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Italian Meringue Buttercream

Use this to frost the Baby Block Cake, or your favorite layer cake.

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

Source: Martha Stewart Living, January 2004


  • 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


  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 (14)

  • 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

  • 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!

  • xabell 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!

  • Nazar 20 Mar, 2014

    Have made it! What a great recipe and great directions. It turned out perfect first time! Thanks for sharing.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • emilyjean1037 10 Feb, 2013

    I would not refrigerate this if possible!! In my experience this icing has a tendency to "sweat" after refrigeration as it comes to room temp. It is perfectly fine to leave it at room temperature. Because of the amount to butter in this recipe it gets very hard when refrigerated, so definitely would not make ahead and refrigerate before decorating either. Good luck!

  • Roses Cakes 24 Jan, 2013

    I have found that all I need to keep this recipe from melting in the heat (I live in Florida) is to replace part of the butter with shortening. For this recipe I used 1/4 cup of shortening and 1 3/4 cups butter to stabilize this delicious recipe while keeping the wonderfully light texture and great flavor. This is one of my favorite recipes.

  • kikiandkyle 21 Dec, 2012

    Since the recipe calls for unsalted butter, that's what you should use. And it should go without saying that when making a sweet buttercream, you'd use unsalted butter (as you should in all baking). I can't understand what would lead anyone to use salted butter in this recipe.

  • Mighty Mel 8 Sep, 2012

    I had a lovely delicious meringue and then I added the butter and it tasted like... butter. Maybe if you used an unsalted butter you'd get away from that, but it was still a really greasy icing. Not a fan.

  • Mighty Mel 8 Sep, 2012

    I had a lovely delicious meringue and then I added the butter and it tasted like... butter. Maybe if you used an unsalted butter you'd get away from that, but it was still a really greasy icing. Not a fan.

  • madmomx2 6 Jun, 2011

    I made a variation of this recipe. The taste is amazing! This is a frosting that is not too sweet and holds its shape fairly well. I have started using this recipe and freezing it and putting it in the middle of cupcakes and it is divine! The only drawback is that you have to keep the cupcakes or cake refrigerated until ready to eat otherwise it tends to melt fairly quickly due to the amount of butter in it.

  • keelydharris 22 Nov, 2010

    2 questions: How well does this icing hold it's shape for decorating cupcakes? and does it need constant refrigeration? I have to make approx 130 cupcakes for a wedding in January and time restrictions simply won't permit me to deocrate them the day of the wedding. Will I need to keep this refrigerated?

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