Bakery Style, Italian Buttercream Frosting

This bakery style buttercream frosting is silky smooth and sweet.  Use it to get a professional finish and taste.  See the complete post for variations that include chocolate buttercream, chocolate mocha buttercream and fruit buttercream like raspberry and lemon.

Home made cake frostings are my favorite. I like the slightly grainy texture that comes from using confectioners sugar and the ease of making it means I’ve got more time to do guy stuff, like boxing and forgetting everything you just said. But real bakery buttercream is usually based on an Italian style recipe and the slick buttery texture and presentation are a completely different experience. Based on egg whites, sugar and heat, a classic bakery buttercream frosting is firm, airy, slightly less sweet and super buttery. Not necessarily better, but definitely different and just as good (in my view) in a totally different way. I failed epically to get this recipe right the first two times but I was looking for shortcuts after glazing over at the time and complication of it. Eventually, I slowed my pace a bit and took the time to do it right. And with that, I’m right back out of man territory again, with patience and thoughtful reflection. If you’re doing a cake order for a customer, this is the typical expectation so it’s a good one to keep in your collection of frosting recipes. Here it is in all it’s time consuming and buttery glory.  The finished product is fine kept at room temperature (covered) for a few days (3-5) or in the fridge for a bit longer but once it sits for awhile, you’ll have to re-whip it a little before frosting with it. If you store it cool, take it out for 30-45 minutes before re-whipping. I always recommend organic ingredients when you can use them, but let’s be real; this is a Sunday/Holiday, anti-nutritional, potentially heart stopping if you ate it everyday frosting. You can sub with the same measures to use non-organic if you prefer.

You need to have a kitchen thermometer handy for this recipe. Yields enough to ice a 9 inch, 2 layer cake. About 4 Cups.

Time: 30 or so minutes to prep, whip, heat and mix.


3/4 cup organic granulated sugar, set 1/2 aside
2 oz. water
4 large organic egg whites (4.25 oz), at cool room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (strained to remove seeds and pulp)
3 sticks organic (1 1/2 Cups), unsalted butter, room temperature, split into 14-16 pieces
2 teaspoons pure organic vanilla extract

Over medium heat in a small sauce pan, bring water and 1/2 of the sugar to a boil and cook until the sugar syrup reaches 250 degrees, F. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of your pan and watch the temperature closely.

With a wire whisk attachment fitted to a stand mixer, on medium speed, whip egg whites, salt and lemon juice until a foam forms. Add the sugar you set aside and beat to medium-stiff peaks. With any luck, your peaks are forming just as your water and sugar (henceforth called “the syrup”) are arriving at 250 degrees (f). If not, you have a few degrees wiggle room but keep it as close to 250 as you can. Add the syrup to the stiffened egg-white mixture with the mixer on medium-high by carefully pouring the syrup in a stream along the inside of the bowl. This cools the syrup a little and helps avoid curdling the egg whites. Whip for 5-10 minutes and until room temperature.

Still at medium high speed, add the butter, a single piece at a time, waiting to add the next until each piece is fully incorporated.  Increase to high speed.  The icing might look a bit curdled at first, but it comes together, so have faith and be patient.  Whipping can take 10-15 minutes depending on temperature and until your frosting is fluffy, spreadable and slightly glossy.  Slow your mixer to medium-low, add the vanilla and let it incorporate completely as your final step.
You are officially a frosting Rockstar…nicely done.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
4 oz. of melted (1 oz per Cup of frosting), unsweetened chocolate, slightly cooled and added just before the vanilla and whisked until incorporated yields a smooth chocolate variation. Melt the chocolate by chopping into small pieces and heating in a bowl over a simmering pot of hot water.  Stir constantly and remove as soon as it is completely smooth.

Chocolate Mocha Buttercream Frosting:
4 oz. of melted, unsweetened chocolate melted and slightly cooled (see above) plus 1/2 shot (about 2Tbsp) of espresso cooled to room temperature and added with the chocolate just before the vanilla and mixed until incorporated.

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting:
For each cup of basic buttercream frosting, add 3 Tbsp raspberry juice to completed frosting and stir until thoroughly combined. To make raspberry juice, add two cups of fresh raspberries to a medium saucepan, along with 2 Tbsp water and and 2 Tbsp sugar, cook on medium-low heat until raspberries are liquid. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean container and let cool completely.  Makes about 3/4 Cup of juice.

Lemon Buttercream:  For every 1 cup of vanilla buttercream frosting, mix 3 Tbsp of lemon curd until incorporated.

Orange Buttercream:  For every 1 cup of vanilla buttercream, mix 3 Tbsp of orange curd until incorporated.  Or, mix 2 Tbsp fresh orange juice (strained through a fine mesh sieve to remove pulp and seeds) for each cup of vanilla buttercream and replace the pure vanilla extract with pure orange extract.

13 responses on “Bakery Style, Italian Buttercream Frosting

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  7. please can you tell me approx how much does it take for the sugar to boil because i do not have a thermometer and its very difficult to find one

    • Unfortunately, there’s no way to really know when you’re at the proper temperature without a thermometer. If you can’t access one, then you might want to try one of our simple butter cream recipes, which don’t require any measurements of temperature. Here is a link to our basic vanilla buttercream icing. The post also includes instructions and ingredients for a few variations.

      Thank you for visiting TheFamilyFeed. Please don’t hesitate to ask if I can be of any more help.


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  11. Can you tell me about how many cupcakes this recipe yields forif I want to swirl decorate? thanks

    • It’s two cups, so 18 conservatively, which would assume lots of swirling. If you’re not going very deep with the icing, you could stretch it to 24. Good luck!