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How to Make Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream

Pink vanilla italian merignue buttercream spiraled on top of a vanilla cupcake

Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream is a silky-smooth frosting that can be used to decorate cakes, cupcakes, and cookies.  This frosting is not overly sweet and the vanilla flavors pairs well with almost any type of cake.  Because vanilla Italian meringue butter is thick, it’s perfect for piping decorations (like flowers) and getting smooth cake sides.  If you add vanilla paste or a vanilla bean (instead of vanilla extract), you will get elegant black flecks of vanilla throughout the buttercream as well.

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Ingredients for Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream

  • ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp (75g) egg whites
  • ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp + 2¼ tsp (33g) granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp (42g) water
  • 2 sticks (8 oz OR 227g) unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces, at room temperature 
  • 1 tsp (4g) vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)

Equipment

  • Digital scale (or dry measuring cups, liquid measuring cup, and measuring spoons)
  • Stand mixer with whisk attachment
  • Small saucepan
  • Silicone spatula
  • Candy thermometer

Making Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream

Put the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.  I would highly suggest using a stand mixer to make this recipe.  It takes a long time to mix the meringue so your arm will get very tired if using a hand mixer.   

Place the larger amount of granulated sugar (i.e., 300g) into a small saucepan, add the water, and stir with a spatula to moisten the sugar.  Continue stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Place the candy thermometer in the saucepan and do not stir the sugar mixture anymore.  Stirring at this point can lead to crystallization.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat until it reaches 230°F. 

Italian Meringue Buttercream

While letting the sugar continue to cook on the stove, turn the stand mixer to medium and gradually pour in the remaining granulated sugar.  Whip the egg whites until they form loose peaks and then turn the mixer to low speed until the sugar is ready. 

Italian Meringue Buttercream

When the sugar reaches 248°F/120C, remove the pan from the heat and set the thermometer on a heat-safe surface.  Turn the stand mixer to medium-low speed and slowly pour the sugar between the side of the bowl and the whisk.  Try very hard to avoid pouring the sugar onto the whisk because it will whip the sugar onto the side of the bowl and create hard strings of cooled sugar. 

After the sugar has been poured into the mixing bowl, increase the speed to medium-high and whisk for 15 minutes, or until the bottom of the bowl is at room temperature and the whites hold stiff peaks.  Warm egg whites will melt the butter and cause it to become the wrong texture (i.e., a soupy mess). 

Adding butter to Italian Meringue Buttercream

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, a few pieces at a time.  If it looks like the mixture is broken (i.e., if the buttercream looks curdled), increase the speed of the mixer until it returns to the correct consistency.  If the consistency of the buttercream is too loose after adding all the butter, place the buttercream in the fridge for 10-15 minutes and then whip it again. 

Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.

This recipe makes 450g/3 cups of buttercream. 

I generally multiple this recipe by 3 if I am covering a two layered 9-inch cake.  I sometimes multiply it by 4 to make sure I have enough buttercream for special decorations (e.g., piped swirls or borders like on my Confetti Cake).

Using the Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream

Pink vanilla italian merignue buttercream spiraled on top of a vanilla cupcake

Use the buttercream immediately to decorate your cake.  This buttercream is stiff so it will hold a peak and all piped details. 

If at any point the buttercream gets too warm and it starts to soften or melt, just place it in the fridge for 15-30 minutes to firm back up before continuing to use it. 

Storing Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream

The buttercream can be made and refrigerated up to 5 days before you need it.  It can also be frozen for up to a month.  Remove buttercream from the fridge a minimum of 30 minutes before using it.  You can mix it on low speed in your stand mixer with a paddle or whisk attachment to return it to the proper piping/spreading consistency. 

Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream FAQs:

Pink vanilla italian merignue buttercream spiraled on top of a vanilla cupcake

Can You Make Italian Meringue Buttercream with a Hand Mixer?

While this recipe can be made with a hand mixer, it is significantly easier with a stand mixer.  Not only will you need to mix the meringue with one hand while pouring the hot syrup into the bowl with the other hand, but you will also need to beat the meringue for a long time until it cools.  You will definitely get an arm workout if making this recipe using a hand mixer.

