Italian Buttercream 07

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Italian Meringue Buttercream

This buttercream tastes great and is so versatile for decorating and covering cakes. Italian meringue buttercream is perfect for frosting wedding cakes because it’s made with egg whites only and no egg yolks so it ends up a shiny white color. It’s also ideal for piping and decorating work since it holds its shape and has few air bubbles. Use to frost a wedding cake, frost a cupcake, pipe buttercream flowers or pipe scrollwork on the side of a cake.


Recipe Details

  • Yield: 6 cups (30 ounces)
  • Course:
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and water to a boil. Continue to boil until sugar syrup reaches 240 – 244 degrees F, soft-ball stage on a candy thermometer. As it cooks start step 2, the meringue.
  2. While sugar syrup is cooking, separate eggs placing whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on low to medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whip on medium to high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, but not dry.
  3. With mixer running, add cooked syrup to whites in a slow but steady stream, beating on high speed. Always be careful when working with hot sugar. Beat on high speed until steam from hot syrup stops, about 5 minutes. Add butter a tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth, approximately 4-5 minutes. Beat in vanilla, scrape down sides gently and beat again for 1 minute.

*Keeps 3 days at room temperature and up to 2 weeks refrigerated.

Photo credit: Stefani Pollack from Cupcake Project

118 thoughts on “Italian Meringue Buttercream

  1. tried this twice and had no luck. The meringue came out great even after I added the syrup. When it came to adding the butter everything got runny. I give up.

  2. Question, what makes this "Italian"? Also, I'm thinking that I would start out with a little less water and add more only if needed. Sounds yummy. I have to make a Birthday Cake this week so I'll give it a shot if time permits…in the event this doesn't come out correctly and I need to make a new batch with my recipe :)

  3. If it comes out runny the syrup egg white mixture is still to hot, when you add your butter it will just melt but it can be fixed by letting it mix till room temp then add more butter, but be sure to let it fully mix sometimes it takes longer than 5 mins to whip up to the right consistancy, you'll know when it does. Hope this helps.

  4. Also make sure the butter is room temp, I like to whip mine in the mixer just till fluffy and hold at room temp then add about a tbs. At a time.

  5. This is a great recipe. It turned out very well, the key is to ensure your sugar is at 244 degrees when adding to your egg whites. Also, make sure your egg whites are a high gloss stiff consistency. You will need to make sure you beat very well after adding the liquid sugar until your mixture is room temperature otherwise you will get a runny mixture when you add the butter.

  6. I don't have a candy thermo so I got the sugar as hot as I could without burning. /dissolving. Then I forgot to let it mix for the 5 min….. only let it go about 2 min before I added the butter. Anyhow the end result was awesome!!! We love it!! HOWEVER it didnt crust over so I could smooth it with the paper towel method and since I want to make it for a wedding cake that part is very important. Could it be because I didn't follow the directions excatly or does it just not crust over anyhow? Thanks

  7. I'm new to cake decorating extensively & I'm just curious about this frosting…can anyone tell me if this freezes well? I noticed the footnote below the recipe regarding refrigeration, but if I were to have any left-over, if it would freeze for, say…2-3 weeks? Thank you, Denise :)

  8. Before adding the butter change from the whisk to a paddle beater,
    If it's still runny put the bowl of cream and the beater in the fridge for up to an hour
    Then beat again,
    Hope this helps

  9. Did you use unsalted sweet cream butter or regular salted butter because if you used salted butter it will be runny but the sweet cream butter will be nice and thick 😉

  10. Yes you use a technique called dirty icing. It is when you apply a thin covering of buttercream to your cake before adding the fondant.

  11. Daryl Cornock @ashley! the same thing happened to me! first, your comment about salted vs. sweet cream could have been the reason — i neve knew that! thanks. second, mine was runny, so thinking it was ruined, i put it in the fridge, then is stiffened up. i thought oh, great, i didn't waste all these ingredients. when i started to frost the cake, it melted; i had to throw it away. to add a punch line to this, as i was frosting it, the whole cake also fell on the floor! ha ha!

