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Italian meringue buttercream

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Don't fork out loads for a wedding or birthday cake! Woman's Weekly's Sue McMahon shows us how to ice beautiful cupcakes in a step-by-step recipe video. Plus see your questions answered in the comments below.

(62 ratings)
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  • Makes: Icing for 24 basic cupcakes

  • Prep time: 35 mins

  • Cooking time: 25 mins

  • Total time: 1 hr

  • Costs: Cheap as chips

  • Skill level: Easy peasy

  • Child friendly
  • Romantic
  • Make in advance

That's goodtoknow

cartoon image of chef

Top tip: Paste food colourings can be bought online from Cakecraftshop.co.uk

Ingredients

First, make your 24 basic cupcakes using this recipe
  • 300g (10oz) caster sugar
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 500g (1lb) unsalted butter, softened
  • Pinch of salt
  • Few drops of vanilla extract
  • Paste food colourings in pink, violet, yellow and orange
  • Sugar/jam/candy thermometer

Method

  1. Pour 100ml (3 fl oz) water into a saucepan and add 250g (8oz) caster sugar. Place the pan on the hob and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to the boil. Use a damp pastry brush to wash down any sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Boil the mixture rapidly, without stirring it, until it reaches 121C. Have a large bowl of cold water ready for step 3.
  2. When the syrup reaches over 100C, whisk the egg whites until stiff, preferably using a table-top mixer. Gradually whisk in the remaining caster sugar.
  3. As soon as the syrup reaches 121C, remove the pan from the heat and plunge the base of the pan into the bowl of cold water, to prevent the syrup from getting any hotter. Only leave the pan in the water for a few seconds - if it's left too long, it will be too thick to pour.
  4. With the food mixer on full speed, gradually pour in the syrup in a thin stream, taking care to pour it between the edge of the bowl and the whisk - if it's too close to the edge of the bowl, it will set there and won't get mixed in properly; if it's poured over the moving whisk, then it will splatter out of the bowl and make a mess. Continue whisking the mixture for about 8-10 mins until the bowl feels just lukewarm. If the syrup starts to become too thick to pour, return the pan to the hob very briefly, for the heat to thin is slightly.
  5. Gradually whisk in the butter. Then add the salt and vanilla extract. The meringue will collapse a little, and the mixure may look like it's curdled, but keep whisking it until it forms a smooth fluffy buttercream. Use paste colour to colour the buttercream to the desired colour.
So... now you know how to make the buttercream, watch step two and find out how to pipe and create pretty butterfly decorations

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Nutritional information per portion

  • Low
  • Med
  • High
  • Calories 376(kcal)
  • Fat 27.0g
  • Saturates 17.0g

This nutritional information is only a guide and is based on 2,000 calories per day. For more information on eating a healthy diet, please visit the Food Standards Agency website.

Guideline Daily Amount for 2,000 calories per day are: 70g fat, 20g saturated fat, 90g sugar, 6g salt.

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(62 ratings)

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Your comments

agustina

hi I have a question I want to know how many hours could be the italian meringue buttercream without refrigeration, because I have to do 200 cupcakes and I'll need to start covered it the day before. thank you

Sue McMahon

Hi Shamma Sorry but I've only just seen your message. I used paste food colourings a they are usually more concentrated than liquid food colourings so you only need to add a small amount. If you use liquid colourings then you have to make sure they are very concentrated - otherwise you'll have to use so much of them that they will alter the consistency of the icing (and they may not mix in proprely with the buttercream) Sue

Shamma

Hi I really enjoyed watch your vedio very easy very simple... that what I liked about it =D just had a question can I replace the paste food colouring by a liquid food colouring?

Trish Molla

It will curdle, that's part of the horrifying fun of making this icing. It will look AWFUL but you just keep whisking (probably 10 minutes or more) and it will magically come together to a beautiful icing.

MJ

Hi, I have tried to make this recipe three times now, and each time it's going fine, until I add the butter. It curdles after that. What could I possibly be doing wrong? I tried making the whisk speed faster, I also tried not to whisk more than a few seconds still no go. Thanks

Jenny Gibson

This recipe doesn't HAVE to be made with fresh egg whites. I make it all the time with a powdered formula called Meri-white. You just need to reconstitute enough to make up the necessary amount of egg white. It's perfect every time!

