This Italian meringue buttercream recipe is an extension of my vegan Italian meringue recipe. But this is not just any regular buttercream! It’s light, creamy, buttery, and airy and best of all, it's not overly sweet like standard American buttercream tends to be. It's that dangerous sort of good where you have to resist the magnetic force it has of making you want to eat it straight from the bowl.

Why you’ll want to try this eggless Italian buttercream

Making Italian meringue buttercream takes a little bit of skill, it’s not as easy as vegan Swiss meringue buttercream for example, but in my opinion, it is so worth the effort. This recipe has been tried and tested numerous times by readers, not to mention the near 20 recipe tests it took me to get it just right (yup, it was a tricky one!). If you're looking for a quick frosting, try my easy vegan buttercream.

When learning Culinary Arts back in college we were taught how to do several classic buttercream methods such as Italian, Swiss, and French. This recipe uses the classic method of making Italian meringue buttercream as shown on preppykitchen.com. But we're adapting the classic method to make it eggless and dairy-free.

So in this post, I'm going to take you through the process and method of making eggless Italian buttercream from scratch, so hopefully, you’ll get the perfect vegan buttercream the first time round!

close up of vegan italian meringue frosting.Pin

What is Italian meringue buttercream?

Italian meringue buttercream is a smooth buttery frosting that is traditionally made using egg white, sugar syrup, and softened butter. To make it without eggs we’re using aquafaba (chickpea brine) which when whipped up mimics many of the properties of egg whites. This recipe also calls for vegan stick butter, which replaces dairy.

It benefits from the lightness of the meringue and the creaminess of the butter, making it the perfect vegan frosting for cupcakes, cakes and quite frankly eating straight from the spoon!

Ingredients overview

Aquafaba: This is the viscous liquid left over from cooking chickpeas or other white legumes. It is an innovative alternative to using egg whites which are traditionally used for meringue recipes. It can be used to make cakes and brownies, marshmallows, meringues, and many other vegan-friendly versions of classic desserts and treats

Caster sugar/superfine sugar: The white sugar creates a beautiful light fluffy meringue base for this frosting. If you're based in the US, it's important to note that not all white sugar is vegan-friendly due to how it is processed. It is sometimes filtered using animal bone char. Look for vegan-friendly brands or organic sugar which doesn't use this method of processing.

Cream of tartar: This is a form of tartaric acid, otherwise known as potassium bitartrate. It's actually a by-product of winemaking and is used widely in baking. This acid works as a stabilizer for the whipped aquafaba - giving a more stable and stiff end result.

Vegan butter: There are many brands of vegan-friendly butter available these days, it's important to note that this recipe calls for stick butter, not the spreadable kind from a tub, I use flora unsalted plant butter.

Vanilla extract: A touch of good quality vanilla extract goes a long way here in flavoring this delicate fluffy buttercream. You can also use a vanilla pod to get those lovely vanilla specs!

I spoke a little bit about vanilla extract in my last post, but I feel like it's definitely worth mentioning here again for those of you who missed it. It's important to make sure that the brand of vanilla extract you choose is vegan-friendly. Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly at this point) animal-derived additives can be hidden in all sorts of foods, in all sorts of ways! Some vanilla flavoring is made using castoreum, which is derived from the anal glands of beavers! This product is hidden on labels under “natural flavoring”.

Luckily, most large supermarkets now stock vanilla extract which is labeled “suitable for vegans” but if you’re in doubt, some brands I’d recommend are Neilsen Massey pure vanilla extract and Taylor and Colledge vanilla bean extract.

ingredients for vegan italian meringue buttercream.Pin

Step-by-step instructions (with images)

(full ingredient quantities and instructions are in the recipe card at the end of this post)

1. Reduce the aquafaba

First things first you'll want to reduce the aquafaba. Add the measured aquafaba to a saucepan and bring it 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 to chill it down. Do this the night before or at least one hour in advance.

2. Make the sugar syrup

Next, make the sugar syrup. 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.

An important piece of equipment for making the sugar syrup for the meringue is a candy thermometer. Place your candy thermometer into the syrup and continue to simmer until the mixture reaches 116°C (240°F) - about 10-12 minutes.

3. Prepare the eggless meringue

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 the bowl and whisk on high speed for 5 minutes until soft peaks form.

Next 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 whisk to incorporate the mixture.

Whisk the meringue mixture for another 10-15 minutes until it has cooled to room temperature.

4. Add the vegan butter

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 butte. Just continue to add the butter as it will stiffen when the full amount of butter is incorporated. When all the butter is added the mixture turns thick like buttercream. Continue to whisk on low for 5 minutes.

Add the vanilla extract and whisk again on low for another 2 minutes. This extra couple of minutes of whisking will make the buttercream super light and fluffy!

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Frequently asked questions

Do I need a candy thermometer to make this recipe?

I highly recommend getting one if you don’t yet have one as a candy thermometer will make your life so much easier, and help you get more precise results. However, if you can’t wait to get one you can do something that’s called a softball test, you can read more about it on cooksinfo.com which has detailed a comprehensive post on this method.

How to fix "split" 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.

How to prevent "soupy" buttercream

Personally, I have found that adding the sugar syrup to the meringue mixture too quickly can result in a "soupy" Italian meringue base and subsequently, a soupy buttercream. To prevent this make sure you very gently drizzle the sugar syrup into the mixture whilst whisking, this allows the mixture to fully incorporate the syrup without collapsing.

How to store vegan Italian meringue buttercream

For best results, use this buttercream to frost your cakes/cupcakes when freshly made. You can store this Italian meringue buttercream in an airtight container in the fridge, or at room temperature if you plan on using it to decorate a cake or cupcakes on the same day. It will harden when chilled, so before use, allow it to come to room temperature.

Can I frost cupcakes with vegan Italian buttercream?

If using the buttercream to frost cupcakes, I like to keep them stored at room temperature (they will last for a few days depending on the ingredients in the cupcakes). Usually, they're good for about 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature.
If you do decide to store the cupcakes in the fridge, I would suggest taking them out to room temperature for about an hour before serving to allow the frosting to soften slightly.

ITALIAN MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM CUPCAKESPin

More vegan frosting recipes

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Vegan Italian Meringue Buttercream

4.73 from 61 votes
PREP TIME: 1 hr 5 mins
Chill Time: 1 hr
TOTAL TIME: 2 hrs 5 mins
Servings: 16
PRINT RECIPE PIN RECIPE

Description

Fluffy Italian meringue buttercream made vegan! This frosting isn't too sweet and has an amazing buttery vanilla flavor. Perfect for frosting vegan cupcakes, sheet cakes. and layer cakes.

EQUIPMENT

Electric whisk or stand mixer
Candy thermometer

Ingredients

  • 250 g (1.25 cups) caster sugar, separated into 200g and 50g
  • 60 ml (4 tbsp) water
  • 234 g (1 cup) aquafaba, *see notes
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.23 g) cream of tartar
  • 250 g (8.82 oz) vegan block butter , room temperature, cut into 1" chunks
  • 1 teaspoon (4.93 g) vanilla extract

Instructions

  • 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 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.

Storage

  • You can store this Italian meringue buttercream 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.

Notes

  • Aquafaba: drain 1-2 cans of unsalted chickpeas, use only the liquid part.
  • I highly recommend using a candy thermometer. However, if you can’t wait to get one you can do something that’s called a softball test, you can read more about it on cooksinfo.com.
  • 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. 

Nutrition

Calories: 173kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 2g | Sodium: 103mg | Potassium: 11mg | Sugar: 16g | Calcium: 1mg | Iron: 1mg
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