  12. Real sugar. Only american butter cream uses powdered sugar French and Italian meringue uses real granulated sugar

  13. If it was runny the mixture wasn't cooled enough before adding the butter so it melted instead of creamed. It doesn't really matter too much about the salted or sweet cream butter I've used both types of butter and results have always been perfect it just depends on whether you want a little salt in the frosting to balance out the sweetness but it's users preference

  14. And it's very important to whip till stiff peaks! Soft peaks won't be stable enough. Humidity also matters as we'll I used to live in hawaii haha

  15. well, here we go again! this time, the egg whites were beautiful. next, the sugar syrup was great, and once poured, i beat them with my KitchenAid for almost ten minutes to make sure it was cool to add the butter. at this point, the mixture was what i would call a beautiful and thick boiled icing; i should have stopped there! the minute i added the first pat, two pats of butter, it deflated. i added about 15-20 pats, and then i gave up. it tasted great, but i gave up.

  16. Marlene Titus Kaminski * I DID IT! IT WORKED! it seems in hindsight that i was stopping just at that 'awful transition stage.' this time, i let it go, and voila! you could see it turn over the way it should. it's a beautiful icing. thank you for the link. it helped just solidify everything.

  17. @robin! i too had trouble — twice. first, just make sure the meringue is around the 80 degree mark. i let the mixer run for almost 10-15 mins as well as put an ice pack around it. next, your butter. you should be able to put a finger indent — it's not too soft, nor too hard. put the butter in tabs at a time., i used three sticks. next, this is the part where we all seem to fall down. yes, it will deflate, but this is like making a vinaigrette — the emulsion of oil and water. continue to let those beaters go; there will be a change till all of a sudden you will have the beautiful buttercream. here is a link someone on this site gave me. i didn't use meringue powder; i used sugar. good luck! keep us posted

  18. TA DAA! I FINALLY DID IT — ON MY THIRD TRY! it's a gorgeous icing. i believe in hindsight that i never waited through the stage where it 'turns' over to the buttercream. i would stop during the deflation process.

  19. UPDATE! well, on may 23, i posted a great situation that i was able to accomplish by finally making this beautiful icing, BUT it created another problem. i made my cake, and i went to coat it, and it slipped; it would not adhere to the cake. i wanted to give it that first coat, the go back for the final coat. forget it! the only way i got around this was put a big, fat slab of icing and then even it out. once done and in the fridge for a while, i went to decorate it, and it wouldn't stick to the cake with piping. exasperated, i made a regular, old-fashioned butter-cream. that worked. ** so with all of this, what was the cause of meringue not adhering to the cake and to each other?

  20. Marlene Titus Kaminski YOU SAVED ME! Thank you so much for this link. I was in the same boat as Tom.

  21. Marlene Titus Kaminski * hi, marlene! first, thank you for that like; it was surely appreciated. as you can see by my latest post, it was getting through the stage of 'coming' together, BUT when i went to ice the cake, the icing WOULD HOT ADHERE to the cake! it kept sliding. the only way i got around it was to put very big dollops on the cake, and spread it carefully. it wouldn't even let me pipe on the sides — it wouldn't stick so i made regular buttercream. i got away with it much better. what was the problem?

  22. This is a method and temperature sensitive icing.
    Whipping the whites and cooking the sugar are key basic elements of this style of icing.
    The whites (as always) need to be "room temperature". The sugar is cooked to a "soft ball stage", very important, so that it blends in well. Give it time to cool some so that the meringue mixture is not too hot when you add the butter. Key word is SLOWLY. Cooling the syrup is the key to success in this recipe. Not that it has to be iced, but if the meringue is too hot when you add the butter, you are melting the butter. If the butter melts(liquefies) you have ruined the buttercream.
    The sugar needs to be cool enough to be able to pour into the whites, The whipped whites and sugar (meringue) mixture needs to be cool enough not to melt the butter, the butter should be above room temp' but not warm enough to melt.
    A cool butter will whip and be able to hold air.
    a room temp icing will stick to a cake
    a crumb coat will seal the cake and hold the crumbs giving you a base that you can ice

  23. you can freeze any icing.
    this icing is more apt to dissolve when it comes out of refrigeration due to the type of icing it is. to give it more stability you can use shortening by 1/2 the amount of butter.

