. I also found that instead of using all veg shortening I found at Wal Mart has a very cream white shortening and that's all that is says on the container"shortening"(great value). It comes out really white too. Hope this helps someone!!!!!!

cinder719 Says... 2010-06-23 13:01:26

Can this be left out

iggilicious Says... 2010-06-23 15:17:59

Has anyone made this a chocolate buttercream?

prettypinkbookworm Says... 2010-07-01 20:31:04

Yay, so glad to try this recipe! I'm in a beginners Wilton class and I wanted something with more of a real butter taste...this gave me that while not being too difficult to work with. :)

gilson6 Says... 2010-07-02 11:39:00

Just finished making this icing. I love it! I've been putting off making my own buttercream (I've been using the Wilton canned stuff - gasp!! I admit it.). I mostly use the crusting cream cheese recipe that I found on here. So glad to add this one to my list!

snickers34 Says... 2010-07-05 12:26:35

have you made this recipe into a chocolate buttercream?

rchemerika Says... 2010-08-11 09:23:26

how many cups of sugar is 2 pounds?

ilztar Says... 2010-08-13 20:00:09

Can you use all butter instead of shortening in the recipe? And can you use whipping cream instead of water? Thanks!

s1979r Says... 2010-08-23 13:20:37

2 lbs of powders suger is alot. Wouldn't that be to sweet? Can't I use less sugar and more butter?

yums Says... 2010-09-03 08:45:37

Not a huge fan of this. I thought it was too sweet even with salted butter and a little extra salt thrown in. I also thought it left a greasy feel in my mouth. It crusted as well any other crusting BC. 2lbs of 10x sugar is 8 cups.

meghanmfinley Says... 2010-09-10 18:27:33

This is the BEST frosting ever!!! I have yet to ice my cakes and smooth it out but i'm confident it will be great, taste is amazing, thanks for sharing!

Smcrorie Says... 2010-09-21 12:10:25

Okay so no one has posted as to the yeild on this recipe. How much does it make? Am planning on using it to frost my wedding cake and need to know how much to make. I guess since I am doing a dry run 8 inch cake tomorrow if no one can tell me I will post my results when I make it.

cakelovincrazy Says... 2010-10-01 10:51:28

ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS RECIPE!!!!! It turned out perfectly smooth, creamy and the VIVA method worked great! Looked like fondant, but tasted like yummy bc! The only change I made was instead of water I used a little French Vanilla creamer.

wilgon1 Says... 2010-10-01 18:23:57

I loved this frosting, the only thing is when it dryed it cracked. What could have happened?

WickedSweetDebbie Says... 2010-10-05 09:49:33

Same question as Igilicious and Snickers- Can you make this chocolate? And if so, how??

shoshi Says... 2010-12-21 21:36:02

I wonder why no one will answer about the quantity of this recipe? I would like to know also before I attempt it.

cakesbytina Says... 2011-01-22 09:36:02

Wow....it practically smoothed itself!!!! Fantastic!!! This IS my new most favourite buttercream!!!!!!

bh1978 Says... 2011-02-23 01:07:18

My buttercream didn't set, what did I do wrong? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

h_rob Says... 2011-02-26 21:48:47

my buttercream isn't setting either, I'm leaving it overnight any tips as to why it is taking so long or not happening?

brandygirl Says... 2011-03-12 20:53:59

I've used this exact recipe a few times now. What exactly, for the previous posters, is not setting?

After you have iced the cake - is the buttercream pulling off of the cake when you rub the paper towel over it??

If YES, then you probably added too much water or did not add enough confectioners' sugar(2 pounds not the 1 pound bag). The amount of water you use depends a lot on the humidity of your home/time of year. Sometimes you might only use 1-2 tbsp and other times you need that full 1/3 cup.

I use ALMOST melted butter, I use 1.5 cups of butter flavored FULL FAT veg. shortening (though if you are wanting pure white icing - you will want to add in whitening or use no-dye butter + plain veg. shortening). I add a cap full of almond extract as well as a cap full of vanilla bean extract. I then quickly whip it together and start adding the confectioners' sugar in four batches (add then blend, then scrap bowl, add more, blend, scrap bowl). By the time I add in the 3rd part of the powdered sugar the frosting becomes stiff. THAT is when I add in 2 tbsp of water. I blend, add more powdered sugar, blend again and see what the consistency is.

