Swiss meringue buttercream is a silky icing that uses egg whites, sugar and butter. It's not too sweet, and perfect for piping and frosting cakes and cupcakes.
Here, you'll learn how to make this silky frosting, heating egg whites and sugar in a double boiler, then adding butter to the meringue. My favorite tips and tricks, plus recipes to use it on.
What is Swiss meringue buttercream?
Possibly one of the most perfect frostings imaginable.
This isn't a confectioners' sugar icing like my Fluffy Vanilla Frosting. That is an American buttercream and uses confectioners' sugar and butter to create a deliciously sweet frosting.
This silky smooth frosting is light and airy, not too sweet and meltingly good.
It starts with a Swiss meringue (a cooked meringue made by heating the sugar and egg whites before whipping). Pure, sweet, unsalted butter is mixed into the fluffy white meringue creating a melt-in-your-mouth texture with a taste that isn't overly sweet.
It pipes and spreads like a dream and colors with food coloring like a charm. Keep this basic recipe handy. Very handy.
What is Italian meringue buttercream?
Italian meringue is simply made using a different cooking method than what we call a Swiss meringue. Both meringues can be eaten right out of the bowl, or baked slowly to create crispy meringue desserts.
For Italian meringue, the sugar and water are cooked separately to a certain stage on a candy thermometer. Then this syrup is drizzled into the egg whites as they get whipped. Then butter is added.
Therefore, Italian meringue buttercream is buttercream frosting made with meringue and butter, but the meringue base has been prepared differently.
Some like Italian meringue buttercream because it is more stable and stiff.
How to use
I would make what seemed like vats of this when I worked at Martha Stewart. I used it on cupcakes, holiday and spring cakes, and all the cute decorated kids cupcakes in the Kids magazine.
Pipe buttercream onto cupcakes like my Spring Flower Cupcakes. Just after being made, or at room temperature, it pipes beautifully. Just use standard piping tips, and disposable piping bags for easy cleanup.
How to make
See this list of steps to make Swiss meringue buttercream, and see the recipe below for the full instructions.
- Combine sugar and egg whites in a heatproof bowl.
- Set bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly.
- When sugar is dissolved, remove from heat.
- Whip the sugar mixture until cool, and then until stiff peaks form.
- Reduce speed and beat in butter, a little at a time.
- Add vanilla.
- Slowly mix to release air bubbles and use.
How long can you store buttercream?
Freshly made buttercream can be kept at room temperature for a day. It can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks, or frozen for up to 3 months.
As it sits air bubbles will form and the buttercream just needs to be stirred until smooth.
Thaw refrigerated buttercream at room temperature before using.
I've been known to be in a hurry and I'll zap the chilled buttercream in the microwave for a few seconds at a time, until it's soft enough to put in a mixer. With the mixer on low speed, stir the buttercream until the cold lumps have thawed and smooth out.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 5 large egg whites
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
- Whisk together 5 large egg whites and 1¼ cups sugar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, over a pan of simmering water until sugar has dissolved, about 5 min. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers--you shouldn't feel any sugar crystals.
- Transfer bowl to the mixer stand with the whisk attachment and beat on high until mixture cools and stiff peaks form, 10 to 12 min.
- Reduce speed to medium-high and add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 4 sticks unsalted, softened butter a little at a time. (Buttercream may curdle but will become smooth as you continue to beat it.)
- Use within a few hours or refrigerate up to a week. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat on low until smooth.
More frosting recipes from the blog:
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- The Best Frosting For Cookies
- Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
- Simple Cream Cheese Frosting
- Best Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting
Recipe by Tara Teaspoon
I’ve been in the food publishing business for over 20 years, creating recipes and food styling for magazines, books, television and advertising. Find out more about me!
Recipe adapted by Tara Bench