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Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC)

Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC) is my favorite cake frosting. This is the exact recipe I used for 10 years in my wedding cake business.

beauty shot

Italian Meringue buttercream has the perfect balance of rich flavor from the butter, and lightness from the meringue. It’s not overly sweet and it can be flavored with an endless variety of add-ins. It’s strong enough to pipe buttercream roses and stays soft at room temperature so it melts in your mouth.


Ingredients for Italian Meringue Buttercream with text overlay.
Mise en place – “everything in place”
  • Water – To make the sugar syrup.
  • Granulated sugar – Added in two stages. Dry sugar starts the meringue, then sugar syrup “cooks” the meringue.
  • Egg whites- Fresh or in-shell pasteurized egg whites can be used. If you use frozen egg whites read the label to be sure they can be whipped for meringue.
  • Salt – Just a touch to balance out the flavor.
  • Unsalted butter – Softened butter is whipped into the meringue base. Unsalted butter allows you to control the amount of salt in the recipe.
  • Vanilla extract – Use natural vanilla extract for the best flavor. You can also use vanilla bean if you don’t mind the little specks.

How to Make Italian Meringue Buttercream

A saucepan with sugar. A bowl of egg whites whipping.
  • Combine some of the sugar with water in a small saucepan. Bring the syrup to a boil.
  • While the syrup cooks, whip the egg whites with the remaining sugar.
A thermometer over a pot of sugar syrup. Sugar syrup added to egg whites.
  • Bring the syrup to the softball stage (235°-240°F). Immediately remove from the heat.
  • With the mixer running, add the syrup in a steady stream. Try to keep the stream of syrup between the whisk and the side of the bowl.
  • Whisk until the whites are cooled to about 80°F.
Egg whites whipping with butter being added. Vanilla pouring into buttercream. Buttercream whipping.
  • Add the room temperature butter a tablespoon at a time.
  • Add the vanilla.
  • The buttercream may look a bit curdled after adding the vanilla.
  • Keep whipping until the buttercream is silky smooth and airy. Use immediately or keep at room temperature until ready to use (up to 1 day).

How to Store Italian Meringue Buttercream.

Because there is relatively low moisture in the buttercream, and high sugar content, Italian Meringue Buttercream can be held at cool room temperature for up to a day. After 1 day the buttercream should be refrigerated for 3-4 days or frozen for up to a month.

Proper syrup temperature is important for a silky smooth Italian Meringue Buttercream

This is a fairly standard Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe except for the temperature of the sugar syrup. A lot of recipes have you boil the syrup well into the firm ball stage (248°F), but I find this makes a buttercream with a texture that is too tight and marshmallow-y.

I like to boil the syrup to the softball stage (235°-240°F) for a slightly softer buttercream that whips to a little lighter.

How to fix Italian Meringue Buttercream

  • If you’re working in a warm kitchen and your buttercream is a little too soft you can refrigerate it briefly and then re-whip it until it’s light and fluffy.
  • If your buttercream is a little too cold you can warm the bowl and then whip it until it’s light and fluffy.
  • To rewhip cold Italian Meringue Buttercream first bring it to room temperature. When you start whipping the IMB it may separate the look curdled.
  • Use a blow torch or a bowl of warm water to warm the sides of the bowl as the buttercream whips.
  • You’ll see the edges soften and and buttercream will come back together. Whip until the buttercream is silky smooth.

Pastry Chef tips for making perfect Italian Meringue Buttercream:

  • If the meringue and/or the butter are too warm when they’re combined the buttercream will break down. If the buttercream becomes soupy and grainy the meringue has broken down and the buttercream can’t be fixed.
  • If the butter is too cold when it’s added to the cooled meringue you’ll end up with lumps of butter that can’t be whipped out. Make sure the butter is soft and pliable, but not at all greasy or melted. The best temperature for the butter is about 70°F.
  • Any extra buttercream can be double-wrapped in plastic (so it doesn’t pick up any off flavors) and frozen for a month. Bring it back to room temperature and then re-whip.
  • The only limit to the flavors you can make with this buttercream is your imagination. You can add melted chocolate, lemon curd and/or lemon extract, orange zest, raspberry puree, instant coffee, whatever you can think of to create your favorite buttercream flavor.
beauty shot
Melt in your mouth texture, but firm enough to pipe, Italian Meringue buttercream is a great all-purpose frosting.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is very similar to IMBC except that you warm the sugar and eggs over a water bath rather than making a sugar syrup.

If you want a buttercream that is just as light and airy as a meringue buttercream, but with a slightly richer flavor and color, try making classic French Buttercream. It’s made with egg yolks instead of egg whites.

Watch the recipe video to see how-to make Italian Meringue Buttercream from start to finish.

