Italian Meringue Frosting

Italian Meringue Frosting
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frosting a cake
White-Out of Frosting!

To continue yesterday’s post, the frosting that was recommended for the Devil’s Food White-Out Cake is a basic Italian Meringue frosting, which is a type of frosting that everyone who bakes cakes, even just once in a while, should have in their repertoires. If you’ve never had this type of frosting, trust us. Have we ever led you astray?

First, while there may be one, or possibly even two, people on the planet who like heavy lardy and sugary frostings, we are not among them. We happen to like light, airy, slightly sweet frosting for our cake. The kind which, if you get the slice of cake with a bunch of frosting used to fill in a large cake divot, you can eat it without acting like a hummingbird later. That’s Italian Meringue Frosting.

This frosting might seem as though it’s intimidating at first, but remember, scratchers aren’t easily intimidated.

Makes enough for a three layer 8- to 9-inch cake (a lot, in other words).

Italian Meringue Frosting

Italian Meringue Frosting


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 4 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 Tbs pure vanilla extract

Abbreviated Instructions

Place egg whites in a clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring water, sugar, and cream of tartar to a boil.

Cover and boil 3 minutes.

Insert candy thermometer and boil, without stirring, until temperature reaches 235°F.

Start whipping egg whites on medium speed while the syrup continues to boil.

The egg whites should form stiff, glossy peaks by the same time the syrup reaches 242°F; if not, you can hold the whites by mixing on low until the syrup catches up.

With the mixer on medium, pour the hot syrup into the egg whites. It will spatter, but just keep pouring and mixing.

Once the syrup is incorporated, add the vanilla.

Let the mixer run on medium speed until the frosting reaches room temperature, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Ingredient discussion:

What do we know about happy hens? Good, you’ve read previous posts. And, of course, only pure real vanilla extract, please.

Procedure in detail:

mise en place
There are parts of this recipe that go fast, so you might as well get everything ready.

Prep egg whites. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place. You’ll be whipping the egg whites, so the bowl and beater must be scrupulously clean. We often double-wash them right before whipping egg whites, and we’ve not had a white fail to whip.

Boil syrup. Place the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and stir to dissolve. Once boiling, cover and boil 3 minutes. We think this is so the sugar will get washed down the sides of the pan and prevent crystallization.

boiling syrup
You want the temperature to reach 242°F, but start whipping the egg whites around 235°F.

Cook syrup. Remove the cover, insert a candy thermometer, and allow the syrup to boil until it reaches 235°F. Do not stir.

Start whipping. While the syrup is cooking, turn the mixer to medium and start whipping the egg whites. If everything goes well, the whites will be forming shiny, glossy peaks, just as the syrup reaches 242°F. If the whites are getting done too early, you can back off the speed to low to hold them; if the syrup is getting too close, you can lower the temperature.

adding syrup
It’s hard to see, but we’re adding the hot syrup (the pan is behind the mixer).

Pour in syrup. With the egg whites nice and billowy, and the syrup at 242°F, you’re ready to combine the two. With the mixer on medium, pour the syrup into the egg whites. It will spatter, and hot syrup burns and sticks, so stand back a bit. Keep pouring. Pour. Pour. There, all the syrup is in the egg whites. Yay!

adding vanilla
Add the vanilla, and whip on medium until room temperature, 5 to 6 minutes.

Add vanilla. Just pour it in while the mixer is going.

Cool down. Let the mixer continue to run on medium until the frosting cools down to room temperature, about 5 to 6 minutes. You can check by feeling the side of the bowl.

frosting a cake
Frost away!

Frost. Once cool, frost that cake!

We like this frosting a lot; it’s super-light, a bit sweet, but not that cloying, sickly sweet that kids like. It’s fairly easy to work with, and stays soft and billowy even the next day, so there’s no problem decorating the cake one day and serving it the next. It’s not the kind of frosting that will be easy to get a nice smooth surface on a cake, though. It might be possible, but you’d be better off with a fluffy buttercream for that. Instead, it’s a frosting you can use to make waves or tufts of frosting across the cake; for that, this is a perfect five stars.

Worth the trouble?

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