Italian Buttercream Recipe

vanilla cupcakes

letterberry / Getty Images

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 40 mins
Servings: 20 to 40
Yield: 7 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
118 Calories
9g Fat
9g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 20 to 40
Amount per serving
Calories 118
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9g 12%
Saturated Fat 6g 29%
Cholesterol 24mg 8%
Sodium 24mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 3mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 12mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Italian buttercream is the most stable of all the buttercreams. While American buttercream uses mostly powdered sugar and butter, both Italian and Swiss buttercreams are meringue-based and use egg whites, granulated sugar, and butter. This creates a much silkier, lighter, and not overly sweet buttercream.

Swiss buttercream is made by gently heating the egg whites over a double boiler while whisking to 160 F to kill any salmonella before turning it into a meringue. Italian buttercream is made by drizzling a hot sugar syrup into the whipped egg whites. Because the sugar syrup is cooked to 238 F, it makes a much stronger and stable buttercream.

Italian meringue buttercream is my personal buttercream of choice. It's perfect for frosting cakes, silky smooth, and not too sweet. Many people are intimidated to make anything that requires a thermometer, but it's super easy and well worth it.

The recipe makes about 7 cups of frosting, enough to pipe on 48 cupcakes or frost and fill a 3-layer cake. Feel free to scale the recipe down or freeze the leftover frosting if you can't use it all at once.


  • 1 1/2 + 1/3 cups granulated sugar, divided

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 7 large egg whites

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 pound unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Place 1 1/2 cups of the sugar in a small pot, then add the water and stir to combine. Wet your fingers or a pastry brush to wipe any sugar crystals off the sides of the pot. Heat over medium-high heat until the sugar syrup reaches 238 F, about 10 minutes. Do not stir the syrup while it is cooking, this will cause the sugar to crystalize.

  3. In the meantime, place the egg whites and salt into a the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until the whites become frothy.

  4. In a steady stream, slowly add the remaining sugar to the bowl of the stand mixer until fully combined. Increase the speed to high and continue to whisk until the mixture reaches medium-stiff peaks. Turn off the mixer and wait for the sugar syrup to reach 238 F.

  5. Once the sugar syrup reaches the proper temperature, remove the pot from heat and reduce the mixer speed to low. Carefully, stream the sugar syrup slowly down the side of the mixing bowl until fully incorporated into the meringue. Increase the mixture speed to medium-high, and continue to whisk until it is doubled in size and the bowl is no longer warm, about 10 minutes.

  6. Switch the mixer to the paddle attachment, then slowly add the cubed butter, a couple tablespoons at a time, with the mixer set to medium until the butter is fully incorporated, smooth, and fluffy. The mixture may seem to resemble the texture of cottage cheese or thin out at moments as you add the butter, but continue to whip the mixture and it will thicken to smooth, firm peaks.

  7. Add the vanilla, then continue to mix until everything comes together into a beautiful silky smooth buttercream.


  • Use a candy thermometer to ensure the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature of 238 F. Although it might be tempting, don't stir the syrup as it's cooking, or the sugar will crystalize.
  • Use this buttercream frosting on your favorite cakes and cupcakes.

Troubleshooting Tips

  • Buttercream looks like soup: either the meringue was too warm before adding in the butter, or you just need to whip it longer. If whipping it longer is not working, try putting the whole bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill, then scrape down the sides, and whip again.
  • Buttercream looks like chunks of butter: ingredients were too cold. Let it come to room temp, and try whipping again.

How to Store and Freeze

The buttercream should be used at room temperature but can be stored in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to a week, or in the freezer, in a freezer-safe bag or container, for up to six months.