Which Type of Vanilla is Best?

The three most common ways to flavor vanilla buttercream include vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, and seeds from a vanilla bean. All three options will result in a fantastic tasting buttercream with a strong vanilla flavor. If you want to add coloring to your frosting (like I’ve done for this post), I would highly suggest using vanilla extract. While the brown color from the extract makes the white buttercream a very slight off-white color, it’s easy to use food coloring to achieve your desired shade. With both the vanilla bean paste and the seeds scraped from the inside of the vanilla bean, the buttercream will have small black flecks (i.e., the seeds) suspended throughout. This look provides an elegant and sophisticated buttercream appearance, but it doesn’t look nice if you add food coloring with the black specks.

Help! My Buttercream Curdled. Can I Save It?

Yes you can! Curdled buttercream can happen if it is beaten when the butter is still cold. All you need to do is heat the outside of the bowl while mixing (e.g., with a kitchen torch or a hair dryer). This will allow the butter to incorporate back into the mixture and re-emulsify. Keep warming and beating until the buttercream is silky smooth again.

Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream

Prep Time30 mins
Course: Dessert
Servings: 3 cups of buttercream (450g)

Equipment

  • Digital scale (or dry measuring cups, liquid measuring cup, and measuring spoons)
  • Stand mixer with whisk attachment
  • Small saucepan
  • Silicone spatula
  • Candy Thermometer

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp (75g) egg whites
  • ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp + 2¼ tsp (33g) granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp (42g) water
  • 2 sticks (8 oz OR 227g) unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp (4g) vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)

Instructions

Making Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream

  • Put the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. I would highly suggest using a stand mixer to make this recipe. It takes a long time to mix the meringue so your arm will get very tired if using a hand mixer.
  • Place the larger amount of granulated sugar (i.e., 300g) into a small saucepan, add the water, and stir with a spatula to moisten the sugar. Continue stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Place the candy thermometer in the saucepan and do not stir the sugar mixture anymore. Stirring at this point can lead to crystallization. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat until it reaches 230°F.
  • While letting the sugar continue to cook on the stove, turn the stand mixer to medium and gradually pour in the remaining granulated sugar. Whip the egg whites until they form loose peaks and then turn the mixer to low speed until the sugar is ready.
  • When the sugar reaches 248°F/120C, remove the pan from the heat and set the thermometer on a heat-safe surface. Turn the stand mixer to medium-low speed and slowly pour the sugar between the side of the bowl and the whisk. Try very hard to avoid pouring the sugar onto the whisk because it will whip the sugar onto the side of the bowl and create hard strings of cooled sugar.
  • After the sugar has been poured into the mixing bowl, increase the speed to medium-high and whisk for 15 minutes, or until the bottom of the bowl is at room temperature and the whites hold stiff peaks. Warm egg whites will melt the butter and cause it to become the wrong texture (i.e., a soupy mess).
  • Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, a few pieces at a time. If it looks like the mixture is broken (i.e., if the buttercream looks curdled), increase the speed of the mixer until it returns to the correct consistency. If the consistency of the buttercream is too loose after adding all the butter, place the buttercream in the fridge for 10-15 minutes and then whip it again.
  • Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.
  • This recipe makes 450g/3 cups of buttercream.
  • I generally multiple this recipe by 3 if I am covering a two layered 9-inch cake. I sometimes multiply it by 4 to make sure I have enough buttercream for special decorations (e.g., piped swirls or borders like on my Confetti Cake).

Using the Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream

  • Use the buttercream immediately to decorate your cake. This buttercream is stiff so it will hold a peak and all piped details.
  • If at any point the buttercream gets too warm and it starts to soften or melt, just place it in the fridge for 15-30 minutes to firm back up before continuing to use it.

Storing Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream

  • The buttercream can be made and refrigerated up to 5 days before you need it. It can also be frozen for up to a month. Remove buttercream from the fridge a minimum of 30 minutes before using it. You can mix it on low speed in your stand mixer with a paddle or whisk attachment to return it to the proper piping/spreading consistency.

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