Of all the buttercreams in the world Italian meringue buttercream might just be my favorite! It’s light, silky, not too sweet and it pipes beautifully!! It needlessly intimidates way too many home bakers so I’m here to help and provide that little bit of encouragement and know how to help you make this amazing frosting!
I’ve had many questions about Italian buttercream so I made a step by step video! Scroll down to check it out. You can also watch my make it in my strawberry cake video. Just skip to the 2:45 mark. Did you know Italian meringue (same recipe without the butter) is incredible on tarts and baked Alaska!
**Note: it’s important to use room temperature egg whites and butter. Monitor the temperature of your sugar syrup — add your pieces of butter slowly — and let your buttercream sit. You’ll need to give it a quick whip to bring it back to life. I know it’s a bit finicky BUT this buttercream adds a silky, not too sweet, touch to your cakes. It also pipes beautifully!
Want some tips on how to use this buttercream when decorating a cake? Check out my How to Decorate a Cake post, it has lots of helpful tips and a full how to video.
If you don’t have Cream of Tartar
- Cream of tartar is added to help stiffen the egg whites. It’s an acid so if you can’t get your hands on it sub in an equal amount of white vinegar or lemon juice. I’ve made it without and the recipe turned out fine by the way.
How your meringue should look before adding butter
- After adding in the 240F sugar syrup your meringue will look very silky, white and it will feel marshmallowy, and not warm when you touch it. As soon as you add the butter in the consistency will change and it will deflate a bit. Don’t worry, that’s fine! Just keep adding all of the butter in and whip. If it’s still soupy you can pop it in the fridge or freeze to cool down a bit maybe 10 minutes, then keep whipping and it should be fine!
- I love flavoring my buttercreams with a high-quality vanilla extract, but there are so many more flavors to choose from. Orange blossom water, rose water, fruit reductions (make sure they’re strained and cooled before adding), and of course chocolate (melted and cooled).
My brown butter orchid cake is decorated completely with Italian meringue buttercream. You might not be able to taste how good it is but I hope you can see the smoothness and detail possible with this frosting.
Common Problems: If your buttercream is “soupy,” just pop it into the fridge for a couple of minutes, then beat it. It should thicken up. I find consistency problems arise mostly from the meringue being too warm when the butter is added. Chilling it will help improve the consistency.
If you’re adding flavorings (i.e. chocolate, fruit, etc). to your Italian buttercream, I suggest doing this as the very last step.
What are the three types of buttercream?
The three most common types of buttercream are Italian meringue buttercream, Swiss meringue buttercream and American buttercream. French buttercream, which uses egg yolks for a custard-like frosting, and German buttercream are also delicious options I would urge you to try out.
What is the difference between American buttercream and Italian buttercream?
Italian buttercream is meringue-based and very light, creamy and less sweet than American buttercream. American buttercream is sweeter but has the advantage of being quick, easy to make, and sturdy.
Storage:If you’re not using your buttercream IMMEDIATELY — and it will be sitting for a few minutes — then just keep in mind that you will have to give it a short whip to “bring it back to life” as it loses its consistency quickly. If you want to make the buttercream ahead of time, it can be refrigerated for a few days. Once you’re ready to use it, allow it come to room temperature and give it a short “whip.” For those people that are used to regular buttercream: Italian buttercream is LESS SWEET and more BUTTERY! You can always add MORE SUGAR SYRUP to your meringue to sweeten it a bit further.
Steps to Make Italian Meringue Buttercream
How do you make Italian buttercream frosting?
1. In a medium saucepan add 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water, then place on medium-low heat.
2. Stir until sugar melts and becomes clear. Use a kitchen thermometer to maintain a medium-high heat.
3. Separate room temperature egg whites into a stand mixer. Beat the egg whites.
4. Add a pinch of salt.
5. Add in the cream of tartar
6. Add the remaining sugar.
7. Beat until the soft peak stage.
8. When the temperature reads 235F-240F, drizzle the sugar mixture into the mixer immediately. Run the mixer until meringue is cool/tepid.
9. Switch to a paddle attachment. Add room temperature butter into running mixer one tablespoon piece at a time.
10. Add vanilla or any other flavors. Beat until butter is combined and mixture has reached a silky consistency.
11. Transfer the buttercream to multiple bowls.
12. Add a drop of food coloring to each and mix until a desired gradient is reached.
If you’ve tried this frosting then don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you!
How to make Italian Buttercream
This creamy, silky buttercream is perfect for decorating cakes and beyond delicious! It's easier to make than you think and might just become your go to frosting!
- 4 egg whites large
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar 267g
- Pinch kosher salt optional
- 16 ounces unsalted butter 454g, room temperature cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract optional, 4.9mL
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar .84g
- 1/3 cup water 79mL
Beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar, slowly add in 1/3 cup of sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form.
In a medium saucepan add the remaining sugar and 1/3 cup water then place on medium-low heat.
Stir until sugar melts and becomes clear.
Maintain at medium-high heat until temperature reads 235-240F.
Drizzle the sugar into the mixer immediately.
Run mixer until meringue is cool/tepid.
Switch to a paddle attachment. Add room temperature butter into running mixer one tablespoon piece at a time.
Add the salt and vanilla if using
Beat until butter is combined and mixture has reached a silky consistency.
Common Problems: If your buttercream is "soupy," just pop it into the fridge for a couple of minutes, then beat it. It should thicken up. I find consistency problems arise mostly from the meringue being too warm when the butter is added. Chilling it will help improve the consistency.
If you're adding flavorings (i.e. chocolate, fruit, etc). to your Italian buttercream, I suggest doing this as the very last step.
Storage:If you're not using your buttercream IMMEDIATELY -- and it will be sitting for a few minutes -- then just keep in mind that you will have to give it a short whip to "bring it back to life" as it loses its consistency quickly. If you want to make the buttercream ahead of time, it can be refrigerated for a few days. Once you're ready to use it, allow it come to room temperature and give it a short "whip." For those people that are used to regular buttercream: Italian buttercream is LESS SWEET and more BUTTERY! You can always add MORE SUGAR SYRUP to your meringue to sweeten it a bit further.
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