This honey sweetened vanilla Italian meringue buttercream is thick, creamy, and perfect for topping cakes, cupcakes, or cookies! The frosting recipe is SCD, gluten free, grain free, soy free, refined sugar free, and low lactose.
I don't know about you, but I really love having a variety of frosting choices to top my cakes and cupcakes.
Italian meringue buttercream is one of the more stable frostings. It has an Italian meringue base consisting of egg whites and sugar syrup (since this is an SCD recipe, honey will be used instead of refined sugar).
Once the meringue is thick and glossy, butter is slowly added in to create a creamy and decadent frosting!
This off-white vanilla meringue buttercream is definitely a bit time consuming and it is absolutely a labor of love, but oh boy, it's worth it!!!
Apple cider vinegar can be used instead of lemon juice.
Tips for how to make a perfect vanilla meringue frosting!
Making Italian meringue buttercream is tricky and there are LOTS of things that can go wrong, but following these easy tips will help ensure your frosting comes out perfectly!
- All of your ingredients need to be at room temperature. I suggest letting your butter stay on your kitchen counter overnight.
- Make sure the bowl of your stand mixer is 100% clean and free of any residual grease from previous baking.
- Egg whites from a carton are not consistent when trying to make meringue, use the egg whites from fresh eggs. Keep the yolks to make Lemon Curd!
- The meringue NEEDS to be at room temperature before adding the butter or the frosting will turn soupy. If this happens, don't panic...it can be fixed!
- The Italian meringue buttercream recipe can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Allow the buttercream to come up to room temperature (it will be hard) and then re-whip.
- My Honey Italian Meringue post has many more tips for how to make a perfect meringue!
Begin by making the meringue. Place the honey in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until a candy thermometer reaches 240F. The honey will be very frothy and bubbly (photo 2).
While the honey is heating on the stove, place the room temperature egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Whisk the egg whites on high speed. Once soft peaks start to form, add the lemon juice and continue whisking (photo 1).
When the honey has reached 240F, reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and pour the hot honey in a slow, steady stream into the egg whites, making sure to avoid the whisk (photo 3).
Increase the mixer speed to high and continue whisking until the meringue is thick, glossy, doubled in volume, and is at room temperature (photo 4).
Once the meringue is done, swap the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment.
Set the mixer speed to medium and add one tablespoon of butter, waiting until the butter is completely mixed in before adding the next tablespoon.
Continue until all of the butter has been incorporated into the frosting (photo 5).
This is a long and slow process my friends! The buttercream will look a bit curdled at first, just keep mixing (photo 6)!
Add the vanilla extract and continue to mix until the buttercream is thick and smooth (photos 7, 8, and 9).
Note: The color of this buttercream is an off white, almost cream color.
The buttercream is soupy: I find that if the buttercream becomes "soupy" after adding the butter, it's typically because the meringue was still too warm. If you notice the buttercream becoming too thin, stop adding butter and place the bowl and paddle attachment into the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes or until the meringue is at room temperature. Place the bowl back on the stand mixer and continue with the recipe.
The butter is still in chunks when mixing: This happens when the butter is still too cold, so stop adding anymore into the frosting. Either wait for the butter to come up to room temp on its own or fill a glass with water and microwave for 2 minutes. Dump out the water and turn the hot glass upside down over the butter until it has softened.
Can I change the flavor of the buttercream?
Absolutely! This buttercream is a great starting off point for so many delicious flavors! Just be mindful of how much extra liquid you add as it can drastically change the texture of the buttercream.
Pumpkin: No need to reinvent the wheel, check out my delicious Pumpkin Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe!
Strawberry: Reduce the vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon and add ¼ cup of strawberry puree (or any berry you'd like!)!
Caramel: Add ⅓ cup of Salted Caramel Sauce and reduce the vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon.
Coffee: Reduce the vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon and add ¼ cup of freshly brewed espresso. I do not suggest coffee because the flavor (I think) is a bit too subtle.
Lemon: Reduce the vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon and add ¼ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
What can I use the Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream with?
This creamy frosting is perfect for topping a variety of cakes, cupcakes, or even frosting cookies! Here are a few suggestions:
- Vanilla Almond Flour Cake
- Coconut Cupcakes
- Lemon Almond Flour Cake
- Fruit Pizza Cookie Cake
- Vanilla Almond Flour Cupcakes (shown in the photo below)
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Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream
- ⅓ cup honey
- 2 large egg whites (at room temperature)
- ¼ teaspoon lemon juice
- 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- Place the honey into a small saucepan over medium heat, occasionally stirring. Keep the honey over the heat until a candy thermometer reaches 240F (the honey will be very bubbly and frothy).
- While the honey is heating on the stove, place the room temperature egg whites into the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Whisk on high speed until the eggs become frothy. Add the lemon juice and continue to whisk until soft peaks form.
- Once the honey has reached a temperature of 240F, reduce the mixer speed to medium and pour the hot honey in a slow, steady stream into the egg whites. (Be sure to avoid pouring the honey directly into the whisk or it will fling honey everywhere.)
- Increase the mixer speed to high and allow to whisk until the meringue is thick, glossy, doubled in volume, and at room temperature. This could take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes depending on your mixer and the temperature inside your home. (I live in Florida and it takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes during the summer when my house is hot!)
- The meringue HAS TO BE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE BEFORE ADDING THE BUTTER!
- Swap the whisk for the paddle attachment and with the mixer on high speed, add the room temperature butter one tablespoon at a time, waiting until it's fully incorporated before adding the next tablespoon.
- The buttercream might look a little curdled and/or a little thin. Continue to beat until the frosting thickens back up and is silky, then add the vanilla extract.
- Use the buttercream right away to frost cakes, cupcakes, or even cookies!
- Store any leftover buttercream in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. The buttercream will harden in the fridge, simply allow it to come up to room temperature and then re-whip.
- If the buttercream become too "soupy" while adding the butter, stop! It means the meringue is still too warm. Place the bowl along with the paddle attachment in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes or until the meringue has reached room temperature.
- If the butter stays in little clumps and not incorporating fully into the meringue, stop! It means the butter is still too cold. Warm the butter to room temperature (but don't melt it) and then continue adding it to the frosting.
- The recipe makes about 2 cups of buttercream and should be enough to frost a 2 layer, 6 inch round cake, a single 9 inch round cake, or about 10 cupcakes.
- For strawberry buttercream, reduce vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon and add ¼ cup strawberry puree.
- For caramel buttercream, reduce vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon and add ⅓ cup of caramel sauce.
- For lemon buttercream, reduce vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon and add ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice.