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Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial

A step-by-step Italian Meringue Buttercream tutorial! NOW with a video!!! It is the smoothest and creamiest of all the buttercreams! You will love it on cakes, cupcakes and more! Plus it’s easier than you think!
An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple! In culinary school we made 5 different types of buttercream, but Italian Meringue Buttecream is my favorite! It has a lighter texture and taste than Swiss Meringue and German; it doesn’t taste like pure butter like French Buttercream; and it isn’t saccharine, tooth-achingly sweet like an American Buttercream.

An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple!Over the past 2 months, I’ve made this buttercream a lot.

A lot. I dream about cutting a cake in three perfect layers and then frosting it.

And not in a good way. It’s more of a nightmare really.

An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple!

Italian meringue buttercream (IMB) seems complicated at first; it’s definitely the most sophisticated of its peers. Simply put, it is made by whipping egg whites to stiff peaks while simultaneously cooking sugar to the soft ball stage; you then slowly pour the sugar into the whipping egg whites; and, finally, add butter.

A whole lotta butter.

They don’t call it buttercream for nothin’.

An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple!

I love this frosting because it is light and airy but simultaneously rich and creamy. It is also magically stable and will keep for months in the freezer! So stable, in fact, if you think you totally messed it up, take heart, it’s probably totally fixable!

I actually think IMB is easier than Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

One of these days I’ll shoot a video tutorial for you on IMB and also Swiss Meringue, because they are really not as complicated as they seem. For now, I shot a step-by-step photo tutorial, which is kind of a big deal. I’ve never done that before!

One small step for IMB; one giant leap for AHC!!

 An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple!

This is another batch of IMB that I made. Mmmm chocolate. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw the cake that it frosted. My very first cake order!

An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple!

So let’s not pretend like what I did with this fluffy frosting is a surprise. Mmmkay?

Y’all know me by now.

I made cupcakes. #obvi

Coming soon! 🙂

An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple!

Click Here to Skip to the Picture Tutorial!

Click Here to Skip to the Printable Recipe!

A Few General Tips for IMB Success:

  1. There is no rule that you have to whip the egg whites on high while you cook your sugar, so if they have reached stiff peaks and your sugar syrup is stubbornly stuck at 220˚F (been there), just turn down the mixer to low. Don’t stop that mixer! I didn’t say that! I said LOW.
  2. Pour your sugar syrup in with the mixer on HIGH. Do you want scrambled eggs on your cupcakes? I didn’t think so. Turn that mixer up!
  3. Pour the sugar down the side of the bowl. Don’t hit the whisk because I don’t need to tell you that 235˚ syrup in the face is unpleasant. Don’t be that person. You will know if you did it right because there will be one little lava trail of cooled sugar down one side of the bowl.
  4. This sounds obvious and it’s in the instructions, but I’m going to say it anyways: cook your sugar to 235˚F. Soft ball syrup is a range but if you shoot for 235˚F, then by the time you get from the stove to the mixer and the syrup has inched up a few degrees, no love has been lost. You will know if you overcook your sugar because there will be a pool of cooked sugar in the bottom of your mixer. No bueno.
  5. When you start adding your butter, you want it to be soft but still a little cool. If it’s not totally soft enough, add it a little bit at a time and squeeze each piece before tossing it in. That’s right, squeeze your butter! It’s kinda fun. And kinda gross at the same time.
  6. If your buttercream gets soupy, switch from the paddle back to the whisk and beat it on high. All is not lost. Trust me. Whip it; whip it good. {Is that song in your head now? #sorryimnotsorry}
  7. If your buttercream breaks (looks curdled) when you start adding the butter, take heart, it will come together. Add the butter in little pieces and squeeze each one to soften it. If you have a kitchen torch you can torch the outside of the bowl with the mixer on high, but keep the torch moving! You want to warm the bowl not melt the buttercream.
  8. To refresh refrigerated buttercream: Throw it in the mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until smooth; then switch to the whisk to whip it up until light and fluffy.
  9. To refresh frozen buttercream: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, let warm slightly at room temperature and then proceed with the refreshing refrigerated buttercream instructions above.
  10. You can speed up the refreshing process by warming the bowl over a gas stovetop flame or with the kitchen torch. Just be careful to constantly move the bowl or torch because you don’t want to melt your buttercream.

