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Not So Sweet Buttercream

5 from 4 votes
Total Time: 10 mins

This Not So Sweet Buttercream is stable, versatile, and not as sweet as traditional buttercream recipes. Leave the horrific comment of “this frosting is too sweet” behind you! This recipe is simple and easy to make. Plus, you can have it from the mixing bowl to decorating your sweet treats in less than 10 minutes!

Find the chocolate version here; Not So Sweet Chocolate Buttercream. You may also like my Nutella Buttercream Frosting, Raspberry Buttercream Frosting, or No Fail Italian Meringue.

I first developed this Not So Sweet Buttercream recipe for my boyfriend’s 30th birthday cake a few months ago. I was making him a layer cake and knew I needed something that would crust (harden) and keep it’s shape as I piped. He is not a huge fan of sweets and is definitely not a fan of traditional buttercream. Honestly, if you already have a treat that is sweet you don’t really want to pile more sweet on top of it. He was wanting a cream cheese frosting but I knew that would not hold up to the standard of a layer cake.

That was when I created a hybrid of American Buttercream and Cream Cheese Frosting! It is more on the buttercream side but does have a hint of cream cheese flavor. The primary reason cream cheese is used in this recipe is to tame the sweet. Cream cheese adds stability so we don’t need as much powdered sugar and tang so it cuts through the sweet a bit. We also add cornstarch and meringue powder to help with stability and overall texture of the buttercream.

For more essential baking recipes, check out my No Fail Italian Meringue and Vodka Butter Pie Crust.

Piped design with Not So Sweet Buttercream

Ingredients in Not So Sweet Buttercream

  • Unsalted butter- Buttercream can’t exist without butter, but make sure it is at room temperature.
  • Cream cheese- Cream cheese adds stability and tanginess to our buttercream. Again, make sure it is at room temperature.
  • Vanilla extract- Where the flavor comes from!
  • Powdered sugar- Acts as sweetener and a stabilizer. This ensures we are able to pipe our buttercream into pretty designs.
  • Meringue powder- It is made of dried egg whites and adds stability to the buttercream. You can find it online or at large craft stores and grocery stores in the baking/cake decorating section.
  • Cornstarch- Adds more stability.

You may be wondering, why so many “stable” ingredients?! Well, in order to get away with using less powdered sugar but still have a strong, pipeable buttercream we need those ingredients.

Ingredients Needed butter, cream cheese, meringue powder, vanilla, corn starch, and powdered sugar

Whipping Up the Not So Sweet Buttercream

For this recipe you can use either a stand mixer, or a hand mixer. Whatever you prefer!

  1. Beat the butter and cream cheese until creamy. Make sure both are softened and at room temperature to get a really smooth and creamy mixture. You will beat it on medium speed for three to four minutes.
  2. Incorporate the vanilla extract. Do this on low speed for one minute.
  3. Sift together the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and corn starch.
  4. Add your powdered sugar mixture one cup at a time. Do this on low to medium speed, scraping down the bowl between each cup. It takes about four to 5 minutes.
  5. Whip one final time. Turn up your mixer to medium high and whip for thirty to forty five seconds. This will give you a super creamy frosting.

Store your Not So Sweet Buttercream in the refrigerator or freezer covered. This can be in a bowl or piping bag that is in an airtight gallon bag.

TIP: When you are ready to use the buttercream, remove from the refrigerator or freezer and let the frosting come to a slightly cool-room temperature. Whip on medium speed with stand mixer or hand mixer until it is light and fluffy for three to four minutes. If it is in a piping bag you can massage it with your hands for a few minutes.

Finished Buttercream in a metal bowl

I Don’t Know How Much to Make

It can be so difficult trouble shooting how many batches of frosting to make. I always end up making a little more than what I needed so I have some wiggle room with design. For reference, one batch is this recipe as is. To make two batches you would need to double it and three batches means tripling it. I hope this helps!

