• How to make perfect Italian Meringue Buttercream

Italian Meringue Buttercream

Italian Meringue Buttercream, or let’s call it IMBC for short, is so wonderful it deserves a post all of it’s own. It’s worlds apart from the standard buttercream made up of twice the amount of icing sugar to butter, plus a little flavouring such as vanilla, which can feel overly sweet and even a little lumpy or grainy if you haven’t sifted the icing sugar well enough to start with.

IMBC however, is dreamy. The ratio of butter to sugar is almost reversed and it has the most wonderful texture you could imagine – it is soft and smooth, smooth, smooth. Like edible velvet! It’s a really unusual technique if you have always made the traditional sort of buttercream so I have made a little video to show you how to do it. I promise it’s easy.

See? Nothing to it. The stand mixer really does all of the work – you just feed it syrup, butter and any flavouring or colour you like. You really do need a stand mixer as it would be impossible by hand to whisk for that long and really tricky to add the syrup and butter with electric beaters. The part which makes this “Italian” rather than the other common type of meringue buttercream Swiss, is that you add sugar syrup heated to 121˚C to the whisked egg whites, which cooks them through before you beat in the butter.

The Swiss method sees you whisking egg whites and sugar on a Bain Marie and the advice is to wait until the sugar has dissolved before whisking to stiff peaks. It’s more variable that way and I find it always goes through an anxiety-provoking “soupy” stage where it looks almost split and it can take a lot of whisking on the highest speed and even chilling to get it to a useable consistency.  As you can see in the video, IMBC is thick, luscious and stable.

How to make perfect Italian Meringue Buttercream

I’ve coloured mine with a little Sugarflair food colouring gel and used a special piping tip to give this pretty frilly effect to my cupcakes.  It’s called an Oriental Ruffle Nozzle and all you do is hold the bag vertically and twist slowly left and right a couple of time before pulling it away. If you carry on piping a little more, it ends up looking like the ruffles on a Viennetta, but that’s a little more frosting than I personally like on my cupcakes.

You can freeze IMBC if you don’t use it all but it makes a good big batch so it’s great if you need to make lots of cupcakes – I really love these baking cups from Iced Jems as I can make 24 cupcakes at once standing on a baking tray on the same shelf; you can’t get two muffin pans with paper liners in a conventional domestic oven at once so these make it a much faster job. Plus look how lovely they are – they are thick enough to not go greasy and fade on baking.

How to make perfect Italian Meringue Buttercream every time! Click To Tweet

As for adding flavourings – you can add vanilla and other similar extracts with confidence. I love Star Kay White extracts in orange, lemon, peppermint or orange blossom but prefer to make my own vanilla extract. You can even add some melted chocolate after the butter has been added to make the most incredible chocolate frosting you’ve ever had or even carefully beat 200g of full-fat cream cheese to take your IMBC to another level of pleasure! Just add it quickly, do not over beat and keep chilled until serving. It really is heavenly frosting, however you choose to have it. What flavour would you like to try?

I hope that was helpful – let me know if you have any requests for future recipes.

5 from 14 votes
How to make perfect Italian Meringue Buttercream
Italian Meringue Buttercream

How to make perfect, dreamy and creamy Italian meringue buttercream. Flavoured simply with vanilla you can add food colouring paste to suit your cakes. Makes enough for 24 cupcakes or to fill and frost (generously) an 8 inch diameter layer cake. 

Servings: 24 cupcakes worth of frosting
: 126 kcal
Author: Just Jo
Ingredients
  • 90 ml egg whites from about 3 large eggs
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 75 g water
  • 300 g soft butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp food colouring gel optional
Essential equipment
  • A stand mixer with a whisk attachment
  • A reliable thermometer
Instructions
  1. Ensure your stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment are free from grease - rub with a little lemon juice on a piece of kitchen roll if necessary. Start by weighing out the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer. Measure the sugar into a medium sized saucepan and add the water. Swirl to combine.

  2. Start the egg whites off whisking on medium speed in the stand mixer and meanwhile, put the sugar over a medium high heat and allow to come to a boil. Do not stir. Using your thermometer, aim for 121˚C. Whilst being very careful, and do pay close attention to the syrup as boiling sugar can burn you severely, peek at the egg whites - turn the mixer up to high to ensure they come to firm peaks as the syrup comes to temp. 

  3. In a slow, steady stream, pour the syrup onto the egg whites with the mixer still running. Aim for the spot between the whisk and the side of the bowl so it doesn't splatter everywhere. Keep the mixer running until all the syrup is incorporated and the bowl has cooled to room temperature when you *carefully* feel the outside - this usually takes 5-10 mins after all the syrup has been added.