You want the frosting a little bit stiff but not so stiff that it pulls on the cake or itself. You also don't want it so creamy that it drips off OR DOES NOT SET. It should spread effortlessly but maintain it's shape.

I put on 1st light layer as a my 'crumb coating'. I then sit it outside (it's winter currently) as long as there is no precip. OR put it in my fridge for about 10 minutes. That is all the time the cake needs for the frosting to start setting. I then put on a thicker second coat. I put it on pretty heavy/thick. Then wet my icing spatula and carefully go around remove excess/smooth out as much as I can. Again, I put the cake outside, garage, or in fridge. 10-15 minutes is all the time it needs for the frosting to begin hardening. I use whatever paper towel brand I have on hand (though viva will leave virtually no imprint/design) and place it on the frosting with a LIGHT but firm (not a heavy firm ) hand I begin to smooth it out.

I want to make a note about the full fat - perhaps others have not had issue but I once had a pastry chef share that when crisco took out the transfats it impacted the way crisco worked in butter cream recipes. There are still veg. shortenings on the shelf that still have all the fat in them (such as generic store brands).

SO if your butter cream is not firming/crusting so that you can smooth it with a paper towel check this:

- too much water? - did you use proper amount of confectioners' sugar? - did you OVER beat the butter cream (i simply use a hand held mixer - limited beating) - if your home or environment is warm - did you put the cake in the fridge to help crusting (you really only need about 10-15 minutes at most for the crusting to occur)

brandygirl Says... 2011-03-12 21:02:25

To the people who wanted to know how much icing this yields - I did not measure out how much it yields. I can tell you ...

I make a 3 tier cake using three 7in rounds. I heavy pipe the 'bumper' around the inside of each layer (to prevent filling from oozing out) + usually I use the butter cream with a candy/nut/etc item mixed in for a filling + fill in out edges + crumb coat + 2nd heavy layer + pipe work/decoration.

For all of that I use ALMOST two full batches.

brandygirl Says... 2011-03-12 21:05:12


If it cracked - you didn't put enough water in when mixing. The frosting shouldn't have been so stiff.

samlee Says... 2011-03-14 22:35:01

Hi everyone i just made this butter cream and it is soooo yummy... but i have WAY to much of it and was wondering if i could freeze the rest and use it for another cake in a weeks time?.

samlee Says... 2011-03-14 22:37:41

ok i just read underneath the recipe and you can keep it for 2 weeks in a n airtight container..but could you still freeze it for maybe a month or something then?

PattyCakes2010 Says... 2011-03-16 19:53:06

I use the same recipe all the time but when I want my icing to be white I use Natural Butter, it is white and it works just as good as regular butter(yellow). You can find it in Food 4 Less or Stater Bros.

kstroud03 Says... 2011-04-01 11:43:12

I have frozen this recipe several times--especially if I have a small amount of a color left, then I have a color like for a border next time. It freezes beautifully. I usually take it out of the freezer and thaw in the fridge, then re-whip it in the kitchen aid mixer.

CAC74 Says... 2011-04-03 09:55:42

I can't wait to try out this recipe. I am also wondering though... anyone know how you would convert this to a chocolate recipe?

jennilynn03 Says... 2011-04-04 10:00:03

I made this recipe this weekend and was impressed!! I haven't had such a smooth icing before. It is definately a keeper. I would love to know how to convert this into a chocolate recipe as I have a cake due the end of the month and would like to use it for that.

kristees_confections Says... 2011-04-18 18:07:04

I just made this recipe and haven't iced my cake with it yet, but wanted to post that a double batch yeilded 8 cups. Also using the new Crisco formula I only added 1/2 cup of water and it seems the right consistency for icing cake, probably could have used less for more stiff consisteny for decorations. Also as a side note to cut some of the sweetness I added a tsp of popcorn salt to the water before adding it to the bowl. Delicious results and not too sweet ;)

KMKakes Says... 2011-04-30 21:40:55

To make this recipe into chocolate BC, you can just add 8 tbsp. of dark powdered cocoa. Dark powdered cocoa will give it a richer non bitter taste. Also to note, you may need to add or decrease the amount of cocoa powder to SUIT YOUR TASTE:)!!! Happy Baking

BrodysMommy1 Says... 2011-05-05 18:17:53

I turned this into a white chocolate buttercream by using 1/2 the butter and crisco amounts and adding a whole bag (16oz) of melted premier white chocolate chips. It turned out perfectly. The cake looked like it was covered in fondant.