An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple!

 Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial:

You want to make sure that you have everything measured out and ready to go. This recipe is simple but it does require seamless execution. You also want to make sure that your mixing bowl is clean and free of any residual fat, or your meringue will not whip up and there will be sadness abound.

Mix half of the sugar with the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir just until the sugar dissolves. When the pan heats up, brush around the sides of the pot with a clean pastry brush dipped in water to dissolve any sugar crystals adhered to the sides of the pot. You can also use a paper towel that you roll up (I did because I forgot my brush at school.)

An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple!

When your sugar starts to bubble begin whipping your egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. You can add a pinch of salt and/or cream of tartar for stability if you wish. When your eggs begin to look frothy, slowly begin adding the second half of your sugar, whipping constantly on medium-high (above picture).

An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple!

Continue whipping your egg whites until they form stiff peaks (photo 1 above). Ideally your meringue should reach stiff peaks at the same time that your sugar syrup reaches 235˚F. If your egg whites are whipping too fast, reduce the mixer speed to medium. You can also adjust the heat on the sugar syrup to make it cook faster or slower.

To test your syrup you can either use a candy thermometer or you can do it the old-fashioned way, which is what I did here. Take a tiny bit of the syrup on a spoon and dip it into ice water, reach in and grab the sugar. If it dissolves, it isn’t close to ready; if it forms a little malleable ball, it’s ready!! I don’t have a photo of this stage because if I had taken the time to snap a photo, my sugar would have over cooked.

Turn your mixer up to high and SLOWLY pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl as in photo 2 above. Be very careful not to hit the whisk. Ideally you pour it in one solid stream down the edge because it will solidify where it hits the bowl, so if you pour it in three different places, you will be losing sugar. Sadness.

An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple!

If you look closely at the above photo you can see where my sugar hit the side of the bowl. One little stream. No excess sugar lost. Go ahead, take a closer look…This is what perfection looks like. 😉

Keep whipping the Italian meringue on high until it forms stiff peaks like in the first photo below, but what is more important than the stiffness of the meringue is the temperature of the meringue. Before you begin adding the butter, the bottom of the bowl should feel barely warm (picture 2). There is so much sugar in this meringue that it will not over whip before it cools appropriately. Even though my meringue had reached stiff peaks in photo 1, I still needed to whip it another few minutes for it too cool.

An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple!

When the bowl feels just slightly warm, switch to the paddle attachment and begin adding your butter a piece at a time like in picture 3. I take my butter out of the fridge when I begin measuring my ingredients. Before adding each piece squeeze the butter. When I am making this (and not taking photos) I use disposable gloves.

An easy to follow Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial! My favorite frosting made super simple!

Continue to beat the butter in on medium-high until the buttercream is smooth and there are no remaining pieces of butter. The buttercream in photo 1 above is still a bit lumpy. Not there yet!!! Photo 2 is smooth and creamy. At this stage I switch back to the whisk, add any desired flavorings and beat it until it is light and fluffy. You are now ready to frost!

Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 700g or enough for 24 cupcakes or 1, double tier layer cake

Italian Meringue Buttercream Tutorial

A tutorial for Italian Meringue Buttercream. Once you try this smooth, creamy buttercream, nothing else will do!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar (375g), divided
  • 2/3 cup water (150g)
  • 5 large egg whites (150g)
  • pinch salt, optional
  • pinch cream of tartar, optional
  • 2 cups butter, cubed (4 sticks or 1 pound), cool but not cold
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • For the Chocolate Variation:
  • 1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate, melted but not hot

Instructions

  1. You want to make sure that you have everything measured out and ready to go. This recipe is simple but it does require seamless execution. You also want to make sure that your mixing bowl is clean and free of any residual fat, or your meringue will not whip up and there will be sadness abound.
  2. Mix half of the sugar with the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir just until the sugar dissolves. When the pan heats up, brush around the sides of the pot with a clean pastry brush dipped in water to dissolve any sugar crystals adhered to the sides of the pot. You can also use a paper towel that you roll up (I did because I forgot my brush at school.)
  3. When your sugar starts to bubble begin whipping your egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. You can add a pinch of salt and/or cream of tartar for stability if you wish. I only used salt in the photos you see. When your eggs begin to look frothy, slowly begin adding the second half of the sugar, whipping constantly on medium-high.
  4. Continue whipping your egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Ideally your meringue should reach stiff peaks at the same time that your sugar syrup reaches 235˚F. If your egg whites are whipping too fast, reduce the mixer speed to medium. You can also adjust the heat on the sugar syrup to make it cook faster or slower.
  5. To test your syrup you can either use a candy thermometer or you can do it the old-fashioned way, which is what I did here. Take a tiny bit of the syrup on a spoon and dip it into ice water, reach in and grab the sugar. If it dissolves, it isn’t close to ready; if it forms a little malleable ball, it’s ready!!
  6. Turn your mixer up to high and SLOWLY pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. Be very careful not to hit the whisk. Ideally you should pour it in one solid stream down the edge because it will solidify where it hits the bowl, so if you pour it in three different places, you will be losing sugar. Sadness.
  7. Keep whipping the Italian meringue on high until it forms stiff, but what is more important than the stiffness of the meringue is the temperature of the meringue. Before you begin adding the butter, the bottom of the bowl should feel barely warm.
  8. When the bowl feels just slightly warm, switch to the paddle attachment and begin adding your butter a piece at a time. I take my butter out of the fridge when I begin measuring my ingredients. Before adding each piece squeeze the butter.
  9. Continue to beat the butter in on medium-high until the buttercream is smooth and there are no remaining pieces of butter. At this stage I switch back to the whisk, add my flavorings and beat it until it is light and fluffy. Pipe or spread as desired!!
  10. For the Chocolate Variation:
  11. When your butter has been completely incorporated, pour your chocolate in all at once and immediately fold it in with a spatula or beat it in with the paddle attachment. You want to make sure that your chocolate is melted but not hot and it is also still warm enough to flow freely in a continuous stream. If your chocolate is too hot, you will melt your butter cream; but if it is too cool, then you will have pieces of chocolate in your frosting.
https://cheflindseyfarr.com/2015/04/italian-meringue-buttercream-tutorial/

Did you make this recipe? I want to hear all about it! 🥳Tag me on Instagram @cheflindseyfarr and use the hashtag #americanheritagecooking

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251 Comments

  • Thao @ In Good Flavor
    April 25, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Great tutorial on buttercream, Lindsey! I didn’t realize that there are different types. I am loving the sound of this Italian buttercream…airy, light, creamy, rich but not super sweet. Lovely photo as always!

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 25, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      Thank you! So many types! Might as well start with the best, Thao! 🙂

      Reply
      • Christine
        May 5, 2018 at 11:03 am

        Thanks – I made 2 batches yesterday for a naked wedding cake. I had never made IMB before but read your blog and followed your directions and easy peasy!!!

        Reply
        • Lindsey
          May 7, 2018 at 10:52 am

          I’m so glad, Christine!!! I also just updated the recipe with a video! Best of luck on the wedding cake!

          Reply
          • Colleen Moody
            January 1, 2021 at 2:36 pm

            i LEARNED THAT IF YOU ADD THE WATER FIRST TO THE SAUCEPAN AND THEN POUR THE SUGAR IN THE MIDDLE , YOU WILL NOT HAVE ANY SUGAR CRYSTALS AT ALL WHEN COOKING THE SYRUP FOR YOUR AWESOME MERANGE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING.,
            .