  4. Turn the machine down to medium speed and one cube at a time, add all of the butter. Wait for each cube to be incorporated before adding the next - this will take barely a moment. Once it's all added, add the vanilla then turn the mixer up to high for a minute to ensure the buttercream is smooth. 

  5. If adding food colouring, add a little at a time - I always use Sugarflair food colouring gels as they are super concentrated and won't water down the buttercream or change it's consistency. Whisk until no streaks remain then the IMBC is ready to use. 

Recipe Notes
  1. Do check out the video in the post to see how easy it is to come together. Note that I keep my stand mixer running the whole time from start to finish. 
  2. The glass bowl is better for video but if you have a metal bowl for your stand mixer, use that as it dissipates the heat more rapidly and gives you a meringue with better volume and therefore a better buttercream.
  3. IMBC can be frozen successfully. Once thawed (which you should do over night in the refrigerator), it will need a little beating  before using to frost with. 
Nutrition Facts
Italian Meringue Buttercream
Amount Per Serving
Calories 126 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 15%
Saturated Fat 6g 30%
Cholesterol 26mg 9%
Sodium 95mg 4%
Potassium 12mg 0%
Total Carbohydrates 8g 3%
Sugars 8g
Vitamin A 6.2%
Calcium 0.3%
Iron 0.2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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59 Comments

  1. I love the video, I have never made Italian Meringue, but you make it look easy to master!
    :D

    • Just Jo 11/03/2017 at 12:49 - Reply

      Thanks Claire! I’m so glad that came across as I wanted to show it’s much easier than it looks on paper :D

  2. Cliona Keane 11/03/2017 at 14:13 - Reply

    How adorable do these look!! That buttercream looks to die for too, I’ll definitely be following this recipe next time I’m baking!

    • Just Jo 11/03/2017 at 14:58 - Reply

      I hope you like it Cliona – I certainly do. It’s almost good enough to just eat it on it’s own with a spoon lol x

  3. Julia @ HappyFoods Tube 11/03/2017 at 14:35 - Reply

    I must admit I don’t use buttercream often and never tried making Italian meringue buttercream. I like your post and definitely will be trying this. Great video!

    • Just Jo 11/03/2017 at 14:59 - Reply

      Thanks Julia! Really glad you liked the video :D

  4. Lizzie 11/03/2017 at 14:40 - Reply

    Wow, these look so pretty! I use buttercream for most of my cakes as I’m not really a pretty cake person, but this looks fabulous

    • Just Jo 11/03/2017 at 16:52 - Reply

      Thanks Lizzie! It really is easy to make and the effect is really good, whether piped or swirled on with a spatula :D

  5. linda spiker 11/03/2017 at 14:58 - Reply

    What a fun and beautiful St. Patrick’s Day treat!

    • Just Jo 11/03/2017 at 15:00 - Reply

      Lol Linda – I must admit, I wasn’t intending on it being a St Patrick’s themed post but the green does fit well with this time of year! And thank you for your kind words :D

  6. Ann 11/03/2017 at 20:28 - Reply

    Lol, I feel like clapping after the ‘movie’. Great tutorial.

    • Just Jo 12/03/2017 at 19:32 - Reply

      Lol aw you’re so cute Ann! It’s funny doing videos, as long as I can keep my face out of them ;)

  7. Pam Wattenbarger 13/03/2017 at 21:30 - Reply

    This icing looks so pretty on the cupcakes! I love buttercream frosting but I usually make the other kind. This kind sounds yummy too!

    • Just Jo 14/03/2017 at 19:59 - Reply

      Thank you Pam! It’s quite unheard of outside of cake maker world but it really is wonderful. Worth the extra effort to make :D

  8. Leah 14/03/2017 at 05:09 - Reply

    This sounds like a great buttercream recipe, and you have decorated those cupcakes beautifully! What pretty treats!

  9. Adriana Lopez Martn 14/03/2017 at 05:43 - Reply

    So lovely and playful perfect cupcakes for St Patricks day celebrations. Really enjoying the decoration and the colors. The subtle green is just perfect combination with the liner. And the piping is perfect!

    • Just Jo 14/03/2017 at 20:00 - Reply

      Thanks Adriana! I don’t like lots of lurid food colouring so pared down really is my style. Glad you like the look of the cupcakes!