Roberta

Made the Butterfly cupcakes for daughters wedding were fantastic all in two shades of blue made matching cake. One word of advice do not put the cakes in an airtight container once you have put the butterflies on or else they will soften and flop. I made the cupcakes and froze then untill 3 days before wedding once thawed I iced them which was two days before they were beautiful on the day very fresh they were kept in a covered cake box remember not air tight if you have butterflies on were still soft and tasty on the 5 day when family polished them off.just keep in a cool room if you need a couple of days to pepare before hand dont worry about the fridge as this is air tight.

madeitwithlove

Hi Sue I want to make your Italian meringue butter cream and would like to know whether the amount shown in your recipe will coat (not fill) a 12" and an 10" cake ? The cakes are going to be iced with regal ice. Also, is it ok to add white melted chocolate to this, and is the cream ok to freeze? If the amount shown is not sufficient for my two cakes how would I go about increasing the ingredients? I would appreciate a reply to my e mail please, however, if that is not possible I will be happy to receive it here in comments. Many thanks in advance.

Katy goodtoknow Recipes

Hi Issy, it's a lighter, smoother buttercream made with egg whites so it's very good for piping and cake decorating. A regular buttercream is heavier and made from butter and icing sugar.

Katy goodtoknow Recipes

Hi Ana, you do need to use fresh egg whites in this recipe. Let us know how you get on.

Ana

Hi, I would like to know if you can make this with dry eggwhites? Thank you!!!

issy

Hi Sue. It's me again. I forgot to ask you also what is exactly an ITALIAN MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM? I am new to your blog and I am wondering what is the difference between your Italian Meringue Buttercream and other buttercream? Please email me back to my email. Thank you. issy

issy

Hi Sue. I am new to your blog and I am wondering what is the difference between your Italian Meringue Buttercream and other buttercream? Please email me back to my email. Thank you. issy

kathleen McKeown

Hi Sue, I am going to make my daughters wedding cake!! She would like a ruffle cake she as seen on you tube the girl who's doing the cake is using italian meringue and like you colours it. I would like to leave it white the colour before you put the colour in seems to be white are is it cream? I would have to do the cake a least a week before are earlier? Any advise is welcome. Kath.

ALMA

YOUR RECIPES ARE BEAUTIFUL BUT I DON'T SPEAK SPANISH VERY WELL.....DO YOU KNOW ANY FORM FOR TRADUCCION OF VIDEOS PLEASE

Lauren

Hi Sue, I'm just wondering if you only wanted to make the buttercream for 12 cakes, would you just have to half the ingredients?? As I've only got enough ingredients for 12 cakes. Thanks Lauren

Sue McMahon

Kim - I'm guessing that you may be in America? In Britian we have caster sugar which is a fine grain white sugar and is usually used in baking and granulated sugar which is coarser and generally a bit cheaper and is used to add to drinks like tea and coffee. The granulated sugar in the US is sort of in-between our 2, so it's a bit coarser than our caster but finer than our granulated. As most of the sugar in this recipe is being dissolved in the syrup it doesn't matter which type you use. Pat - I always try to make cupcakes and decorate them on the day that they are going to be eaten as I like them to be as fresh as possible. But I do realise that it's not always practical to do this, especially if you're making a lot of them, so you can make them the day before, but make sure they are kept in a cool place overnight. They don't have to be refrigerated, but do need to be kept cool (which may be difficult in Italy - so you may have to put them in the fridge - but let them warm up slightly before eating them otherwise the buttercream will be very solid). If you're sprinkling them with glitter then do make sure it's an "Edible" glitter, as some glitters which are sold for cake decorating are "non toxic" but not actually edible. The "non toxic" ones should only be used on decorations which are going to be taken off the cake before it's eaten.

Pat

Your recipe is the one I am using to make a cupcake wedding cake in Italy,Could I make it the day before or does it have to be made that morning? Also I intend to sprinkle the frosting with edible glitter, will this be OK?

Kim

Is Caster sugar regular granulated sugar or is this a special type of sugar?

Sue McMahon

Hi Jacqueline. This is not as accurate as using a thermometer, but you could dip a spoon in the boiling syrup, scoop up a little and immediately plunge it back into cold water. When the syrup comes together to form a ball in the spoon, then it's ready - but don't stir the syrup as it boils or it will crystallise. Hope that helps.

Lynne

I love this recipe, but can you please tell me where I can buy alcohol=based rose water? I can't find it anywhere! Would it be OK to use non-alcohol-based? Thank you.

