Johnny Iuzzini's Vanilla Buttercream

Sweeten Cupcakes With This Vanilla Buttercream

"The Great Holiday Baking Show" judge Johnny Iuzzini judges a "GMA" cupcake decorating competition.
Servings:Over 8
Difficulty: Moderate
Cook Time: min

James Beard-wining pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini appeared on "Good Morning America" today to lead the "GMA" team in a holiday decorating challenge. Iuzzini, currently a judge on ABC's "The Great Holiday Baking Show," shared a favorite cupcake recipe as well as icing recipes and decorating tips. Try this recipe for Vanilla Buttercream, plus flavoring options, from Iuzzini's latest book, "Sugar Rush."


  • 5 large egg whites
  • 2 cups sugar (400 g)
  • Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup water (60 g)
  • 1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted
  • Butter, softened and cubed (593 g)
  • Cooking Directions

    Click HERE for the recipe for Johnny Iuzzini's Almond Orange Cupcakes.

    The key to making silky buttercream is to make sure your meringue is completely cool before adding room-temperature butter. This is an emulsion, and the strongest emulsions are made when the ingredients are all at the same temperature.

    Put the egg whites, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the vanilla seeds, and the cream of tartar into a standing mixer bowl and whisk well to combine. Attach the bowl and whisk to the mixer and turn it on to low speed. Put the remaining sugar and the water into a medium saucepan. Stir it with your finger until sandy; wipe the sides of the pan down with a wet fi nger and put the pan over medium heat. When the sugar is melted and begins to bubble, brush down the sides of the pan with a clean pastry brush dipped in cold water. When the sugar reaches a rolling boil, increase the mixer speed to medium. Continue cooking the sugar, brushing the pan sides if any crystals form, until it reaches 250 degrees F (soft-ball stage).

    Increase the mixer speed to medium-high. The whites should be fluffy and shiny but still soft. Carefully pour the hot sugar syrup in a slow, steady stream into the mixer. Pour it directly onto the whites between the mixer bowl edge and the outer reach of the whisk. Increase the mixer speed to high and whip the meringue for 6 to 8 minutes, until cool to the touch. Begin adding butter, a little at a time, whipping until completely combined before adding more. If you see the butter melting, stop adding butter and whip the meringue longer until cool. Continue gradually adding the butter. When all of the butter has been added, the buttercream should be very smooth and fluffy. The buttercream is now ready to use. Buttercream can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; let stand at room temperature and rewhip it in a standing mixer until it is smooth and fluffy again before using. Buttercream can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw the buttercream overnight in the refrigerator and then let stand until room temperature before whipping until smooth.

    Plain Buttercream

    Simply omit the vanilla seeds from the recipe for Vanilla Buttercream.

    Citrus Vanilla Buttercream

    Although I do love bits of citrus zest in mousses and frozen desserts, it is not pleasant in silky buttercreams. Instead, I use essential oils like lemon, lime, orange, et cetera, which can be found in cake supply or craft stores. They are very potent, so be careful. Start by adding 1/4 teaspoon oil to the finished Vanilla Buttercream in the mixer and whip it; taste and add more depending on how strong you want the flavor to be.

    Salted Dulce de Leche Buttercream

    Dulce de leche continues to be a favorite flavor on many dessert menus, and I love its caramel-like taste. But it can be overwhelmingly sweet, so a balance of salt that you can actually taste makes this buttercream truly awesome—and much simpler to

    make than real caramel. Put 1 cup Dulce de Leche into a medium bowl, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and whisk well to combine and dissolve the salt. Add about 1 cup of the Vanilla Buttercream and fold it gently until combined to lighten it. Add the lightened dulce de leche to the batch of buttercream and whip it until evenly combined. Use immediately.

    Chocolate Buttercream

    This is a simple way to make silky chocolate buttercream, but you must make sure that both the melted chocolate and buttercream are at room temperature. If one or the other is too warm or too cool, the chocolate can seize and you will have lumpy buttercream. Melt 4 ounces (113 g) unsweetened or extra bittersweet (72 percent cacao or higher) chocolate and cool. Put the chocolate into a large bowl and add about 1/2 cup of the Vanilla Buttercream. Using a large rubber spatula, fold the two together until well combined and homogenous. Add another 1/2 cup of buttercream and fold again until well combined. Add the chocolate mixture to the buttercream and whip it until smooth and creamy with no streaks of white. Use immediately.

    Coffee Buttercream

    I drink at least a couple of espressos every day and love the flavor of coffee. Using it in buttercream is great because it cuts the sweetness of the frosting, but be sure to use a good-quality espresso powder like Medaglia d'Oro to make it. Once you have added the final bits of butter to the whipping Vanilla Buttercream, dissolve 1 tablespoon (6 g) instant espresso powder in 1 teaspoon of hot water; cool. Add the liquid to the finished buttercream and whip until incorporated. Taste the icing and add more if you like a real espresso punch.

    Raspberry Buttercream

    Put 1/4 cup (75 g) Raspberry-Mint Jam or other seedless raspberry jam in a medium bowl and add 1 tablespoon hot water; whisk well. Check the consistency—it should be the same thickness as the buttercream. If too stiff , add a little more hot water. Put about 1 cup of the room-temperature Vanilla Buttercream into the bowl and whisk until well combined. Add the raspberry mixture to the remaining buttercream and whip in the mixer with the whisk until well combined.

    Miso Buttercream

    This probably sounds a little wacky, but since I like really pronounced fl avors and usually include salt in my dessert recipes, it makes perfect sense.

    The umami salty zip of white miso paste is a great partner for sweet buttercream. You can find miso paste in the refrigerated section of good natural grocery stores or Asian supermarkets. This frosting is great for cakes that are rich and dense or are nut based. In a small bowl, whisk 1/2 cup (130 g) white miso paste and 2 tablespoons (30 g) hot water together until very smooth. Using a rubber spatula, press the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean medium bowl. Press on the solids firmly to strain as much liquid paste from the mixture as possible. Discard the solids; let the paste cool to room temperature. Add about 1/2 cup of room-temperature Plain Buttercream to the miso paste and whisk to combine. Add this mixture to the remaining buttercream and whip until well combined. Use immediately.

    Green Tea Buttercream

    Put 1/4 cup (28 g) matcha (green tea powder) into a bowl and pour 6 tablespoons (90 g) boiling water over it; whisk very well until no lumps remain. Pour

    the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a clean bowl; let cool to room temperature. Put about 1 cup of room-temperature Vanilla Buttercream into the green tea paste and whisk well until evenly combined. Add the green tea mixture to the remaining buttercream and whip in the mixer with the whisk until well combined.

    This recipe was styled by chef Karen Pickus for "Good Morning America."

    Reprinted from SUGAR RUSH. Copyright 2014 by Johnny Iuzzini. Photographs copyright 2014 by Johnny Iuzzini and Michael Spain-Smith. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC.

    Recipe Summary

    Main Ingredients: egg whites, sugar, butter

    Course: Dessert

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