  10. Christine McMichael 14/03/2017 at 14:24 - Reply

    Wow, this looks and sounds incredible! So perfect for the cake I’m making my sister for her birthday (which is also on St. Patty’s day). Can’t wait to try this recipe!

    • Just Jo 14/03/2017 at 20:01 - Reply

      I hope you and your sister enjoy it Christine!

  11. Stephanie@ApplesforCJ 14/03/2017 at 16:46 - Reply

    The name of this sounds delicious..buttercream just makes you want to eat these. They are so pretty and perfect for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

    • Just Jo 14/03/2017 at 20:02 - Reply

      I hadn’t thought about the name being appetising but I am so seeing what you mean Stephanie, now you mention it! And thank you for the kind words :D

  12. It looks simply amazing!! Love the care you took in decorating the cupcakes. Makes them more special. I’m pinning this because I want that frosting recipe for some other cakes I have in mind.

    • Just Jo 14/03/2017 at 20:03 - Reply

      Great Marisa! It works beautifully on all sorts of cakes, it’s a great recipe to have up your sleeve :D

  13. Veena Azmanov 14/03/2017 at 18:11 - Reply

    I love a good Italian Meringue Buttercream. It’s one of the most popular recipes for my cakes. I could eat it with a spoon. Delish!!

  14. ManilaSpoon 14/03/2017 at 19:47 - Reply

    Thick, luscious and stable – that’s the kind of buttercream I love for my cakes! These cupcakes look stunning, too and the green frosting make them spring-perfect!!

    • Just Jo 14/03/2017 at 20:33 - Reply

      You know, it’s funny how many people are commenting at the seasonal appropriateness of the colour of these cupcakes! It was for an event at Hungry Hubby’s work that was themed green – I got lucky when I posted this recipe when I did lol!

  15. Debbie Spivey 14/03/2017 at 20:25 - Reply

    Such pretty cupcakes!! I know they taste as good as they look too!

    • Just Jo 14/03/2017 at 20:30 - Reply

      Aw thanks Debbie – they are pretty yummy :D

  16. Byron Thomas 14/03/2017 at 21:12 - Reply

    In comparison to the butter cream frosting I’m accustomed to, this one is quite different. I notice you have exact measurements for the egg, and you’ve added water. That’s a very interesting take on butter cream. I’ll have to try it – the Italians always do food better. :)

    • Just Jo 16/03/2017 at 21:14 - Reply

      Yeah, I can’t take the credit for this recipe as it’s pretty standard in the baking world and you’re right the Italians are exceptional cooks and bakers. One taste of this stuff and you’ll be hooked!

  17. Megan Marlowe 14/03/2017 at 23:14 - Reply

    My favorite part of any cupcake or cake…the frosting! I have never made meringue buttercream and now I must. It looks light and creamy…just how I like my buttercream!

    • Just Jo 16/03/2017 at 21:08 - Reply

      It really is dreamy stuff – it sounds like you would definitely love this frosting then Megan :D

  18. Kylee from Kylee Cooks 15/03/2017 at 15:00 - Reply

    I was so fascinated with this concept, that I watched the video twice, and now plan to make my own! I’m a little afraid, but looks like it will be worth it – yours looks FANTASTIC! Thanks for the step by step video – totally helps.

    • Just Jo 16/03/2017 at 21:08 - Reply

      Aw you are so welcome Kylee and don’t be scared! It really is as easy as the video shows :D

  19. Sandhya Ramakrishnan 15/03/2017 at 16:06 - Reply

    I have always been very scared of making this kind of frosting and stuck to the easier one. After looking at how beautiful your frosting looks, I should give it a try. I love my stand mixer for recipes like this as it makes life so much easier.

    • Just Jo 16/03/2017 at 21:07 - Reply

      You’re so right Sandhya – I have done this by hand but it is miles easier with a stand mixer. And thank you for your kind words :D

  20. Noel Lizotte 15/03/2017 at 23:56 - Reply

    Such pretty cupcakes! I love how artistic cakes / cupcakes look with pretty icing!
    I’m so clumsy, it’s all I can do to get the icing on top the cake w/o having it get all over.

    • Just Jo 16/03/2017 at 21:06 - Reply

      Well just spatula that frosting on then – it tastes fabulous so wonky piping wouldn’t matter at all!

  21. Heather 16/03/2017 at 01:46 - Reply

    How adorable!! Love the cupcakes and the color :) I had no idea you could take meringue and transform it into adelicious buttercream frosting … AMAZING!!

