Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC) is my favorite cake frosting. This is the exact recipe I used for 10 years in my wedding cake business.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Italian Meringue Buttercream Recipe
- 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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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!
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).
Thursday 4th of May 2023
Does this recipe have a heavy butter FLAVOR? I prefer the texture but not the strong butter flavor.
Thursday 4th of May 2023
@Eileen Gray, Thanks. I do make ermine. Just hoping one day to get IBC texture with less intense butter flavor.
Thursday 4th of May 2023
Like all meringue buttercreams IMB is less sweet and more buttery than American Buttercream. If you want something less buttery but not as sweet as American Buttercream you might want to try Ermine Frosting.
Friday 21st of April 2023
I used this recipe for a birthday cake and it was AMAZING! I don’t have a stand mixer so it was a two person operation, but I will always use this instead of American buttercream. Everything about this took me right back to my grandmother’s house and the ethnic bakery she bought her cakes from in Chicago. Thanks for posting this!
Friday 21st of April 2023
Friday 14th of April 2023
Hello Eileen, is this a new updated version? If so, what did you change? Thank you
Saturday 15th of April 2023
The recipe hasn't changed, just the recipe card. The ingredients and process are the same.
Friday 17th of March 2023
Thnx Eileen! Excellent tutorial on IMB I just discovered you this morning while researching baking soda in Carrot Cake recipes. Glad I did.