Italian Buttercream

by Michaell
4 Cups
20 min

I admit, this isn't a beginner's recipe, but it's the recipe I've been dreaming of ever since my wedding cake baker told me I had misjudged buttercreams as heavy and dense. I prefer my buttercreams pillowy, velvety, and just lightly sweetened—which is what this is. It’s the old principle where you can always add more but you can’t make it less. So in my opinion, less sweet is better with desserts so there’s no danger or overload. Especially when desserts typically have many elements and layers where sweet can become too sweet very quickly, like this Petit Four recipe with fondant.

This Sunday brunch or birthday perfect buttercream tastes almost like whipped cream even though there is no cream in the recipe (unless you count the butter).

Can you believe how light and creamy this buttercream looks?

Recipe details
  • 4  Cups
  • Prep time: 10 Minutes Cook time: 10 Minutes Total time: 20 min
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Velvety Italian Buttercream
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 5 egg whites, make sure there are no yolks in the whites, otherwise this will affect the color of your frosting and the stiffness of the meringue
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, cubed - can be room temperature or refrigerated, but make sure you read the instruction section before adding the butter.
Step 1: Sauce pan on stovetop
In a saucepan mix the sugar and water and heat until it reads 235 degrees on a candy thermometer. It should get to the soft-ball stage.
Step 2: Bowl on counter
In a bowl, whisk the egg whites until there are soft peaks. Make sure there is no yolk for a perfect meringue. Add the tartar and continue to whisk until stiff peaks.
Once the saucepan reaches 235 degrees add the salt and vanilla. Then pour the sugar syrup, while the mixer is running, in a steady stream into the stiff egg whites. This will ensure the egg whites cook evenly. The batter should look fluffy with no clumps.
Cool the egg mixture to about 80 degrees. (This may take a minute, so be patient)
Slice the butter into cubes.
Add the butter to the mixture very slowly. Use your candy thermometer to make sure the temperature doesn't drop below 75-76 degrees. (Reference Tips section for temperature issues)
Beat until smooth and glossy; about 5 minutes, while continuing to watch the temperature.
  • Have an ice bath and a blow dryer on standby in case it curdles or gets soupy. This is correctable if the temperature is relatively close to 75-80 degrees. Another solution is to use a temperature controlled bowl, such as the Temp controlled Kitchen Aid Bowl.
  • If you're piping this frosting or keeping your dessert out of the fridge for an extended period of time, add any of the following to stiffen up the frosting (after reading the recipe): After completing the above recipe, add 4-8 oz. of cream cheese and beat into the frosting for a cream cheese frosting! Option 2 - During Step 2, add an extra 1/2 cup of sugar to your sugar syrup
  • I have extra tips on my blog if you need extra pointers!
Want more details about this and other recipes? Check out more here!
  • Denise Dunco Denise Dunco on Nov 21, 2020

    I haven’t tried this recipe, but the steps of adding the cream of tarter are not clear. It has add the tarter to the sugar and water recipe and then add to the egg whites. Clarification is needed.

    • See 6 previous
    • Michaell Michaell on Nov 22, 2020

      Hi Denise :) The tarter goes in the egg whites. It is used as a thickener/stabilizer. You can also thicken it up even more for piping a cake by using the 2nd tip listed (add cream cheese after mixing the frosting, OR add an extra 1/2 cup of sugar to the simple syrup. See my website for more details. Good luck!

  • LorriLJ LorriLJ on Nov 21, 2020

    This sounds delicious!! I can't wait to make this. But I need a few more instructions . Please explain why the mixture could curdle? I understand adding the butter too quickly while the mixture is hot could make it soupy and require an ice bath.

    Also, please provide more details about adding the cream cheese. Is this instead of something or on top of everything? And can the extra sugar be added as well as the cream cheese?


    • See 4 previous
    • LorriLJ LorriLJ on Nov 22, 2020

      Thank you! It all makes sense now