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Perfect Italian Buttercream Frosting is a rich, smooth, and incredibly delicious traditional icing that is the best choice to decorate cakes and cupcakes.

This is the same kind of buttercream frosting that you’ll find on many professional wedding cakes. Its silky texture is unlike any other frosting or icing recipe that you’ll ever find, it is gorgeous when piped, and can be flavored and colored in countless ways.

Italian buttercream being piped onto black surface

Why this recipe works:

When you consider how perfectly smooth, rich, creamy, and heavenly this buttercream frosting is and how incredibly easy it is to use for decorating, it will soon be one of your favorites.

  • Italian buttercream is considered more difficult than traditional American buttercream only because you must get the hot sugar syrup to an exact temperature, but once you get the hang of this recipe it is actually super easy to make.
  • This frosting is a decorator’s dream! It is incredibly smooth and creamy. When refrigerated it gets hard because of all the butter, which makes it perfect as a crumb coat before your final layer of frosting or fondant is added.
  • Italian buttercream holds up really well at room temperature. You can use it to decorate both cakes and cupcakes.
  • If you like a frosting that is rich and buttery and not too sweet, this is your kind of recipe!

Whether you use it for a dry crumb frosting base only before adding fondant and fancy decorations, or you cover the entire cake in buttercream frosting, it truly is one of the most gorgeous things you can put on a cake.

How to make my Italian buttercream:

  1. First step is to get the sugar mixture to the soft ball stage. This is done by heating the sugar and corn syrup in a pot over the stove. You must use a good thermometer to ensure it is the correct temperature.
  2. Next you will beat the egg whites. Once they begin to get foamy but soft peaks haven’t formed, you will add the hot sugar syrup.
  3. Then you will add the softened butter, one cube at a time.
  4. Finally, you will mix in the vanilla extract. If you’re wanting to color the frosting, this is when you would add the food coloring.
process photos of how to make Italian Buttercream Frosting

Cooking tips:

  • You must get your sugar to the soft-ball stage which is 235 degrees F. I live close to sea level, so this is the temperature I go by. At high altitudes, water boils at a lower temperature. For example, at 4500 feet above sea level, water boils at 204° F. If candy is cooked until it reaches the soft-ball stage on a candy thermometer, it will have cooked too long.
  • I add a bit of corn syrup to my recipe because it adds a beautiful sheen, but this can be omitted if you want to make a pure Italian buttercream recipe.
  • I recommend mixing the egg whites while the sugar syrup heats up. Ideally you want them ready as soon as the sugar syrup hits it’s temperature.
  • When you whip your egg whites, you want them to have a lot of air and a beautiful sheen, but do not let them get to the stiff peak stage.
  • Remember to be patient. I’ve had a lot of readers who had this recipe turn out perfectly and others who couldn’t get it to work. Once you start adding the butter, it will look awful, but you just have to keep mix and just like magic, you will end up with the best buttercream frosting.
This is the Best Buttercream Frosting with a rich, smooth, and incredibly delicious traditional icing that is the best choice to decorate cakes and cupcakes.

Different types of buttercream frosting:

If you’re like me, you probably grew up making what is considered American buttercream. As far as taste goes, that is still my preference, but some consider it too sweet.

If you didn’t realize there are different kinds of buttercream frosting, here’s a quick summary:

  1. AMERICAN: Powdered sugar + softened butter + milk + vanilla
  2. SWISS MERINGUE: Egg whites + sugar whisked together over boiling water and then beaten with butter 
  3. FRENCH: Egg yolks + homemade sugar syrup + butter
  4. ITALIAN: Homemade sugar syrup + egg whites + white sugar + softened butter
chocolate cupcake with swirl of buttercream frosting on top

Since Italian Buttercream can be more difficult to make, you might be more interested in making these other super easy frosting recipes:

And what good is frosting without a delicious, moist, scratch made cupcake or cake recipe!

Italian Buttercream Frosting

Prep20 minutes
Cook20 minutes
Total40 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Perfect Italian Buttercream Frosting is a rich, smooth, and incredibly delicious traditional icing that is the best choice to decorate cakes and cupcakes.

