This fluffy strawberry Italian meringue buttercream is bursting with strawberry flavor. Based on my popular vegan Italian meringue buttercream, which has been heavily tried and tested by readers here. It's made using aquafaba and vegan butter, making it eggless and dairy-free.
What to expect from this recipe
I originally tried flavoring the buttercream with fresh strawberry puree followed by strawberry syrup, but the buttercream was not stable enough, sigh! So I parked up the recipe but was inspired to pick it back up again by Anthea's strawberry cream cheese frosting where she uses freeze-dried berries.
I will say that Italian meringue buttercream recipes (also known as IMBC) can be a little finicky and time-consuming. So if you're looking for a quick easy strawberry buttercream, I'd suggest making this raspberry Swiss meringue frosting and swapping out the freeze-dried raspberries for strawberries.
This buttercream is:
- Fluffy, light, and creamy.
- Intensely flavored and colored with real strawberry.
- Stable enough to frost vegan multi-tier layer cakes, sheet cakes, and cupcakes.
- Perfect for Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, birthday parties, or just for summer!
For this recipe, you'll need the same ingredients used in my vegan Italian meringue buttercream along with some freeze-dried strawberries or strawberry powder.
- Freeze-dried strawberries or strawberry powder are the main flavor and color for the frosting. If you're able to find strawberry powder, you can use it as is. You can grind freeze-dried berries down in a food processor to form a powder.
- Aquafaba, in other words, chickpea brine. This is an incredible ingredient that mimics the properties of egg whites in meringue recipes. Aquafaba is whisked up with a little cream of tartar, which stabilizes the mixture. You can actually use the water from other white beans such as cannellini or butter beans too. Simply drain the tins of chickpeas, and reserve the water for your vegan baking recipes.
- Superfine sugar, or caster sugar if you're based in the UK or Ireland, creates a beautiful light fluffy meringue base for this vegan strawberry frosting. If you're based in the US, it's important to note that not all white sugar is vegan-friendly. Some white sugar is filtered using animal bone char. Look for vegan-friendly brands or organic sugar which doesn't use this method of processing.
- Vanilla extract is completely optional, but it does add another layer of flavor to the buttercream.
- Room temperature vegan stick butter is what turns this Italian meringue into a fluffy dairy-free buttercream. This recipe calls for block butter, not margarine or spreadable butter from a tub.
How to make vegan strawberry buttercream
(Full ingredient quantities and instructions are in the recipe card at the end of this post)
To start, here are a couple of things to do to get prepped before making this vegan strawberry frosting.
Reduce the aquafaba
This is an important step as it intensifies the protein content of the chickpea brine. I've tried making meringue buttercream numerous times without reducing the aquafaba first, and it always results in me having to add more butter to the recipe to get the desired consistency.
Add the aquafaba to a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then turn down the heat and allow it to simmer until it reduces to half a cup in volume. Pour the reduced aquafaba into a jar and refrigerate to chill it. Do this the night before or at least one hour in advance.
Make strawberry powder
If you're using strawberry powder you can skip this step. Otherwise, blend freeze-dried berries into a powder in a food processor, just like in my raspberry Swiss buttercream.
Grind the strawberries down for a few minutes until they form a powder. Then pass the powder through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any of the strawberry seeds or larger pieces. You can use the seeds for garnishing desserts or for adding a boost of flavor to smoothies or oats.
Make the sugar syrup
Next, add 200g of the superfine sugar to a saucepan along with 60ml water. Gently stir and allow the mixture to sit for a minute until the sugar dissolves into a paste. Turn up the heat to medium-high and allow the mixture to come to a simmer and bubble. DO NOT STIR the syrup throughout the entire process.
Place your candy thermometer into the syrup and continue to simmer until the mixture reaches 116°C (240°F), which usually takes about 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the aquafaba.
Preparing the aquafaba meringue
- Take a large clean bowl, and make sure it's completely dry and free of any grease. Add the reduced aquafaba and cream of tartar to the bowl and whisk on high speed for 5 minutes until soft peaks have formed. You can also use a stand mixer with a whisk attachment.
- Slowly add in the remaining 50g of caster sugar, one dash at a time while continuing to whisk and incorporate the sugar into the aquafaba. Continue whisking for another 3 minutes until it reaches stiff peaks.
- Once the sugar syrup has reached the correct temperature, start adding it to the whisked aquafaba. Slowly drizzle in a little at a time and continue to whisk until incorporated.
- Whisk the meringue for another 10-15 minutes until it has cooled to room temperature.
Whipping in the butter and flavorings
Very slowly, you can start adding the chunks of butter to the meringue, one at a time. Make sure you allow the mixture to whip for about 5 seconds between each chunk of butter. If using a stand mixer, switch to the paddle attachment for this part.
The mixture will flatten as you add the butter - this is completely normal! Continue to add the butter, it stiffens eventually!
Once all of the butter is in, the mixture will be thick like buttercream. Continue to whisk on low for another 5 minutes to get nice light and fluffy buttercream.
