Learn how to make Italian meringue buttercream frosting with this step by step photo tutorial! Italian meringue buttercream is a silky smooth buttercream that holds up well in warmer conditions so it’s a perfect meringue buttercream for outdoor special events. Whether it’s to ice a cake with, frost a cupcake with or go under a fondant it’s the perfect buttercream.
I feel like Italian meringue buttercream is the Mount Everest of buttercreams. And if you’re thinking well then count me out! Don’t go running in the other direction quite yet.
Yes it might be the most complicated of all the buttercreams. But since it’s the Mount Everest of buttercreams then means when you make it to the top and make it you better believe it’s brag worthy.
This buttercream is worth all the trouble friends.
And can I be honest? Yes it involves making a hot sugar syrup. And yes it involves using a candy thermometer. And yes you have to then pour that hot sugar syrup into whipped egg whites. And pray to the Heavens that it all ends up well.
But what if I told you it just sounds scary? Give it a chance. And you realize it just sounds like a Mount Everest. But in reality it’s just a big hill that with the right equipment you can easily tackle and you will be wondering why you ever doubted yourself in making this.
What Is Italian Meringue Buttercream?
Italian buttercream belongs to the cubed butter style of buttercreams- like swiss meringue buttercream or french buttercream. These buttercreams are a bit more difficult than the beaten butter types of buttercream- like American, Flour, or German.
So what’s the big difference between these two types? Well as the name suggests for the beaten butter. Your butter is beaten then a sweetened base is added in. With American buttercream, this is powdered sugar. With flour, you heat a mixture of flour, milk and sugar over the stove until a thick sweet paste is created (this might not sound fantastic, but trust me it’s delicious). And with German buttercream, a custard similar to pastry cream is stirred in.
Now with cubed butter method, an egg foam is created with either egg whites, or egg yolks (sometimes the whole egg is used in some recipes), and the cubed butter is added a little at a time until a silky smooth buttercream results.
What’s my preference? Ok the cubed butter methods, not that I would say no to any buttercream. Trust me they all are delicious!
So with Italian meringue buttercream, you begin by heating sugar and water to create a simple syrup. By doing this, you dissolve the sugar so your buttercream in the end is silky smooth on your tongue. What makes this tricky is then you need to slowly drizzle the syrup into whipped egg whites. After that then the cubed butter is added a little at a time. Don’t worry I’m going to walk you through this step by step.
Italian meringue buttercream I think has the best taste and texture out of all the buttercreams. And it holds up the best in warmer conditions. So do you have an outdoor wedding you are making cupcakes for? Italian is the way to go.
The Breakdown of Italian Meringue Buttercream Frosting
Taste: My favorite out of all the frostings. The perfect balance of sweet and butter taste.
Texture: Silky and smooth.
Difficulty: One of the more difficult, if not arguably the most difficult. This one can be tricky because of adding the sugar mixture to the egg whites.
Pros: Very stable in warm temperature. A great base under fondant. Best flavor!
Cons: Can be tricky to make. Involves the use of a candy thermometer.
How To Make Italian Meringue Buttercream
Here is a step by step photo tutorial so you can master making Italian Meringue Buttercream!
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients
For IMBC, you are going to need your softened butter (here are 3 easy ways to soften your butter quickly!) Be sure to cut your butter into tablespoons so you can easily incorporate a little at a time. You also want to make sure to use quality unsalted butter. Cheap generic butter uses more water and air, which means less flavor for you! My favorite go to butter is Cabot.
You will also need 5 room temperature egg whites. If you need to bring your egg whites to room temperature quickly before you crack the eggs open let them sit in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes. If you already cracked them open them submerge the bowl they are in into a second bowl of warm water. Just be sure to not use hot water or you might end up with a healthy egg white breakfast instead on your hands!
You also need pure vanilla extract. Remember buttercream is not cooked, so you want to use pure vanilla extract because those flavors will shine through. My favorite is Nielssen-Massey, but if you can’t find that McCormick pure vanilla extract is great too and can be found in your local grocery store.
You also need granulated white sugar. IMBC is made with granulated sugar, not powdered sugar like you might be used to making.
And last you will need a pinch of cream of tartar. This helps to stabilize the egg whites when you are whipping them into a meringue.
*Not pictured in this is the water you will need 2/3 cup to make your simple syrup!
Step 2: Heat the water and sugar in a medium saucepan until the sugar dissolves.
You will bring the mixture to a boil until it reaches 238ºF. I recommend you use a candy thermometer for this step. No, I insist you do! You can use a regular candy thermometer like this one from Wilton or a digital thermometer. But either way, use one!
Step 3: Whip your egg whites to stiff peaks.
Begin first by whipping your egg whites until foamy then add your pinch of cream of tartar. Then continue to mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. If you aren’t sure if your peaks are stiff yet, just pull the beater out of the bowl and see if the peaks stand up on their own. If they flop over, continue to mix.
Step 4: Add your sugar syrup from step 2
For this step, you want to slowly drizzle the hot syrup mixture into the egg whites along the sides of the bowl so that they drizzle down slowly. Do not add them all at once! And you also need to keep the mixture running while doing this. If you are using a stand mixer, this step is easy. If you are using a hand mixer, it can get a bit tricky. A couple of tricks: try placing a towel under your bowl to keep it steady while you multi-task. You also could recruit a friend here to help you out and take over the mixing. Or you can also just try drizzling a little bit, then pausing to mix.
Step 5: Add Your Butter
You want to add your butter once your egg white mixture has cooled down. Check the sides or bottom of the bowl and feel if it’s warm. If it is, wait a little longer. If you add the butter too early, your butter will just melt, which is not what we want! Add a few tablespoons at a time, and mix until incorporated.
Step 6: Add your vanilla extract
At this point, you want to flavor your buttercream! I added vanilla extract, but you could flavor it anyway you like. If you want some different ways to flavor your buttercream here are 13 ways to get inspired.
Step 7: Time to frost and enjoy!
I used my go to vanilla cupcakes for this. But you could frost chocolate cupcakes, red velvet cupcakes, maybe try a pumpkin and flavor this with a bit of cinnamon. Sky’s the limit for these! If you need a few tips on making cupcakes, here are 15 tips for perfect cupcakes.
And if your frosting skills need a little help, you can learn how to frost the perfect cupcake here (there is even a video!)
Want more buttercream? Then be sure to check out my Buttercream Basics Guide To Mastering Buttercream!
Until next time, happy baking!
Italian Meringue Buttercream
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 5 large egg whites
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- 1 pound 4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft-ball stage).
- 2. Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium-high speed until stiff but not dry; do not overbeat.
- 3. With mixer running, add syrup to whites in a stream, beating on high speed until no longer steaming, about 3 minutes.
- 4. Add butter tablespoon by tablespoon, beating until spreadable, 3 to 5 minutes; beat in vanilla. If icing curdles, keep beating until smooth.
Recipe NotesStore in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in a sealed container. Re-whip again until smooth and creamy. You can also store this in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 hours or so, and re-whip until desired consistency again.
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