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Italian meringue buttercream


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.

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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


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


  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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