The only cake decorating frosting I need: A silky, foolproof Italian Meringue Buttercream

Anna's Italian Meringue Buttercream

  • Servings: enough for three 9' cake layers
  • Difficulty: medium to expert (only at first!)
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This is my adaptation of Dede Wilson’s masterful recipe, which includes an all-important video which will very much demystify the process if the following steps are intimidating. However, just try it! It will go much smoother and more deliciously than you think. Trust me.

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  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2¼ cups (4½ sticks) unsalted butter, just below room temperature
  1. Place 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup of water. Boil over medium-high heat, swirling pan occasionally. Allow to simmer gently, turning down heat if necessary to keep at a steady simmer uncovered.
  2. While your sugar is boiling, whip egg whites at low speed in a spotlessly clean mixing bowl until frothy in a standing mixer. Add cream of tartar, increasing to medium-high. Once the meringue forms soft peaks, gently add ¼ cup sugar while mixer is running. Continue whipping until the meringue forms stiff, glossy peaks.
  3. Increase the sugar and water mixture to bring to a rapid boil until it reaches the following stage visually: at the beginning, the mixture will form a thin consistency with fine bubbles. Gradually, the mixture will become visibly thicker, and syrupy, with large bubbles that slowly burst in the mixture, with just a faint, very light caramel color forming.
  4. Run the mixer on medium speed with the egg white meringue, while pouring the light syrup in a thin stream directly onto the meringue. Avoid pouring onto the sides or the whip attachment of the mixer.
  5. Allow the mixture to whip on medium high or high, to cool to room temperature. This will take at least 10 minutes, so go fold laundry, write a poem, or update various social media with how amazing of a job you’re doing so far! 🙂
  6. Only once the meringue is cool to the touch, add the butter two tablespoons at a time. Beat thoroughly between additions, until all the butter is added. Classically, the texture should be a rich, fluffy, smooth, luscious cream.


  • Now any flavor may be folded in, as long as it is room temperature: 1 tbsp instant espresso, 1 tbsp almond/vanilla/mint extract, 2 bars (4-6 oz.) melted and cooled white or dark chocolate, 1/2 cup raspberry jam, 1/2 cup cream cheese, 1/3 cup cooled caramel, etc.
  • Although this recipe can seem complicated, once you become comfortable with the variation of temperature and texture it will be simple. If the meringue is too warm, it will be soupy and loose. Give it a few minutes to cool down in the fridge or freezer and re-whisk. Vice versa; if the mixture is lumpy and tight, allow it to warm up for a few minutes before re-whisking. Don’t be afraid to use a hot water bath briefly or the freezer for a few minutes to sway the temperature back in the right direction. I believe in you!
  • This may be made ahead of time and refrigerated for one week or frozen up to one month, however it must be brought to room temperature until re-beating to be ready to use.


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