italian buttercream

Joined Apr 9, 2006
Hey guys,

I could really use some help on my buttercream. I've been using an Italian buttercream recipe which has been getting rave reviews by my clients. It comes out very white and very easy to use. I use 1# sugar, 4 oz water, 8 oz egg whites, and 1# butter. The problem is that my consistancy isn't always the same. I know I can do it, because I have turned out some beautiful batches. But most of the time they don't get so beautiful. I heat the sugar to 243 F, beat my egg whites and then slowly pour in the sugar mixture. lately, and it is extremely frustrating, it has been getting these small gummy chunks in it. I can use cheese cloth to remove them, but I would rather fix the problem more efficently. I use a heavy bottom pot to heat the sugar, brush down the sides to keep from crystalizing. I have no idea. Like I said i've made very successful batches... lately not so successful.

Also, does anyone have any suggestions for a good buttercream for the icing of the cake, or is the Italian buttercream a good choice?

Thanks, Jenna
Joined Jan 23, 2006
I am a big fan of italian buttercream myself - and I think I know what your problem may be. When you add your sugar, are you making sure to drizzle it down the side of the bowl? If not, it can get fling around when it hits the wisk and form little chunks throughout the mixture.

I also don't like to get my sugar over 238*, but that's just how I was trained.
Joined Apr 9, 2006

Thanks for your response. I may be getting impatient and trying to get out all the melted sugar. It starts off on the side of the bowl, but may not keep going that way because I am using a huge heavy bottomed pot and that gets tricky. I'm going to have to break down and buy a smaller pot and that might help me out in the long run. I'll pay more attention to the stream of sugar. I will also try your new temp. of heating the sugar.

Joined Mar 4, 2000
Are those chunks sugar or scrambled whites? It sounds like they're sugar, but if you suspect the bits are pieces of cooked egg white, pour the sugar in more slowly. I had used Italian for years until I realized how much easier Swiss is to make. It'a bit bit strage to use, after years of working with a stiffer icing, but the taste is the same, and the results are comparable. You might like to give it a try. Let me know if you need a recipe.
Joined Jan 23, 2006
As an alternative to going out and buying a new pot, just get a scaling pitcher. Most of the commercial ones have no problem handling this amount of heat, and it is much, much easier on your arms!
Joined Feb 4, 2006
Then it has to be how you prepare individual batches.

So the blobby bits are prior to adding butter?

I know that the head baker at my resort was having all kinds of trouble with French Buttercream. It would curdle with the addition of the fat. I found that the main problem when doing something you've done for ages is patience.

I've made tons of French Buttercream or Italian Merangue. Same principle. Yeah, sometimes you have a bad run. It's the culinary universe keeping us humble.

I'm guessing that it's too thick a stream of syrup (too much heat), possibly hitting the beater or side of the bowl. It is kind of tough when you have your whisk only about an inch from the sidewall. (We need a little attachment to your Hobart that holds a funnel the right distance between the beater and the side)

Have you checked beater speed? Some recipes call for adding ingredients on low then raising the speed or vise verse.

I agree that the temp seems a tad high, and it does sound like blobs of cooked egg whites.

I've never used the brush down method when heating sugar syrup for buttercream or merangue because I'm not making caramel or anything that would be a problem with crystalization. I just make certain that the sugar is disolved before I bring it to temp. Leave it alone and wait for that little magic thermometer to tell me it's at the temp I want. I also don't scrape the sides when pouring, just leave the stuff stuck on the sides there.

What I would do (and have done) is go over the recipe and pretend I'm making it for the first time. Re-read everything I already know, make it step by step (do an anal compulsive thing) and see if I've been missing something.

Hope this helps.

Joined Dec 13, 2004
We were discussing failed "tried and reliable" recipes when this point came up with regard to heating sugar from beet.

Here is an article to read: and three quotes to consider:


" Sugar is processed from either sugar cane or sugar beets. For most baking recipes, there is no difference in quality or performance between cane or beet sugar. However, if a recipe involves melting or caramelizing sugar, cane sugar seems to melt more readily than beet sugar." [Pillsbury]

Cane sugar contains trace minerals that are different from those in beet sugar, and it’s these minerals that many experts say make cane sugar preferable to use. As professional bakers have long noticed, cane sugar has a low melting-point, absorbs fewer extraneous and undesirable odors, blends easily and is less likely to foam up. And that can be very important when you’re caramelizing a syrup, making a delicate glaze, baking a delicious meringue, or simmering your family’s favorite jam recipe. [Cane Sugar Industry]

