Italian Buttercream

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Recipe photo
Hands-on time:
Total time:
Yield: 7 to 7 1/2 cups

Recipe photo

This is the frosting that you'll find on many wedding cakes. Its silky texture is unparalleled, it pipes like a dream, and can be flavored and colored in as many ways as you can imagine. While it takes a little time to make, it freezes quite well. It's great to have on hand for unexpected occasions.

Italian Buttercream

star rating (49) rate this recipe
Hands-on time:
Total time:
Yield: 7 to 7 1/2 cups
Published: 12/30/2010

Ingredients

Sugar Syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar

Meringue

Frosting

  • 3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup vegetable shortening (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons flavoring (see baker's hints)

Tips from our bakers

  • If you want to use fresh egg whites instead of meringue powder, you'll need 8 large whites, at room temperature, combined with 1 teaspoon cream of tartar. Pasteurized egg whites in cartons won't work for this purpose.
  • Before you start, make sure you have a digital or candy thermometer that will read up to 300°F for the and a small (nonstick, if you have it) saucepan for the sugar syrup.
  • While it's possible to do this with a hand mixer, it's strongly recommended that a stand mixer be used. You'll need your hands free to pour the syrup and add the butter.
  • Vegetable shortening: If you plan to make piped roses, or if the cake you're frosting is going to spend any length of time in a warm place, adding a bit of vegetable shortening to the recipe will help any piping or decorations hold their shape better; the shortening has a higher melting point than butter, and helps the frosting to stay more stable in warm conditions.
  • Storage: Buttercream will keep up to 1 week in the refrigerator (longer than that, and you may see some mold start to form). It freezes beautifully. To use from frozen, defrost in the refrigerator overnight, then let it come to room temperature before using. If you see any weeping or separation, toss the frosting in the mixer and whip it briefly to bring it back together.
  • If you're coloring the frosting, be sure to use gel or paste colors, not liquid ones; they'll cause the frosting to break.
  • If you're not going to use the frosting right away, consider dividing it into several smaller containers before refrigerating or freezing it. The smaller amounts will take less time to come to room temperature, and you'll be able to work with the frosting sooner.
  • See our Flourish Blog for more ideas on flavoring and working with buttercream.
  • For a tangy passion fruit version, stir in 1/3 cup of passion fruit puree or concentrate to the finished buttercream.

Directions

see this recipe's blog

1) For the syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a small, nonstick (preferable, if you have one) saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches at least 240°F. It can go as high as 248 to 250F. Just be sure it's within those temperatures before you take it off the stove.

2) For the meringue: While the syrup is cooking, combine the meringue powder, water, and salt in the bowl of your mixer. Beat at high speed with the whisk attachment until the mixture first looks foamy, then turns white, and you begin to see tracks in the bowl. At this point, slowly sprinkle in the sugar with the mixer running. Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture is stiff.

3) When the syrups gets above 240F (110C) and before it gets above 250F (121C), remove it from the heat and with the mixer running at low speed, pour it down the side of the mixing bowl(not on the whisk or beaters if you can avoid it; that will send the syrup flying and start spinning sugar threads instead of incorporating it). Once the syrup is all in, leave the mixer running until the mixture cools to 80°F. You can help this process along by wrapping an ice pack around the mixing bowl.

4) Once the meringue is cool, add the butter, a few pieces at a time, with the mixer running at medium to medium-high speed. The meringue will deflate a bit, and may begin to look curdled. Don't lose heart! This ugly "adolescent" stage is normal. Just keep the mixer running and adding the butter.

5) Soon the frosting will begin to bring itself together around the whisk, then in the rest of the bowl. Once most of the butter is in, add vanilla or your choice of flavorings. If you're using the frosting for decorations, add the vegetable shortening in chunks at this point.

6) Use the buttercream within 4 hours, or refrigerate until needed.

Nutrition information

Serving Size: 1/4 cup, 44g Servings Per Batch: 30 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 213 Calories from Fat: 162 Total Fat: 18g Saturated Fat: 12g Trans Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 49mg Sodium: 36mg Total Carbohydrate: 12g Dietary Fiber: 0g Sugars: 12g Protein: 1g

* The nutrition information provided for this recipe is determined by the ESHA Genesis R&D software program. Substituting any ingredients may change the posted nutrition information.

