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Chocolate Italian Buttercream is not as scary as it sounds and tastes like a chocolate cloud in the end. It’s worth breaking out the candy thermometer for!
So around these parts, buttercream reigns supreme. From the best buttercream icing I think you will ever come across, to Swiss Meringue buttercream, Italian meringue buttercream, French buttercream, German buttercream, Ermine frosting . We got a whole menu of buttercreams.
You can read all about the different types of frosting here.
So it’s no surprise that a chocolate version would show up at some point. And when a reader asked me, for help in making a chocolate Italian meringue buttercream. I rolled up my sleeves, donned the apron and got to work.
And man am I glad she asked. Because Italian buttercream is by far my favorite. Swirl in some chocolate and it was all I could do not eat it all with a spoon.
What Are The Different Types Of Buttercream?
There are two main types – cubed butter meringue style vs. the beaten butter method.
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. For the cubed butter is added to a meringue to create a silky smooth buttercream.
What’s The Difference Between Italian Buttercream And American Buttercream?
With American buttercream, this is powdered sugar and butter.
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.
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.
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.
Is Italian Buttercream Safe To Eat?
Yes the buttercream contains egg whites. But because you are adding a hot sugar syrup it will kill any bacteria off.
And it’s actually safer than the other meringue buttercreams.
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 This Chocolate Italian Buttercream
First start with making an Italian buttercream. Italian buttercream is not scary. Just be sure to use a candy thermometer when making the sugar syrup. I can’t stress that enough! I have a digital thermometer, but for me my good old Wilton candy thermometer works like a charm. Some digital thermometers never go up to a high enough temperature, so I stick with my good old non digital clip on the side version. It never fails me.
The second thing when making a meringue buttercream, is to make sure that your meringue mixture has cooled properly before adding your softened butter. My little trick? Feel the bottom of the bowl. Is it still warm? Then don’t add that butter yet friend.
Then the key to making a cloud like chocolate Italian buttercream is to use cooled melted chocolate. I used a bittersweet chocolate, but you could use a semi-sweet if your dark side isn’t as dark as mine. But I love dark chocolate, so I went for it.
Pro Tip: It’s super important though to make sure the chocolate is slightly cooled before you fold it into your buttercream, because otherwise it will melt your butter in the buttercream. And probably bring you to tears as well. You’ve been warned.
Gather Your Ingredients
You are going to need:
- softened butter (here are 3 easy ways to soften your butter quickly!) Be sure to cut your unsalted 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- granulated white sugar. IMBC is made with granulated sugar, not powdered sugar like you might be used to making.
- a pinch of cream of tartar. This helps to stabilize the egg whites when you are whipping them into a meringue.
- water- (not pictured below) you will need 2/3 cup to make your simple syrup!
Time For The Step By Step Tutorial!
Step 1: Combine sugar and water 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! You can use a pastry brush, dipped in water, to brush the sides of the saucepan to remove any stray sugar crystals.
Step 2: Whip your egg whites to stiff peaks.
Begin first by whipping your egg whites until foamy and soft peaks forms on a medium speed then add your pinch of cream of tartar. Then increase speed and 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.
This is similar to making a meringue for lemon meringue like these lemon meringue cupcakes.
Step 3: Add your sugar syrup
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.
Pro Tip: 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 4: Add Your Butter
You want to add your butter once your egg white mixture has cooled down.
Pro Tip: 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 5: 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 6: Add The Melted, Cooled Chocolate
You need to melt chocolate to add to your Italian buttercream but you need to make sure it’s not too hot! So melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly before adding the chocolate and then stir it in.
What Can I Use This Recipe For?
Now once you’ve got your bowl of chocolate Italian buttercream. It’s time to eat it. I mean frost something with it.
Tips On Making Italian Meringue Buttercream
- Make sure your butter is softened to room temperature so it is incorporated into the meringue. Here are 3 ways to do that quickly.
- You want to use room temperature egg whites so they whip up to full volume. I place my whole uncracked eggs into a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes to get this done fast.
