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 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.
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
- 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
- Place your egg whites into the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
- Combine your sugar and water together in a medium-sized saucepan and stir to distribute the water evenly.
- 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.
- Remove the lid and insert your candy thermometer. Continue boiling the mixture without stirring until the thermometer reaches 235ºF
- Begin whisking your egg whites on high to soft peaks
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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Italian Meringue Buttercream
- 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
- Stand mixer with the whisk attachment
- Candy Thermometer
- 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.
173 comments on “Italian Meringue Buttercream”
Can you torch IMBC or would it not work like regular meringue? Thanks!
No you can’t torch it but you can make a 7 minute frosting and torch it which is basically the meringue part with no butter added. Just make sure you use the meringue right away because it sets after a few minutes and wont be pipeable so make it when you’re ready to use it.
Since the humidity level is high here Its kind of impossible for me to use SMBC for my cakes. All along I’ve been using AB for my cakes but i find it hard to get sharp edges and the smoothness. So recently I tried your IMBC recipe and it came out perfect and I was able to cover the cake with a fine edge, smoothness and shine. But I want it to be more sweeter so was thinking of using AB for the filling and IMBC to cover the cake so is it possible to crumb coat with AB and cover it with IMBC or use only IMBC for coating?
Yes you can definitely do that
I am a very inexperienced “wannabe” baker. However, with 8 kiddos=8 bdays each year, I decided to up my game and start baking their cakes. I love, love, love cake, but despise store-bought stuff. I tried your easy buttercream and it was great, however, I wanted to challenge myself a bit and attempted this recipe…without a candy thermometer! I wiped down my bowl and attachment with vinegar, as you suggested. I even cut the recipe in half. Boy, was I surprised when everything came together beautifully and deliciously! I placed the bowl in an ice bath after incorporating the sugar mixture to speed up cooling. I had no issues after adding the butter. I was actually reluctant to keep whipping, as I thought I’d ruin it, if I pushed my luck too far. Anyway, please listen to Ms. Marek’s advice on using high quality, unsalted butter. It makes a huge difference! Thank you for this awesome recipe!!!
Hi, I tried adding Icing sugar after making the IMBC and it started to melt… So is it possible to use IMBC over ABC? Thank you!
Don’t add icing sugar to IMBC…
Is it possible to use IMBC after crumb coating the cake with ABC???
I would chill the cake first until the ABC is firm then frost with the IMBC
The meringue was 100% perfect, and cool to the touch. I transferred it back into the mixing bowl I added the tiniest chunk of butter and it turned to complete liquid. I tried to bring it back but there was absolutely no chance. Do you know what happened or how to fix it?
If the butter melted then your meringue was not cool.
Does this icing crust? I’m wanting to paint on it. It will be outdoors for a wedding in July and I need something stable also. What kind of icing would you recommend?
No it doesn’t crust but it is very stable in hot weather
Hi… Can I use IMBC in between my cake layers as well ad frost it with a final coat.?
Yes you can
I’ve made this perfectly several times but this time I have tiny lumps in my merengue after I add the syrup and still after I added the butter. Any suggestions or ideas what I did wrong? Thank you for all your delicious recipes!
It could be that your syrup is hitting the side of the bowl or hitting the whisk. The syrup has to be carefully drizzled between the mixer and the side of the bowl while mixing to avoid lumps.
Can you add melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder? If so, how much and what type?
You could but you might get unmelted chunks of chocolate in the meringue. Adding room temperature ganache is safer. You can add as much as you want.
Thank you for sharing Liz!
I attempted a recipe like the above, with pasteurized egg whites and cream of tar tar. Got to peaks and everything was looking so good. UNTIL….
I added melted chocolate and a tbspn of espresso with hot water to the mix. The minute I did that it deflated.
I thought it would be ok once I added the butter, but nope it turned into soup and even separated. Put it in the fridge for 20 mins whipped it up and it still looked like curdled soup.
