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Italian Buttercream Recipe

Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American


  • ounce sugar = ¾ cup, divided
  • 2 ounces water
  • 4 egg whites at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 sticks butter at cool room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • Over medium heat, bring water and ¾ of the sugar to a boil. Cover the pot and let boil for 2-3 minutes to wash any sugar crystals off the sides.
  • Remove the cover and cook until the sugar syrup reaches 248° F.
  • Fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whip egg whites, salt, and lemon juice on medium speed until foamy.
  • Add the reserved sugar and beat to medium-stiff peaks. Try to time this so the sugar and the whites are ready simultaneously.
  • When the sugar has reached 248° F and the whites are at medium-stiff peaks, with the mixer on medium-high, carefully pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream down the inside of the bowl.
    This will prevent the syrup from hitting the whisk and getting spun around the sides of the bowl instead of into your frosting. It will also cool the syrup just a bit so you don't risk curdling your whites. Whip until cool, about 5-10 minutes.
  • Once the meringue is cool, add the butter, one piece at a time. Whip until each piece is completely incorporated before adding another piece. The icing might start to look a little curdled, but it should come together nicely when you add all the butter. Feel the mixing bowl. It should feel somewhat cool.
  • If it doesn't, cool the mixture down by either putting the bowl in the refrigerator for a few minutes before continuing to whip or by rubbing the outside of the bowl with a bag of frozen peas while mixing.
    Guess which one I do?!
  • Whisk in the vanilla, and you're good to go.


This icing will get spongy on standing, so re-whip before icing. Italian buttercream keeps nicely in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
If you do refrigerate it, make sure to bring it up to room temperature before whipping, or it will curdle.
I have successfully saved buttercreams (when I've been too impatient to wait) by rubbing the outside of the bowl with a hot, wet towel. Don't be like me, though. Let it come to room temperature.
You can also make a lovely chocolate variation by whipping in 2-4 oz. (this depends on how chocolaty you like your chocolate frosting) good quality chocolate, melted and cooled.