Please note: this recipe has since been updated. You can find the new and improved recipe here!
I can’t believe I’m already typing out the 5ht post of my ‘Battle of the Buttercream’ series! Sure, it’s been about 5 days since I took the taste test and I posted my 4th post yesterday so I guess it makes sense, but still! I’ve been so caught up in developing these recipes, posts and of course the taste test itself, that I haven’t for a minute thought about what I’m going to post about next Friday!
Guess I’m just going to have to worry about that some other time though, cause right now it’s time to tell you a thing or two about Italian Buttercream! Such as these interesting little facts:
Fat content: 53%
Sugar content: 31%
Texture: velvety smooth
Level of difficulty: normal to hard
Like the French Buttercream, I think this buttercream can seem a little intimidating to unexperienced bakers, because it is made by pouring hot sugar syrup into egg whites while mixing continuously. However, if you’re used to making caramel, this buttercream is easy peasy and can be whipped up in under 15 minutes! Just don’t forget that you’re dealing with hot sugar! I’ve actually once made the mistake of cooking the sugar syrup in a regular pan instead of a saucepan. I think you can imagine the problems I ran into when I finally figured out that regular pans – aka: pans without the convenient large handle – are best lifted with two hands when filled with hot sugar syrup!
Luckily the Rocking Rebel was around to help me…
Anyway, take my advise and use a saucepan. Even if that means that you have to take a dirty saucepan out of the dish washer – where it was waiting patiently for the machine to fill up with dirty dishes – and wash it by hand.
Don’t be lazy like me!
Like the French Buttercream, this buttercream can easily be adapted to your own personal taste. You see, this buttercream is basically a mixture of an Italian meringue and butter. Once you have a tasty Italian meringue, you can add as much butter as you like!
When I was developing this recipe, I started by comparing different recipes for Italian buttercream and Italian meringue with each other to find out what ‘egg whites to sugar’ ratio different cooks use when making an Italian meringue. It turned out that the recipes I looked at used between 50 and 82 grams of sugar per egg white. As I told you before, I like things flavorful but not too sweet, so for my Italian meringue I decided to use the least amount of sugar possible: 50 grams of sugar per egg white.
I did the same with the butter and compared different recipes for Italian Buttercream with each other to set my ‘butter boundaries’. Apparently, most cooks use somewhere between 80 to 130 grams of butter per egg white. Like the fat content of this buttercream suggests: I put a lot of butter in. 125 grams per egg white. Why? Well, because a recipe I’ve always really loved calls for quite a large amount of butter per egg white. 136 grams to be precise. So I put a little more butter in than I would usually do…
However, you can easily cut the amount of butter down if you like!
Just start adding the butter and taste every now and then. Once you’re pleased with the flavor and texture, just don’t add any more butter… It’s all so wonderfully easy and straightforward!
My taste testers actually thought this buttercream was a little bit too buttery, although they loved its soft, creamy texture and mild, gentle sweetness. One person even noted that the flavor of this buttercream reminded him/her (it was an anonymous test) of white chocolate!
Probably because of the vanilla…
One last note on this buttercream: I don’t think it piped as well as the others. Unlike the Flour and French Buttercream it held its shape perfectly and didn’t slouch. However, due to its high fat content, it is very easy to mix too much air into this buttercream, trapping large bubbles of air into the relatively stiff frosting. These bubbles will show in your piped design…
But what did I say earlier? Taste before looks, right?
- 100g (or ½ cup) granulated sugar
- 60ml (or ¼ cup) water
- 2 egg whites
- pinch of salt
- 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 250g (or 1 cup + 5 teaspoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and the water. Heat over gentle heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, crank up the heat and clip on a sugar thermometer. Cook the syrup until it reaches 114°C/238°F. As the syrup cooks, the water will evaporate. Make sure the sugar syrup does not get any hotter than 114°C/238°F, because the chemical properties of sugar change as it heats.
- While the syrup is cooking, mix together the egg whites, salt and vanilla in a medium-sized, heatproof bowl. Once the sugar syrup reaches 114°C/238°F, immediately take it off the heat and carefully drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the beaten egg whites down the sides of the mixing bowl, mixing continuously. Don't pour the syrup directly onto the whisk attachment of the mixer, because the hot syrup may splatter. Once all of the syrup has been added, raise the mixer's speed to high and mix until the meringue has cooled to body temperature. This takes about 10 minutes.
- When the meringue is cool enough, start adding the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each tablespoon of butter is incorporated before adding the next. Once all the butter has been added, the resulting buttercream should be smooth and thick. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until needed. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week or for up to 2 months in the freezer in a freeze-proof container or bag.
- To use buttercream that has been refrigerated, allow to come to room temperature (this takes about 3 hours in a warm kitchen) or microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until it's soft. Then mix through until it's spreadable again. Thaw frozen buttercream in the fridge overnight, then allow to come to room temperature before use and, once at room temperature, mix briefly until smooth.
- Serve at room temperature. If you've assembled a cake or decorated cupcakes, allow cake or cupcakes to come to room temperature before serving (about 3-5 hours in a warm kitchen).