Boiled Icing - With Rescue Technique

With Easter coming soon, the question of how to make corn-free icing was keeping me up at night. I found this recipe for boiled white icing, also known as Italian meringue, in my old (1960's) copy of the Joy of Cooking, and when my results turned out a little too runny, I used one of their suggestions to rescue my icing.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (or few drops of lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

How to:

  1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan, dissolve the sugar over heat and bring mixture to boil. Cover for about 3 minutes, maintaining heat to keep the syrup simmering without boiling over (this washes any sugar crystals off of the sides of the pan with the trapped steam that condenses and drips back down). Remove the cover and continue to cook the syrup until it reaches 238 - 240 F.
  2. Whip the egg whites with the salt until they begin to get frothy. Continue whipping as you pour the hot, but not boiling, syrup into the mixture in a thin, steady stream.
  3. Finally, add the cream of tartar (or lemon juice) and the vanilla.

Notes & Options

  • My first attempt was a bit too runny. I chilled it while I tried to figure out what to do. In the Joy of Cooking's "about boiled icings" section, there is this bit of advice: "If the sirup has not been boiled long enough and the icing is somewhat runny, beat it in strong sunlight. If this doesn't do the trick, place the icing in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over -- not in -- hot water, until it reaches the right consistency for spreading." I tried this, and it worked!
  • Further advice, for the opposite problem, reads: "If the sirup has been overcooked and the icing tends to harden too soon, a teaspoon or two of boiling water or a few drops of lemon juice will restore it."
  • The final bit of advice in the about section says to wait until the last moment to add mix-ins like zest, raisins, or nuts so as to avoid thinning the icing with the acids and oils present in these ingredients. I think some lemon zest would be a lovely addition!
Copyright 2017 Amanda Hansen all rights reserved