This- this silky and smooth, rich but impossibly light buttercream- is my favorite chocolate frosting of them all. Oh, I love ganache of course, and the truth is I’ll never say no to the old powdered-sugar-meets-butter frostings of my childhood- but this buttercream, an Italian Meringue Buttercream with melted chocolate mixed in, definitely tops my list.
So many people seem afraid to try Italian Meringue Buttercreams- but while the recipe may look a little daunting and difficult at first, I promise you: it’s not. Trust me. I’ve made dozens of huge batches of IMBC, and I’ve never had to throw any away.
Sinfully Silky Chocolate Buttercream Recipe
This makes enough to ice a two-layer 9-inch cake, or around 24 cupcakes.
5 Egg Whites (keep the yolks for custard. Or ice cream. Mmm)
1/2 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1/4 cup Water
3/4 cup White Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup White Granulated Sugar (yes, separated)
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (the real stuff, please)
4 sticks Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
You’ll also need:
a Candy Thermometer, hopefully without a crack in it
a small liquid measuring cup
4 ounces best quality Bittersweet Chocolate, melted (use a microwave for the greatest of ease) and COOLED
Pour the water into a heavy saucepan. On top of that, pour the 3/4 cups sugar. Make an “x” in the middle of the mound of sugar with your finger- this will help distribute the water more evenly.
Over medium heat, begin melting the sugar and water. Now, others will tell you to keep stirring this or to brush down the sides of the pan with a brush, blah blah- I say don’t touch it. Walk away. Well, just a few steps away. You want to get started on the egg whites now anyway.
In the bowl of a stand or hand mixer, put your egg whites and start whipping them. When they look foamy, add the cream of tartar. Whip some more, and once you get to soft peaks, add the 1/4 cup of sugar. You’re going to want to keep whipping this until you get to stiff peaks- but at this point, I usually stop, go over to the saucepan on the stove, and check if everything’s melted. If the sugar and water mixture is clear and bubbly (meaning, no sugar bits), go ahead and stick your candy thermometer in there.
You can resume whipping your whites now- but keep an eye on that thermometer as much as possible. As soon as it hits 246, take the pan off heat, and transfer the syrupy goodness to your liquid measuring cup. Once your egg whites are forming firm peaks, you’ll want to SLOWLY begin pouring the syrup into the whites. Try not to hit the beaters with the syrup as you do.
Et voila! You’ve made Italian Meringue. You can make pavlovas out of this. Hey, you can even make macaron shells out of this. Oooh. But today, we’re doing Buttercream, so…
Get your butter ready. You’re going to want to add the butter to the meringue in one-tablespoon increments. And here’s where everyone freaks out: as you add the butter, your glossy beautiful meringue will begin looking mighty strange. But do not fear- it should all come together when you’re done adding all the butter. And if it doesn’t:
If the mixture looks like a wet melted mess, your butter was probably too soft, your room too warm. Stick the mixture in the fridge for around 10 minutes, and try again.
If the mixture looks like a curdled mess, kind of like scrambled eggs, rejoice! You’re on the right track. Just keep whipping it like crazy– and have faith. Before long, you will have silky smooth awesome buttercream.
At this point, I like to add in 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla extract, for the flavor and the alcohol. Mix that in well, then pour in your COOLED melted chocolate. Mix it in, and mmm… you’ve just made my favorite frosting ever.