cupcakes with piped Italian buttercream and lime zest
Clouds of fluffy white Italian buttercream fancy up these cupcakes.

How to Make Italian Buttercream

Some people find making this type of frosting intimidating, but it is just a matter of timing and being careful with hot sugar syrup. I do recommend that you make Italian buttercream with a stand mixer and that you get an instant read thermometer so you can check the temp of your sugar syrup. Once you have those items, here’s how it goes:
  • Heat sugar and water together and cook to 240-244F.
  • At the same time, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until they reach medium peaks.
  • Once the sugar has reached the right temperature, turn your mixer up to high and pour the syrup down the inside of the mixer bowl in a steady stream.
  • Whip until room temperature.
  • Add butter, a tablespoon or so at a time, and whip in before adding more.
  • Flavor as desired.
This might more correctly be called Italian Meringue Buttercream, because it is basically a mixture of Italian meringue and softened butter. There are no yolks in an Italian buttercream. The plus is it is lighter. The minus (if it is one) is that the butter flavor stands out even more. If you’d like a slightly less technically exact recipe for a buttercream that is just as silky and smooth as Italian, give my Swiss mint buttercream a try, and flavor it however you like! This frosting can be flavored just like the French buttercream.

Italian Buttercream

Jennifer Field
Rich, smooth, so very spreadable, you will love the clean flavor of Italian Buttercream.
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Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Cuisine Italian
Servings 12 servings
Calories 246 kcal


  • 8 oz . sugar
  • 2 oz . water
  • 4 oz . egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 10 oz . butter
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • optional: liqueur of your choice--just a splash or two; you don't want your buttercream to be too loose.


  • Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid and cook the sugar to 244 degrees, F.
  • While your syrup is boiling, whip the whites and salt on medium speed of your stand mixer to soft peaks. This is a timing issue, so watch them carefully. If you overbeat your whites before your syrup reaches temperature, they'll be grainy and dumb. Adjust the speed of the mixer up or down and try and get your whites to the perfect consistency at the same time your sugar reaches 244F.
  • When the syrup is ready, with mixer on medium low, pour syrup in a thin stream down the inside of the mixing bowl. This will give the syrup a chance to cool off a bit as well as keeping the syrup from getting spun all over the sides of the mixer by the whisk attachment.
  • Turn mixer to high and whip until whites are completely cool and hold firm peaks.
  • Add the softened butter, a bit at a time making sure one addition is blended in before adding the next.
  • Beat in vanilla or flavoring of your choice.

Did You Make Any Changes?


For chocolate Italian buttercream, whisk in 6 oz. melted and cooled semisweet or bittersweet chocolate after all the butter is incorporated.
You can also add unsweetened fruit puree to change up the flavor and color. Consider flavoring with citrus zest, ground spices like cinnamon or cardamom, or with interesting extracts like maple or coffee.


Calories: 246kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 1gFat: 19.2gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 50mgSodium: 157mgSugar: 19g
Keyword buttercream, Italian buttercream
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  1. Hi Jenni! I still don’t have a scale and I was wondering if you could give me an idea of how many egg whites this is. Sounds like…3? I actually make something probably not too dissimilar when I make my cream cheese mousse frosting. Cream cheese beaten with a little powdered sugar. Heavy cream whipped with a small amount of powdered sugar. Then after folding that together, fold in Italian Meringue. I’ve done it without the meringue added and it’s actually still a great frosting. (In fact, it’s the only way I’ve ever gotten a cream cheese frosting to work for piping.) But I don’t remember if I’ve ever tried it with just the cream and meringue. I assume it would be even lighter than Italian Buttercream, which I also haven’t tried yet. Anyway, thanks for your time!

    P.S. I remember an episode of either America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Country that called this Swiss Buttercream. 🙂

    1. Swiss is similar, but no cigar, ATK! lol Swiss is heated/whisked over a water bath until all sugar has dissolved and then whipped. Both make lovely meringues. Egg whites are right around 1oz each, Maranda, so that should help. Your cream cheese mousse frosting sounds amazing! Will have to give that a try. =) (and go get a scale. Best $25-$30 you will ever spend. I promise)!

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