How to Make Buttercream Icing for a Cake or Cupcakes

Learn how to make buttercream icing from pastry chef Amanda Oakleaf in this cake decorating video from Howcast.

Hi, my name is Amanda Oakleaf. I am owner, head baker, decorator of Amanda Oakleaf Cakes in Winthrop, Massachusetts where we do custom cakes of all kinds — wedding cakes, birthday cakes, sculpted cakes. Anything you can think of we can make it into a cake. And today I will be talking to you about cake decorating. And now we’re going to make an Italian meringue buttercream, which is a cooked sugar folded into whipped meringue with egg whites, and butter gets whipped in in the end. So, we’re gonna start. we have half a cup of water in our saucepan and we’re gonna add one and a fourth cup of granulated sugar. and we wanna heat it up until it comes to a boil. And we wanna watch it with a candy thermometer to make sure it comes up to 248-250 degrees. So we just wanna give it a stir, make sure it dissolves, and then keep an eye on it with the candy thermometer. In the mean time we wanna add one cup of egg whites and then with the whisk attachment on your mixer, we wanna keep it on high speed until they get frothy. And then we’re gonna add one teaspoon of cream of tartar. So we have the sugar syrup boiling and that’s gonna reach 250 and we got the egg whites whipping. They’re gonna be white and fluffy, they’re gonna double in volume. Once they get to soft peaks stage, we’re gonna add one third a cup of granulated sugar. And we just need to wait a few minutes for everything to come to temperature. And now our egg whites are at soft peak stage so we’re gonna add our cup, our 1/3 cup of granulated sugar. Now our sugar is at 250 degrees so it’s okay to go ahead and add it to our meringue. Turn down the mixer to a low speed, you don’t wanna get any of the sugar syrup on the beater blade or on the side of the bowl. Those are cold, so if the sugar sticks to that it’s gonna harden and you’ll have little chunks of candy inside. So you just wanna slowly pour it right on the edge, without getting any sugar on the side of the bowl. Scrape it down, make sure you get all of it in there. And then we’re gonna turn the mixer back up to high speed, whip it, until the meringue is cooled down. We don’t wanna add the butter too soon. If you added the butter now, it would melt because the sugar has been so hot. So maybe five minutes or so, it’ll cool down then we’ll add the butter. So now that our bowl has cooled down to room temperature, we wanna add our room temperature butter, a couple tablespoons at a time. Adding a couple tablespoons at a time ensures that everything gets mixed in smoothly and you don’t have any chunks of butter in the end. Give it a couple more minutes, its gonna look a little curdled in the beginning, but give it a couple minutes in the mixer on medium-high speed and everything will get really smooth for you. At this stage the buttercream has come together really smoothly and it’s making that flop-flop sound that buttercream’s supposed to make. We’re gonna add one tablespoon of vanilla. Mix it in, just until it incorporated and that should be Italian meringue. And you’re ready to frost a cake.