I’m not going to lie: my first attempt at Italian Meringue Buttercream (or IMBC) failed spectacularly and I had no one to blame but myself. I think I may have managed to perform every possible mistake on the first try…so at least I accomplished something! 😛 From using egg whites from a carton (no.) to throwing in cold butter (omg no.), I really messed up. Ultimately, I ended up with buttery soup that just wouldn’t set up, no matter how many unnecessary additions I threw in. But…there is hope! I suppose the only positive thing to come from such a massive failure is that I now know exactly what to do not to mess up this heavenly recipe. The second try – perfection!! So here I am, about to post step by step instructions on one of the yummiest buttercreams I’ve ever tasted so that you can learn from my mistakes and tackle your own Italian Meringue Buttercream with confidence!
Now, what is a meringue buttercream? Simply put, these frostings start with a meringue base – whipped egg whites and sugar – to which butter is generously added. There are three kinds of meringue buttercreams: French, Swiss, and Italian. The difference between these three is the method used to create the meringue, such as cooking the egg whites with the sugar before whipping versus adding cooked sugar syrup to pre-whipped egg whites. French meringue is slightly different in that it uses only egg yolks, but we will explore more on that at a later time. These frostings are typically less sweet than an American Buttercream, but are harder to create and perfect. This doesn’t mean they are impossible though! My IMBC achieved perfection on the second try following three important tips:
- Read the recipe thoroughly BEFORE attempting.
- Get all of your ingredients together and ready (room temperature, cut into pieces, etc)
- Absolutely. No. Shortcuts.
Let’s get started on our Italian Meringue Buttercream! Check out the recipe below first, and make sure your egg whites and butter are room temperature before beginning.
Your sugar/water mixture will be on medium heat and needs to reach a temperature of 240-245 degrees. This is often called the “soft ball stage,” meaning if you were to drop a little of this sugar syrup in water it would form a ball that you could lightly squish between your fingers but will retain its shape.
While you are waiting for your sugar syrup to reach temperature, begin whipping room temperature egg whites until foamy and soft peaks form. In the picture above the egg whites are slightly falling off the beater and peaks will flatten a little once formed. At this point add your granulated sugar and beat on high.
As you can see above, the eggs are glossier and firmer. When the beater is lifted, very sharply pointed peaks are formed. The eggs are ready for the sugar syrup so stop mixing and head back to the stove. Once your sugar is at temperature, you will SLOWLY drizzle it into the egg whites while beating.
Don’t be impatient like I was and dump the hot sugar syrup in quickly, you’ll ruin your frosting. Your goal is to aim for the area between the edge of the bowl and the beater. Any sugar syrup that hits the bowl or beater can cool and harden and you don’t want sharp, crunchy bits of sugar anywhere near this velvety concoction! After all of your syrup is incorporated let the mixer beat on high for roughly 10 minutes until the sides of the bowl feel room temperature. You cannot overbeat, so just walk away and go enjoy some free time. 🙂
The next step is adding your room temperature butter. I wouldn’t use the microwave shortcut; you could end up with melty spots which is hard to come back from. The sticks should be cut into about a tablespoon sized chunk.
With the mixer on high, add your butter pieces. The first recipe I tried said to wait 15 seconds between each pieces but I’m wayyyy too impatient for that! I mean, did you see how many pieces there are?!? I wait about 5 seconds between each piece. Other recipe reviewers and bloggers said the frosting would go through several stages, from soupy to curdled-looking, but I didn’t experience them. My frosting did deflate slightly after the first few pieces and really didn’t achieve a whipped dreamy texture until after all the butter was added -about 30-60 seconds of mixing after the last piece was added.
Ta-DAAAAAA! Fluffy, whipped, silky, melt-in-your-mouth Italian Meringue Buttercream!!! Now is the time that I add any food coloring or extracts, and just give it a quick mix to incorporate. I hope you enjoy your IMBC, come back soon for French and Swiss styles! <3
- 1 cup granulated sugar (for syrup)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar (for meringue)
- 5 egg whites (room temperature)
- 2 cups (4 sticks) butter, room temperature. (I use half salted, half unsalted, but either works)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Bring 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup water to a boil on medium heat.
- While sugar is heating, whip egg whites until soft peaks form.
- Add 1/3 cup sugar to egg whites and beat on high until stiff peaks form.
- Once sugar has reached a temperature of 240-245 degrees, slowly pour it in the egg white mixture on high. Aim for the area between the beater and the bowl.
- Let your meringue beat for approximately 10 minutes, or until the bowl does not feel warm AT ALL.
- Add your butter pieces to the meringue while beating on high, about 5 seconds in between each piece. Your frosting may go through soupy and curdled phases, keep beating!!
- About 30-60 seconds after the last piece of butter is added the frosting should come together. Add your vanilla and any other flavor/color you'd like and whip lightly until incorporated.
- IMBC can be frozen for up to 3 months! When removing from the freezer or fridge, let your IMBC come to room temperature and re-whip before using/piping.