Jacqueline

If i dont have a candy thermometer, wat shud i do? Brunei

Sue McMahon

Wow - so many questions!!!! Sorry to have taken so long to reply, but I've only just seen them. Food Colourings: I recommend using paste colours as they are more concentrated than liquid colourings - if you use liquid colours they may alter the consistency of the icing "Shelf" life: I prefer to make the buttercream just before I use it so that it's soft for piping, but it will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge before using, but allow it to come back to room temperature and re-whisk it before using it so it's nice and soft to pipe. Keeping qualities of finished cakes: If it's very hot, the cakes may be kept in the fridge, but let them come back to room temperature before eating them or the icing may taste greasy. I think the cakes are best eaten on the day that they are made (and for a wedding I'd make them the morning of the wedding) - but if necessary they can be made in advance and kept in a cool place - they don't need to be refrigerated. I think that they are best eaten fairly quickly - but I know other people still think they are fine after 3-4 days, and it's still safe to eat them after this length of time, but I think the cakes dry out a bit. Butterflies: Usually I'd say not to put flowerpaste decorations in the fridge in case the decorations absorb moisture and go soft. However, I did test these cakes and put some in a plate in the fridge and some in a tupperware box in the fridge - both ways, the cakes still looked fine after 2 weeks and the butterflies were still in perfect condition!!!! I wouldn't recommend eating the cakes after this length of time, but I wanted to see how long it took the butterflies to go soft - but they didn't go soft! Using on larger cakes: I have used this icing as both a filling and topping for larger cakes, and it works fine. If I'm covering a cake with sugarpaste (rolled fondant), then I fill the cake as usual with the buttercream and just smear over a thin layer over the top and sides of the cake to stick the sugarpaste to the cake. Freezing the buttercream: If you have any buttercream left, it may be frozen for up to 1 month, but allow it to come to room temperature and re-beat it before using it Adding the butter: Sometimes when you add the butter to the whisked meringue the mixture collapses and looks like it's curdled - keep whisking it and it will all bind back together. However, make sure the bowl doesn't feel hot when you add the butter - it should only be slightly warm. I find it easier to use a table-top mixer (I use a Kitchen Aid with the whisk attachment), as it does take quite a while to whisk the meringue until it's cool (often 5-10 mins) and then when you add the butter it can take over 5 mins.

cherie

Hi I am going to attempt the cupcakes and buttercream. How far in advance can the buttercream be made and is it stored in the fridge. Thanks

Ana

Hi Sue, I have a problem, today I tried to make this recipe twice, and in both cases when I added the butter everithing turn sour. Can you explain me why? Thanks I love your work.

Elny

Hi Sue McMahon, Sorry I already sent the email before.. But I think It's better use this email than yahoo.. sometimes your reply will go to bulk.. Sorry.. Pls reply my email to this email add.. thanks ======= Hi.. Thanks for your "Italian Meringue Buttercream"..It's so good and clear.. I have some questions about it... 1. Where should I keep the cupcakes which have been iced with Italian Meringue Buttercream? Should I keep it in the fridge? If I need to keep it in the fridge will the butterfly become soft again? 2. If I made a lot for the party, Can I keep it outside? for how long? 3. is it easy to melt? how about if the party in the hot weather? What should I do?? 4. Can I use this Italian Meringue buttercream to decorate a big cake and cover it with fondant? 5. Where should I keep the unused Italian meringue buttercream? For How long? should I beat it again before use? Thanks in advance for your time and answers.. blessings, ELny

ELny

Hi Sue McMahon.. Thanks for your "Italian Meringue Buttercream"..It's so good and clear.. I have some question about it... 1. Where should I keep the cupcakes which have been iced with Italian Meringue Buttercream? Should I keep it in the fridge? If I need to keep it in the fridge will the butterfly become soft again? 2. If I made a lot for the party, Can I keep it outside? for how long? 3. is it easy to melt? how about if the party in the hot weather? What should I do?? 4. Can I use this Italian Meringue buttercream to decorate a big cake and cover it with fondant? 5. Where should I keep the unused Italian meringue buttercream? For How long? should I beat it again before use? Thanks in advance for your time and answers.. blessings, ELny

Nicola

Fantastic Icing technique. Please could you tell me the shelf life of the icing, in the fridge and also out of the fridge on the decorated cupcakes. Does the icing 'frost' once its piped? Many Thanks

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