          • Lindsey
            January 4, 2021 at 3:11 pm

            Nice! Thanks, Colleen! I prefer to pour around the edges and then work my way to the middle, but the best method is the one that works best for you! Happy baking!

    • sherri
      February 20, 2016 at 11:54 am

      Is it possible to use confection sugar for the sugar in this recipe?
      Thanks!

      Reply
      • Lindsey
        February 20, 2016 at 12:51 pm

        Hi Sherri. I wouldn’t substitute confectioners sugar here. I’ve never tried to make a meringue with confectioners sugar, but you can try it 🙂

        Reply
        • Joan
          March 7, 2016 at 10:16 am

          hi..may i know 2 cups butter means how many Gram? thanks for sharing…Have A nice day ^^

          Reply
          • Lindsey
            March 9, 2016 at 11:31 am

            Hi Joan, 2 cups of butter is 1 pound, which is 453g. Happy baking!

  • liz
    April 25, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    you’re, like… the coolest. you’re pretty much living the dream, and i thank you for that, because i can live vicariously through your blog without steeping myself into ever more debt.

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 25, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      Haha! Thank you, Liz! I am living the dream and I absolutely love passing on everything I’m learning! Happy baking!

      Reply
  • Chichi
    April 25, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    I have tried swiss meringue but not italian meringue. Italian meringue sounds and looks delicious. Can’t wait to try it

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 25, 2015 at 7:48 pm

      Oh, Chichi, you must! IMB is fantastic and it is so stable for all those magical cake you make!

      Reply
      • Pam
        December 9, 2017 at 4:16 pm

        Can you use IMB in a coconut roulade or does it have to be SMB? Thank you for you time.

        Reply
        • Lindsey
          December 26, 2017 at 10:57 pm

          Hi Pam, You could use either!

          Reply
  • Jess @ Sweet Menu
    April 25, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Best post ever! I love learning when it comes to baking and you, my dear, are a fantastic teacher! So so talented. What sensational frosting! 🙂 Love the step by step photos xxx

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 25, 2015 at 7:47 pm

      Haha! Thanks, Jess!! I hope it was helpful! You should try it soon…you’ll love, love love! xxxx

      Reply
  • marcie
    April 25, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    I made Italian Meringue Buttercream once in cooking school and haven’t made it since, and you’re right — it’s much lighter and less sweet than the others! I LOVE all those beautiful swirls, Lindsay, and this tutorial is wonderful! Pinning and trying again soon. 🙂

    Reply
  • Phillip
    April 26, 2015 at 10:12 am

    I have made Italian Meringue for pies and prefer it over the regular. I have not made the buttercream but will refer to this when I do.

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 30, 2015 at 7:13 am

      Italian meringue is best for pies because then you don’t have to bake it or use pasteurized eggs. If you have made the meringue then you’ve made the hard part!!

      Reply
  • Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust
    April 26, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    Thank you for this!! Last weekend in Solvang I had the BEST italian buttercream filled pastries and OMG I must make them. Pinned!

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 30, 2015 at 7:13 am

      Hooray!!! You must, you must!!! You’ll love it! Thanks for the pin!

      Reply
  • Kristi @ Inspiration Kitchen
    April 26, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    Wow oh wow oh wow. Girl, come over now, because I need this in my life. All i can dream of right now is licking that off those beaters – yum Linsey, yum!

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 30, 2015 at 7:14 am

      Haha! I definitely did my fair share of licking off beaters…and spoons…and cupcakes 🙂 xoxoxox

      Reply
  • Kelly - Life Made Sweeter
    April 27, 2015 at 3:56 am

    Love this tutorial and that glorious buttercream! It looks so creamy and perfect! IMB and SMB are my two favorites and I am so wishing I could grab that spoon off the screen! <3 this!

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 30, 2015 at 7:14 am

      There really is nothing else that compares! Thank you, Kelly!