Now that you’ve made this recipe what should you do with the extra yolks? Check out this collection of recipes that use extra yolks for some great ideas.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please consider leaving a 5-star review.

beauty of of italian meringue buttercream
Print Recipe
4.52 from 225 reviews

Italian Meringue Buttercream Recipe

Light, fluffy and not too sweet, Italian Meringue Buttercream is a dream to work with. It takes on almost any flavor and is strong enough to pipe roses and other decorations. This recipe makes enough buttercream to fill and frost an 8" cake.
Prep Time20 minutes
Bake Time10 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
16 servings


  • 2 ounces water (¼ cup)
  • 8 ounces granulated sugar (1 cup, divided)
  • 5 egg whites (room temperature)
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 pound unsalted butter (room temperature, cut into 16 pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Other flavorings to taste


  • Combine the water with 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Cook the sugar syrup on medium high heat, stirring, until the sugar is melted. Once the syrup begins to boil do not stir the syrup. Allow it to cook to 235°-240°F (soft ball stage).
    2 ounces water, 8 ounces granulated sugar
  • While the syrup is boiling, whip the whites on medium high speed. When the whites are at soft peak reduce the mixer to medium low and slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the salt. Increase the speed to medium high and whip to full peak.
    5 egg whites, ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • As soon as the syrup is at the correct temperature, remove the pan from the heat. With the mixer running on medium low, pour the hot syrup in a steady stream between the edge of the bowl and the whisk. Increase the speed to medium high and continue whisking until the whites are cooled to about 80°F.
  • When the whites have cooled, with the mixer running on medium, add the butter one piece at a time. Add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium high and whip until the buttercream comes together.
    1 pound unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Store at room temperature for up to 1 day then refrigerate or freeze.


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Note 1: I always use fresh egg whites. If you use pasteurized egg whites from a carton make sure the package says they can be used for meringue. Some markets sell pasteurized eggs still in the shell, those can also be used for this recipe.
If the buttercream becomes "spongy" while standing re-whisk to correct the texture. The buttercream can be refrigerated 3-4 days or frozen for several weeks.
Return to room temperature and re-whisk before using.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 177kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 37mg | Potassium: 16mg | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 472IU | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 0.01mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!
Recipe Rating


Tuesday 3rd of October 2023

I am doing a cake using four half sheet cake pans. I am not sure how to figure out how many cups of Italian Meringue Buttercream I would need for the filling as as well as the outside of the cake. Also the filling needs to be raspberry flavored and wonder if using freeze dried raspberries would work or is it better to make a raspberry puree. I usually make round layer cakes not sheet cakes so I am a little uncertain with this project. Thank you for any advice. Pam


Wednesday 4th of October 2023

@Eileen Gray, Thank you so much for the quick response. I will not be doing borders. Customer wants a bee themed cake so I'm doing Black IMBC and the pink raspberry IMBC filling. Customer wants a bee hive on a raised portion of the top layer which I haven't quite figured out how I will do this until I get it filled and coated. He also wants flowers so I need to do additional BC for that. I am a little over my head with this one even though I work with a lot of different mediums. Such is life! Many thanks

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 3rd of October 2023

Four half sheet pans would be about 4x as much cake and frosting as an 8" cake. So I would figure about 2-3 batches to fill the cake and another 1 or so for icing. The exact amount will vary with how heavy you ice and weather there are borders, etc. I usually use raspberry puree to flavor the buttercream. Puree has a more intense flavor than freeze dried berries and this IMB can take the moisture. Also, a little squeeze of lemon juice will accentuate the raspberry flavor.

Kathy Kostuk

Monday 2nd of October 2023

Hi I am wondering about freezing the IMBC in the cake layers and crumb coat. It’s a shaped cake and will be a bit difficult to decorate. Is it better to just decorate it the day before and freeze the BC and cake separately?

Eileen Gray

Monday 2nd of October 2023

You can definitely freeze the cake with the buttercream in it and crumb coated. I'm not sure exactly what you're asking, but is this a carved cake? You can freeze the buttercream separately or when it's on and in the cake. If you clarify your question I'd be happy to help.


Tuesday 5th of September 2023

I love this frosting and was wanting to use it on some cupcakes. I was curious on how much frosting I’d probably need to frost 2 dozen cupcakes. I’m also not doing much piping on them, just a small flower design.

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 5th of September 2023

Depending how heavily you frost, you could probably get 18-24 cupcakes out of this recipe.


Monday 14th of August 2023

I want to make this icing black. I was thinking I’d make the icing, then make it chocolate using a paste of dark or black cocoa powder, then add my oil based black colouring. Do you think that would work? Have you done black before? Thanks for all of your help?

Eileen Gray

Monday 14th of August 2023

Yes, I've made this buttercream with black coloring. You need to use a strong gel color (I haven't tried the oil based). Making the buttercream chocolate first should help. After you tint the buttercream let it sit for several hours then rewhip it. The color will deepen as it sits. If you get it to a very dark gray color it should blacken up while it sits. And be prepared for gray teeth!

Eileen Gray

Monday 14th of August 2023

Yes, I've done black. You definitely need to use paste gel color to get a dark enough color. Making it chocolate first should help. Also, if you tint the buttercream then let it sit for several hours the color will deepen. Also, be prepared for gray teeth!


Monday 8th of May 2023

Question: won’t the syrup be too hot to add if you pour it in right after you take it off the stove?sWhat temperature should it be? Thanks!

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 9th of May 2023

The syrup is supposed to be hot when you add it to the egg whites. The hot syrup helps stabilize the whites and if you wait the syrup will start to solidify and you won't be able to pour it. It should be the temperature noted in the recipe (235°-240°F).