Italian Meringue Buttercream

Silky smooth Italian buttercream is the most stable of all the buttercreams and is not very sweet. It is made by pouring hot sugar syrup into whipping egg whites and then finished with butter, salt and flavoring.
↓ Recipe ↓ Video Never Miss A Cake
Total Time: 40 mins
Serves: 8 cups
Italian meringue buttercream rosettes on a cake

How to make a classic Italian meringue buttercream

Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC) is a thick and creamy frosting that is made by whipping egg whites with sugar syrup and softened butter.

italian meringue buttercream rosettes  Italian meringue buttercream is similar to Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC) except the sugar is cooked 240ºF before being added to the whipping egg whites. The cooked sugar syrup results in a more stable and silky smooth buttercream. 

People love Italian meringue buttercream because it is the most stable of all the buttercreams and it is also the least sweet. So if you live in warm environments like Florida, California or Texas, Italian meringue is going to work very well for you. 

You can substitute half of the butter for vegetable shortening for more stability in high heat areas. 

italian meringue buttercream in a bowl, piping bag and frosted no a cake

What ingredients do you need for Italian Meringue Buttercream?

Fresh egg whites – Don’t use boxed (pasteurized) egg whites, chances are they will not whip into a stiff meringue which is vital to a stable buttercream frosting. 

Sugar – Make sure you cook your sugar to the proper temperature (240ºF) to ensure all the water has evaporated and the sugar is stable enough to be whipped into the frosting

Butter – Use softened, butter (but not melted) to whip into your cooled meringue so that it incorporates smoothly. I prefer to use unsalted butter so that I can control the amount of salt that is in my buttercream. Remember, the higher the quality of butter you use, the better your buttercream will taste. 

Salt – Just a little salt helps bring out the flavor of the Italian meringue buttercream

Vanilla – I use a good amount of vanilla to flavor my Italian meringue buttercream but you can use whatever flavoring you desire. You can also use vanilla beans, emulsions or ground up freeze-dried fruit. 

How do you make Italian meringue buttercream?

Here are the steps to making Italian meringue buttercream

  1. Wipe down your bowl and attachments with lemon juice or white vinegar to make sure there are no traces of oil or fat on them that would prevent your meringue from whipping up
  2. Place your egg whites into the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
  3. Combine your sugar and water together in a medium-sized saucepan and stir to distribute the water evenly.
  4. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Leave the lid on for 5 minutes to ensure all the sugar granules are dissolved or your sugar could crystallize and become grainy. 
  5. Remove the lid and insert your candy thermometer. Continue boiling the mixture without stirring until the thermometer reaches 235ºF
  6. Begin whisking your egg whites on high to soft peaks
  7. When your syrup reaches 240ºF, reduce the speed of your mixer to low and drizzle in your hot syrup. Try to drizzle between the whisk attachment and the side of the bowl to prevent the syrup from splattering. 
  8. Increase the speed back to high and whip to very stiff peaks. Place ice packs at the base of your mixer to cool the meringue down to room temperature as you’re mixing or remove the meringue once it’s stiff enough and place it into the fridge for 15 minutes to cool it down. 
  9. Once your meringue is completely cool, you can whip in your butter, salt, and vanilla until the buttercream is light and fluffy and no longer tastes like butter. 
  10. Now you can add in food coloring if you desire

Can you color Italian Meringue Buttercream?

You can add coloring by adding a couple of drops of your favorite food coloring into the bowl as it’s whipping in the final step. Or you can divide your buttercream and hand-mix in food coloring. 

italian meringue buttercream colored light pink in a bowl with a spatula

How long does Italian Buttercream last?

Italian buttercream can be left at room temperature for 2-3 days. I usually refrigerate leftover buttercream if I’m not going to use it in 24 hours. It can be frozen for 6 months or more. Bring the buttercream to room temperature and re-whip until it’s a smooth consistency before you use it. 

Other buttercream recipes you might want to try
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe
American Buttercream
Ermine Buttercream

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8 cups

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Note: measurements are estimated based off the vanilla cake recipe using standard US cake pans and sizes. Measurements used are for 2" tall cake pans only. Your results may vary. Do not overfill cake pans above manufacturer's recommended guidelines.

