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.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
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.
Tuesday 13th of September 2022
Hi have made this a few times and it is lovely. I would like to make it with chocolate for my Grandaughters birthday cake. How and when do I add chocolate? Thank you
Tuesday 13th of September 2022
After the buttercream is finished whipping, slowly add melted (but not hot) chocolate. I usually use about 3-4 oz per batch of buttercream.
Thursday 21st of July 2022
Hi Eileen! How many batches should I make to cover a half sheet cake? Just to cover it
Friday 22nd of July 2022
If you are not filling the layers but only icing the outside I think 1 batch should be enough.
Tuesday 19th of July 2022
WOW thats next level love it
Saturday 2nd of July 2022
Have you ever added fruit to the buttercream? I’m looking to make this but with strawberry, what to you think?
Saturday 2nd of July 2022
You can add fruit puree. But strawberry does have a very subtle flavor that is hard to come through on the buttercream. For strawberry buttercream I prefer to use ground up freeze dried strawberries. You get all the flavor without added water.