Mom copied this from the January 1988 Bon Appétit Magazine to include in her recipe file.

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • cup water
  • 8 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces, room temperature
  • Flavoring, (see Variations)
1. Cook sugar and water in heavy small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high and boil without stirring until candy thermometer registers 248 degrees (firm-ball stage), brushing down sugar crystals from sides of pan with pastry brush dipped in water, approximately 4 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, beat yolks with electric mixer until well blended and light.
3. As soon as syrup is ready, gradually beat into yolks in thin, steady stream. Beat mixture at high speed until completely cool and thick, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice, about 20 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low. Add butter pieces 1 at a time and beat until incorporated. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead and refrigerated or 3 months ahead and frozen. Cover tightly. Before continuing with recipe, bring buttercream to room temperature. Work with spatula until completely smooth.)
4. Using wooden spoon or paddle beater (not whisk), very gradually mix in flavoring (see Variations).
Chocolate: Melt 10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate in double boiler over hot, not simmering water. Cool melted chocolate to 98 degrees before adding to buttercream.
Espresso: Dissolve 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder in 2 tablespoons hot water; let mixture cool completely before adding to buttercream.
Raspberry: Puree one 8-ounce package thawed frozen raspberries in blender or processor until smooth. Strain to eliminate seeds. Combine 5 tablespoons raspberry puree and 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam.
Spirits: Use 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier, rum, kirsch, pear eau-de-vie or framboise.
Lemon: Use 4 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel and scant 2 teaspoons strained fresh lemon juice.
Vanilla: Use 1 tablespoon vanilla.


This makes enough to fill, frost and garnish an 8-inch 3-layer cake or a 9-inch 2-layer cake.  Makes about 2 1/2 cups.