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Italian Meringue Buttercream

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Use this recipe to frost your favorite layer cake.

  • Yield: Makes 4 1/2 cups
Italian Meringue Buttercream

Photography: Johnny Miller

Source: Martha Stewart Living, January 2004

Ingredients

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

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft-ball stage).

  2. Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium-high speed until stiff but not dry; do not overbeat.

  3. With mixer running, add syrup to whites in a stream, beating on high speed until no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add butter bit by bit, beating until spreadable, 3 to 5 minutes; beat in vanilla. If icing curdles, keep beating until smooth.

Reviews Add a comment

  • littleliz621
    2 JUL, 2017
    I've made buttercream before but this has been the only one i liked 😊 it tastes awesome and the texture is great
    Reply
  • ALR3632246DW
    16 MAY, 2017
    I've made this recipe several times, and it has turned out perfectly every time. It is luscious, so creamy, and not overly sweet. This is so much better than standard buttercream which can form a crust, and can be too sweet. I am perplexed by other reviewers who found fault with the directions; they seemed straightforward. The only problem is that I have to rely on testing the sugar as it forms the soft ball, because it reaches that stage long before my candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees. I have added lemon juice and zest to make an amazing lemon frosting, and raspberry reduction to make a beautiful raspberry frosting. This frosting can be flavored a number of ways. This is a generous recipe that easily frosts a 3 layer 9 inch cake. Everyone raves over this frosting. It's a winner!
    Reply
  • keenansandy
    9 AUG, 2016
    I made this recipe and loved it!!! The only thing is that my cakes are filled with fillings that need to be refrigerated and when this icing is refrigerated it gets so hard like butter.. Any suggestions??
    Reply
  • OhMyGoshGanache
    28 MAR, 2015
    This is my go-to buttercream that I also add different flavors to (white chocolate, coconut extract, strawberries, etc). I usually find that I need about 3/4 Lb of butter instead of the whole pound. I usually add a dash of salt as well. I find this is an easier method of making buttercream than swiss meringue. Anyway, thanks marthastewart.com.
    Reply
  • TheOriginalButtercup
    30 OCT, 2014
    I followed this recipe exactly as written and had zero problems. My niece, a pastry chef, directed me to this recipe (she informed me that Martha's recipes are 'tight'). The only change I made, upon her suggestion, was to use a vanilla bean in lieu of vanilla extract. My husband - not a frosting fan - did not push any aside. I will use this recipe again for sure!
    Reply
  • MS12123714
    7 MAY, 2014
    I live in a very hot climate, but this recipe does work! After adding the butter, it did not hold any shape at all. I refrigerated the IMBC (in its mixing bowl) then took it out and whipped it (using a paddle attachment) and the frosting just came together! It took a few minutes - like whipping cold cream. After frosting the cake, I kept it in the fridge. The frosting held up the whole time it was being served and stayed out of the ref!
    Reply
  • Nazar
    20 MAR, 2014
    Have made it! What a great recipe and great directions. It turned out perfect first time! Thanks for sharing.
    Reply
  • PSCKMORRIS
    8 DEC, 2013
    Your directions suck butt! Please do yourself a favor: if you are not a Bakery Chef, please find other directions or you will either drive yourself mad or never bake again. Thanks for nothing Martha Stewart
    Reply
  • taffymom
    23 OCT, 2013
    Don't refrigerate this. The butter will separate into their separate components of water, milk fats etc. That's why it weeps. It is good at room temperature for 3 days.
    Reply
  • koinonia
    19 SEP, 2013
    I'm not sure why this recipe has you bringing the sugar to only 238 degrees. I make a similar recipe from another baking cookbook, and it calls for the syrup to be boiled to 248 degrees. Seems like it would be too soft and melt-y otherwise.
    Reply