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Italian meringue buttercream rosettes on a cake

Italian Meringue Buttercream

Silky smooth Italian buttercream is the most stable of all the buttercreams and is not very sweet. It is made by pouring hot sugar syrup into whipping egg whites and then finished with butter, salt and flavoring.
5 from 97 votes
Print Rate Never Miss A Cake
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
cooling: 15 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
Serves: 8 cups
Calories: 849kcal

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces (454 g) granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces (227 g) water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 large (264 g) egg whites
  • 24 ounces (680 g) unsalted butter softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Equipment

  • Stand mixer with the whisk attachment
  • Candy Thermometer

Instructions

  • On a stovetop, mix together the water and sugar, cover with a lid and bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
  • Keep the lid on the pot for 3-4 minutes and bring to ensure all the sugar granules are dissolved, otherwise, your sugar can get gritty and crystalize.
  • Remove the lid, insert the candy thermometer carefully and continue cooking on medium-high until the syrup reaches 240° F.
  • When the sugar solution is at about 235° F, begin whipping the egg whites on high speed. Add the salt to the egg whites.
  • When the egg whites reach soft peaks, pour the sugar solution in a steady stream on to the whipping whites while mixing on low speed.
  • Continue whipping the egg/sugar mixture until it reaches stiff peaks. I wrapped an apron around my bowl with an ice pack to help the meringue cool down faster. You can also cool the meringue by scooping it out of the bowl and placing it into the fridge for 15 minutes.
  • Once the meringue is cooled, whip in soft butter and vanilla until the buttercream is light and fluffy and no longer has a butter taste. This can take from 10-15 minutes. If it looks curdled and watery just keep whipping. It will come together I promise.

Notes

IMPORTANT: Make sure all your ingredients are at room temp and you're using a scale to measure. Substituting ingredients may cause this recipe to fail. (see notes at the bottom of the recipe)
Important Things To Note Before You Start
1. Bring all your ingredients to room temperature or even a little warm (eggs, buttermilk, butter, etc) to ensure your batter does not break or curdle. 
2. Use a scale to weigh your ingredients (including liquids) unless otherwise instructed (Tablespoons, teaspoons, pinch etc). Metric measurements are available in the recipe card. Scaled ingredients are much more accurate than using cups and help ensure the success of your recipe. 
3. Practice Mise en Place (everything in it's place). Measure out your ingredients ahead of time and have them ready before you start mixing to reduce the chances of accidentally leaving something out.

Nutrition

Serving: 2ounces | Calories: 849kcal (42%) | Carbohydrates: 57g (19%) | Protein: 4g (8%) | Fat: 69g (106%) | Saturated Fat: 44g (220%) | Cholesterol: 183mg (61%) | Sodium: 139mg (6%) | Potassium: 74mg (2%) | Sugar: 57g (63%) | Vitamin A: 2125IU (43%) | Calcium: 23mg (2%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)
 

171 comments on “Italian Meringue Buttercream

  1. Can I add strawberry coulis to this to flavor it? If so, how much do you think coulis do I have to add? Thank you!

  2. Ive perfected the art of SMBC and made this recipe twice in a row and both times the butter separated, curdled and deflated the meringue. I waited until the meringue was 70 degrees before adding room temp butter slowly in small chunks so I have no idea what I keep doing wrong. Are these failed batches salvageable?

  3. Can i use this recipe to frost sugar cookies? Curious if they will ‘harden’ enough to hold the frosting, like a royal icing but better taste!!

    1. IMBC won’t crust at all, it’ll stay nice and soft. But it would taste delicious! If you want it to crust, I would use American buttercream or royal icing.

  4. Can this recipe be used for Russian flower piping tips? Is the icing thick and stiff enough for them? And also when in the processes should you add flavorings besides vanilla? I’ve seen some people add a jam to flavor their icings.

  5. 5 stars
    I tried replying to the answer you left $haiRedx about 2 weeks ago regarding how much reduction to add to IMBC at the end. Specifically strawberry reduction (using your recipe), how much reduction per an 8cup batch of IMBC?
    I love this recipe just as it is but I’m trying to get all fancy this week.

    1. I don’t have a specific amount but if you look at the fresh strawberry buttercream then you can get an idea of where to start

  6. Hi I’m new to Learn I’m from hot country so I’m looking to it I’m going to try it thank you hope I can make it.and I love your mixer too I’m going to look at it at amazon thank you

  7. How long can you freeze IMBC? I am doing a wedding cake and would like to make the buttercream in advance and freeze it. I am doing a four tiered cake so will need a lot of buttercream. Thank you for any advice.

