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.
4.94 from 162 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


  • 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.


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.


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%)
Tried this Recipe? Tag me Today!Mention @SugarGeekShow or tag #SugarGeek!

173 comments on “Italian Meringue Buttercream

  1. How long does it take to get to stiff peaks? I’ve been whipping for about 10 mins now and no peaks😫

  2. Hi, just want to know is the sugar have pour hot in the egg whites?

  3. Once you refrigerate it and go to use again, do you get to room temp and re whip? I am making my own birthday cake and SMBC and IMBC always intimidates me and I have been making and decorating cakes for years. I wanted to make the frosting about a week ahead of time

  4. Tried for the first time and was so impressed with the simplicity of the recipe. Final product came out great and storing for future use.

    Can I still add different flavorings/extracts to small batches of my IMBC after I’ve made it?

  5. 5 stars
    Hi, Thank you so much for this recipe. I did this last saturday for a baby shower cake and it turned out perfect, i did add some cornstarch though to make it sturdier as im afraid it wont stand the heat here in Seville. This is my fave buttercream from now on and my friends love it as its not too sweet.

  6. I’m making a fairly tall cake and always like to have extra in case! Does doubling the recipie mess it up or is that okay to do? Excited to try this out!

  7. 5 stars
    I am a frosting lover and have always wanted it so sweet my teeth hurt. But THIS. IS. AMAZING. Thank you for converting me to meringue based buttercream! I’ve already switched from ABC to your easy buttercream but I’m so thrilled to now have two amazing frostings to go to!

  8. Can I use a handheld mixer? Or should I invest in getting one like yours?

    1. You can definitely use a handheld mixer, it will just take a bit more time and you will have to hold the mixer the whole time

  9. Hi Liz! I’ve been wanting to try your IMBC. I’m wondering if I should worry about overbeating it? I’m afraid it might separate or something if I overbeat it at some point. Can you tell me when should I stop beating it? Thank you so much!

    1. You should stop beating it when it reaches stiff peaks. Overbeating would be very very very hard to do so I wouldn’t be too stressed about it. Under-mixing is far more common. Make sure the meringue is fully cool before you add that butter.

  10. Hi liz, thanks for this recipe i cant wait to try it. when i take the cooled meringue out of the refridgerator, can i put it in the mixer and start adding the butter straight away or do i need to wait until it gets to room temp before i start again? Thank you

    1. You can start mixing right away 🙂

  11. 5 stars
    If I’m filling my cakes with a whipped cream filling, with this IMBC still keep my cake stable in hot weather, if I use it to coat my cake then cover with fondant?

    1. Yes IMBC works great under fondant! If you live in a really hot area, you can always replace half the butter with shortening if needed.

  12. Thank you soooo much for this recipe! You’ve restored my faith in a non American style buttercream!
    Swiss meringue keeps failing me even as an experienced cake maker. 🤷🏼‍♀️
    This is so much more stable too, and damn delicious! Cakes coat so well and smooth, you are amazing! X

  13. Have you ever tried using vegan butter? Do you think it would work by the same way in place of regular butter?

    1. I haven’t tried it but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work 🙂

  14. I’d like to add powdered freeze dried strawberries for color and flavor. When would I add them? Thank you

  15. I don’t have a whisk attachment for my mixer just the regular mixers like on a hand mixer will that b a problem???

    1. You definitely need a whisk attachment to get the buttercream super light and fluffy.

  16. Can you add marshmallow fluff to this once its already complete? TIA

  17. I tried recipe twice and keeps coming out grainy? First time I think maybe I cooled down my bowl to fast or didn’t let sugar dissolve enough but it did get to 240
    Second time around my sugar got to 260 and had to let it go down first because my egg whites weren’t ready? Any advice please

  18. I need help. Everything went to plan. Cooking sugar syrup, check. Whipping gorgeous meringue, check. Then I added the butter, slowly, in chunks. The meringue fell, but I was expecting that, then it came together at the end. BUT, it’s not what I would call fluffy. It’s more like sweetened butter in taste and texture. Heavy and like butter. I’ve tried both the whisk and the paddle. What have I done wrong? It looks so lovely when you do it, and I want that!

  19. OK, you have an official “Wow” from me. I was giving up too soon. I whipped it for a full 15 min, and it turned into heaven. Thank you.

  20. Do you add the violet food coloring to your Italian Butter cream like you did in your Swiss meringue?

    1. Yes! And a little bit of white, too.

  21. Can i just put half butter and half shortening? Tnx

  22. 5 stars
    Hi! I have started using only this recipe for my frosting—it’s so yummy and always works out! I want to make a s’mores cake and have a question—if I wanted to use this as the main frosting but have some torched bits on top, would this be a good option? Not sure if I could just reserve a little bit of meringue to pipe on top and then torch it. And also how long the meringue would last!

  23. 5 stars
    Hi Liz,
    For chocolate version of this recipe how much cocoa powder (and / or chocolate) should we add.
    Thank you in advance

  24. Hi! I am making an apple cake and thought this would be good with brown sugar instead of granulated sugar. Can you tell me if I can make this substitution?

    1. I haven’t tried using brown sugar to make buttercream but that sounds really tasty! Please let me know if you try it out and you have success 🙂

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