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Italian Meringue Buttercream

Italian Meringue Buttercream is light, silky, and not too sweet.

If you’ve never tried it before then you are in for a treat. It can be a little tricky but read on and I will help you make the best buttercream you have ever had.

Italian meringue buttercream in black bowl viewed from the front on.

This delicious buttercream is based on Italian meringue which in itself can have many uses. Italian meringue is made by pouring hot sugar syrup onto beaten egg whites to create a thick, marshmallowy meringue.

The hot syrup cooks the egg whites creating a very stable meringue that can be used to top pies and tarts. It is also the base for many desserts such as mousses and parfaits.

Why you’ll love this recipe

This recipe originally was from Warren Brown of the famous Cakelove Bakery in Washington DC founded in 2002 which I have slightly adapted.

All Italian Meringue Buttercream recipes are basically the same – Italian meringue with lots of butter incorporated until it is rich and buttery but still light from the meringue. You’ll love how smooth and stable this is to use on cakes and cupcakes and other pastries like Cream Horns and Jelly Cakes.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Ingredients

  • Sugar – Superfine granulated white sugar dissolves more easily. However, use regular granulated white sugar if that’s all you have.
  • Egg whites – You’ll only need egg whites for this recipe. Leftover egg yolks can be used in recipes like Italian pastry cream or these delicious small batch Chocolate Chip Cookies.
  • Butter – Unsalted butter is the best choice for this recipe. Salted butter will change the flavor completely so be sure to purchase good quality, unsalted butter.

Variations

This recipe for Italian meringue Buttercream is not super sweet so can be flavored easily. To this quantity, you can add either:-

  • vanilla extract
  • or the beans of a scraped vanilla pod
  • melted and cooled chocolate
  • espresso coffee
  • raspberry or strawberry puree
  • lemon curd
  • liqueur of your choice
Thick creamy buttercream in black bowl viewed from above.

Instructions

This buttercream might seem difficult but follow my steps for success.

  1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and boil until it reaches 245°F or 120ºC. (photo 1 & 2)
  2. While that is boiling, start beating the egg whites. (photo 3)
  3. Once they start to get foamy add the remaining sugar and beat until peaks form. (photo 4)
Step by step photos of how to make this recipe.
  1. Once the syrup mixture reaches the correct temperature, add it to the egg whites in a steady stream. (photo 5)
  2. Continue to beat the egg whites until the mixture has cooled. (photo 6)
  3. Add cool room-temperature butter to the cooled meringue. (photo 7)
  4. Beat until silky smooth and thick. (photo 8)
Step by step photos of how to make this buttercream recipe.

Tips for Success

Most problems with this recipe are usually fixed by beating, beating, and more beating. This is an emulsion. As long as the temperature is correct – not too warm and not too cold – it will work. Don’t panic when you see the meringue collapse and separate as you add the butter because it will soon come back together again.

  • This recipe is easiest if you have a stand mixer. You can use a handheld electric mixer but you will be beating for a long time.
  • Grease is the enemy of meringue – clean the bowl and whisk thoroughly before beating egg whites also take care that no yolk mixes with the whites.
  • Partially cover the saucepan when boiling sugar syrup – this ensures that captured steam dissolves the sugar caught on the sides of the saucepan.
  • Bring the syrup up to the correct temperature – 120°C/245°F
  • Don’t overbeat egg whites before adding sugar. Once egg whites collapse and become liquid again they can’t be rescued.
  • Pour the hot syrup between the sides of the bowl and the beater directly into the meringue.
  • Let the meringue cool before adding the butter. Check how cool the meringue is by stopping the mixer and testing with your finger. Often the bowl is still warm but the meringue has cooled
  • Have the butter at room temperature but not melted or greasy. Butter must still be firm.

FAQ’s

How can I fix the mixture that has become soupy after adding butter?

This has happened because the meringue may have still been a bit too warm. Stop adding butter. Cool the mixer bowl. The best way is to place ice in a clean towel and wrap it around the bowl to cool the meringue.

What do I do if the soupy mixture still doesn’t come together?

If the mixture remains soupy, don’t add any more butter. Place bowl and whisk into refrigerator until cool then whisk again until the buttercream comes together.

How to remove butter lumps in the mixture?

If you find lumps of butter it means that the butter is too cold. Stop adding the butter. Bring the butter to room temperature. Also, try holding a warm towel against the sides of the bowl (while beating) until the butter softens and incorporates.

Can this recipe quantity be reduced?

I have successfully adjusted the ingredients to make less buttercream. You can toggle the adjustment in the recipe card down to the desired amount of egg whites.

How to store this buttercream?

This buttercream will keep covered for up to a week in the refrigerator. Freeze any leftovers in a well-sealed container. To use refrigerated or frozen buttercream, allow it to come to cool to room temperature then whip in the stand mixer with the wire whisk until thick and light.

Thick creamy frosting piled high in a bowl.

Italian Meringue Buttercream can be used as a filling and topping for cakes and cupcakes. This buttercream is easy to spread or pipe and holds its shape perfectly plus is more stable in warm conditions than regular buttercream. Master this recipe to complement all your delicious cakes and cupcakes.