Add the vanilla extract and whisk again on low for another 2 minutes. Follow this with the strawberry powder. It's best to add the powder one tablespoon at a time to avoid it from puffing up and going everywhere!
For best results, use this vegan strawberry frosting when freshly made. You can also store it in an airtight container in the fridge, or at room temperature if you plan on using it on the same day.
It will harden when chilled, so before use, allow it to come to room temperature and re-whip if needed.
Ways to use dairy-free strawberry buttercream
- For frosting layer cakes like this vegan chocolate cake and Easter egg cake. You can use it between the cake layers as well as crumb coating the outside of the cake.
- You can scoop it into a piping bag to turn these raspberry cupcakes into vegan strawberry cupcakes.
Frequently asked questions
For frosting layer cakes: This recipe will generously frost a 2 layer 8-inch or 9-inch cake, or a triple layer 6-inch cake. For an 8 or 9-inch sheet cake, I would cut the recipe by one quarter.
For frosting cupcakes: The recipe yields enough buttercream to generously frost 12 cupcakes, or lightly frost 24 cupcakes.
No, it's best to use your buttercream to frost cakes or cupcakes immediately. As this strawberry frosting is based on vegan butter, which hardens in the fridge, it will be difficult to pipe once it's chilled.
Make sure you use vegan stick butter for this recipe, otherwise known as butter sticks. Spreadable butter from a tub or margarine will throw off the recipe due to its higher water content. I use flora plant butter which is nut-free, coconut-free, and gluten-free.
More vegan frosting recipes
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- Electric whisk or stand mixer
- Candy thermometer
- 234 g (1 cup) aquafaba, *see notes
- 250 g (1 ¼ cups) superfine sugar (caster sugar), separated into 200g and 50g
- 60 ml (¼ cups) water
- ¼ teaspoons (¼ tsp) cream of tartar
- 250 g (8.82 oz) vegan stick butter, room temperature, cut into 1" chunks
- 50 g (¼ cup) freeze-dried strawberries, or strawberry powder
- 1 teaspoon (1 tsp) vanilla extract, optional
- Please read over the recipe and instructions fully before getting started as well as the above blog post which contains more detailed instructions, images, and tips.
Preparation (can be done a day ahead)
- Start by reducing the aquafaba, add it to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer until it has reduced to half a cup in volume. After 5 minutes of simmering, check the volume by pouring the liquid into a measuring cup. If there's more than half a cup of liquid continue to simmer until it reduces to the required half cup.
- Pour the reduced aquafaba into a jar and refrigerate. This can be done the night before or at least one hour in advance of making the recipe.
- Add the freeze-dried strawberries to a food processor and blitz for a few minutes until they turn into a powder consistency. Allow the powder to settle in the food processor for a minute before opening the lid. Then pass the powder through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any seeds. If you're using strawberry powder you can skip this step.
- Add 200g of the caster sugar and water to a saucepan, gently stir and allow the mixture to sit for a minute until the sugar dissolves into a paste. Place the saucepan on medium-high heat and allow the mixture to come to a simmer and bubble. DO NOT STIR throughout the entire process. Place your candy thermometer into the syrup and continue to simmer until the mixture reaches 116°C (240°F) - about 10-12 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the aquafaba. Take a large clean bowl, and make sure it's completely dry and free of any grease. Add the aquafaba and cream of tartar to a large bowl and whisk on high speed for 5 minutes until soft peaks form.
- Slowly add in the remaining 50g of caster sugar, one dash at a time while continuing to whisk and incorporate the sugar into the aquafaba. Continue whisking for another 3 minutes.
- Once the sugar syrup has reached the correct temperature begin to add it to the whipped aquafaba. Slowly drizzle in a little at a time and continue to whisk until the mixture is incorporated. Whisk the meringue mixture for another 10-15 minutes until it has cooled to room temperature.
- Start slowly adding the chunks of butter to the meringue, one at a time, allowing the mixture to incorporate for about 5 seconds between each one. The mixture will flatten as you add the butter, just continue to add the butter as it will stiffen when the full amount of butter is incorporated. Once all the butter has been added the mixture be thick like buttercream, continue to whisk on low for 5 minutes.
- Add the vanilla extract and whisk again on low for another 2 minutes. Then add the strawberry powder, one tablespoon at a time, until all of it has been incorporated into the buttercream.
Storage and Use
- This meringue buttercream is best when used fresh. You can also store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It will harden when chilled, so before use, allow it to come to room temperature until it comes back to a creamy consistency, re-whipping if needed.
- Aquafaba: drain 1-2 cans of unsalted chickpeas, use only the liquid part.
- How to fix Italian meringue buttercream: If your buttercream looks split even after adding all of the vegan butter to it, this can often be fixed by adding a little more butter. Different brands can vary in water/fat content so if your buttercream isn’t turning out how it should and you have followed all instructions and measurements to a T you can try adding more vegan butter whilst whipping until creamy.
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