What Frosting Flavor Goes Well With Vanilla Cake? | CoachSweetTooth

To impress your guests, you need to pair your cakes with the right frosting flavor. So, what frosting flavor goes well with vanilla cake?

Vanilla cake is one of the most popular cake flavors, not just in the United States but all over the world. The best thing about it is its versatility since it can work well with an endless variety of flavors and variations.

Of course, vanilla cake complements vanilla frosting. If you want a contrasting flavor, though, nothing works as well as chocolate. It also works great with tangy berry creams, zesty citrus flavors, various different kinds of fruity frosting, and any spicy toppings.

I can help you understand which frosting flavors are complementary or provide delicious contrasts to a vanilla cake as well as some of the most popular and mouth-watering frosting to decorate your vanilla cake.

One of the most fun aspects of being a baker is to experiment with different flavors. I have created and given away batches of cupcakes to see which types of icing, frosting, and buttercream go with which types of cake.

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Complementary Frosting Flavors for Vanilla Cake

Vanilla has a sweet, mild, and fragrant taste which works well with similar mild flavors. Some contrasting flavors include:


The obvious choice for a vanilla cake is a vanilla bean buttercream or frosting. This is one of the most traditional and delicious combos that is popular all over the world.

With its marshmallowy taste, vanilla frosting offers a nostalgic and warm flavor to your tastes.

Floral Flavors

Since vanilla is a flower itself, it stands to reason that it will offer a complementary flavor to other flowers and herbs, including mint, rose, lavender, matcha, and rosemary.

One of my most favorite combinations is vanilla cake with violet buttercream which has a sweet and delicate taste. Matcha also goes well with vanilla in lattes so it should also work well as a topping for vanilla cakes.


Spice Flavors

Since vanilla itself is sweet, it works well with sweet spices as well including cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and cloves.

All of these spices can be added as a major ingredient in vanilla buttercream frosting which elevates the taste of the vanilla itself while also lending it an exotic hint of spice and a wonderful mouthwatering fragrance.

Mild Fruit Flavors

Fruits that have a mild flavor like banana, apple, pear, and acai can all be used to make frosting which will complement a vanilla cake. For example, a soft and light vanilla cake paired with vanilla meringue buttercream flavored with figs is one of the most decadent combinations for frostings.

Contrasting Frosting Flavors for Vanilla Cake

The beauty of vanilla cake is that it can also be matched with frostings of contrasting flavors without losing its own mild flavor and appeal.


Of course, probably the most popular type of frosting flavor for vanilla cake is dark chocolate ganache or fudge frosting. In addition to being a cake frosting, it works just as well as a filling.

Depending on your preference, you can pair your vanilla cake not just with dark chocolate, but with malt chocolate, milk chocolate, and even white chocolate.

Tropical Fruit

Mango, coconut, and pineapple are all tropical fruit with their own unique flavors that contain a lot of depth. A vanilla cake serves as the perfect base for frosting, ganache, and buttercream made from these tropical fruits.

Tart Berry Flavors

Tart berries like strawberries, cherries, blackberries, and raspberries, all offer a sharp and strong contrast to the mild and gentle flavor of the vanilla cake. If you want to create a cake where the berry frosting will take center stage, then a vanilla cake is sure to make it shine.

Citrus Flavors

A simple vanilla cake also goes well with the acidic tastes of citruses like lemon, lime, and oranges. A vanilla cake iced and filled with a lemon zest curd is one of my most favorite frosting that offers a sharp and bold contrast to vanilla cake.

The Best Frostings for Vanilla Cake

Since vanilla itself has a mild and unique flavor, it works as a wonderful major ingredient for a cake by emphasizing and enhancing the flavors of the frosting.

Let’s take a look at some of the most famous frostings that go wonderfully with vanilla cake.

American Buttercream Frosting

American buttercream is one of the most favored frostings in the US. It is made with creaming butter and sugar together, along with milk, vanilla, and just a pinch of salt.

Depending on your preference, you can then flavor this buttercream with vanilla beans, peppermint and almond.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frosting is another very rich and decadent frosting. This is made from whipping cream cheese together with sugar and butter.

Cream cheese frosting has a tangier flavor than regular buttercream and has a very creamy and richer texture because of the addition of more fat content in the form of cream cheese. I use Philadelphia cream cheese to get the consistency of the frosting exactly right.

This frosting is also very versatile as it can be flavored with other flavors as well. One of my most favorite frosting is made from a combination of key lime and cream cheese.

To give your frosting more depth or a tangier flavor, you can also add Greek yogurt into the mix.

French Buttercream Frosting

If you want a richer, smoother, and more luxurious buttercream on your vanilla cake, then French buttercream frosting is an excellent option. This buttercream uses egg yolks which is why it has a natural yellow color. In addition, they are slightly sweet and very rich in flavor. Because of the egg yolk, they taste similar to pastry cream and have a very silky smooth texture.