      Reply
  • David @ Spiced
    April 27, 2015 at 8:52 am

    I love Italian meringue buttercream! But I haven’t made it in a looong time…I clearly need to fix that problem. This is an awesome tutorial. I love all of the tips you’ve got in here. I do seem to recall that Italian buttercream doesn’t “last” that long. Like maybe a day at best? Am I making this up? I saw your notes about refreshing it, but what if you’ve already frosted the cake? Share your culinary wisdom with me, Lindsey! I mean, I’m not saying I can’t eat an entire cake in a single day. But I am saying that it’s probably not the smartest of plans. 🙂

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 30, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Get on it, David!!! Italian buttercream is one of the most stable buttercreams at room temp because of the softball sugar, so once you’ve frosted your cake you are good to go as long as your cake lasts. It does need to be refrigerated but the cake should be brought to room temp prior to serving because otherwise it just tastes like butter! It will also trap in moisture and extend the life of whatever you’ve frosted. I wouldn’t keep a frosted cake longer than 3 days in the fridge because after that I can just tell the cake is drier, but the buttercream is fine for 2 weeks in the fridge and 2 months in the freezer. Hope that helps 🙂

      Reply
      • martha
        January 3, 2016 at 8:14 pm

        i have a question (no baking background) so i make the cake frost it put it in the fridge take it out of the fridge and should be ready to eat in …. and will it sweat??? sorry these may sound so dumb just want to make sure i execute right

        Reply
        • Lindsey
          January 3, 2016 at 9:49 pm

          Hi Martha! Those aren’t dumb questions! I like to “temper” the cake and frosting after I take them out of the refrigerator, which just means I leave it at room temperature for an hour or so to bring the cake and frosting to room temperature. It won’t cut as cleanly but it will taste better. Frosting just tastes like butter when it is cold! It will sweat a little bit but just leave it uncovered in the refrigerator and when you are letting it sit out before serving.

          Reply
  • Veronica@ downcakerylane
    April 27, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    I’ve always wanted to try this- I mostly use Swiss. I love the step by step photos! I get it now and it definitely looks do-able-I was a bit intimidated by Italian Meringue. And yup…the songs in my head, lol. I love that song so it’s all good 🙂

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 30, 2015 at 7:27 am

      You’ve totally got this, Veronica!!! I understand because I felt the same way!

      Reply
  • Ella-HomeCookingAdventure
    April 28, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Love how this buttercream looks. Much more than using only butter. I will have to give it a try then 🙂

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 30, 2015 at 7:28 am

      You should, Ella! You and the girls with love it!

      Reply
  • Shashi at RunninSrilankan
    April 28, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    After I read your intro, I was thinking I’d ” love it on cakes, cupcakes and..” spoons – and then I saw your second picture! Really, with buttercream this good – who needs cakes -eh?
    Thanks for the detailed tutorial, Lindsey, I’ve never attempted to make my own Italian Buttercream – but, I know where to look when I do!

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 30, 2015 at 7:28 am

      Lol! Definitely spoons! Cake is totally superfluous! You should make it soon!

      Reply
  • Sophie
    April 29, 2015 at 5:13 am

    This was a grand, cool & long tutorial, my friend! Amazing exciting photos too! xxx

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 30, 2015 at 7:29 am

      lol definitely long! Thanks, Sophie! xx

      Reply
  • Elise
    April 29, 2015 at 10:45 am

    I love the tutorial but I have a question. In the directions, the recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar divided. It says to had half of the sugar to the water and stir until dissolved. Am I missing something? What do you do with the other cup of sugar. I realize I am getting old and senile, but I am just missing it. Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • AmericanCooking22
      April 29, 2015 at 6:34 pm

      Hi Elise, the other half of the sugar goes into the whipping egg whites to stabilize the meringue. It’s in step 3 but I can definitely make it more clear that this is the second half of the sugar! Thank you so much for calling this to my attention!! I will update the recipe and photo tutorial right now 🙂

      Reply
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