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.
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.
Lets talk about a couple potential problems. 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.
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.
Some things to avoid:
- 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.
- If your idea of warm is tepid then go ahead and use a thermometer to see when your egg white mixture has reached 160F.
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.
Steps to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Carefully separate the egg whites into a bowl. Add the sugar and salt, then give the mixture a brief whisk to incorporate everything.
- 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.
- Heat the mixture until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F or until it’s not grainy between your fingers, then transfer it to a stand mixer.
- Mix with a whisk attachment until you get room temperature glossy peaks. Once it gets to that point, switch to a paddle attachment.
- While the mixture is running on low, add tablespoon sized dollops of room temperature butter. 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.
If you’ve tried this buttercream 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
A step-by-step guide to making silky Swiss 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 freezer.
To reactivate the buttercream after it has been frozen, allow it to come to room temperature then whip it.
If you start adding butter and the mixture becomes soupy don't panic!!! It will be soupy until ALL the butter has been added.
I add flavorings at the end, especially if I'm making a batch of chocolate SMBC, where there's a considerable amount of liquid going in.
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