Sylvia Weinstock's Buttercream Icing

“All my cakes are done in buttercream icing. It’s a finer finish and tastes better. Once you try this buttercream icing, you will never use a commercial icing again.”
From ‘Sweet Celebrations: The Art of Decorating Beautiful Cakes’
(Simon & Schuster)
By Sylvia Weinstock with Kate Manchester

Sylvia Weinstock’s Buttercream Icing


  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 13 large egg whites
  • 3 pounds (12 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into half sticks
  • 6 tablespoons clear vanilla extract


  1. Makes about 12 cups, more than enough to ice and decorate most cakes; Leftover buttercream can be frozen for up to three months.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 3/4 cup water, mixing with a wooden spoon until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Place the pan on the stove, and use a clean pastry brush to paint the area just above the water line with water. Turn the burner on to medium and heat, watching the sugar mixture to be sure it does not carmelize or burn. Lay a candy thermometer in the pan and simmer the sugar-water mixture without stirring until the thermometer reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit (soft-ball state); this will take about 5-7 minutes.
  3. As the sugar nears the required temperature, place the egg whites in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Using the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium speed until they turn from opaque to white and begin to hold soft peaks. They should be at least double in volume in about 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overbeat.
  4. Turn the mixer on high and very carefully and slowly pour the hot sugar mixture in a very thin stream near the edge of the bowl and into the stiffly beaten egg whites. Beat for 20 to 35 minutes on medium to high speed. The egg whites will lose some of their volume and the mixture should resemble a very thick meringue. The outside of the bowl should be moderately warm to touch.
  5. At this point, reduce the speed to medium or low and add the room temperature butter pieces, one at a time. The mixture will break and begin to look like cottage cheese, but don’t worry. Keep the mixer running, continue adding butter, and let the mixer whip the buttercream until it begins to get smooth once again; this could take up to 10 minutes. Once the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and beat for five minutes more. The buttercream is now ready to be colored or chilled. (If the buttercream is too soft, chill for 10 minutes and then whip again. If this doesn’t work, cream 4 tablespoons of chilled butter, and then gently whip the creamed butter into the buttercream, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat until the buttercream is smooth and there are no lumps.)

Comments (3)


I have always made the standard buttercream with powdered sugar, butter, etc. This was a complete change for me when I tried it today. The taste is so mild, it's not very sweet at all, and really lets the cake and filling shine through. The perfect accompaniment to a fabulous cake recipe. Warning though! I made this in my stand-mixer and it was WAY WAY too much icing for it to hold. I had BC icing everywhere. If I were to ever make this again it would only be if I could use a commercially sized stand mixer or I would cut the recipe in half. After adding the sugar mixture I ended up scooping out half of the mix into an XL mixing bowl and then basically did two smaller batches and mixed them together at the end to ensure all ingredients were incorporated into the full mix. The icing was good but not sure it was worth all of the complexity, time, $, and mess it created.


I'm making this icing right now. So far it's looking beautiful and light. I am having the same problem as hrnewbie with it being way too much for my mixer. I also had to scoop out a large portion and am doing it in 2 separate batches. The time it's taking to mix both batches will be about an hour. My mixer is already really hot after 30 minutes. I do think this will be worth the time, money and mess though if it turns out well because people really just don't like fondant or the sweetness of most buttercream frosting. I will need to make them in 1/2 batches from now on though.


Ok, I have iced the cake. It is absolutely wonderful, light and smooth and light tasting. It does not appear to crust. It does leave a slight oily film in my mouth from the butter, but I think that's just normal for buttercream icing.