Italian Buttercream


Pastry chef Paola Velez makes her Italian Buttercream by starting with a thick, glossy meringue made with egg whites and sugar syrup. She then gradually incorporates softened butter, beating it until everything turns into a light and fluffy frosting. To make sure her meringue is light and airy, Velez wipes down the inside of the mixer bowl, the whisk attachment, and saucepan with a paper towel that has a splash of white vinegar on it to be sure they're extra clean. (Even a little bit of oil or butter in the bowl will prevent the egg whites from whipping up into the pillowy peaks needed to make this creamy buttercream.) The citric acid adds a touch of brightness, helping to balance the richness of the frosting.

Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
25 mins
Makes about 5 1/2 cups


  • 5 large egg whites (about 150 grams)

  • teaspoon citric acid

  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar

  • ½ cup water

  • 1 pound butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, softened 

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste) or 2 teaspoons lemon zest, for flavoring (optional)


  1. Add egg whites and citric acid to bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix on low speed while preparing sugar syrup.

  2. Add sugar and water to a medium saucepan. Stir over medium until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Boil, without stirring, brushing down sides of pot if crystals begin to form, until an instant-read thermometer registers 239°F. Remove from heat, increase stand mixer speed to medium, and immediately begin to very slowly stream all of syrup into egg whites along inside edge of bowl. Increase speed to high and beat until meringue is completely cool, about 5 minutes.

  3. With mixer on low speed, begin to add butter to meringue, 1 piece at a time, increasing mixer speed to high. Do not be alarmed if mixture does not come together at first, or if it deflates slightly. Keep mixing on high speed and it will come together. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Beat in salt. Add vanilla extract or lemon zest, if desired. Buttercream can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months. Completely defrost at room temperature. Mix again in stand mixer with whisk attachment to bring the buttercream back together before using.

    Italian Buttercream
    Photo by Huge Galdones / Food Styling by Christina Zerkis
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