Italian Buttercream Recipe

Italian Buttercream on cupcakes

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 40 mins
Servings: 20 to 40 servings
Yield: 7 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
120 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 120
% 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.

"Italian Meringue: It is amazing how these simple ingredients turn into a not-too-sweet smooth and fluffy frosting! The last stage of mixing takes a little patience because it does thin out and get lumpy looking, but the frosting smooths out nicely and it gets quite thick." — Diana Rattray

Italian buttercream frosting in a bowl/tester image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 pound (16-ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

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

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 7 large egg whites

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Italian Buttercream ingredients in bowls

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Let the butter come to room temperature.

    Meanwhile, put 1 1/2 cups of the granulated sugar in a small pot. Add the water and stir to combine. With your fingers or a pastry brush, wipe any sugar crystals from the sides of the pot.

    Sugar and water in a pot on a burner, with the sugar brushed from the edges of the pot

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Heat over medium-high heat until the sugar syrup reaches 238 F, about 10 minutes. Do not stir the syrup while it is cooking since this will cause the sugar to crystalize.

    Sugar and water in a pot on a burner, with a thermometer

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Meanwhile, put the egg whites and salt into a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until the whites become frothy.

    Egg whites in a stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  5. With the mixer running, in a slow, steady stream, add the remaining 1/3 granulated sugar to the bowl of the stand mixer. Increase the speed to high and continue to whisk until the mixture reaches medium-stiff peaks.

    Whipped egg whites in a stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Once the sugar syrup reaches 238 F, remove from the heat. Reduce the mixer speed to low. With the mixer running, slowly stream the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl until fully incorporated into the meringue.

    Egg whites and syrup combined in a stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  7. Increase the speed to medium-high, and continue to whisk until it is doubled in size and the bottom of the bowl is no longer warm, about 10 minutes.

    Meringue mixture in a stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  8. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the cubed butter a couple pieces at a time until the butter is fully incorporated, smooth, and fluffy before adding the next addition. 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.

    Italian Buttercream in a stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  9. Add the vanilla, continuing to mix until everything comes together into a beautiful silky smooth buttercream.

    Italian Buttercream in a stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk for food-borne illness.


  • 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.
  • For safety, especially if feeding children, older adults, pregnant individuals, and those with weakened immune systems, use pasteurized eggs.

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.

Recipe Variations

Chocolate Italian Buttercream: Fold in 8 ounces of melted, slightly cooled semisweet or bittersweet chocolate along with the vanilla.

Lemon Italian Buttercream: Fold in about 1/3 cup of lemon curd along with the vanilla.

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.