Video

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • Add the sugar and corn syrup to a small saucepan, drizzle a few tablespoons of water over the sugar, and stir together until the sugar is all moistened. It will have a wet sand feeling about it. Cook the sugar over medium high to high heat to the softball stage of 235 F using a candy thermometer. Use a pastry brush to lightly water down the inner sides of the sauce pan to prevent crystallization. When the sugar is done, turn off the burner (if gas), or move the pan off the burner (if electric).
  • Begin to whip your egg whites with a whip attachment in a stand mixer. When the meringue begins to look opaque, but is not to any sort of ‘peak’ stage yet, slowly pour the cooked sugar syrup down the side of the mixing bowl, as the mixture is whipping on a medium speed. Allow the mixture to whip until glossy medium peaks form and the meringue is cool to the touch.
  • Turn the mixer on a low speed, and add the butter, one stick at a time. Be sure meringue is cool to the touch first so that the butter doesn't melt! Mix until the mixture comes together. Don't be scared! The mixture will separate and look terrible before it comes together again, which It will- I promise. Be patient.
  • Once the mixture is smooth and wonderful-looking, add the vanilla and whip just until combined.

Notes

Makes about 4 cups – more than enough to frost a two layer 9-inch cake
Cooking tips:
  • You must get your sugar to the soft-ball stage which is 235 degrees F. I live close to sea level, so this is the temperature I go by. At high altitudes, water boils at a lower temperature. For example, at 4500 feet above sea level, water boils at 204° F. If candy is cooked until it reaches the soft-ball stage on a candy thermometer, it will have cooked too long.
  • I add a bit of corn syrup to my recipe because it adds a beautiful sheen, but this can be omitted if you want to make a pure Italian buttercream recipe.
  • I recommend mixing the egg whites while the sugar syrup heats up. Ideally you want them ready as soon as the sugar syrup hits it’s temperature.
  • When you whip your egg whites, you want them to have a lot of air and a beautiful sheen, but do not let them get to the stiff peak stage.
  • Remember to be patient. I’ve had a lot of readers who had this recipe turn out perfectly and others who couldn’t get it to work. Once you start adding the butter, it will look awful, but you just have to keep mix and just like magic, you will end up with the best buttercream frosting.

Nutrition

Serving: 4tbsp, Calories: 369kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 19g, Cholesterol: 81mg, Sodium: 27mg, Potassium: 29mg, Sugar: 23g, Vitamin A: 945IU, Calcium: 10mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you make this? Leave me a comment below

This recipe was originally published in October 2014 and has been updated with helpful information, ingredient and process photos, as well as recipe tips. Don’t worry – the recipe hasn’t changed!

Hi! I’m Krissy.

I love to create the BEST versions of your favorite recipes. If you love to cook, love to eat, or just have a deep appreciation for good food, you’re in the right place! Stick around… I have hundreds of recipes for you to make.

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204 Comments

  1. Well, not sure where i went wrong but it never thickened up enough for frosting and obviously piping😔😭
    Any ideas on what i did wrong? Thought i followed it to the tee. The taste is amazing but not usable.

    1. Sorry for the delay in response – summer has been crazy busy! Honestly, I don’t know the answer to your question. If you are concerned, you can use pasteurized eggs or buy pasteurized egg whites. Since we have our own chickens and make our own mayo with raw egg, I don’t worry about it, but if you’re making this for other people you may want to play it super safe.

  2. 5 stars
    This is the best icing for piping that I have ever worked with. The flowers and designs stay put even in warm weather. The texture is so smooth, and not gritty like American buttercream, because it uses no powdered sugar. I am a convert!

  3. I have been wanting to try making Italian Meringue Buttercream and have been looking at many recipes. Your recipe is the first one I have seen that uses very little water in the sugar to make the sugar syrup. Is there any danger of the sugar toasting or burning? Does it need to be stirred while reaching the temp of 235F? I am just trying to gain all the information I can before I attempt this type of buttercream? Thank you.

  4. Hello! I would love to try this recipe seeing as American buttercream is always so sweet for me! I live in Texas, and I’m not sure what I should cook the candy at. I’m also worried it will taste very buttery. Maybe you might have other suggestions on frosting that I should use. Hope you can respond shortly!

    1. I think the temperature in the recipe will work for Texas. It does have a very buttery taste, but it is light enough to not weigh anything down if that makes sense. You can definitely try this!

        1. Sorry for the delay in response. It will last several days in the refrigerator but it will get rock hard and it will need to come to room temperature before you can do anything with it.