Angela_Elise Says... 2011-05-25 19:11:49

Shortening- Have any of you used any substitute so there isn't as much shortening, but you still get the crusting effect?? I really do like this recipe but I feel like my mouth is covered with wax when I eat it. I've had the same reaction from other taste testers. They LOVE the flavor, and smooth look, but feel it's to waxy almost. So....looking for a substitute. Thanks!!

e_comstock Says... 2011-06-08 14:19:15

what does it mean when its crusting? whats the difference between this and regular butter cream?

SweetsSpot Says... 2011-06-08 15:54:40

It was mentioned that someone used the WalMart brand Great Value Shortening. Please be careful of the one that just says SHORTENING, it may contain animal fats. You may want to make sure it says VEGETABLE SHORTENING.

reka1 Says... 2011-06-09 01:58:27

If I make roses using this buttercream,,how far ahead can I make and refrigerate them??? need response asap!!!!

Cosima Says... 2011-06-15 20:21:50

OK I just made this recipe. I have to say I didn't like the taste; however, looking through all the recipes out there this is pretty much a norm. I'm thinking this and want to know your opinions. My husband bought an off-brand powdered sugar instead of my norm C&H. Do you think that is why it just doesn't taste as good? I mean isn't powdered sugar powdered sugar. What are your thoughts?

Sheri_e Says... 2011-06-17 07:54:21

I havent tried this recipe yet, and am pretty new to cake decorating, but i have tried quite a few recipies and have found that it DOES make a difference on the brand of PS used. I will now only us C&H ps for buttercream. Hope this helps

jvsg1rl Says... 2011-06-21 17:08:18

Hi, how many servings is this buttercream?

type2 Says... 2011-06-27 15:00:32

LOVE this recipe! I used it for the first time to cover up my first wedding cake this weekend and everyone kept talking about how amazing the icing was and it also went perfectly with a cake recipe I got from Heartsfire- cakecentral.com/recipes/1972/durable-cake-for-3d-and-wedding-cakes I had to make 4x the amount to cover a 16", 14" and 12" and that's not including the filling. I will definitely use this recipe for any of my future buttercream cakes. Thank you!

beer_N_cakes Says... 2011-07-08 19:36:12

This is similar to the buttercream I make (only I use heavy cream, salted butter and add a little salt otherwise I find it is too sweet). I just wanted to comment that to combat the greasy mouth feel that you can get with regular shortening, I use high-ratio shortening (such as Alpine). The texture and mouth feel is much nicer and you retain some of the stability that the shortening part gives.

KMKakes Says... 2011-07-27 11:57:47

Considering there is a lot of powder sugar in this recipe, is that the reason for no meringue powder?

sweetsbystacy Says... 2011-08-12 05:14:22

It's frosting, people. It's supposed to be sweet. This is the only buttercream recipe I use. I use different flavored creamers instead of water and it makes the frosting a bit creamier with added flavor. I get raves for hazelnut. : )

shannonlolly Says... 2011-08-15 18:49:36

I want to switch to this BC recipe. Do you refrigerate your cake afterward or leave at room temperature?

annemarie40 Says... 2011-09-01 15:40:45

I tried this for my mother in law's birthday cake and I absolutely loved it. It was a hit. It was perfect in every way!!!

FaughndOfCakes Says... 2011-09-03 17:51:07

Love this recipe but it was a tad on the greasy side so I swapped the amounts of butter and shortening (I live in a remote area and couldn't get high ratio shortening) and put in heavy cream instead of water and I like much better. It also crusted just fine, but I live in Idaho were we have zero humidity, so if you live somewhere humid not sure if that would work the best.

