Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Recipe : Italian Meringue Buttercream

Here it is by popular request. The recipe for the buttercream I use as my go to frosting for most things I bake. It is from Warren Brown's book Cakelove. There is also a youtube video of Mr. Brown himself demonstrating it. I highly recommend watching it - helped me out since the directions can be a little confusing at first. I can now make this recipe without consulting my book. Its memorized now baby!!

Italian Meringue Buttercream Frosting
Yield: 4 to 5 cups (enough for one 9-inch-round three-layer cake or 24 cupcakes)


  • egg whites (large), 5
  • extra-fine granulated sugar, 10 ounces (1¼ cups) separated into 1 cup, 1/4 cup
  • cold water, ¼ cup
  • unsalted butter (at room temperature), 1 pound (4 sticks) ( make sure not too soft but out of fridge for 35-45 min)


1. Set out the ingredients and equipment.
Separate the egg whites into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment.
Measure 1 cup sugar and the water into a 1-quart, heavy- bottomed saucepan. Gently stir to combine (I use the candy thermometer for this).
Measure the remaining ¼ cup sugar into a small bowl and set aside.
Cut the butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and set aside in a medium bowl.
2. To make the sugar syrup, place the candy thermometer in the saucepan and heat the mixture over medium-high heat. Partially cover with a lid to capture the evaporating water—this helps to moisten the sides of the saucepan to prevent sugar crystals from forming.
3. With the mixer on high speed, begin whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks. When the peaks are stiff, you have a meringue.
4. Keep the mixer running and pour the ¼ cup of sugar into the meringue, and keep whipping
5. Raise the heat under the sugar syrup to bring the syrup to 245°F, if it is not there already. When the syrup is at 245°F, remove the thermometer and slowly pour the syrup into the meringue.
6. After 1 to 2 minutes reduce the mixer speed to medium-high for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the meringue is cooled. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the mixer speed to high for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the butter is fully incorporated.

Flavor Variations:
The following flavorings can be added to the base recipe for Italian Meringue Buttercream:
Vanilla: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate: 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
Rum: 2 to 4 tablespoons (to taste) dark rum
Amaretto: 2 to 4 tablespoons (to taste) amaretto
Raspberry: 1/4 to 1/2 cup raspberry puree ( same with strawberry)
Lemon: 2 tablespoons limoncello
Orange: 1 teaspoon orange oil
Lime: 1 teaspoon lime oil


EQUIPMENT: standing mixer, 1-quart heavy-bottom saucepan, candy thermometer

My notes : if the mixture gets soupy once the butter is added thats NORMAL. Just keep that whip going on HIGH and it will come together. I promise. I have had troubles with Swiss Meringue Buttercream having it never come together but this I promise you it will. You will hear a change in the sound once it comes together

Also leave at room temp IF you are using the same day. Otherwise put in an airtight container and pop in fridge until ready to use. Thaw at room temp for 30-40 min and whip again for 5 min on LOW speed.
This frosting tastes best at room temp. Its creamy, buttery and not overly sweet like some powdered sugar based frostings can be. But straight out of the fridge it tastes well more like butter. Hey some of you might not have the patience to wait the 30 min for frosting taste perfection. I know I haven't been able to before.

Also this makes A LOT of frosting enough to pipe giant 1M swirls on cupcakes with some leftover. I would say its enough for 40 cupcakes not 24. 

Any questions feel free to post! I am more than happy to help out!


  1. so i just tried this frosting for the first time and it didn't quite work for me and i was wondering if you could help troubleshoot :)

    I could NOT get the egg whites to form stiff peaks to save my life. the first time i beat them for 10 minutes and they were still soft and goopy. i tried again with egg whites more room temp and they STILL didn't set up after 10 minutes. I had to get on with the frosting making process coz I was on a deadline. Anyhow, the sugar syrup and all that turned out find and i follwed the directions exactly.

    however, when everything was all said and done it was too soft to pipe, but i figured i'd try it just to see if i liked the taste and to me it just tasted like butter, even after i added melted chocolate AND vanilla extract to try and disguise it. i'm not sure if this is because the egg whites didn't form a meringue or not.

    also, i halved the recipe because i only needed to frost 12 cupcakes, not sure if that would make a difference. i ended up having to toss it and make a ganache cuz the person was about 10 minutes from arriving to pick up the cupcakes from me. Help!!

