This is a 10 year old learning to pipe buttercream roses with Italian meringue buttercream

Italian meringue buttercream is my preferred buttercream for icing cake with.  To color it, I add a small amount of Confectioner’s Sugar to it which allows the buttercream to accept food color gels.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

½ cup pasteurized egg whites

1 ¼ cups sugar divided ½ cup for the meringue and ¾ cups sugar for the hot syrup

¼ cups cold water

1 pound unsalted butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Italian meringue buttercream is made by whipping egg whites to a soft peak and then stabilizing them with granulated sugar.  Pouring a hot syrup into the stabilized egg whites and whipping the whole mass to cool before adding the softened unsalted butter.


Put the egg whites into the bowl of a heavy duty mixer with a whip and whip to the soft peak stage.   The mechanics of whipping egg whites is the development of air bubbles that are sitting one on top of the other.  As the whites whip the bubbles of air become tinier.  Soft peaks will show you small bubbles of air and when you pick up the whip, the peak will fall to one side.  Stiff peaks are when the whites raised on the whip will not fall at all.

When your egg whites are at the soft peak stage, gradually pour in ½ of a cup of granulated sugar reserving the remaining ¾ cups of granulated sugar for the hot syrup.

In a saucepan, bring the remaining ¾ cups sugar to a boil and allow it to reach a temperature of 240 degrees F.  Carefully pour the hot sugar into the whipped egg whites which will have tripled in volume. The whites will be very hot and must be allowed to continue to whip which will cool them and turn this mixture into a meringue.

When the whites are cooled, add the pound of unsalted butter and finally the teaspoon of vanilla.

To color the buttercream, you must add confectioners’ sugar which will allow gel colors to become vivid.  Never use liquid bottled color.  Always use gel colors with Italian meringue buttercream.

An 8 year old piping flowers with Italian meringue buttercream.

Mastering the techniques does not take long. It can be accomplished rather quickly.

When you first start to pipe buttercream flowers, it will feel awkward because you are using muscles in your hands and arms that you do not ordinarily use.  Part of the process in learning to pipe buttercream flowers is to build those muscles with repeated use and to create muscle memory.  Eye hand coordination is also developed in this process.  Remember to do a bit of piping over  a period of days for the quickest results.  You will actually be processing the piping techniques in your sleep and over time, your piping will improve.

It is always best to crumb coat the outside of the cake that is to be decorated.

Smooth layers of buttercream are best added a layer at a time. The first application of buttercream on a raw cake is called the crumb coat. Masking the cakes requires a couple of smooth coats of buttercream.

When I teach buttercream piping, I always start with the rose as that is a challenging flower for people to learn and master.  After accomplishing the rose, the remaining flowers are rather easy to learn to pipe.

It is helpful to know what kind of tips to use to pipe the various flowers.  It is always nice to have your tools and equipment perform a couple of functions.

Ateco has so kindly placed this beautiful photo of tips on the web and if you don’t know which tips to purchase, go to the Ateco website and study the kinds of tips you can use.

The flowers above are made with a curved tip #61 which will also make a beautiful cupped blossom.  Dots are made with round tips of various sizes from #1, #2, #3 on up to #12 which will make a beautiful pearl dot border.  Become familiar with the tips, their shapes and what they can do for you.  Experiment and practice each day until you feel comfortable holding a piping bag and applying the amount of pressure on the bag necessary to pipe beautiful flowers and leaves.

Student Cakes

May 26, 2012

Marci is a very good cake maker and has learned to apply the Italian Meringue Buttercream in thin layers.

When students come to my studio to learn to properly ice cakes or make white chocolate fondant, they are often surprised at how relatively easy it is to master certain techniques that will allow them to make wonderful cakes.

For applying Italian meringue buttercream, apply it in thin layers and make sure the buttercream is somewhat soft.  You can soften the buttercream in a few ways.   I prefer to simply put the buttercream into a microwave oven for a few seconds to soften it up.  You can dip a spatula into a container of hot water, wipe the spatula on a clean cloth and use that spatula on fresh buttercream to smooth it.  Do not use a hot spatula on chilled buttercream because you will discolor it.  Some people like using a flame as in a torch and that is a quick way to smooth buttercream when you use a bench scraper.

The amount of buttercream that you will need to put on a cake is just enough so that you can no longer see the cake.  It is not necessary to put a tremendous amount of buttercream on a cake, your customers will appreciate just enough and not too much.

The turn table is perhaps the most essential of tools for icing cake.  It is the rotation of the turn table that smooths the buttercream.   As you move the table in one direction, you will bring your spatula towards you in the opposite direction always keeping the buttercream ahead of your spatula blade.

Using a bench scraper is a good way to keep your sides straight as it is a perfect 90 degrees.  When you put your scraper against the side of the cake you can determine if your buttercream has been applied perfectly because you should not see daylight anywhere that bench scraper is held to the side of the cake.

Italian Meringue Buttercream:

The ratio is always the same..1 pound butter per 4 ounces of egg white.

Use pasteurized egg white for your cakes that are going to your customers just to be on the safe side.  Pasteurized egg whites can be found in the grocery store egg section and are sometimes called Just Whites or something like that.  You can get them in the quart size and half gallon size as you grow your business.  The half gallon size will come frozen from some dairy distributors.

8 ounces pasteurized egg whites

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup cold water to moisten the sugar to be cooked

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 pounds unsalted butter at room temperature

Place 2 cups of granulated sugar into a saucepan with 1/2 cup cold water to moisten all the granules of sugar.

Start whipping the egg whites in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer with a whip attachment.  When the egg whites reach the soft peak stage, stabilize the whites with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.

Cook the sugar in the saucepan to 240 degrees F. and then carefully pour the hot sugar syrup over the stabilized egg whites.  You are now making a meringue.  Whip on high speed until the meringue is cooled.  Add the unsalted butter and allow to whip an additional 5-10 minutes until the whole mixture is quite smooth.

Add the vanilla extract and voila!  You have Italian meringue buttercream.  How easy is that.

For those who tell you you can’t pipe Italian meringue buttercream, they are wrong.  You can pipe with this lovely buttercream.  It takes some practice but it can be done.

My student, Samia has made a three tiered cake in her wedding cake workshop that is a combination of fondant and buttercream. The flowers were piped with Italian meringue buttercream as well as made with gumpaste. This was a mixed medium workshop!