    1. You can freeze it for up to 6 months, when you take it out, let it whip on your stand mixer until smooth. You can also take out about 1/3cup, melt it down in the microwave, and whip it back into the buttercream to make it extra smooth.

  8. 5 stars
    I was a bit scared of this recipe but wanted to give it a try because I don’t care for American Buttercream due to it’s excessive sweetness and texture. So I gave it go and I’m so glad I did. It is a bit of a rollercoaster however. I followed the recipe to a tee. Including cleaning everything with lemon juice before starting and having everything weighted out. The first part of the process, up to incorporating the sugar syrup and whipping the meringue, went well. Beautiful high peaks. Cooled completely but when I started adding the butter, geez, what a mess. Fell completely and looked like cottage cheese and water. Read through the reviews and found that someone had had to mix for 10 minutes. I decided to give it a try before giving up. I went away , left it whipping and when I came back it was light fluffy beautiful icing! Pipes beautifully!

    Can’t stress enough! Whip, whip whip!
    Delicious and worth the learning curve!

  9. Hey Liz,
    Can I use this buttercream to make buttercream roses?

  10. 5 stars
    Hi there Liz.
    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.
    I have tried it for the first time and NO FAIL. 😊😊
    I was SOOOO happy.
    My go to recipe from now one for Italian Meringue Buttercream. 👍
    Thank you once again.

    Regards
    Naomi.

  11. Can a wedding cake that is 3 tiers frosted in Italian Meringue Buttercream stay at room temperature in an air conditioned room for 6 hours? Doing a cake next week and worried about safety! Would appreciate any advice.
    Thank you

  12. unfortunately recipe didn’t turn out – i whipped until i could whip no more! honest. Found hardened sugar syrup in bottom of bowl so i am guessing syrup temperature guessing is not going to work. i have bought a sugar thermometer and will try again. I want to use it to fill and top a red velvet cake and flavour it with white chocolate. Has anyone tried cream cheese ? will keep you posted how i get on.

  13. 5 stars
    Amazing!!!!! I’ve been baking a lot for the past 5 years and I know how finicky meringue buttercream can be…I can’t stand American buttercream – it’s too sweet for my taste – so I’ve tried a variety of different Swiss and Italian meringue recipes along the way. Sometimes they work…sometimes they don’t 🙁 and it’s always heartbreaking especially since I end up wasting so many eggs…Well this recipe is a winner!!! I don’t think I’ll even bother trying another recipe like ever! I followed all the instructions to a T and used a scale to weigh everything out. The only slight modification I made was adding a little extra vanilla extract. I did try putting an ice pack around the mixer but it was cooling down fast enough. I ended up putting the entire bowl (not spooning it out onto a sheet tray like in the video bc honestly I was too lazy) into the fridge for about 20 mins until the sides of the bowl felt neutral in temperature. Every time a meringue buttercream has failed for me the issue is the temperature so having patience it the most important part! Also just wanted to mention that when I first looked at the ingredients I was concerned with the amount of butter that the recipe called for but the result was absolutely heavenly! I was amazed at how light and almost whipped cream like it was. So so good! Can’t wait to try this again with some added flavors.

  14. 5 stars
    Hey! I love you recipes and all your videos. One question though… I have the white bowl to the Bosch universal 800 watt and you use a metal bowl. Do I have to use a metal bowl for this recipe, or any meringue ?

  15. 5 stars
    This was my first time making homemade buttercream and it was fantastic! I did have to hold a dish towel around my mixing bowl for a bit to catch all of the splatters but that was the only issue I had

  16. 5 stars
    I failed on my first attempt where I used egg whites from the carton and it was a runny mess. I tried again, determined to get it right, I used real egg whites and it was divine. Thank you Liz.

    Custombakesbylori

  17. 5 stars
    I have attempted IMBC SO many times and I’m successful about 50% of the time. Then I came across this recipe and method and was successful both times I made it on the first try. It’s delicious, it’s silky, it spreads BEAUTIFULLY, and I will never make a different recipe. I just have to say THANK YOU Liz for sharing this and everything you share. It’s not only made my life easier but also more successful in my business.

  18. 5 stars
    I love your recipe for your Italian buttercream. I will be trying it out this week. I will definitely tag you in my post.

  19. 5 stars
    I made yesterday and it works fine! I had to stop while I was whipping the egg whites, I out in the refrigerate and one hors late, I restarted again. Perfect! This morning I could see how nice my frosting became! Thanks!

  20. 5 stars
    What is that fancy mixer with the double whisk? It looks so cool!

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