Put in the fridge for longer 1 hour and once I took it out it looked like separated and even bled caramel.
I tried everything from whipping it for longer at high speeds, even added more sugar and icing sugar to save it! LOL you can imagine that did nothing! A day later and it’s still looking curdled, separated, bleeding caramel and melts soooo fast as soon as it’s out of the fridge.
It was a HOT mess and I’m still laughing at how bad it turned out. I realize now I perhaps did not wait till it was cool enough to add the butter. It was also a really warm day here in Toronto. I also probably should have used cocoa powder instead.
What else did I do wrong? Help! I want to learn not to do that again! LOLOL
Don’t add any chocolate or espresso until the buttercream is completely done (meringue cooled and butter added).
Thank you for this amazing recipe. I do have to ask what the brand of mixer you are using. I need one! 🙂
This is the bosch universal plus with the metal bowl. http://shrsl.com/239du
Im attempting to make an anti gravity beer cake for a friends birthday. Ive just nealy had a heartattack when i added butter and it started splitting. Fortunately i had read through comments already and kept whipping and it came together.
Even though i am a bit heavy handed, i added a tiny bit of violet to get a better white colour and that also worked.
I also made LMF for the first time and had to mix colours which ALSO turned out great.
The cake has a crumb coat of ermine frosting and is in the fridge before the fondant is going on and the IMBC goes on top as beer foam.
Im slightly nervous that it has all come together so well so far. I will probably drop it ha ha ha.
Thanks for the great recipes as always!
Hi, I followed the instructions but the result is so greasy and taste like butter. Can you give me a tips of how to avoid this result? Really need to know how to do this perfectly with the perfect taste. Thanks
Keep whipping. Italian meringue is very light and fluffy and not greasy.
Ho this is the first time I’m making it and I was really excited, but when I added butter it turned into liquid. I’ve been whipping it for several minutes but nothing changes. I am so bummed now. Today is my mother’s birthday and I was making this for her 🙁
Sounds like you didn’t let your meringue cool down
If I made it all perfectly then added the butter and and it fell because the meringue was deceptively not chilled enough…..is there any way to fix it or do I need to start over?
Just keep mixing! It will fluff back up
This recipe was great! So easy to follow and my buttercream came out great! I ended up whipping the final product for about 10 minutes.
Novice baker here. As I’m a novice I was panicking through the beating process, wondering if it was going to come together.
It did but it took a power of beating!
And it’s amazing!
Hi, I’ve previously tried SMBC which requires the egg whites to be heated up to 70 degrees celsius so it is safe for consumption. Is it not required for IMBC or does the heated sugar syrup help in some way? Thank you!
The boiling sugar pasteurizes the egg whites in this case
This recipe went perfectly until I added the butter. The mixture looks like the butter isn’t incorporating (little specks of butter in the meringue). Any suggestions?
This was my first time making Italian buttercream and I don’t know what it was but this was a BREEZE to make and came together very quickly and was really beautiful (beginner’s luck maybe?). I don’t have a thermometer but I got the syrup to the soft ball stage as suggested by another recipe. I also live in Egypt where it’s really hot and humid and I was afraid the egg whites would take forever to cool, but I didn’t even refrigerate them and they were perfect in 10 minutes. The butter was soft but slightly cool so maybe that had something to do with it. Overall I’m extremely impressed and happy with how it came out and I’m definitely using this recipe again. Thank you!
Will this icing harden in the refrigerator like a SMBC?
Yes, its the butter that makes it harden
Thanks for sharing a great recipe.can i add caramel sauce to IMBC.
Absolutely you can add caramel sauce. Yum!
Thank you for sharing this fantastic recipe! I used it on a wedding cake a few weeks ago with stellar results. It got rave reviews. Do you have any suggestions for making an Italian meringue buttercream with cream cheese? Thanks again!
I haven’t tried that 🙂