fluffy buttercream frosting on wire whisk for cakes and cupcakes

Italian Meringue Buttercream (video)

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Another incredible buttercream recipe from my ‘Back to Cake Basics’ special series! This new episode features classic Italian meringue buttercream! This super silky and smooth Italian buttercream recipe is made with egg whites, sugar syrup and butter. It holds its shape very well, making it the perfect fluffy frosting for cake decorating, cupcakes and other desserts. Plus, you can add any flavor to this recipe such as chocolate, vanilla, berry/fruit or even coffee!

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What is Italian Meringue Buttercream?

Italian meringue frosting is very similar to Swiss meringue buttercream – both are made with egg whites and butter. With the Swiss method, the egg whites and sugar are cooked over a water bath until the sugar is dissolved. With the Italian method, the egg whites are whisked separately, then cooked with a boiling sugar syrup. Neither recipe has any raw egg white so there’s no need to worry about food poisoning!

How to Make Italian Buttercream

Before starting on this buttercream, it’s crucial that your mixing bowl is super clean; otherwise, the egg whites will fall flat. Make sure to wash your mixing bowl with degreasing soap and white vinegar to rid of any residual grease. Whisk the egg whites for a few minutes until stiff peaks form, then prepare the sugar syrup.

Once the super hot sugar syrup is added, the egg whites are mixed for several minutes until they are light, fluffy and glossy. It’s important to mix the egg whites until their temperature has dropped before adding the butter, otherwise the butter will simply melt. To test the temperature, I use the inside of my wrist by placing it underneath the bowl. If the bottom of the bowl has cooled and is barely warm, it’s time to add the butter.

The unsalted and softened butter needs to be added slowly, just a few tablespoons at a time. As you begin to add the butter, the buttercream will begin to take on a funny texture and will look clumpy and ‘wrong’. Don’t worry!  You are doing everything right! Just keep adding the butter, scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl often and keep mixing. The butter and egg whites will come together to form a creamy mixture. Once all the butter is added, keep mixing the Italian buttercream for 4 to 5 minutes, until the butter is super smooth. At this point, it’s time to add the flavors!

Italian meringue buttercream piped on black tray

Flavor Variations

Italian meringue buttercream can be prepared in a variety of colors and flavors, making it great for cake decorating! Here are a few flavor options to try:

  • Coconut: add 1 teaspoon concentrated coconut extract
  • Coffee: add 1 teaspoon coffee extract; add 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
  • Vanilla: add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; add seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • Chocolate: add 1/2 cup melted dark, milk or white chocolate chips that have cooled; add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Fruit: add 1 teaspoon berry or fruit extract or emulsion (a thick, concentrated extract with color); I do not recommend adding fruit preserves.
  • Freeze-dried fruit: pulse 1 cup of freeze-dried berries or fruit in a food processor, then sift the fruit using a fine mesh sifter, keeping just the powder. Add powder to the buttercream.
More Recipes!

Looking for more buttercream recipes? Try these other ‘Back to Cake Basics’ recipes:

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Italian Meringue Buttercream video recipe

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