    • Just Jo 16/03/2017 at 21:06 - Reply

      I know – it’s mental isn’t it?! It seemed bonkers when I first read about meringue based buttercreams but they really do work!

  22. Molly Kumar 16/03/2017 at 11:21 - Reply

    The cupcakes look so pretty with that Italian meringue buttercream. The flower pattern is just too perfect to eat ;) I love the instructional video and have bookmarked for trying it later.

    • Just Jo 16/03/2017 at 20:43 - Reply

      Thanks Molly – I hope you enjoy making the frosting! The tip does make it look so pretty and frilly :)

  23. April @ Girl Gone Gourmet 17/03/2017 at 22:48 - Reply

    The Italians really know how to get things right! I have to say I’m not much of a cupcake decorator, but the close-up of the frosting is amazing – it looks like art! I also love the cups you use – the next batch of cupcakes I make (the last ones I did were 2 years ago lol) I will use your cup idea – I like the idea of baking off one big batch on a baking sheet. Great post and video :)

    • Just Jo 19/03/2017 at 07:55 - Reply

      These baking cups are just brilliant, I have hardly used ordinary paper cases since I discovered them :D Thank you April x

  24. Lisa 18/03/2017 at 15:47 - Reply

    Hi! If I wanted to use egg whites from a carton, would that still work? I don’t know if those are available to youguys in the UK but we have them here in the states. They are sold in the refrigerated section as pasteurized liquid egg whites. The reason I ask is because I saw another buttercream frosting recipe recently where they specifically said that egg whites from a carton would not work.

    • Just Jo 19/03/2017 at 08:00 - Reply

      Hi Heiwa – thanks for asking this question as I hadn’t thought to point out that I use pasteurised egg whites at least as often as I use fresh egg whites. I’m curious as to why the other blog says they wouldn’t work a I’ve made many a meringue-based recipe using them and they work beautifully, including in my IMBC. (I use Two Chicks Egg Whites for UK readers :D)

  25. I love Italian Meringue buttercream but I’ve never made it myself before. I can’t wait to try this recipe because you make it look so easy!

    • Just Jo 21/03/2017 at 21:40 - Reply

      It so is Meaghan – I used to get really stressed making Swiss meringue buttercream but IMBC is super easy!

  26. Tina 20/03/2017 at 12:52 - Reply

    I am looking forward to making this recipe! I love Italian Buttercream, but I’ve never made it at home before. Good to know that these work with pasteurized cartoned egg too. Also good to know that this can be frozen!

    • Just Jo 20/03/2017 at 19:27 - Reply

      Yep and yep – it’s delicious, well behaved and versatile lol!

  27. Rosemary 21/03/2017 at 13:20 - Reply

    I love buttercream and I am definitely going to give this a try. Looks amazing.

    • Just Jo 21/03/2017 at 21:34 - Reply

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy it Rosemary x

  28. Pane-Bistecca 23/03/2017 at 10:34 - Reply

    Is it possible to make the butter cream ahead? Say one day or so? I am not sure because it’s so different than the usual ones.

    I have to make cupcakes for a birthday and would like to use your butter cream.

    best Wilma

    • Just Jo 23/03/2017 at 15:01 - Reply

      Hi Wilma – thanks so much for your question! Yes, you can make this ahead. It should be used within 48 hours of making if stored in the fridge or you can freeze it, which works really well. You’ll more than likely need to give it a brief beating no matter whether it’s been in the fridge or frozen then thawed (in the fridge) but it will be good as new x

      • Pane-Bistecca 24/03/2017 at 08:31 - Reply

        Thank you so much for your answer, I will do it today and use it on Sunday. It helps, so I don’t have so much to do on that day. I tried to get the piping nozzle, but it’s not available in Switzerland.
        I would have loved to pipe it your way as it looks so beautiful, but never mind, I just pipe it in some nice way.

        Thanks again, I will let you know how it turned out later!

        greets Wilma

        • Just Jo 25/03/2017 at 05:55 - Reply

          No problem at all Wilma – I hope the making of the icing went well for you. Shame you can’t get that nozzle in Switzerland but you’re right, it’ll look great with traditional ones! Enjoy the celebrations x

          • Pane-Bistecca 29/03/2017 at 09:21

            Sadly when trying to use the butter cream after 36 hours it curdled. So I had to make a new one. I would not recommend to make it ahead. But the taste is very very good!

            greets Wilma

          • Just Jo 29/03/2017 at 09:29

            It should have been fine after giving it a good beating Wilma, what a shame you had to make some more. Sorry to hear that but very glad you enjoyed the taste!

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