Princessagata Says... 2011-09-17 07:03:27

Does anyone knows how much I need to make of this BC frosting to use only for crumb-coat a 14", 10" and 6"x 2 double stacked 3 tier cake and two 12X18x2 double stacked sheet cakes? Thanks!

alival Says... 2011-09-27 13:39:07

I just made this buttercream recipe. I must say I'm impressed. Flavor is not too sweet but sweet enough. I will use this from now on! Thank you!

countrycuttins Says... 2011-11-08 13:19:56

I tried this, and it was way to greasy/waxy for my liking. I really wanted to try the Viva method, but not at the expense of taste or texture when it come to buttercream.

gretamarie Says... 2012-02-14 16:44:10

To the previous comment, this is definitely a decorator buttercream. Better tasting buttercreams don't crust like this and don't withstand all the piping when the bag gets warm from holding it with your hand. In my opinion, this is the best tasting decorator buttercream recipe I've tried. Definitely my go to for decorating.

For all those asking, I just measured my batch--5 cups of frosting. For me this is enough to frost and decorate a 9" cake.

otmama Says... 2012-04-05 09:45:17

If I am using this recipe to make a 3 tier wedding cake with filling, is it best to put the cake all together first (all 3 tiers) and then frost them? I’m concerned about it cracking on me if I frost the bottom tier, then place the next layer of cake on top of that and frost it, and so on. Thoughts?

soonergirl31 Says... 2012-05-08 13:02:19

Tried this today and it is great. I used salted butter and heavy cream versus water. Has the same consistency as my other recipe, but a little better flavor. I am hopeful it crusts as stated because I always use viva and fondant smoother for my specialty cakes. Note to those whose icing slid...did you use Crsco? I never use it for this reason...not enough fat for stability. Oh, And Once the ingredients were incorporated, I beat it on med low for 7 minutes and it became nice and whipped and stiff.

DemiGiggles Says... 2012-06-04 11:51:42

Can anyone say exactly how much meringue powder they used when making this for high humidity? And was the cake in the sun?

To those who say that this is greasy, did you use high ratio shortening? I would love to know.

trishalynn0708 Says... 2012-06-06 10:37:15

I just made this recipe today to try on some cupcakes for an upcoming wedding.. I LOVE it!!!! It is very sturdy, but has a nice creamy consistency at the same time.. I also loved that the buttercream hardened but not enough to effect the taste or texture. When you bite into it the frosting just melts in your mouth!! Amazing recipe, now my new favorite! =)

annemarie40 Says... 2012-06-07 12:06:12

i had to take all the liquid for the humidity where i live. it crusted too much for me and cracked. now i just use everything but water. it is perfect and still crusts but not so much it cracks up. -

annemarie40 Says... 2012-06-07 12:06:47

i meant take out all the liquid because of the humidity.

Mal1418 Says... 2012-06-16 16:32:44

I didn't like the taste of the regular vanilla since I normally use Mexican Vanilla. I used 1 Tbsp of mexican vanilla and an extra dash. It was delicious. It did effect the color, but since I was coloring it anyway it didn't really matter!

luv2laugh Says... 2012-06-17 14:21:41

Love it!!! Thanks for sharing it!

BrooksieCakes Says... 2012-07-23 18:20:06

This recipe is awesome! I've been on the hunt for a new one and I tried this one. I used salted butter though. It's really tasty though! Thanks for sharing.

Lucky6 Says... 2012-09-12 06:39:42

My hardware store in California carries a box of 300 shop towels very similar or even better to the viva brand, they made by Scott and they work just as good

CakeItOrLeaveItHon Says... 2012-09-12 16:29:07

I just made this tonight. I haven't put it on a cake yet but I am confident that it's going to work out wonderfully. It made about 7-8 cups worth. I omitted the almond extract because I didn't have any, and I used Irish Cream coffee creamer in place of the 1/3 cup water. It's very light and fluffy, not dense like some other icings I have tried. It whips up beautifully with little effort. It tastes light too. Yes, its a little on the waxy side, but like someone else said, it's decorator icing. They're all a little waxy, in order to retain shape and hold up against heat. Mine is off white, but I don't care because I'm coloring it anyway. I like the flexibility of being able to sub different flavorings in place of the water. This is my new favorite buttercream. Thanks for sharing!!

Vickibakes Says... 2012-10-05 07:21:34

A few people made wedding cakes... How did this buttercream fare with stacking?? I'm concerned about the weight cracking the bottom tier. Any help??

Txgirl78664 Says... 2012-10-17 19:31:28

Soonergil31, or anyone else with answer please respond. Just made the icing and roses slid off side of cake, soonergirl31, you indicated its the crisco shortening, which is what I used . What do you use? Thanks

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