Italian meringue buttercream recipe
Updated: Sep 5, 2022
This is honestly the smoothest, lightest buttercream ever. Light in texture, not in calories (sorry!). I don’t like American buttercream as I think it’s far too sweet, and frankly I avoid using icing sugar wherever possible because I hate that it coats my whole kitchen (and me) in a sticky mess. You can also flavour and colour this buttercream however you like, so this Italian meringue buttercream ticks all the boxes for me. Why not give it a go?
This recipe makes enough to fill and cover a two layer 8-inch cake. It's easy to scale up or down depending on the size of your cake.
300g caster / granulated sugar
95g egg whites (c. 3 eggs), room temperature
350g good quality unsalted butter, room temperature (I use President)
Special equipment needed
Sugar/food thermometer; stand mixer with whisk and paddle attachments
1. Put 150ml water then 250g sugar into a saucepan, and heat to 116°C. This will take c. 5 minutes.
2. Make sure the mixer bowl is completely clean and dry. This is key for any meringue as any traces of fat on the bowl can prevent the egg whites from whipping up properly.
3. Separate the egg whites into the stand mixer bowl. Make sure that you don’t get any egg yolk in there by accident, as the fat in the yolk will stop the whites from whipping up properly.
4. When the sugar syrup reaches 110°C, start whisking the egg whites on a medium speed and slowly add the remaining 50g sugar.
5. When the sugar syrup reaches 116°C, turn down the mixer speed to low and pour the sugar syrup down the side of the mixer bowl so that it is whisked into the egg whites. Be very careful when pouring the hot sugar into the bowl – if it catches on the whisk then the hot sugar will fling around the inside (and outside!) of the bowl.
6. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and whisk until the meringue is barely warm. This will take c. 10 minutes.
7. In the meantime, cut the butter into small chunks. The butter should be room temperature and malleable i.e. it squishes when you push it between your fingers) – if it’s too cold, warm it very gently in a microwave without melting it.
8. When the meringue is cool enough (it should be stiff and glossy), change to the paddle attachment and slowly incorporate the chunks of butter. The mixture will become looser as you add the butter, but keep going and you’ll see it thicken up when you’ve added most of the butter. If it’s still a bit thin, you can either add some extra butter or you can chill it for a while and it will thicken up.
9. Add flavouring if using – see below for flavour variation ideas.
You can flavour the Italian meringue buttercream however you like, but remember that adding anything liquid will make the buttercream thinner, and adding anything with a coarse texture like citrus zest will result in a bitty finish. The quantities here are all pretty flexible, so I’ve provided some guidelines but add them to taste, and be mindful that you don’t want to change the consistency of the buttercream too much.
Chocolate: melt c. 150g dark / milk / white chocolate and leave it to cool slightly. Pour the melted chocolate into the buttercream and stir to combine. It’s important that the buttercream is room temperature otherwise the melted chocolate will quickly set in small lumps in the cold buttercream when you mix it in. The quantity of chocolate can be increased or decreased to taste.
Citrus: add c. 1-2 tsp of a citrus extract, e.g. lemon, orange, or a combination of more than one.
Coffee: you have two options here. You can either add 1-2 tbsp (to taste) of strong coffee or you can use 1-2 tsp of coffee extract
Edible essential oils: add a couple of drops of an edible essential oil to the buttercream. Something like lemongrass works very well!
Spices: add 1-2 tsp of ground spices e.g. ginger, cinnamon, mixed spice or a combination of more than one.
Breakfast spreads: add 2-3 tbsp of your favourite smooth peanut butter, lemon curd, Nutella, smooth lotus biscoff spread
Biscuits: blitz your biscuit of choice into a powder in a food processor e.g. oreos, lotus biscoff, custard creams, bourbons
There are a couple of ways to colour this buttercream. I tend to use gel food colours because these are the most versatile for different recipes, but you can use gel, liquid or powder food colours (artificial or natural). Using high quality food colours such as AmeriColor, Sugarflair and Wilton is preferable because they provide a good colour without using a large quantity.
Gel colours: I would recommend mixing gel colours with either a little bit of milk, or a small quantity of the buttercream in a separate bowl and then add this into the rest of the buttercream, otherwise the colour won’t mix in evenly.
Liquid colours: Add a little at the time until you reach the right colour. Be careful not to use too much as the liquid will start to change the consistency of the buttercream.
Powder colours: Shake powder over the buttercream and mix to combine. Make sure there aren’t any lumps because the moisture from the buttercream will form a clump that is difficult to get rid of.