  24. I had a problem when I added the sugar syrup. (I used a candy thermometer to check the temp and it was perfect.) As I was pouring the syrup into the mixing bowl, the syrup in the saucepan was hardening. After sugar was beaten into the meringue, I found that there was sugar in the bottom of the mixing bowl that had crusted and had not completely incorporated. What went wrong?

  25. Not a good Italian butter cream recipe! It tastes just like butter rather than a fluffy sweet frosty. I had to scrap an entire batch and start over because I couldn't cut the taste of butter.

  26. me encantas, felicitaciones por todo lo q has logrado Budy… besotes desde Venezuela

  27. me encantas, felicitaciones por todo lo q has logrado Budy… besotes desde Venezuela

  28. you got it too hot and crystalized the sugar like you would for hard candy. 240* no more no less

  29. Fallow the recipe. This is exactly how it should be.. trust me, Im a professional.. If you add more water later, youre going to deflate the egg whites, unsettle the butter, and get a flat runny mess

  30. Valerie Jean Cudnik hi, valerie! how are you today! yes, i eventutually did. i had to let logic take over! thank you very much for your comment. please enjoy your day! 😉

  31. it helps stabilize the egg whites, sort of an insurance policy to keep them from breaking. a touch of sugar in the whites before adding the hot sugar does the same sort of thing.

  32. I love this icing as it is not sickly sweet like sugar paste or real fondant, and the general puclic just can't buy real fondant in the shops in UK only from Bakery wholesalers at 12kg at a time! Im gonna substitute the vanilla for an orange oil as my cake is going to have citrus flavours, orange & lemon. probably will use nice light swiss rolll lemony sponge layers drizzled with some Lemoncello maybe… Ill post an image once I bake it, might even do an orange vieniesse biscuit as a base layer.

  33. I've waisted so much butter and eggs on this recipe, on SMBC and french buttercream…I even waisted lots of 10X sugar and butter on regular butter cream recipes…I guess I just have the worst luck…I make amazing cakes and sugar flowers but suck at frostings…ugh!

  34. My daughter and I are disagreeing on if the egg white is cooked to prevent peolpe from getting sick. At 240 to 260 degrees I think it cooks while cooling down, My daughter disagrees, can you help us out?

  35. This is grandma's old fashion 7 minute frosting. She use to make it at Christmas time to frost angel food cake. With a few minor changes, she would make divinity (white candy, like fudge with nuts.

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  37. Charlene, I urge you to try this recipe again!! The outcome is soooo good if you make it proporly!! You have to whisk the sugar and egg whites for longer than 5 minutes (thats the only place where I would say this recipe goes wrong) when you {gently} touch the bottom of your mixing bowl it should feel room temp, NOT HOT AT ALL, otherwise you melt your butter when you add it. ALSO, how I learned in culinary school and have always made this frosting is, after you add all the butter, change to the paddle attachment! This helps really bring it together! The frosting will look ruined for a minute and then cme back together and be absolutely amazing!! Good Luck :)

  38. What kind of sugar are you using???? I thought when it said sugar it meant normal sugar and I made soup :( I tried using powdered sugar (icing sugar) and it was beautiful
    3 recipes on the web I have found so far that have done the same thing to me

  39. What kind of sugar are you using???? I thought when it said sugar it meant normal sugar and I made soup :( I tried using powdered sugar (icing sugar) and it was beautiful
    3 recipes on the web I have found so far that have done the same thing to me

  40. Laurie Ann You may have poured your sugar into your meringue too quickly. Because the sugar is so hot you can actually deflate the meringue and make it soupy :( Also, you would use granulated sugar. If your meringue doesn't have a stiff peak when you pour in the sugar that could also be an issue.

