Dairy-Free Buttercream Frosting for the Icing on the Vegan Cake


Yesterday we were talking about frosting on pie pops, and I wanted to make sure you have a deliciously versatile option. This dairy-free buttercream frosting is just like traditional buttercream, but with a couple simple swaps. The recipe is from my book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook, and it’s perfect for topping or filling so many types of desserts.

Dairy-Free Buttercream Frosting Recipe - an essential basic that's also vegan and allergy-friendly

Dairy-Free Buttercream Frosting for the Icing on the Vegan Cake

Sometimes, it’s hard to find that perfect frosting, but this recipe is it. It includes very simple ingredients and I have some guidance to ensure delicious results.

It’s easy to forget that quality really matters in a recipe with so few ingredients. In this case, the “butter” is key, so be sure to pick one with a flavor that you really like.

We prefer to use buttery sticks in this dairy-free buttercream frosting recipe rather than buttery spread, as it tends to be firmer. The buttery sticks are usually sold next to the buttery spreads, and are made by a few companies. Or, you can use the Bakeable Butter Recipe in my cookbook, Go Dairy Free 2nd Edition.

For a firmer, decorator’s frosting, cutting in some shortening (your choice of type), helps too stabilize the mixture without overwhelming the flavor.

And because dairy-free “butter” can be soften more quickly than dairy butter, it’s important to add the liquid near the end of whipping, and only as needed. This helps to prevent turning  your dairy-free buttercream frosting into a runny icing!

Dairy-Free Buttercream Frosting Recipe - an essential basic that's also vegan and allergy-friendly

Special Diet Notes: Dairy-Free Buttercream Frosting

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, grain-free, optionally nut-free, peanut-free, optionally soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian.

4.5 from 2 reviews
Dairy-Free Buttercream Frosting
Prep time
Total time
This is my personal go-to frosting almost any type of cake, and it's a simple sample recipe from my book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: about 3 cups (more than enough to frost an 8- or 9-inch double-layer cake
  • 1 cup dairy-free buttery sticks or spread, softened (see post above)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or pure vanilla flavoring
  • 3½ to 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons plain or unsweetened dairy-free milk beverage, as needed
  1. Put the buttery spread or sticks in a large mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat just until combined.
  2. Sift in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, and beat on low speed to incorporate it.
  3. Turn the hand mixer up to medium or high speed and whip the frosting for 2 minutes. Beat in the milk beverage as needed to reach your desired consistency.
  4. Store leftover frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Beat the chilled frosting with your hand mixer for 30 seconds to soften before using.
Decorator’s Buttercream Optional: Substitute ½ cup organic palm shortening (or your shortening of choice) for ½ cup of the buttery spread or sticks.

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About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


  1. Hi! I have tried to make this icing several times and just cannot seem to get the texture right. It seems like the more I beat/whip the butter, it doesn’t firm up that much. My end result is almost runny. The df sticks feel softer to me than regular butter even when cold. Do you think I could whip this butter without softening it? Also I can feel the sugar in my mouth – like it doesn’t dissolve. Please help! The last time I made a vegan cake I used store bought icing. 😕

    • That sounds like an issue with the buttery sticks. I know it can be frustrating, but dairy-free brands and even batches can vary. Especially this year, as companies are producing certain products quite fast. But yes, you can beat without softening. It’s sounds like the brand you are using is soft already. Usually buttery sticks are very firm. There are really only two factors at play, the buttery sticks and the sugar. Different brands of powdered sugar can also perform differently, and have different textures. Most store-bought brands use shortening. For more consistent results, you can use the Decorator’s buttercream option, which uses half shortening. I use Spectrum Shortening (which is soy-free, hydrogenated oil-free, and pretty consistent).

    • Hi Hunter, there aren’t a lot of working components in this recipe, so it really comes down to the ingredients. By graininess, do you mean actual mouthfeel or separation? If it is mouthfeel, then it is the sugar. I assume you used a regular powdered sugar (alternatives like sugar-free options or “unrefined” ones will not work well). If it was separation or clumpiness, then it was the butter alternative brand that you used. Did you use buttery sticks or a buttery spread, and if so, which one?

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