- You want a clean grease free bowl to whip your egg whites. Any grease will inhibit the egg whites from whipping up properly.
- When cracking your egg whites, crack each one seperately in a small bowl then add to your large bowl. This is in case any egg yolk gets in the egg white, the whole batch is not ruined. Any egg yolk in your egg whites will prevent the egg whites from whipping up properly.
- Do not use a plastic bowl because over time it can hold on to grease and fat. Metal is best. Glass will work as well but can be slippery.
- Use a candy thermometer to ensure you have brought the sugar syrup up to the correct temperature.
- Stream the syrup in slowly so it can be incorporated and not deflate the egg whites.
- Before adding the butter, feel the bottom of the bowl to make sure it is cool enough. If the bowl is still warm, wait a few more minutes. If you add the butter when the bowl is warm the butter may melt.
- When adding the syrup, a stand mixer is easiest so you have two free hands. But if you are using a hand mixer, then 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.
- Store 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.
Can I Make This Without A Stand Mixer?
You can but be prepared for a serious arm workout. You can try and cool the bowl down faster, by placing it over a bowl of ice.
Can I Make Italian Buttercream Without A Candy Thermometer?
You can, yes. In order to see if the sugar syrup has reached the soft ball stage, you want to look for the bubbles forming and getting bigger, and forming more slowly. You can do this quick test to see if it’s ready:
- Drop a small amount into a glass of water.
- The sugar should not dissolve, and you should be able to pick it up and squish it into a soft ball.
What Do I Do If My Meringue Frosting Is Runny?
This may have happened if you added the butter too soon before the meringue had a chance to cool down. I have had this happen! You can try popping the mixing bowl in the fridge for about 10 minutes and the try rewhipping.
What Do I Do If I Don’t Have Cream Of Tartar?
It’s ok if you don’t. Cream of tartar is important in helping the egg white whip up to the stiff peaks, If you don’t have cream if tartar, you can substitute it with equal amounts of another acidic ingredient- such as lemon juice or vinegar.
Can You Leave Italian Meringue Buttercream Out?
Yes you can. This buttercream will be safe to keep out at room temperature for up to 2 days.
How Long Does Italian Buttercream Last In The Fridge?
You can keep your Italian buttercream in the fridge for up to 2 weeks! Just keep it tightly covered.
You can also freeze this meringue frosting for up to 2 months. I just let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator overnight. Then take it out and let it soften at room temperature. You may need to rewhip this to the desired consistency again.
To Make This Chocolate Italian Buttercream You Will Need:
- Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (you can also use a hand mixer if a stand mixer isn’t in the budget)
- Sturdy whisk (this is my new favorite whisk, it doubles as a bowl scraper!)
- Candy Thermometer
- Measuring cups and spoons
If you like this recipe, then be sure to check out my Buttercream Basics Guide! Learn how to make the 6 major types of buttercream with step by step photos. You will also learn:
- 3 tips for perfect piping
- How to save a broken buttercream
- Vanilla Buttercream Customization Chart
- How To Store Your Buttercream
and so much more!
Chocolate Italian Buttercream
- 1 1/4 cups (248 grams) granulated white sugar
- 5 large egg whites
- pinch cream of tartar
- 2 cups (16 ounces, 452 grams, 4 sticks) unsalted butter softened
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 8 ounces (227 grams) bittersweet, or semisweet chocolate melted, slightly cooled
- 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).
- 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.
- With mixer running, add syrup to whites in a stream, beating on high speed until no longer steaming, about 3 minutes.
- Before adding the butter, I like to feel the bottom of the bowl to make sure that it's cool enough before adding the butter. If it's still warm, keep mixing until it's cool to the touch and then add your butter or it will melt. Add butter tablespoon by tablespoon, beating until spreadable, 3 to 5 minutes; beat in vanilla. If icing curdles, keep beating until smooth.
- Turn the mixer off and fold the chocolate into the buttercream with a spatula. Then mix on low in your mixer until fully incorporated.