Italian Meringue Buttercream

This is the standard buttercream at CakeLove. It has a smooth texture, it’s easy to work with, and one recipe is enough for a three- or four-layer 9-inch cake. It’s rich, so a little goes a long way. I like this buttercream because it has an excellent taste profile, is versatile and easy to flavor, and handles well when decorating. Timing is important when making the cooked meringue that is the base for this buttercream. Be sure to heat the sugar syrup to 245°F before pouring it into the egg whites that have been whipped to stiff peaks. (Hint: Begin heating the syrup before you begin whipping the egg whites. Bringing the sugar syrup to 245°F usually takes about twice as long as whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks.) When the syrup is this hot the proteins in the meringue cook thoroughly and accommodate the butter. Traditional recipes for this style of buttercream cue the baker to pour the syrup when it’s at 242°F. I like to raise the temperature just a little higher because the syrup will cool a little during pouring. If the syrup’s temperature is lower than 245°F, the final buttercream can be too soft to hold its shape and structure when spreading onto a cake. I always use a candy thermometer to test whether the syrup is hot enough; it’s safe, practical, and accurate. Most candy thermometers are a little top heavy, so placing it with the numbers facing away from you may help it stay put in the saucepan.

4 to 5 cups (enough for one 9-inch-round three-layer cake or 24 cupcakes)


Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

Recipe Coursedessert

Equipmentelectric mixer

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Taste and Texturebuttery, creamy, rich, sweet

Type of Dishdessert sauce


  • Egg whites (large), 5
  • Extra-fine granulated sugar, 10 ounces (1¼ cups)
  • Cold water, ¼ cup
  • Unsalted butter (at room temperature), 1 pound (4 sticks)
  • Standing mixer
  • 1-quart heavy-bottom saucepan
  • Candy thermometer


  1. Set out the ingredients and equipment.

  2. Separate the egg whites into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment.

  3. Measure 1 cup sugar and the water into a 1-quart, heavy- bottomed saucepan. Gently stir to combine (I use the candy thermometer for this).

  4. Measure the remaining ¼ cup sugar into a small bowl and set aside.

  5. Cut the butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and set aside in a medium bowl.

  6. To make the sugar syrup, place the candy thermometer in the saucepan and heat the mixture over medium-high heat. Partially cover with a lid to capture the evaporating water—this helps to moisten the sides of the saucepan to prevent sugar crystals from forming.

  7. With the mixer on high speed, begin whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks. When the peaks are stiff, you have a meringue.

  8. Keep the mixer running and pour the ¼ cup of sugar into the meringue.

  9. Raise the heat under the sugar syrup to bring the syrup to 245°F, if it is not there already. When the syrup is at 245°F, remove the thermometer and slowly pour the syrup into the meringue.

  10. After 1 to 2 minutes reduce the mixer speed to medium for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the meringue is cooled. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the mixer speed to high for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the butter is fully incorporated.

  11. Flavor Variations:

  12. The following flavorings can be added to the base recipe for Italian Meringue Buttercream:

  13. Vanilla: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  14. Chocolate: 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, melted

  15. Rum: 2 to 4 tablespoons (to taste) dark rum

  16. Amaretto: 2 to 4 tablespoons (to taste) amaretto

  17. Raspberry: 1/4 to 1/2 cup raspberry puree

  18. Lemon: 2 tablespoons limoncello

  19. Orange: 1 teaspoon orange oil

  20. Lime: 1 teaspoon lime oil


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