"Is there a difference between sugar produced from sugar beets and sugar produced from sugar cane?
I am not sure I agree entirely with The Sugar Associations answer to the question. There is antedoctal information that indicates that cane sugar is important for making of frostings and jellies. During a photoshoot and discussion with a local donut shop owner, he discussed the problems a supplier caused with his donut frostings -- it suddenly changed in spreadability and customers were complaining that it tasted worse. He traced it down to a change of cane sugar into beet sugar. I had students in a class look at its ability to interfer with the swelling of starch granules. There was some indication; however, not enough for me to state it definitive. Actually, in the summer of 2001, I hope to try some preliminary unfunded research to explore this. I have found it interesting. A number of questions to the Food Resource have said problems with jelly making and also frostings. These types of inquiries is why I still continue to try and answer questions. The questions is not settled!!
I will try and get the scanning electron micrographs placed on the web yet. Since Summer of 2001 I took some of the two sugars and found that the cane sugar was a nice clean looking crystal and the beet sugar looked like it had garbage "stuff" on the surface. There appears to be an actual difference. More to come. "]
Joined Sep 10, 2005
There is also the fact that the sugar is produced in two different sections of the plants. Beet sugar where the sugar is stored in the roots and cane sugar where the sugar is stored in the leaves. That may explain the garbage stuff you saw on the beet sugar crystals. But thats interesting stuff let us know how your research goes I like where you are going with it.

Best Regards Cakerookie...
Joined Mar 28, 2008
Hi Jenna,

Stick with Italian buttercream if you want some sort of stability in your frosting. For example if your cake is going to be out-side on a humid day or night. If you are in the East and Southeast where it can get very humid, you might try to put a very small amount of shortening (about 1/4 cup will do) to add more stability. Some bakeries in the south use only shortening for only this reason. If it were up to me I would just not make any cakes in the summer if I lived in the south. lol

Here are two things you might try on your method of making the buttercream. If you are pouring the sugar into the eggwhites make sure you have the speed on your mixer set at its lowest point as you pour your syrup, and let the syrup roll down the side of the mixing bowl. This will eliminate any threading or clumping from sugar coming in contact with the spinning paddle. After all the syrup has been poured then you can mix at a higher speed. Also I noticed that you are waiting too long to remove you sugar from the heat. You should be removing your syrup from the fire as it reached 240 deg f. Remember there is always cook over time so always go directly from the fire to the mixer or the sugar will continue to rise in temp. So no detours while your doing this. The temperature of 243deg F which you are using is very close to Firm ball stage which is at 245 deg f. One of these factors might be causing your problem with the lumps. Let me know if this helps and send pics of your finished product.

Joined Apr 2, 2007
I need to try this italian buttercream.. I've always made the tradional buttercream and never cared to try the italian recipe because italian cream cake always came to mind and I don't like it too much..

I'll give it a try the next time I make a cake.. :)
Joined Apr 2, 2007
Hello Jenna and all..

I tried my hand at making this buttercream, from your formula.. but was not able to use it as a frosting.. I think everyhting was fine until I added the butter to the cooled sugar and egg whites base.

The mixture was fluffy and full of volume (I had cooled it for about 30 minutes while whipping at high speed). It was when I added the butter that the mixture went flat and became too thinned to use as a frosting. I covered it and refrigerated the frosting overnight. When I went back to the mixture it was nice and firm but I was only able to use as a filling for a cake (It tasted perfect)..

Where did I go wrong..?
Joined Jan 23, 2006

My buttercream does this almost everytime. The trick (if yours is doing what mine does) is to keep mixing it!
Just give it more time on the mixer after you add the butter (and it deflates) and it will correct itself. Also, I often use smallish pieces of cold butter and do not worry about letting the meringue cool.

Joined Apr 19, 2008
After years of only making french buttercream I learned of Italian bc in culinary school,...I like it much better,
flavor and lighter texturewise, it is less greasey... i mean it needs less butter to comes together to spreading consistency. i feel the trick is that when it deflates it just needs alittle more butter and it comes together like a dream, always make sure it is beaten to the point it is cool before adding butter, If you need to put a bowl of ice water under bowl to expediate cooling.
Joined May 10, 2007
just to add my two coins in: It might be where your located (s in elevation)but,I have my bakers scale the whites and put them in the cooler till the sugar reaches 116 degrees, then quickly take it out start whipping the eggs and sugar into Meringue. when the eggs are finished your sugar should be at 126 degrees this is when it comes off the stove it goes into the Meringue.the last stage is letting the mixture cool off while mixing(it takes awhile)plus we mix the butter in a separate bowl for 10 minutes to make it fluffy. and get the lumps out.
Joined Sep 9, 2007
me being a pain in the butt here , but what does these temps convert down to in to celcius
Joined Oct 13, 2007
Don't add the butter to the merengue. Add the merengue to the whipped butter. To the OP I would bet cooked egg whites. When trying to cool off the bowl be very careful on how you cool it. Condensation can build up on the inside of the bowl then you will have a mess. I like to use towels soaked on cool water, and then wrap them around the bowl for a few secs.

Joined Mar 16, 2005
Adding butter to the eggs shouldn't be a problem if your meringue has cooled to around 30-32 degrees celsius.

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