Vegan Italian Meringue Buttercream

Vegan Italian meringue buttercream recipe. This frosting is airy and light, not overly sweet with a buttery vanilla flavour. Makes the perfect frosting for vegan cupcakes or layer cakes.
Prep Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Chill Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
4.57 from 30 votes
cupcake with italian meringue frosting and raspberry on a grey surface.

Why you’ll want to try this eggless Italian buttercream

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.

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!).

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 like 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 first time round!

close up of vegan italian meringue frosting.

What is Italian meringue buttercream?

Italian meringue buttercream is a smooth buttery frosting which is traditionally made using egg white, sugar syrup and softened butter. To make it without egg 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 the 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 leftover 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/super fine sugar: The white sugar creates a beautifully 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 bi-product of wine making and used widely in baking. This acid works as a stabiliser 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 flavouring 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 flavouring is made using castoreum, which is derived from the anal glands of beavers! This product is hidden in labels under “natural flavouring”.

Luckily, most large supermarkets now stock vanilla extract which is labelled “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.

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 the 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. This can be done the night before or at least one hour in advance of making the recipe.

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 a 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 continue to whisk until the mixture is incorporated.

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 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. This extra couple of minutes of whisking will make the buttercream super light and fluffy!

FAQs & Tips

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 soft ball test, you can read more about it on cooksinfo.com who have detailed a comprehensive post on this method.

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 to decorate a cake/cupcakes on the same day. It will harden when chilled, so before use, allow it to come to room temperature.

How to fix Italian meringue buttercream:

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.

Using this Italian buttercream to frost vegan cupcakes

I collaborated with my friend Holly from The Little Blog of Vegan who created a delicious vegan white chocolate cupcake recipe to go with this incredible frosting. If you don’t already know Holly, she is a talented vegan baker who makes the most show-stopping elaborate vegan cakes as well as simple vegan versions of everyone’s favourite baked goods.

I met Holly through social media a couple of years ago when we discovered each others work on Instagram. I instantly fell in love with her creations, I mean, one look at her page and you’ll be in vegan cake heaven – absolutely everything she makes looks like utter perfection. Not to mention Holly also makes stunning reels on instagram showing how she puts together her cakes and bakes, and she makes it look easy!

Some weeks ago we got chatting and thought it would be fun to work on a recipe together! Seeing as we both share so many of the same passions for animals, vegan treats and creating, we thought that putting our experience and knowledge together would be a perfect way to create the ultimate vegan treat for you to enjoy. And so we bring you these indulgent little White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Centres and Italian Meringue Frosting!

To make Holly’s recipe for the cupcakes and filling here are the ingredients you’ll need;

WHITE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

  • 240ml dairy-free milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 210g self-raising flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 30g dairy-free white chocolate
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 60ml vegetable oil/melted coconut oil

 

RASPBERRY COMPOTE

  • 120g fresh whole raspberries
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

For full instructions head to The Little Blog Of Vegan

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). Holly’s cupcakes stayed perfect in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days (possibly longer but sweet things don’t survive that long in my house!). 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 CUPCAKES

Related recipes

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More vegan Italian meringue based recipes

cupcake with italian meringue frosting and raspberry on a grey surface.

Vegan Italian Meringue Buttercream

4.57 from 30 votes
PRINT RECIPE PIN RECIPE
Fluffy Italian meringue buttercream made vegan! This frosting isn't too sweet and has an amazing buttery vanilla flavour. Perfect for frosting vegan cupcakes, sheet cakes and layer cakes.
Prep Time 1 hr 5 mins
Chill Time 1 hr
Total Time 2 hrs 5 mins
Servings 16

EQUIPMENT

  • Electric whisk or stand mixer
  • Candy thermometer

INGREDIENTS

  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 60 ml water
  • 234 g aquafaba *see notes
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 250 g unsalted vegan butter room temperature, cut into 1" chunks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

WHITE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES WITH RASPBERRY COMPOTE

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Start by reducing the aquafaba, add it to a saucepan and bring to the 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 a 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.
  • 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.

RECIPE NOTES

*Aquafaba: drain 1-2 cans of unsalted chickpeas, use only the liquid part.
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 soft ball test, you can read more about it on cooksinfo.com who have detailed a comprehensive post on this method.
Storage instructions: For best results, use this buttercream to frost your cakes/cupcakes when freshly made. You can however store it in an airtight container in the fridge, or at room temperature if you plan on using to decorate a cake/cupcakes on the same day. It will harden when chilled, so before use, allow it to come to room temperature.
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.

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
Tried this recipe?Mention @addictedtodates or tag #addictedtodates

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Recipe Rating






22 thoughts on "Vegan Italian Meringue Buttercream"

  1. 5 stars
    This is the best vegan frosting recipe! I did turn out a little tiny but that was my fault because I don’t have a candy thermometer and my sugar syrup didn’t turn out but the taste is amazing and it is so silky!

    1. Hi Archana,

      Thank you so much for the amazing feedback! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe even without a candy thermometer 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Can I add other flavors into this recipe? Like coffe, biscuit butter or chocolate? If so, when do I incorporate the ingredients? Loved the recipee <3<3

    1. Hi Erica,

      So happy you loved the recipe! You can indeed, add them very last and just mix enough to combinne them in. You can use concentrated espresso or any extract/essence that you fancy!

      Christina x

    1. Hi Abby,

      I usually use flora plantbased stick butter so I’m not sure whether Earth Balance has a higher water content? The 250g always works for me, but you should definitely continue to add more butter if it isn’t coming together and it eventually will. At what point is it separating?

    1. Hi Ashley,

      I haven’t tried freezing it I’m afraid, I’ve only made it fresh or chilled it in the fridge.

  3. Hello Christina. I can’t wait to try your recipe out. I have a 3 tier wedding cake in May and they don’t want sweet frosting. I like that you like vegan unsalted butter for this recipe. I tried a similar one for vegan Swiss meringue bc and it was a bit too salty. When I put my test came in the fridge it never really got all the way firm so as to stack a cake. How firm does this recipe get? Thank you 😊

    1. Hi Rebeca,

      That’s sounds amazing! The Italian meringue buttercream is by far my favourite frosting as it isn’t too sweet at all. In terms of firmness, I haven’t yet tried using it to stack cakes – just as a frosting, so I can’t vouch for how well it would hold up for a large cake. I’d highly recommend testing it out first to see if you’re happy with the consistency beforehand. Do let me know if you give it a try!

  4. Hi,

    Would it work if I use Nuttelex? It’s essentially a margarine, polyunsaturated spread. I’m in Australia too!

    1. Hi Lizzie,

      I’ve never used Nuttelex, I’m based in Ireland :). However, if it’s similar to margarine I wouldn’t recommend using it in place of vegan butter as it has a higher water content, whereas vegan butter has a very low water content. I’m not sure if they would work interchangeably.

    1. Hi Lil,

      I wouldn’t be inclined to chance it because the temperature needs to be exact in order for the recipe to work

    1. Hi Amber,

      I haven’t used it for any large cakes as of yet – just cupcakes etc. However, it is very stable at room temperature so i don’t see any reason why it can’t be used in place of regular buttercream.

  5. Hi Christina,
    Thank you so much for this recipe!
    Can the vegan butter be replaced with vegetable shortening? I live in Australia and the store near me does not sell vegan butter.

    1. Hi Luz,

      You are very welcome 🙂 I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try the recipe with vegetable shortening, but they can be used interchangeably. The only thing is the flavour and texture might be slightly different. Do let me know if you give it a shot!