The Frosted Cake Shop

Frosting 101: Italian Meringue Buttercream

Continuing on our discovery of the most delicious frostings and fillings, today we will take a closer look at Italian Meringue Buttercream.  Extremely versatile, easily tinted and flavored, this light and silky buttercream is very popular.  Rightfully so, IMBC is a staple at The Frosted Cake Shop.  I can always rely on a good batch of IMBC to fill layers cake in a variety of flavors, as well as ice even our most precious wedding cakes.  

Italian Meringue Buttercream is much different than your typical canned frosting or tooth-ache-giving American Buttercream.  Instead of being the thick, overly sweet gobs of icing you typically can find on a cupcake, IMBC is satiny smooth with flavor notes of real vanilla and butter.  Meringue based buttercreams are slightly more labor intensive that some frostings and do require a short list of equipment.  But trust me on this one, once you master the recipe and taste-test your buttercream, there will be no turning back.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
6 ounces egg whites
6 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

*do not use egg whites from a carton, unless they are allowed for baking.  read carefully.

Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and place on a stovetop.  Stir slightly to combine.  Heat on high until the mixture comes to a boil.  Using a candy thermometer (this is a must), heat until the sugar syrup reaches 238 degrees, or softball stage.

Meanwhile, place the egg whites in a bowl of a stand mixer.  Be sure that the bowl and whisk are completely dry and free from any moisture and oil.  With a whisk attachment, beat the egg white on high until stiff peaks form.  This should take about 7 minutes.  If started just after the sugar mixture is placed on the stove, both steps should be ready at about the same time.

Once the sugar syrup reached 238 degrees, remove from heat.  Let the syrup rest about 30 seconds to let the bubbles settle.  While the mixer is still on high, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites.  Continue mixing on high until the meringue comes to room temperature.  The outside of the bowl will no longer be warm to the touch.

Switch the mixer off and remove the whisk attachment.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and replace with a paddle attachment.  With the mixer on medium, gradually add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time.  Pour in vanilla extract.  At this point, the mixture might look soupy or separated.  Don’t give up!  Continue to mix on medium-high until the mixture comes together.  This may take up to about 3-5 until the buttercream becomes smooth.  Use immediately, flavor, or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

The versatility and reliability of Italian Meringue Buttercream explains the heavy presence of it on the TFCS menu.  I count on IMBC to create a seamless crumb coat for fondant-covered cake and as frosting that gives off a smooth, silky finish.  Since it is not overwhelmingly sweet, IMBC can take on a variety of flavors, too.  This way, it can be used as a stable filling with many flavor options.  

Flavor variations include:

Almond Buttercream:  Replace the vanilla extract with 2 teaspoons almond extract, or more to taste

Chocolate Buttercream: To one batch of buttercream, add 1/2 cup melted and cooled semi-sweet chocolate

Coffee Buttercream: To one batch of buttercream, add 2 tablespoons instand espresso mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water

Kahlua Buttercream: To one batch of buttercream, add 4 tablespooons Kahlua liqueur, or more to taste

Peppermint Buttercream:  Replace 1 teaspoon vanilla extract with 1 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Raspberry Buttercream:  To one batch buttercream, add 2 tablespoons of your favorite raspberry preserves, or more to taste

Years of cake tastings and consultations have proven Italian Meringue Buttercream to be the ultimate crowd pleaser.  Most clients find the lightness and satiny texture refreshing compared to its sugary counterparts.  Not only has IMBC proven to be delicious, it is beautiful enough to be used as frosting for even our prestine wedding cakes.

What is your favorite flavor of buttercream?  Feel free to experiment with other extracts, fruit purees, and liqueurs to create your own signature buttercream!!

Be sure to check out our other features from this series: Frosting 101: GANACHE


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