  • 6 cupcakes: half batch
  • 12 cupcakes: one batches
  • 6 inch layer cake: one batches
  • 8 inch layer cake: two batches
  • 8×8 sheet cake or brownies: one batch
  • 13×9 sheet cake or brownies: two batches
  • Filling 12 whoopie pies or cookies: one batches
Photo of piped frosting on a spoon

Ideas for Flavor Combinations

I love this recipe because it tastes delicious with so many different flavors. Some of my favorite variations are:

  • Fruity- use 2 tablespoons of powdered freeze- dried fruit per batch. Add this in after your buttercream is done. My favorites have been strawberry and blueberry. I shy away from adding fresh fruits to this because the cornstarch and water content in fruit makes a gummy and stringy consistency.
  • Caramel- beat in 1-3 tablespoons of jarred caramel per batch. Add this in at the end. If the buttercream loosens from your caramel add 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar at a time until thickened.
  • Any flavor emulsion- Mint, coconut, butter pecan, maple, almond, marshmallow, cotton candy. Add between one half teaspoon and one tablespoon per batch. I start with one half teaspoon and taste test until I get the flavor strength I am looking for.

Or check out a few of my recipes that use this buttercream. Strawberry Crunch Cupcakes, Butterscotch Cupcakes, Strawberry Filled Cupcakes, and my Guava Filled Coconut Cupcakes.

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Enjoy Entirely, Elizabeth
Frosting piped into a clear glass with bowl, vanilla, butter, and whisk in background.

Not So Sweet Buttercream

Elizabeth Swoish
This Not So Sweet Buttercream is stable, versatile, and not as sweet as traditional buttercream recipes. Leave the horrific comment of "this frosting is too sweet" behind you! This recipe is simple and easy to make. Plus, you can have it from the mixing bowl to decorating your sweet treats in less than 10 minutes!
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Dessert
Servings 12
Calories 173 kcal


  • 1 stick unsalted butter; room temperature
  • ½ block cream cheese; full fat
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch


  • On medium speed, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth and fully incorporated.
  • Add vanilla extract, beat until incorporated.
  • In a separate bowl sift together the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and corn starch.
  • On low to medium speed, add 1 cup of the powdered sugar mixture to the cream cheese mixture at a time, scraping down the bowl between each cup.
  • Once all the powdered sugar mixture is incorporated, turn mixer to medium high and beat for 30-45 seconds.



Storing information:
  • Covered in refrigerator for up to seven days.
  • Covered and frozen for up to two months. 
Remove from refrigerator or freezer and let the frosting come to room temperature. Whip on medium speed with stand mixer or hand mixer until it is light and fluffy (about three to four minutes). 

If you make my Not So Sweet Buttercream, don’t forget to leave this recipe a rating, comment, or like. Tag me on social media using the hashtag #EntirelyElizabeth when sharing your own personal photos making this recipe. I would love to see your version and know your thoughts!

By Elizabeth Swoish on August 17th, 2021

19 thoughts on “Not So Sweet Buttercream”

    • Hi Donna;

      And yes, I just use freeze dried strawberries. What I do is pulse them down in a food process so they are a powder. Then I add 1 tablespoon of the strawberry powder at a time until I reach the flavor I am looking for. It also gives it a beautiful pinkish red color. Enjoy!


  1. I have not tried this recipe as of yet, but it sounds like what I am looking for.
    Can I use it to icing a wedding cake, do you think it will be too sticky with the cream cheese in it??
    your thoughts…. Thanks for sharing

  2. Hi, I’m making 3 d lamb cakes for Easter with about twenty kids. This is a great recipe because of the not so sweet factor!

    • Hi Lisa!
      It really depends on heat and humidity. It also depends on whether or not the cake has been refrigerated prior to taking outside and serving. I am sorry I cannot give a definitive answer.
      But I do recommend refrigerating your cake overnight and keeping it out of direct sunlight. Check on it every little bit and if it is getting too warm immediately refrigerate it.

    • Hi Jeannie!
      Yes. Because it has dairy and dairy can spoil I do recommend refrigerating. I will leave it out at room temperature for an hour or so prior to cutting and serving though.
      Hope this helps!

    • Hi Patricia!

      Meringue powder is made mostly of dried egg whites. It is used to create stability in this recipe.
      You can definitely find it on Amazon. I get it at my local Walmart in the cake decorating/party section (sometimes you can find it in the baking aisle). You can also buy it at Michaels, Joann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, just to name a few. Again it will be in the cake decorating section.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Absolutely love this buttercream recipe!! It still sturdy enough for piping and it really has a delicious flavor, this will be a recipe I will using a lot! Also love the fact that it is so easy to make!
    I added fresh lemon juice, and it tastes delicious!
    Thank you for sharing this recipe ??

  4. 5 stars
    Absolute perfection! My son (the only kid I know) does not like traditional buttercream because of the too sweet factor. I made homemade cupcakes and used this recipe. He loved them! Thank you for providing a delicious recipe that my kiddo loves! ❤️


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