Our Best Italian-Style Buttercream

May 14, 2021
8 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Makes about 4 cups
Author Notes

Italian buttercream is lighter in color and texture than French- style buttercreams. It is similar in look, taste, and texture to Erin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

Bake It Up a Notch is a column by Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell. Each month, she'll help take our baking game to the next level, teaching us all the need-to-know tips and techniques and showing us all the mistakes we might make along the way. Today, a very sweet lesson in all things frostings, icings, and glazes. —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Our Best Italian-Style Buttercream
  • 5 (180 g) large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon (<1 g) cream of tartar
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) water
  • 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 g) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) fine sea salt
  1. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  2. Combine the sugar and water in a medium pot and stir over medium heat until it comes to a boil. When it begins to boil, stop stirring and attach a candy thermometer to the pot (if any sugar crystals have washed up on the sides, brush them away using a pastry brush dipped in cool water). Continue to cook the syrup until it reaches 240° F (final desired temperature).
  3. As soon as the sugar hits 230° F, begin whipping the egg whites on medium-high speed. The goal is to have the egg whites at soft peaks when the sugar reaches the 240° F.
  4. With the mixer, add the sugar syrup in a slow, steady stream. Continue to whip on high speed until the mixture reaches stiff peaks and the bowl is longer noticeably warm to the touch. The meringue should be smooth and glossy, not clumpy or dry.
  5. With the mixer still running, gradually add room temperature butter in 1 tablespoon (14 g) chunks. Continue adding and mixing until all of the butter is incorporated and the buttercream is light and smooth.
  6. Beat in the vanilla and salt and mix to combine. The buttercream can be used immediately or refrigerated in an airtight container.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Binky
  • jayaymeye
  • hharwood
  • Janelle
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

9 Reviews

jayaymeye March 15, 2022
Everything that Erin Jeanne McDowell creates/touches is perfect and this Italian meringue buttercream is now added to my list of go-to recipes. Tastes delicious and is infinitely adaptable with added flavors. I split this batch in two and did half with pistachio paste, half with nocciola paste. So unbelievably good.

BTW, if your mixture is soupy like the recipe rater below, it's because your meringue wasn't cool enough when you started adding butter. Just put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes and it will come together.
hharwood February 11, 2022
I made a food 52 account just so i could review this recipe. My almost three year old and i love watching Erin's videos (I made this frosting for his birthday cake). This is the first time I've managed to make a meringue buttercream that turned out, thanks to Erin's recipe. So exciting. Would love to see instructions for reconstituting the meringue after refrigerating.
Binky June 5, 2021
This was the best buttercream frosting I ever made. Easy to work with and sooooo delicious!,,
Janelle February 8, 2020
Absolutely delicious! I’m not a fan of American buttercream because I find it too sweet, so this recipe was just what I wanted. Reminds me of whipped cream, but silkier, and honestly, in terms of difficulty not very complicated as long as you have a good thermometer. I paired it with a matcha green tea cake and orange marmalade—a perfect combo!
Zee L. October 23, 2019
This was a good recipe for Italian Meringue Buttercream - smooth, slightly sweet, and easy to make. It just didn't knock my socks off. And it left an fatty layer on my tongue. I followed the recipe to a T but was hoping for more. 3 out of 4 stars.
Wilmer May 10, 2018
How can I replace the homemade sirup with sirup karo?
Caroline N. August 1, 2016
I tried making this frosting last night and it was super soupy. Did my butter get too warm?
Gina March 16, 2016
I can't Waite to try some of these delicious looking recipes .
Cindy March 8, 2016
This is a great recipe for me as I make a lot of hollandaise and freeze the whites. Usually after about a dozen frozen whites I make macaroons or Pavlova. I just happen to have a container of 4 whites in the freeze. Time for a chocolate cake and your icing. Here I go..............