Italian meringue buttercream is more complex to make, but it is more stable. It is the best. one to have in your repertoire. Italian meringue buttercream is probably the one most used among high end pastry chefs because it is more stable. Both Swiss meringue and Italian meringue taste good, so tastewise I have no preference. Pastry schools will teach them all and insist you master them all. But If you spend $250 for a one day cake class at say CIA, I guarantee they will teach Italian.
You can reduce the sugar up/down to your taste.
The quality of the butter is important. If you are in the US, I suggest Plugra. LandOLakes will work in a pinch. You cannot go cheap with the butter. The best price for Plugra is Walmart.
I use baker’s percentages for everything. In writing this out, I assumed you have not made a meringue before. So I explained the mise en place as well. Mise en place is very important to successful baking in general, but when working with 240°F sugar syrup, everything needs to be in place and ready to go.
Here’s my Italian. I‘ll write out the Swiss and post it later
Italian Meringue Buttercream
- Egg whites 1.00 (same as 100%)
- Sugar 2.50* (same as 250%)
- Butter 3.00 (same as 300%)
- Vanilla paste 0.10 (same as 10%)
- Cream of tartar 0.01 (same as 1%)
- Salt 0.005 (same as 0.5%)
- 20% sugar is beaten into egg whites
- Water is 50% of weight of sugar being boiled, but the amount of water does not matter as it boils off. What matters is the temperature of the sugar syrup. You can use any amount of water. I just picked 50% because it was easy to remember.
- Wash and dry mixing bowl thoroughly to ensure it is clean of and oil/fat residue as oil/fat will interfere with the egg whites from developing
- Stand Mixer
- Heatproof spatula
- Pastry brush
- Candy or instant read thermometer
- Prep bowls
- Food scale
- 200g egg whites, 70°F - 72°F
- 500g cane sugar, set aside 100g for egg whites
- 200ml water
- 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
- Scant 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
- 20g vanilla paste
- 600g unsalted butter, 83% butterfat, 68°F, 2” cubes
- 150g semi-sweet chocolate or milk chocolate, melted cooled to 85°F
Mise en place - French term, “putting in place”
- Attach whisk to mixer; set paddle attachment next to mixer
- Set aside 100g cane sugar; place reminder 400g cane sugar in heavy saucepan
- Add 200ml water to 400g cane sugar in saucepan, set aside
- Place egg whites in mixer bowl
- Place 3/4 tsp cream of tartar in prep bowl, place next to mixer
- Place 1/8 tsp fine sea salt in prep bowl, place next to mixer
- Place 20g vanilla paste in prep bowl, place next to mixer
- Cube 600g unsalted butter, place in prep bowl, place next to mixer
Dip pastry brush in water and brush around the sides of saucepan and let water drip down the sides of pan. Repeat several times. This will dissolve any sugar crystals adhering to the sides of the pan. It you do not have a pastry brush, fill a small teaspoon with water, press the tip of the spoon against the inside of the pan, and slowly pour a tiny amount of water all around the inside wall of the pan to rinse it. If any undissolved sugar crystals remain after the sugar syrup is made, it will cause the all the sugar syrup to recrystallize. This will happen no matter what you are making, meringue, caramel, toffee, fudge, etc. The result of recrystallized sugar is a grainy texture. So washing down the sides of the pan is important.
Attach candy thermometer to inside of pan (if using)
Set saucepan on medium high heat. Do not stir sugar mixture.
On medium low beat the egg whites for about 45 seconds until just still clear, but bubbly.
Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites.
On medium low beat the egg whites for about 1 minute until the egg whites are white and foamy (see photo)
With the mixer running gradually pour in the cane sugar. It is important the sugar is pour in gradually and not added too soon. If the sugar is added too early, it interferes with the protein denaturation. If added too late, it draws out too much water from the foam, causing the meringue to be dry. If the sugar is just dumped in all at once, it will not be properly dispersed in the foam, thus cannot provide structure. So when and how it is added is important.
When the sugar is added, increase the mixer speed to medium high. Continue whipping your egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
Add the salt. Adding the salt in the beginning can interfere with the volume of the egg whites. So always add salt after the meringue is whipped.
Your meringue should reach stiff peaks at the same time that your sugar syrup reaches 240˚F. If your egg whites are whipping too fast, reduce the mixer speed to medium low. You can also adjust the heat on the sugar syrup to high.
When the sugar syrup reaches 240°F, but no more than 250°F, remove it from the heat.
Turn your mixer up to LOW and SLOWLY pour the sugar syrup as close to the side of the bowl as possible. It’s okay even to pour it right on on inside of the bowl until you get the comfortable with it.
You can also transfer the sugar syrup to a heat proof measuring cup with handle and spout if you feel more comfortable handling the hot syrup that way.
Be very careful not to pour the syrup on the whisk as it will cause it to splatter!!
After all the sugar syrup has been added, increase the mixer speed to high.
Continue beating the meringue until the it has cooled to below 80°F.
Before you begin adding the butter, feel the bottom of the bowl. It should feel barely warm to the touch.
Change to the paddle attachment
With mixer on lowest speed, smash a butter cube and add butter one piece at a time, allowing each piece to incorporate into the meringue before adding another piece
The meringue will deflate into a soupy hot mess when you begin to add the butter. This is perfectly normal.
After all the butter has been added, continue to beat on low until buttercream forms. This may take up to 10 minutes, maybe longer. Just let it be, it will come together.
Add the vanilla, or flavoring of your choice.
Melt 150g chocolate; cool to 85°F or slightly below. Fold in with a spatula.
For flowers, it is best to chill meringue thoroughly, then re- whip it. Portion out the amount you want to use for flowers and chill it. Cold it will be hard because it is butter. Let is sit out for about 10 minutes. The break it up in big chunks using a fork. Then re-whip it.
To color buttercream, used gel or powdered food coloring.
To whiten buttercream, use Sugarflair brand grape violet to counter yellow color from butter. It has to be that specific brand and color: Sugarflair grape violet. Trust me, we have all tried other brands and other shades of purple. Just does not work. Sugarflair is an Australian brand, so you have to order it online. See video link for instructions.