This is a thick and creamy frosting for topping or filling a cake; however, keep in mind that it is not very stable and can spoil quickly in the heat so it is best to keep the cake in the fridge and finish it in a couple of days.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

If you want an airy, pillowy white frosting for your vanilla cake, then there is no better option than the Italian meringue buttercream.

This frosting is not as sweet as your regular buttercream and uses egg white whipped into firm white clouds, which really complement the subtle taste of your vanilla cake. The trick is to pour hot sugar syrup into the egg whites as you are beating them, which gives them that fluffy and full appearance and makes this frosting so light and airy.

Swiss Buttercream

Want to make your regular meringue buttercream heavier and richer. Just take your cooled meringue and add a few cubes of butter to the cloudy peaks.

Don’t be alarmed initially if the mixture looks like a curdled mess. As you beat it on high, the butter will integrate into the egg whites and will turn the mixture into a silky glossy frosting.

White Chocolate Ganache

No one can resist a smooth layer of white chocolate ganache on a vanilla cake. The great thing is that it is very easy to make and make a sweet topping that is loved by children and adults alike.

Just take half a cup of cream and bring it to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the white chocolate and stir it so that it mixes together into a smooth and white mixture. For best results, allow the ganache to cool overnight. Take it out of the fridge and then beat the ganache for two minutes on high to get a decadent white chocolate ganache that is perfect for your vanilla cake.

Strawberry Buttercream

We know that strawberry is one of the top three flavors of ice cream, so it makes sense it will be just as good as a frosting on vanilla cake.

Perfect for the hotter seasons, this sweet and tart buttercream will add a beautiful shade of pink to your white cake.

The beauty of strawberry buttercream is that it works just as well on not just vanilla cake, but also chocolate cakes and lemon cakes.

Salted Caramel Frosting

If you like some saltiness to cut through the sweetness, then salted caramel frosting gives you the best of both worlds.

Made by boiling together butter and brown sugar and then pouring in heavy cream to make a rich toffee mixture. Whisk in some more sugar, vanilla extract, and of course, some finely grained salt for that delicious salty zing.

Pour the frosting over the cake and then sprinkle some sea salt over it for an elegant and refined look.

Coconut Buttercream

If you are looking for a cool, tropical frosting for your vanilla cake, you can’t go wrong with coconut buttercream.

To create the buttercream, whisk together some coconut milk with cornstarch until both are combined into a smooth batter. Boil the mixture until it thickens to a custard-like consistency and allow to cool.

Add powdered sugar to the mix and beat it while adding vanilla and coconut extracts. Keep adding the coconut milk mixture and beat the frosting until it turns fluffy and light.

Spread over the top of a cooled vanilla cake and don’t forget to garnish it with coconut flakes.

Peppermint Buttercream

A white vanilla cake and cool pink buttercream makes a very Christmas-y combination. The great thing about peppermint buttercream is that it takes just five to 10 minutes to make.

Just whip together egg white with some corn syrup, granulated sugar, some peppermint extract, and just a little bit of salt for this candy-cane flavored frosting – a favorite treat for everyone.

To make your vanilla cake even more whimsical, crush some peppermint candy canes into small pieces and sprinkle them around the edges of the cake. Feel free to stuff the frosting in between the cake layers as well.

Blackberry Buttercream

If you want to give your vanilla cake a bright pop of color and add some tang to it, then you should definitely try making a minimalist blackberry buttercream recipe.

All you need is some fresh blackberries that you can puree. Press the puree through a strainer to remove the seeds. Put some butter in a large bowl and beat it until it is creamy and smooth. Add in vanilla extract, sugar, and just a bit of salt. Add in the blackberry puree to make a beautiful violet colored buttercream that has a sharp and strong contrasting flavor that works perfectly with your vanilla cake.

Orange Buttercream

If you want a fruity and citrusy bite to your white vanilla cake, then you can try the orange buttercream.

As with all buttercreams, beat butter at medium speed until it turns creamy. Add powdered sugar to the mix and keep adding freshly squeezed orange juice at regular intervals to the mix. Make sure the frosting is blended smooth and stir in some vanilla extract to elevate the citrusy flavor.

Coat your white vanilla cake with a half an inch layer of this delicious tangy and fragrant buttercream. If you want to take your cake to the next level, I strongly recommend adding a cranberry filling in between the layers for a truly decadent experience.

Cardamom Buttercream

Suppose you want a hint of sweet tropical spice to your buttercream. In that case, I recommend using cardamom as an alternative to the more traditional flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg on your vanilla cake.

Beat butter, powdered sugar, cardamom powder, vanilla extract, and some milk together until the batter is airy and light. The sweet aroma of the fragrant will be airy. Plus you can add as much cardamom as you want, depending on how strong you want its flavor to be.

Once the frosting cools down, spread it on your vanilla cake and garnish it with some dried rose petals, which you can also eat.


Lori Gilmore

Lori Gilmore

Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.

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