Baking Basics: Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Although store bought icing can sometimes do the trick, when I spend the time to bake a homemade cake, I want to ice it with something special as well. I find traditional American icing, sometimes known as Confectioners Frosting or Vanilla Frosting, too sweet, essentially being just a combination of butter and confectioners sugar. So, for me, the perfect type of icing to use is Swiss Meringue Buttercream. This is the type of icing that wedding cake designers typically use on their thousand dollar cakes and once you get the hang of it, you’ll never go back. Swiss Meringue Buttercream has a fluffy, satiny texture and isn’t as sweet as American icing due to the addition of egg whites. It can seem intimidating the first time around, but do not fear, once you’ve done it once or twice you’ll be a pro.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream has three required ingredients: egg whites, sugar, and butter. This will make a buttery base to which you can add additional ingredients to get your desired flavor. You can add chocolate, extract, or any flavor puree to do this.

The ratio for Swiss meringue buttercream is easy to remember. It is 1 part egg whites: 2 parts sugar: 3 parts butter.

A basic recipe for Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
4 oz egg whites
8 oz sugar
12 oz room temperature butter

The steps to making Swiss Meringue Buttercream are quite simple:

1. Cut up the butter into tbsp sized pieces. Set aside.

2. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a bowl and place over simmering water. Whisk the two together gently, but consistently, until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 160 degrees. If you do not have a thermometer, test the mixture by using the finger test. Dip your index finger in the mixture and rub between your thumb and index finger. The mixture is ready when it no longer feels grainy.

3. Once the mixture has reached the right temperature, remove the bowl from the water and begin to whisk with an electric mixer. Start off slow and as the mixture gains some volume increase to high speed.

4. When the mixture has reached firm peaks and the outside of the bowl feels cool to the touch, reduce the speed of the mixer to low and add in all of your butter at once. Continue to beat until light and fluffy.

5. If adding in any additional flavoring, extract, or puree, this is the time to do so.

How to store Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

This buttercream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for up to a month. When ready to use, bring it to room temperature and whip for a few minutes until it becomes light and fluffy.


Q: Does all of the butter need to be added at once?
A: Yes. Adding in the butter further reduces the overall temperature of the egg mixture. If you add the butter in slowly, the first couple of dabs will simply melt.

Q: When adding in the butter, my buttercream looks curdled. Is this ok?
A: Yes. Sometimes if the butter is added a bit too soon the buttercream can get a curdled look. This is fine and just keep beating to fix. The issue will resolve itself.

Q: Is this buttercream ok to use on a cake that will sit outside?
A: In my experience, this type of buttercream should only sit outside for an hour or two. If you are making a cake for an outdoor event, I’d recommend using Italian Meringue Buttercream instead.

Q: Is this buttercream safe for pregnant women or the elderly?
A: If you are making a cake for pregnant women or the elderly you should either use pasteurized egg whites in this recipe, or make Italian Meringue Buttercream instead.


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