  2. Sommer

    When egg whites don't ever make it to stiff peaks when beat it means there is fat in them. You need to have SUPER clean bowls, beaters and no traces of yolk in the whites. Even if you get some yolk in the whites when separating you need to start over you can't just scoop out the yolk. I have had that happen before. I have never had a problem with them not stiffening when making this frosting because I am super careful when separating. I always separate in a bowl then put into my mixer bowl. Never straight in just in case I get yolk or shell in the whites. Always whip room temp whites too never cold and make sure your mixing bowl is room temp - not hot like just washed. Also separate the eggs when cold - straight out of the fridge they will separate the easiest this way and less chance of getting yolk in them.
    you can also add in 1/8 tsp of cream of tartar to every 2 egg whites to stiffen but I have never needed to for this frosting. Since you whip and then add sugar to make the meringue they will stiffen then and then once the syrup is added and you whip 7-10 min for it to cool to room temp they will deflate a little.
    I also have never tried halving the recipe I always make the full and save half in my freezer for another time. Maybe that had something to do with it.
    I always pipe right after making it - but if it is too soft chilling for about 20 min will set it up and then try piping with it then. Too long in the fridge and the butter hardens and you have to set it back out at room temp til you get the right consistency.

    Sorry you had troubles! But try to have super clean bowls and beaters ( I always use my whisk attatchment) and separate the eggs cold, no yolks at all in the whites, set out til they reach room temp then whip.

    Good luck! Hopefully this helps!

  3. Hi I have made Warren Brown's recipe and it came out silky perfection!
    But, DH finds it too buttery and thinks a little more sugar will solve that issue. I am more worried about losing texture by changing proportions. What do you think? Will half a cup more of sugar or a couple tablespoons corn syrup(added at the end) harm the buttercream?

  4. Anonymous - your DH might be used to the powdered sugar type of frosting which is a lot sweeter than IMBC. I prefer the more buttery less sweet taste to frosting but most guys seem to like the sweeter powdered sugar kind. My husband likes both. I did recently make swiss mernigue bc ( so similar to Italian just slightly different directions) and for some reason it seemed sweeter

    You could try
    1. adding more sugar to the egg whites before you add in the syrup
    2. adding in some powdered sugar to the final mixture to sweeten just a touch without destroying the consistency.

    I am not sure about adding more sugar to the syrup mixture but I wonder if doubling the ingredients for the sugar syrup and leaving the same amount of butter would work better? Worth a try maybe? I wouldn't add in corn syrup. That would make it a different taste altogether.

    Good luck let me know how it works out.


  5. I thought I'd give you an update. I ditched Warren Brown's recipe (even though it's perfect) to find another IMBC recipe which would appeal to DH and therefore a wider audience. And I did! It's Susan G. Purdy's recipe for IMBC. It calls for half a cup less butter and one less egg white. Although it called for a little less sugar, I kept it the same amount as Warren Brown's recipe and it turned out to be the perfect balance between sweet and creamy smooth.
    And I don't think I'm ever making anything but Italian Buttercream again! :)

  6. Yeah!! I am so glad you found something that worked. I did read somewhere after I posted that adding a cup of powdered sugar frosting will sweeten it just a touch with still keeping the flavor of the IMBC and not turning it into a powdered sugar frosting. I myself love the original recipe since I love frostings that aren't overly sweet. Well I just love frosting in general but some are just too sweet. So I am glad you found something that worked out perfectly!!

  7. I made this and was like heavy whipping cream after adding the butter. I did it three times I don't know what I am doing wrong plz help.

  8. Anonymous

    Temperature is very important. The temp of the sugar syrup has to be EXACTLY 245 F when added to the whipped egg whites and they should be shipped STIFF before the sugar is added. That is a timing thing so have your mixer close to your stove when whipping so you can add that syrup in fast enough so it doesn't cool down. Also the temp of the meringue absolutely has to be COOL before the butter is added so feel the sides or bottom of your mixer bowl and it can't have any warmth at all when adding in the butter. And if the butter is too soft meaning it has been out too long then its too warm. Butter, when taken from the fridge not freezer, really only takes about 30-45 min to get to room temp 68-70 deg f. If your house is hotter than that maybe have AC on or keep your kitchen cooler. And finally keep the wire whip attachment on don't switch to the beater blade and LISTEN. It will get soupy, weepy as you add in the butter. Make sure you are only adding in one tablespoon at a time, every few seconds and then crank that mixer up once all the butter is in. It will come together and you will HEAR the difference. It makes a very distinct sound once its come together. I promise just follow these steps/tips and you will be successful!!

  9. I like the recipe too. I however, find it too sweet so I have altered the recipe. I only make half a recipe at a time (don't need to whole thing). I cut the sugar by 20% and butter by 25% and it comes out to my liking. However, I have a question: I use this buttercream to fill macarons (not to ice cakes). Is there a way to alter the stiffness at room temperature so it doesn't ooze out when you bite into the cookie?

  10. hello i followed your intructions in making this recipe,i made sure my mixer was freaking clean,my eggwhites are in room temperature and syrup in 245F

    it was creamy but not fluffy as i have seen in videos, does my stand mixer has to do with it? i mean it got only six speed level?

  11. Thanks for this post, especially the part about it getting soupy. I was just making a batch from a different recipe and it was very thin. I kept going and it turned out great. Thanks again!

  12. I followed your recipe and mine came out perfect, it is creamy, sweet and silky! I added Strawberry preserves after the final step, whipped it a little longer and I'm considering just eating the first batch without cake! Thank you so much for sharing this amazing recipe!