This is my go-to buttercream recipe. It is a simple Italian Meringue Buttercream. I have used it for years, for the smallest birthday cake to the largest wedding cake. It is dependable and always works; in addition, it has a great flavor.

NET WEIGHT: ABOUT 1200g (2# 10 oz)

  • 90 grams water (1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons)
  • 300 grams sugar (1½ cups)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

  • 170 grams egg whites (About 6 large)
  • ¾ teaspoon cream of tartar (3g)
  • 50 grams sugar (1/4 cup)

  • 625 grams butter, softened (1# + 1½ sticks)
  • 15 grams vanilla extract (1 Tablespoon)

  • 1250 grams = Total 44 oz (2# 12 oz)
  1. MAKE AN ITALIAN MERINGUE: FIRST, COOK THE SUGAR SYRUP. Put water in medium saucepan and gently pour the sugar into the center, not allowing the sugar to splash up on sides of pan. Add lemon juice. Cook to soft ball stage, 240° F (115° C) on candy thermometer. Keep the sides of the pan clean by brushing with water as needed to prevent crystallization. While the syrup is cooking, whip the egg whites.
  2. WHIP THE EGG WHITES: Whip the whites on medium speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Add cream of tartar. and continue whipping until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar over a period of about 5 minutes and whip to stiff glossy peaks. The meringue should stand straight up when tested with your finger. It should be used immediately when finished; do not whip egg whites and let them sit. The idea is to have the syrup cooked to the correct temperature when the whites are ready. If necessary, you can slow down the syrup by lowering the heat
  3. POUR the hot syrup in a thin stream into the beating whites, being careful to pour between the beaters and the bowl. The egg white mixture will be extremely hot at this point; feel the bottom of the bowl.
  4. CONTINUE WHIPPING the whites, still on medium speed, until the bottom of the bowl feels cool. It must not feel warm at all or the butter will melt when added.
  5. BUTTER ADDITION: Change from whisk to paddle and add the soft butter in small chunks, with the mixer running on low speed, letting each one become incorporated until all the butter has been added. Scrape down sides of bowl and add vanilla. Beat another minute or two until the buttercream is smooth and fluffy.
  6. TO USE BUTTERCREAM: 1) If using same day or next day, leave at room temperature tightly covered. When ready to use, mix gently on low speed in Kitchen Aid with paddle, to smooth out. For longer storage, refrigerate or freeze. 2) To use cold buttercream, put desired amount in Kitchen Aid Bowl. Take out a small amount and melt it. Turn the mixer on low speed and mix with paddle, slowly pouring in melted buttercream until the buttercream smooths out. If necessary, melt more and add it. Do not mix on medium or high speed as too much air will be whipped into the buttercream causing air bubbles that will be hard to smooth out when frosting a cake. 3) Another way to soften Buttercream, if it has been refrigerated, is to leave it out of the refrigerator overnight. 4) To work with buttercream, it must be silky smooth and free of lumps and air pockets. The ideal temperature for buttercream when frosting a cake is 72 - 74° F (22 - 23° C); for piping, have it a a little cooler, about 68 - 70° (20 - 21° C).
Recipe Ancestry Notes:
Adapted from Morand Dare's recipe via Lesley Iaccobacci, Pastry Chef at Wheatleigh: June 1995.