  41. Just tried this recipe today, it is wonderful. Very nice frosting, very stable. I ruined the first batch because I tried to cool the "sugar syrup" before adding it to the eggs. I poured it slowly while it was hot the second time and the meringue stayed fine. The butter was a little cold, but I kept the mixer running just a little longer and the frosting came together. A success for me. Thanks for sharing this recipe. H.

  42. Samantha Rose thank you for your tips. I made an IM buttercream once before & can't find the recipe. And am dubious about trying a different one, but your tips may be just what I need

  43. This frosting is a chemical reaction amazement! A must try! Even with all that butter it is as light as air. Dee-lish! ps…if you think you may have trouble, follow the directions in the link referenced earlier in the comments. She is amazing and will get you through any difficulties. Happy Baking!

  44. Last time I tried this recipe it turned out soupy! But thanks to all the great comments below I am trying it again….right now. Hope it turns out this time!

  45. Ave Bayle I always use chilled unsalted butter, once the butter starts to get the slightest bit warm put it back the fridge for a minute or two, to chill again. this should may help.

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  47. This is not a good recipe in terms of the technique, not enough explanation for such a complicated buttercream. The sugar needs to be divided, some to make a proper meringue and the rest for the sugar. Also more emphasis needed on what temperature the butter should be at and that it absolutely must not be added while the mixture is warm.

  48. I just tried a recipe from Yolanda – How to cake it…
    she says to do the following – Continue to whip eggs and sugar (your meringue) until no heat remains in the bowl. You can place your hands along the sides of the bowl to check – it should feel like it’s at room temperature…..then you start adding the butter a bit at a time. And it worked great for me :-) very yummy :-)

  49. After your hot meringue comes to a cool (you can touch the bowl and it's room temp or cooler) while still mixing add the butter it will get flat but eventually start to thicken. Don't worry about time that time will vary

  50. I haven't tried this Butter cream yet, but I will soon, I've made several cakes inspired by Buddy. I've made his cannolis, his Tiramisu. My family and friends think I'm a great baker thanks to Buddy. He is my mentor. Thank you Buddy

  51. It will look like that but keep mixing I promise it will come back. My first try I threw it out my cake group said keep mixing. I tried it a second time was about to give up said well heck I'll add vanilla and go sit down watch a little tv. Popped the vanilla in b and boom there it was. I guess the vanilla brought the temp down a degree but keep trying . Hope this helps and it's best if you have a stand mixer

  52. Looks like a great formula I read that this buttercream is used for wedding cakes but I don't agree flavor wise it is perfect but if your making it for an out door wedding during spring or summer because it does have a lower melting point unless cake is stored in a cold place reconsider Italian butter cream for a wedding cake

  53. There are several different butter creams American is shortening and butter, German buttercream is American butter cream with fondant in it French buttercream is made like Italian but you use egg yolks insted of whites you get the point

  54. Sandy Savage if it came out too loose you didn't cook sugar long enough you want it soft ball to medium crack add syrup slower and completely cool (touch bottom of mixing bowl if it's cool add butter) and whip after butter is added untill it is 100%cool

  55. Next time cook the sugar longer I don't use a candy thermometer insted I drop some of the hot sugar in ice water pick it up if it holds its shape well and is not too soft it's hot enough also add sugar slower completely cool before adding butter a little at a time mix on low untill it's 100% cool I learned this at Johnson and Wales university baking and pastry arts. And from being a pastry chef for 25 years

  56. For those wanting weight conversions of this recipe:

    Sugar: 1 1/2 cups = 288 grams = 10.2 ounces
    Water: 2/3 cup = 151 grams = 5.3 ounces
    Egg whites: 5 each = 161 grams = 5.7 ounces
    (Pinch of cream of tartar: less than a couple grams = even less in ounces)
    Unsalted butter: 2 sticks = 224 grams = 7.9 ounces
    Vanilla extract: 1 teaspoon = 5 grams = .2 ounces