How to Make Italian Meringue Buttercream
This is the buttercream that sort of made my writing career. My first book, The Wedding Cake Book, was all about wedding cakes for the avid home baker and Italian Meringue Buttercream was my choice of frosting. You can create an ultra-smooth surface for piping or you can create whorls and swirls. It is rich and buttery, but not as sweet as confectioners’ based frostings and doesn’t have any grit as those American style frostings can have.
More Complex & More Delectable
It is more complicated to make. But I have taught thousands of people to make this buttercream successfully – and I can teach you, too! The directions are lengthy, but they are meant to give you guidance at every step of the way. Make this when you want a sophisticated buttercream for almost any cake (or cupcake) you can imagine: white, yellow or chocolate.
Check out my video here, from our sister site, Bakepedia:
It just so happens to be low FODMAP – in proper serving sizes. This is my classic, tried and true recipe. I do suggest that you make this with a stand mixer.
A note on yield. This recipe begins with a meringue, which will be voluminous and light and fluffy. When you begin to add the butter the mixture will lose some volume and it is impossible to be exact as to how much, so the final yield is approximate. We hope you aren’t eating buttercream by the spoonful and assume that you will be applying it to a cake. This means that you have to assess whatever cake that you pair it with for a total FODMAP load.
To add another wrinkle to the equation, you probably won’t always use this entire batch of buttercream; I have made sure you have plenty, but do not feel as though you have to use it all. I mention all of this as ultimately your FODMAP intake it will largely be up to you to keep track of.
Two Batch Sizes
The recipe calls for a 6 egg white batch. I also provide for you an 8 egg white batch, for larger cake projects and caked with multiple tiers. I developed the 8 egg white batch many years ago to maximize the size of a 5-quart stand mixer. Some recipes might require this larger 8 egg white batch, such as our spectacular holiday extravaganza, our Souche de Noël.
Refer to the Tips after the recipe for the proper amounts for an 8 egg white batch. The technique and visual cues are the same.
You CAN make this buttercream ahead, in which case it will be rock hard and it takes some coaxing to get it silk smooth again. It is ALL about temperature manipulation. Watch my video on “Reconstituting Italian Meringue Buttercream” for more details.
You can also read my article, here.
Low FODMAP Italian Meringue Buttercream
Turn to this Low FODMAP Italian Meringue Buttercream when you want a supremely silky smooth, elegant buttercream.
Low FODMAP Serving Size Info: Makes about 5 cups (1.2 L); serving size 1/2 cup (120 ml); this is plenty to frost a two-layer 8-inch (20 cm) cake, two-layer 9-inch (23 cm) cake, 24 cupcakes or a 13 by 9-inch cake (33 cm by 23 cm)
- 1 1/4 cups (248 g) sugar, divided into 1 cup (198 g) and 1/4 cup (50 g)
- 1/3 cup (75 ml) water
- 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 1/4 cups (700 g/4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft, cut into pieces
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Place 1 cup (198 g) of sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir to wet sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, swirling pan occasionally. Dip pastry brush in cold water and wash down sugar crystals from the sides of the pot once or twice. Allow sugar mixture to simmer gently as you proceed with egg whites.
Meanwhile, place egg whites in a clean, grease-free mixing bowl and whip until frothy on low speed using the wire-whip attachment of a standing mixer. Add cream of tartar and turn speed to medium-high. When soft peaks form, add 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar gradually. Continue whipping until stiff, glossy peaks form.
Bring the sugar/water mixture to a rapid boil and cook until it reaches 248˚ to 250˚ F/120°C to 121°C. As syrup cooks, check visual cues to assess doneness if you do not have a thermometer: it starts out with a thin consistency and many small bubbles covering the entire surface. As the water evaporates, the mixture will become visibly thicker. Bubbles become larger and pop open more slowly. At this point the syrup definitely looks thickened, but it has not begun to color; this is the firm ball stage - if you drop a bit of the syrup into a glass of cold water it will form into a ball. When you squeeze the ball between your fingertips, it will feel firm and the syrup is ready.
With the mixer running, pour syrup in a thin, steady stream directly over the meringue. Do not pour any on the whip or the sides of the bowl. Whip meringue until cool to the touch; this could take several minutes. With the mixer running, add butter a couple tablespoons at a time. Keep beating until the buttercream is completely smooth and spreadable, somewhere in texture between peanut butter and mayonnaise. Beat in 1 tablespoon vanilla. The buttercream is ready to use and I highly suggest using right away.
You can refrigerate up to 1 week in an airtight container or freeze up to 1 month. If frozen, defrost in the refrigerator overnight and bring to warm room temperature before re-beating. Always re-beat before using. This is not as straightforward as it might seem. I have presented you with an entire “recipe” unto itself to describe what I call “reconstituting” Italian Meringue Buttercream.
- Buttercream Variation for Espresso Buttercream: dissolve 1/4 cup (28 g) of instant espresso powder in 2 tablespoons of hot water and beat into recipe along with vanilla extract.
- For a Larger 8 Egg White Batch: Use the following amounts of ingredients: 1 1/4 cups (248 g) sugar to combine with 1/2 cup (120 ml) water; 8 egg whites, 1 teaspoon cream of tart and 1/3 cup (65 g) sugar added to meringue; and 1 1/2 pounds (678 g/6 sticks) unsalted butter. Proceed as directed in recipe.
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