Use this buttercream in these recipes

Mini Cream Horns
Jelly Cakes
Vanilla Layer Cake

Made this recipe?
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Italian meringue buttercream in black bowl viewed from the side

Italian Meringue Buttercream Recipe

Italian Meringue Buttercream is silky, buttery but still light. This buttercream can be used as a filling and topping for cakes and cupcakes. This buttercream is easy to spread or pipe and holds its shape perfectly plus is more stable in warm conditions than regular buttercream. Master this recipe to complement all your delicious cakes and cupcakes. This recipe is enough to fill and cover a 3 layer 23cm/9in cake.
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings:5 eggwhite batch
Author: Marcellina

Equipment

  • stand mixer

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 5 egg whites
  • ¼ cup white granulated sugar superfine
  • pinch fine salt
  • 1 pound (2 sticks/454grams) unsalted butter cool room temperature

Instructions

  • Place the 1 cup granulated sugar and water in a pan. Pop in a candy thermometer and partially cover with the lid. The lid is ajar and will catch the steam as it rises, The steam dissolves the sugar caught around the edge of the saucepan.
  • Place over low to medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches 245°F/120°C.
  • At the same time as the sugar syrup is cooking start the meringue. Beat the egg whites in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form – about 2 minutes. Don't overbeat.
  • While still whisking, sprinkle in the ¼ cup sugar and fine salt. Beat well on high speed.
  • By this time the syrup should be ready.
  • Pour the sugar syrup into the meringue, whisking on high speed. in a slow and steady stream. Aim to pour the syrup between the whisk and the side of the bowl right onto the meringue. It should take about 1 minute to pour all the syrup in.
  • After 2 minutes reduce the speed to medium and continue to beat until the mixture cools. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen this will take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes or longer. See my notes for extra tips.
  • Once cool and not before, slowly add the butter tablespoonful by tablespoonful. The mixture will deflate slightly but all is well.
  • If your butter melts the meringue is still too hot. Beat until it cools. If necessary, remove the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for a while. Then start again. Check the recipe notes.
  • Increase the speed to high and beat for 2 or 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
  • Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for a week or the freezer for 2 months.

Notes

Tips for success.
  • Grease is the enemy of meringue – clean the bowl and whisk thoroughly before beating egg whites.
  • Partially cover saucepan when boiling sugar syrup – this ensures captured steam dissolves the sugar caught on the sides of the saucepan.
  • Bring the syrup up to the correct temperature – 245°F/120°C
  • Don’t over beat egg whites before adding sugar. Once egg white collapse and become liquid again they can’t be rescued.
  • Pour the hot syrup between the sides of the bowl and the beater directly into the meringue.
  • Let the meringue cool before adding the butter. Check how cool the meringue is by stopping the mixer and testing with your finger. Often the bowl is still warm but the meringue has cooled
  • Have the butter at room temperature but not melted or greasy. Butter must still be firm.
What can go wrong and how to fix it.
There are a couple of things that can go wrong when making this recipe that you need to be aware of.
  1. Once hot syrup is added, meringue must be beaten at continuously until cool. If your kitchen is hot, place ice in a clean towel and wrap around the bowl to cool the meringue.
  2. If the mixture becomes soupy after adding the butter, the meringue may have still been a bit too warm. Stop adding butter. Cool the mixer bowl using ice as per step 1.
  3. If the mixture remains soupy, place bowl and whisk into refrigerator until cool and whisk again until the buttercream comes together.
  4. Butter must be a cool room temperature. If you find lumps of butter it means that the butter is too cold. Stop adding the butter. Bring the butter to room temperature. Also try holding a warm towel against the sides of the bowl until the butter softens and incorporates.
Italian Meringue Buttercream usually can be fixed by beating, beating and more beating. This is an emulsion. As long has the temperature is correct – not too warm and not too cold – it will work. Don’t panic when you see the meringue collapse and separate as you add the butter because it will soon come back together again.
Flavouring buttercream 
Try adding one of the following
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • beans of one scraped vanilla pod
  • ¼ cup melted, cooled chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules dissolves in 2 tablespoons of water
  • ¼ fruit puree such as raspberry or strawberry
  • ½ cup lemon curd
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons of liqueur of your choice
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 926kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 81g | Saturated Fat: 51g | Cholesterol: 215mg | Sodium: 62mg | Potassium: 73mg | Sugar: 50g | Vitamin A: 2499IU | Calcium: 26mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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12 Comments

    1. Amanda, I have never left Italian Meringue Buttercream out for any length of time. Here in North Queensland, I think it is too hot and would melt (not sure because I’ve never done it). However, a little bit of research tells me and it can be left out for a day maybe two. But I’m not a food scientist so this is not an answer I can safely recommend.

  1. You contradict yourself You say after adding the sugar syrup( #7) To turn your mixer to medium until cool But in your tips at the bottom (#1)you say it must be on high speed Which is it?

    1. You have read the recipe very carefully to have picked that up! Thank you! I have changed that wording to:- “must be beaten continuously”. The point is, you will need to beat for 10-15 minutes without stopping until cool. You could beat on high if you have a good strong mixer motor. But reducing the speed to medium just keeps it beating without driving you crazy with the high speed sound. Either way it wouldn’t be wrong – just keep beating is the main thing. Hope this helps.

  2. 5 stars
    Marcellina, I love Italian meringue buttercream and this post is such a keeper! Thanks so much for your very thorough step by step explanations and tips. Especially for when things go wrong! Pinning!