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Italian Meringue Buttercream for Perfect White Cake

  • Yield: Makes 4 cups
Italian Meringue Buttercream for Perfect White Cake


  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 large egg whites
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (4 sticks)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 1/3 cup water to a boil. Boil until syrup reaches soft-ball stage (238 degrees.on a candy thermometer).

  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on low until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat on medium high until stiff but not dry.

  3. With mixer running, pour syrup down side of bowl into egg whites in a steady stream, and beat on high speed until steam is no longer visible, about 3 minutes. Beat in butter a few pieces at a time. Add vanilla and beat until smooth. If it looks curdled at any point, keep beating to smooth out.

Reviews (10)

  • JO_BURN 8 Dec, 2014

    I stumbled across this recipe and took a chance, considering this is my first time ever making an Italian meringue buttercream. I started to panic once I added the butter, I wasn't sure if it was melting, but with some vigorous beating with my KitchenAid mixer, it soon became light and fluffy - it held its shape perfectly! I would also highly recommend a candy thermometer.

  • Fireflyjh30 11 Mar, 2014

    It was the first time I have made an Italian Buttercream (and I used a hand mixer!) and it turned out perfect. Luscious and divine! Here are my thoughts: 1. A candy thermometer is a must! 2. Yes, it turns soupy; just keep beating it (about 5 minutes). Put it in the fridge for 10 - 15 minutes and beat again – this helps the cooling process. 3. Have no fear – I’m fairly convinced soufflés and Meringue Frostings can sense fear. If it fails, go to the bakery, and try again another day.

  • Missy Hardman-Salmon 2 Feb, 2014

    THE perfect buttercream recipe. I have converted many American Buttercream lovers with this one. Pure buttery taste, smooth and not too sweet! Takes color, pipes and holds it shape very well. DO NOT panic when the recipe "breaks", it will come back together.

  • chefquiche0 24 Jun, 2013

    I've made this recipe a bunch of times. You have to get the sugar to the right temp, though, that's absolutely critical. If you don't have a thermometer don't use this recipe. period. I have gotten to the point where I can eyeball it (the water boils off, & once the bubbles get big, its close.. like 10 min), but your best bet would be to put the sugar & egg whites in a double boiler, stir until the sugar is dissolved & its really runny (~5min), then whip to stiff peaks. Then add the butter.

  • sogood2me 27 Feb, 2013

    I don't why, but every Martha recipe I have ever tried is missing something and is a disaster , you have to figure it out and it could be very costly, but that's how she keeps her secret.. very it's not you it's her recipes...

  • tryingtocookstuff 21 Dec, 2012

    Mine was also a failure and I used a candy thermometer. It's a runny mess. I tried heating it in a double boiler and beating it to salvage it - that didn't work. Any suggestions?

  • tristinlb 29 Jun, 2012

    carrieknific, you really do need a thermometer for this icing, think of it as a required ingredient. "Soft-ball stage" is the temperature at which your syrup will form a soft-ball when a spoonful is dropped into a glass of cool water. It is also important to note that when making syrup after it has reached a boil you should not stir. If you aren't interested in making a syrup but still having a soft buttery frosting try making Martha's Swiss Meringue Buttercream instead. It's just as delicious.

  • carrieknific 2 Jul, 2011

    Regarding Step 1, I had no idea what "soft-ball stage" meant, and I do not have a candy themometer. I cooked the sugar and the water for what I thought was appropriate -- I did not want the sugar to burn-- and low and behold, my frosting was a failure. Did I boil it too long? Not enough? Did I take too long, causing my stiffened egg whites to droop? It was all too watery. Luckily, I had time to refrigerate the frosting overnight, so I was manageable but not the pretty, light fluffy I wante

  • daelansfancy 18 Apr, 2011

    cupcakechick1964 if you keep beating the curdled mess will come back together into this amazing smooth silky Italian Buttercream. It doesn't always "break" but in my experience the best results is when it does!

  • cupcakechick1964 20 Mar, 2011

    I tried to make this and it was a complete failure! I followed the recipe but once the butter was added, it lost its volume and ended up a runny mess! Any Ideas as to what could have gone wrong?

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