Reviews

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  • star rating 05/03/2015
  • NoraPdS from KAF Community
  • Great taste. The blog was so helpful and specific. I made this with my 8 and 6 year olds. We added 4 TBSP of veg. shortening and reduced the sugar a bit. We also set aside 2 c and folded thinly sliced strawberries into it for the filling in our layer cake. We will definitely use this again for our next birthday cake.
  • 05/01/2015
  • Barbara from Mass.
  • Question, Will Margarine work as a substitute for the real butter? My stomach can't handle real butter unfortunately and I'd love to make this recipe.

    Barbara, you can use margarine in this recipe in place of butter in a pinch, but please know that the flavor will not be as rich or creamy (depending on the brand of margarine). If you are using a lower-fat margarine, you may consider adding a some meringue powder (or egg white powder) to stiffen it if you want the frosting to be able to hold its shape. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  • star rating 04/26/2015
  • jimbob37 from KAF Community
  • Love it ! In the past, when I wanted to tone down the sweetness of a buttercreme type frosting I have added unsweetened grapefruit juice. I am wondering what would be the best way to try it with this recipe?
    The test kitchen team says you could try this, adding a tablespoon or so after the recipe comes together. You could also try lowering the cooked sugar amount slightly (10-15%) or increase the butter amount slightly (10-15%). MJR
  • star rating 04/10/2015
  • Caitlyn from New Hampshire
  • This recipe EXCELLENT! I have just finished making it and it is exactly what I needed! It's light, fluffy, and tastes delicious. I subbed out the meringue powder for 8 fresh egg whites and it worked fine! Thank you so much for this amazing recipe, this will definitely be going into my collection!
  • star rating 03/26/2015
  • Tiffany from Australia
  • This is my go to recipe since september 2013, I absolutely love it. It's so silky and not super sweet, easy to follow instructions and pictures, nailed it the first time I made it without issues and still haven't had any issues.
  • star rating 03/22/2015
  • mrmoran from KAF Community
  • Fast, this isn't, but I found it worth both the investment of time and the slight angst when the buttercream seemed to fall apart, only to come back together after a few minutes more of beating. Flavored with vanilla, then added espresso powder to one cup and Irish cream to an additional two cups for the Irish Cream Cupcakes. Still had plenty to freeze for another cake down the road. Delicious!
    It can be stressful the first time you make Italian Buttercream because it does separate and become curd-like. You think you have ruined it but you have not. It is a wonderful frosting for cakes and cupcakes. Tip - when you take the remainder out of the freezer to use, thaw completely and make sure it is at room temperature before you re-whip to use.JoAnn@KAF
  • star rating 01/27/2015
  • Dawn from Boston
  • This was the second time I made this recipe and I'm not sure where I went wrong. After adding the butter, my frosting got kind of limp and even though I beat it for about 20 minutes, it never really got smooth and silky like the last time I made it. It has a kind of weird greasy feel to it, although it tastes good! Any ideas where I might have gone wrong? In case it matters, current weather conditions now were actually fairly warm in my apartment since the building heat was on and we don't have individual apartment temperature controls. Could that have messed it up? Or maybe I didn't beat the meringue enough? Thanks for any help you can give me! Dawn, we are glad to hear that you making our Italian Buttercream multiple times! We'd love to talk about what could have gone wrong in your most recent batch so we can make it right for next time. Please give us a call at the Baker's Hotline: 855-371-2253 so we can do some buttercream trouble-shooting! --Kye@KAF
  • star rating 11/06/2014
  • Galigirl from ca
  • The pictures and detailed information in the blog for this recipe were spot on!! I added a touch of shortening and Vietnamese cinnamon to sandwich between ginger snaps. The result was absolutely AMAZING!! My husband (who is not a sweets kind of man) was over the moon! This buttercream is sublime! I also made it on a day when the weather was on the cool side which I think helped. I stayed right to the recipe with the exception of the cinnamon and a touch of Princess emulsion & Mexican vanilla extract. I will never make the regular butter/powdered sugar bit again! This was SO easy and the results stunning!!
  • star rating 08/10/2014
  • Rebecca from Denver
  • Wasn't my favorite. I agree that the meringue powder left a different, almost powdery aftertaste. Had to use A LOT of flavoring to use. I also added the powdered sugar like Bubbie recommended. Next time I will use the egg whites. I look forward to trying again, with better results.
    I think the egg white meringue will work better for you! Enjoy and happy baking. Jon@KAF
  • star rating 07/20/2014
  • Bubbie the cake making grandma from KAF Community
  • Terrific recipe. I am a professional cake decorator and love this recipe! This recipe I only use at home, though. For those who thinks it just tastes like sweetened butter, try adding a cup of powdered sugar. I just made this for my daughter's baby shower cake. The best compliment was "It tastes like heaven on a plate!". I agree! :)
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