Italian Meringue Buttercream Icing is a naturally gluten-free recipe, and hands down my favorite wedding cake frosting recipe. Especially if it’s going under fondant. It’s so easy to get the fondant nice and smooth on top of this stuff.
Yes. I know you’re laughing, especially if you’ve seen my healthy no-bake cookie recipe, where I said that I was trying to cut down on – or even cut out – sugar.
But bear with me here.
This is one of the most gourmet, decadent icing recipes you’ll ever find. It’s also one of the lowest sugar, with a little protein to boot.
See? Not so bad. And if, like me, you actually believe that butter is good for you, you won’t really feel guilty about making this at all!
I think it’s worth pointing out that cake decorating is not as difficult as you may think it is, and it’s a great way to save money on parties. See those cupcakes up there? I just swirled on some icing and sprinkled them with candy scrolls. ten minutes for two dozen cupcakes. For real.
I’m not opposed to making ridiculously sugary treats for a special occasion. But it makes me really happy to be able to take these gourmet, yet (somewhat) more healthy cupcakes to a friend’s baby shower.
So here ya go. Now your kids can have a birthday party without an extreme sugar crash at the end. You’re welcome.
Italian Meringue Buttercream Icing
- 5 egg whites
- 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 lb butter, unsalted.
- 1/4 cup water
Important note: your instruments need to be completely grease free for the egg whites to whip properly! If you have any doubt about your mixing bowl/beaters, wash them with hot water and rinse with vinegar water.
- Add egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on low speed until frothy (suggestion: reserve egg yolks for use in another recipe such as homemade egg noodles)
- Turn mixer speed to medium-high, and best until soft peaks form.
- While eggs are beating, add one cup of sugar and 1/4 cup water to a small sauce pan. Heat over medium heat to 240°.
- After egg white wave formed soft peaks, add remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and best until stiff peaks form.
Now, here comes the tricky part, but honestly it’s not as hard as it sounds.
- While egg whites are beating, slowly pour sugar syrup into them in a thin stream. You can pour the syrup into a spouted pitcher if that makes you more comfortable, but you may find it just as easy to pour directly from the sauce pan as long as lift from the shoulder, rather than trying to tip the pan from your wrist… If that makes sense.
- Continue beating for a few minutes to cook the eggs through.
- Start adding the butter a tablespoon or so at a time, beating all the while.
- Make sure the butter is unsalted! I made this one time with salted butter and -wow! There’s not enough sugar in this recipe to cover up that salt.
- After you add the butter, it’s all going to break down and you’ll think you’ve ruined the icing, but just keep beating! It may take several minutes, But the icing will come together.
- If the mixture is very warm… It can take up to ten minutes or longer for the icing to “make”.
- If the mixture is too cool… You may have to crank the mixer up and beat the tar out of the icing to make it smooth. In this case, it’s been my experience that the icing tends to lose some of its volume and be a little more greasy, so I actually prefer warm to cool.
That’s all there is to it!
Now you can ice your cakes, cupcakes, and cookies.
If you want to color the icing, be sure to use oil based colorants (like these). OR, something I’ve wanted to try, but haven’t had the opportunity to, is to add water based colorings (because every grocery store carries water based food coding – oil based is harder to come by) to the sugar syrup before the butter is added. I think it would work, but like I said, I haven’t tried it – so let me know if you do and how it turns out!
If you enjoyed this recipe, you may like:
Easy Cake Decorating
Get The $20 Meal Plan Printable!
Want the printable version of this $20 plan? Sign up to get it WITH a complete shopping list, and meal prep instructions!