I use a special type of Italian meringue buttercream that tastes completely different to the granular and super sweet frosting you may have tasted on a supermarket children’s birthday cake, which is an American buttercream that simply combines icing sugar and butter and usually a high proportion of solid vegetable fat for stability.
There are two types of meringue buttercream: Italian and Swiss.
Swiss meringue buttercream is made by beating egg whites and sugar in a Bain Marie (a bowl supported over a pan of barely simmering water) until they reach a certain temperature and adding butter to the egg whites when they have cooled. It’s silky and smooth and tastes delicious but I prefer to use Italian meringue buttercream, which is made by adding a boiling hot sugar syrup to beaten egg whites and, while still smooth and luscious, stays firm enough to pipe, sculpt and paint with.
Meringue buttercreams have a lot less sugar than American buttercream. And because the sugar has been dissolved, they don’t have that powdery mouthfeel that so many people dislike. The texture is luxurious and a lower proportion of sugar (20% compared to 70% in American buttercream) means that [link]flavourings and extracts aren’t masked by an overpowering sweetness.
My own recipe Italian meringue buttercream is perfect for wedding cakes: light and smooth, yet stable enough to create delicate floral finishes with character and volume.