How to Make Apple Buttercream

The Best Crusting Apple Buttercream with Real Apples for Cookie Decorating

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Move over pumpkin spice, this apple buttercream will be your new go-to fall buttercream recipe. Top cookies, cupcakes, cakes, brownies, graham crackers – you name it, with this amazing spiced apple buttercream frosting.

There is no need to add any artificial apple to this apple buttercream. Besides artificial apple being one of the worst candy flavors (I said it!), this buttercream packs the punch with apple flavor using real apples.

You may be wondering how hard, round apples will create a smooth, pipeable buttercream. Well, we are going to be saving ourselves a step and either purchasing apple butter or you can go ahead and make your own.

Apple butter is essentially a thick applesauce with added spices. The apple flavor is more pronounced since much of the water content has been cooked out of the applesauce.

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How to Make Apple Buttercream Frosting

Pipeable Apple Buttercream for Sugar Cookie Decorating

Start with Room Temperature Butter

The first step is pulling a cup of unsalted butter (8 oz) out of the refrigerator. You will want the butter to come to room temperature before proceeding.

Starting with room temperature butter is key for soft and perfectly pipe-able buttercream frosting. When you start with cold butter, the mixer has to do a lot of work to soften it. This extra work gives the butter more time to accumulate air, which can produce bubbly buttercream.

If you do find yourself with bubbly buttercream, check out my post on how to fix bubbly buttercream.

If you are in a pinch for time (we’ve all been there) you can get your butter to room temperature quickly with these tips:

  1. Use a cheese grater to grate cold blocks of butter. Using grated butter in the stand mixer will be just fine.
  2. Place water in a medium sized bowl (one that will fit the stick of butter) and microwave the water until boiling. Dump the water out and then flip the bowl over, covering the stick of butter. The butter will come to room temperature rather quickly.

You can tell that the butter is at room temperature by pressing into the butter with your finger. If it makes an indentation easily, it is ready to go.

Once your butter has come to room temperature, cream the butter in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Do not use the whisk attachment, as you would with many other types of frosting. The whisk introduces too much air for buttercream.

Cream the butter for 3-5 minutes. This will produce a whiter butter but also a fluffier butter.

Add in the Correct Amount of Powdered Sugar for a Crusting Buttercream

Turn off the stand mixer and add in four cups of powdered confectioner’s sugar. Mix on LOW speed only from here on out to reduce the chance of air bubbles.

As for the amount of powdered sugar, four cups is a lot, yes. However, I promise the flavors will all balance out. Remember, we are using some salted butter.

We use four cups of powdered sugar in order for the frosting to form a slight crust. All that means is that the outer layer of frosting will dry to the touch. This helps keep fingers cleaned when picking up cookies.

Crusting buttercream also makes it easier to package buttercream sugar cookies. It is a misconception to believe that buttercream cookies cannot be packaged.

You can find out my best tips and tricks for packaging buttercream sugar cookies on my blog post here.

Now, on the other hand, if you are using this apple buttercream on cake or cupcakes, it may be better to reduce the sugar content to about 2-3 cups.

This will all depend on if you need your buttercream to form a crust and whether or not your cake is a sweet cake on its own. 

Adding in the Apple Butter

For this apple buttercream, make sure to use apple butter rather than applesauce. Applesauce will be too runny and won’t pack in the apple flavor as well.

I ended up making my own apple butter, as my toddlers love applesauce and we had plenty of it in the pantry.

As crusting buttercream recipes are more sweet than a typical American Buttercream, I went with an unsweetened version of apple butter. I used unsweetened applesauce and did not add any sweetener while making the apple butter.

Once the butter, powdered sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract have been added to the bowl and mixed until smooth, add 1/4 cup apple butter. Continue to mix on low speed until combined.

Storing Apple Buttercream Frosting

This apple buttercream recipe is a crusting buttercream, which means there is quite a bit of powdered sugar to fat. This ratio will act as a preservative.

That being said, it does have real apple in it. I found myself most comfortable keeping the frosting at room temperature while decorating, allowing it to form a crust for an hour or so, and then moving the cookies into the freezer.

When freezing buttercream sugar cookies, I like to lay the cookies in one layer, allow them to freeze, place a piece of parchment paper, add another layer of cookies, freeze, and repeat.

All that being said, if you are comfortable leaving the buttercream out longer until it forms a full crust, about 8-10 hours, I won’t stop you. I will say, I am not a professional baker, so you may know better than I do. I just prefer to be safe and move it into the freezer sooner than later.

You may be asking why the freezer and not the refrigerator. The refrigerator isn’t the best place for sugar cookies, as they can become more dry. Freezing is easy and keeps them as fresh as possible. Just bring them onto the counter to defrost 30 minutes prior to serving.

How to Make Apple Buttercream

How to Make Apple Buttercream

Crusting Apple Buttercream Recipe for Sugar Cookie Decorating

You'll love this apple buttercream frosting recipe that works perfectly for cookie decorating. This buttercream is made with real apples and still forms a crust to protect your cookie designs.
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: All American Buttercream Frosting, Apple Buttercream, Crusting Buttercream
Prep Time: 1 hour
Mixing Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Author: Leah Buehler


  • Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Measuring cups and spoons


  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup unsweetened apple butter


  • In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the room temperature butter until soft and fluffy.
  • To the stand mixer, add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and mix on low speed until fully incorporated.
  • Add in the apple butter. Mix on low until combined.


If you do not need a crusting buttercream, i.e. using it on a cake, you can reduce the sugar to 2-3 cups, depending on your taste preference. If you are needing a crusting buttercream, do not reduce the amount of sugar, as this is what makes it form a crust.

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Crusting Apple Buttercream with Real Apples

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