When you want a light, creamy, smooth buttercream there are two choices, Swiss or Italian buttercream. I love both but have to admit there is less less chance of burning myself when making the Swiss variety as you’re gently heating the meringue over a double boiler. The other benefit of these buttercreams is the color; you can get a very bright white with them and not have to resort to covering your cake in fondant.
Pro Tips for Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Don’t get fat in your bowl, make sure it’s clean (I actually give mine a quick rub with a lemon then wipe with a paper towel)
- Don’t let any yolks get into your whites when you separate the eggs. The easiest avoid yolks is to separate the eggs one at a time into separate bowls and then pour the white in as you go along.
- Don’t get scared when you add the butter in! If it’s a soup or if it’s looking wonky just chill is a few minutes then get back to mixing.
- Give your buttercream a quick whip before using, especially if you made it in advance and chilled. It can lose consistency and get spongy after a while.
- If your idea of warm is tepid then go ahead and use a thermometer to see when your egg white mixture has reached 160F.
Potential Problems to Avoid
I think the most common issue is related to adding the butter when the meringue is still too warm. If you don’t wait long enough then the mixture will be soupy, which is a bummer. Luckily you can pop the bowl into the freezer for a few minutes, then give it a whip and it should be right as rain. If your start using the buttercream and it has lots of little bubbles and isn’t silky and pliable then it’s been sitting for a bit too long. All you need to do is give it a 5 second whisk and it will wake back up and regain it’s consistency.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between Swiss and Italian meringue buttercream?
Both are meringue based frostings that use egg whites to create a lightness and silky structure perfect for decorating. Italian buttercream uses 240F sugar syrup poured into the fluffed egg whites to stabilize the meringue while to make Swiss buttercream you gently heat the egg and sugar mixture to 160F using the steam heat of a double boiler. I find Italian meringue buttercream to be just a bit stiffer than Swiss but bother are EXTREMELY creamy.
Can you put Swiss meringue buttercream in the fridge?
- If you want to make the buttercream ahead of time, it can be refrigerated for a few days.
- Make sure to store in a sealed container, preferably a sealable plastic bag you can squeeze the air out of.
- Once you’re ready to use it, allow it come to room temperature and give it a short “whip” to restore the consistency.
Does Swiss meringue buttercream melt?
Swiss meringue buttercream will melt in the heat. It you’re piping buttercream flowers and expect the temperatures to rise I recommend using a thicker American buttercream.
Can you over whip Swiss meringue buttercream?
Unlike a mascarpone based frosting tor pure meringue, Swiss meringue buttercream cannot be over-whipped.
HOW DO YOU COLOR Swiss BUTTERCREAM?
If you just add food coloring to meringue-based buttercream the color will not really show. A little trick I picked up is taking a tablespoon of the buttercream and microwaving it in a little bowl with a drop or two of food coloring for 8 seconds. The color will REALLY come alive. Now you can mix this colored buttercream into larger batches and you’ll see much more vibrance. I usually use gel food colorings to color my buttercreams; they are more concentrated than the watery ones you get at the supermarket.
How to Pasteurize Eggs
- You’ll need a digital thermometer, a pot and some water. Place the eggs in a small pot filled with enough water to cover the eggs by at least an inch
- Bring water to 140F (60C) and maintain that temperature for 3 minutes.
- Don’t let the water exceed 142F. Remove eggs and rinse with cold water to bring temp down.
- You can use the eggs right away or save for later in the fridge.
How to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1. Carefully separate the egg whites into a bowl. The best practice is to separate the eggs one at a time
2. Add the sugar and salt to the egg whites.
3. Give the mixture a brief whisk to incorporate everything.
4. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the water does not touch the bowl. Whisk the egg whites occasionally while it warms up. When the mixture has warmed, whisk it constantly.
5. Heat the mixture until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. If you’re not using a thermometer rub the mixture between your fingers. It’s ready when it is smooth with no sugar grains and feels warm to the touch.
6. Transfer the egg mixture to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
7. Beat until you get room temperature glossy peaks. You will notice the meringue takes on a substantial, marshmallowy texture. You can pack the bowl with ice or frozen peas to cool it down more quickly.
8. Once the meringue is room temperature, switch to a paddle attachment and add add tablespoon sized dollops of room temperature butter while the mixer runs on low. Make sure to let each piece of butter incorporate before you add the next. When all the butter is mixed in, scrape the bottom of the bowl down; there is always some meringue hiding down below! Go ahead and add the vanilla extract and give it one last mix. You can transfer it to a piping bag or a ziplock bag to store in the freezer.
* I recommend using a paddle attachment for the last step but you can use a whisk attachment and it’s not a big deal, you’re just whipping in a bit more air into the frosting.
If you’ve tried this swiss meringue buttercream recipe then don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you!
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 5 egg whites at room temperature
- 2 cups unsalted butter 452g, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar 300g
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Add egg whites, sugar and salt in a bowl.
- Give the mixture a brief whisk.
- Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the water does not touch the bowl.
- Whisk the egg whites occasionally while it warms up. When the mixture has warmed, whisk it constantly. You will heat the mixture until it reaches an internal temperature of 160ºF or until it's not grainy between your fingers.
- Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer, mix with a whisk attachment until you get room temperature glossy peaks.
- Switch to a paddle attachment and while the mixture is running on low, add tablespoon sized dollops of room temperature butter making sure to let the butter incorporate before you add the next piece.
- Once all the butter is incorporated, go ahead and add the vanilla extract. You can transfer it to a piping bag or to a ziplock bag to store in the refrigerator or freezer.