This is a creamy and delicious icing that takes a little more time to make but is well worth the effort! It is typically ivory in color due to the butter, but can be colored and flavored with flavor extracts.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup egg whites (from about 3-4 large eggs)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 pinch of salt (omit if you use salted butter)
- 1 teaspoon of strained lemon juice to mellow butter taste (optional)
- *If your cake will be displayed in a hot environment, replace some of the butter with part vegetable shortening so the icing doesn’t melt.
TIP: If you don’t have a double boiler, you can make your own water bath with two pots, one that is larger than the other. Simply fill the larger pot with 1-2 inches of water and place on the stovetop. Put the sugar, salt and egg whites into the smaller pot and place into the simmering water. Be careful not to splash hot water on yourself while you work.
In a double boiler, gently whisk together the sugar, salt and egg whites over medium heat until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch (mixture feels smooth between fingers, not gritty) or a candy thermometer reads 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not overheat.
Place the heated sugar and egg mixture in a mixing bowl or onto the standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk into a meringue on medium-high for about 10 minutes until the mixture has doubled in size and the bowl is no longer warm to the touch.
Replace whisk with the paddle attachment and on low-medium speed gradually add butter, one or two tablespoons at a time. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula. Once all the butter is incorporated add vanilla and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium-high until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Use same day or store in an airtight plastic container in the refrigerator for 1 week or freeze up to 3 months. Allow the buttercream to return to room temperature and mix before using.
Buttercream appears curdled: this is perfectly normal. Just keep mixing a few more minutes until smooth.
Buttercream appears runny: the meringue was likely too warm when the butter was added, causing it to melt. Simply place the bowl in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes to lightly chill. Mix until smooth.
Buttercream is chunky: the butter was likely too cold when mixed in. Either warm the butter slightly or keep mixing the mixture until smooth.