Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Swiss meringue buttercream: from how it’s made and stored, to what to use it for, and how to flavor it in all sorts of ways. You’ll love this light, silky frosting so much, you’ll never go back to powdered sugar again!
I tried Swiss meringue buttercream for the first time about 15 years ago, and it was a total “a-ha moment!”
The light, silky texture and perfectly sweet flavor blew me away. I had never tasted anything quite so delicate before.
Right away, I realized that this was the BEST way to take my cakes and cupcakes to the next level, and I have never looked back!
There are so many recipes here on Baking a Moment that utilize Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I’ll share some examples below.
But first, I’d like to take the opportunity to answer any and every question you’ve ever had about this unique and delicious frosting!
What is Swiss Meringue Buttercream?
Swiss meringue buttercream is a frosting that can be used for topping and filling cakes, cupcakes, and macarons. It’s incredibly light and airy, yet rich and buttery at the same time.
The thing that I love most about it is its silky texture. Because its made by first dissolving sugar into egg whites, it has an incredibly smooth quality that you just don’t get with regular powdered sugar (aka: American-style) buttercreams.
When you take a taste, you’ll be struck by its subtle sweetness, and the way it just melts on your tongue.
Is it hard to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream?
While there is slightly more to it than just creaming butter and powdered sugar together, the payoff is huge! You’ll definitely find that it’s worth that little bit of extra effort. And once you get the hang of it, it will seem like second nature!
That said, there are a few pitfalls you should look out for. I’ll break them down below, and let you know how to deal.
Why is my Swiss Meringue Buttercream grainy?
When making Swiss meringue buttercream, the first step is to melt sugar and egg whites together over a pot of steamy water. When the sugar is completely dissolved, you get that incredibly silky-smooth texture in your final product.
But if you don’t heat the mixture long enough, you might feel gritty sugar crystals between your teeth.
I usually cook my whites/sugar for around 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. You’ll notice the mixture goes from thick and transparent, to thinner and more opaque.
But the best way to know if it’s really ready is to place a drop on your finger, and rub it together with your thumb. If you feel any grit at all- keep cooking. When it’s smooth as can be, you’re ready for the next step.
You’ll also notice that the mixture feels hot to the touch. You can gauge with a candy thermometer (it should register 140 degrees F), but I don’t really find that to be necessary. If it feels hot and the sugar is fully dissolved, you should be good to go.
Why does my Swiss Meringue Buttercream look curdled?
Believe it or not, you are doing it right! Swiss meringue buttercream almost always goes through a stage where it looks curdled, broken, or split. This often happens just before it fully comes together!
Just be sure to add the butter in slowly (just a tablespoon at a time), and let each addition become fully incorporated before adding the next. Just keep on whipping, and I promise, it will come back together!
Why is my Swiss Meringue Buttercream runny?
Temperature is everything when making this recipe. The whites and sugar need to get hot enough to dissolve the sugar, but then they need to cool down a lot before the butter goes in.
It’s easy to get impatient at this stage! I’ve done it plenty of times myself, and ended up with a runny mess.
But you do not have to pitch it! It’s totally salvage-able. Just put the entire thing (mixing bowl, whisk, and runny buttercream) into the fridge for about 20 minutes and then re-whip. It works like magic!
It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the temperature of your butter. You want it softened, but it should still be somewhat cool to the touch. You don’t want it so slippery and nearly melted!
I have found that if I soften my butter in the microwave (while still wrapped in sticks) for 10 seconds at 30% power, then flip it over and do another 8 seconds at 30% power, it comes out perfect!
Just bear in mind that all microwaves are not exactly the same, so you might have to experiment a little to find that perfect sweet spot.
Can I make Swiss Meringue Buttercream ahead?
I often make it the night before I need it, and let it sit out at room temperature. This is fine to do if you plan to use it early the following day.
If you’d like to get even more ahead of schedule, it can be refrigerated for up to a week. But you may find that it comes out a bit hard, and loses some of it’s airy lightness. Just scoop it out of the container and re-whip it (after it’s come back to room temp). It will be just like new!
It can be frozen as well, just thaw overnight in the fridge and then follow the method above.
Is Swiss Meringue Buttercream stable?
I honestly think it’s about the most stable buttercream out there. It works really well for piping, and it holds up beautifully.
It is mostly butter, so on really hot days you may have some trouble, but the egg whites do a lot to help it hold its shape.
If you want to serve it on a very hot day, just keep your cake or cupcakes refrigerated until ready to serve.
It also works very well under fondant! It gives you a perfectly smooth surface with no lumps or bumps, so it’s ideal. When I worked as a pastry chef, it was all we used for fondant-topped cakes.
Does Swiss Meringue Buttercream crust over?
Swiss meringue buttercream will not crust, like American-style buttercream does. This makes it really easy to work with, especially if you’re trying to get a perfectly smooth finish on your cakes.
How can I color and/or flavor Swiss Meringue Buttercream?
Swiss meringue buttercream is super versatile! It can be colored with gel paste food coloring (aka: icing colors), and flavored in TONS of different ways.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Fold in the seeds of a vanilla bean, 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste, or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract to make Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
- Add melted chocolate to make Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
- Add melted white chocolate to make White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
- Place freeze-dried strawberries in the food processor, grind them to a fine powder, and stir them in to make Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
- Whip in the zest and juice of a lemon, lime, or orange for a citrus Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
- Stir a tablespoon of instant espresso powder together with 3 tablespoons of hot water, and stir the cooled mixture in to make Coffee Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
- Puree a couple of cups of raspberries, then cook them down until thickened and stir in to to make Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
- Reduce sparkling wine to a thick syrup and add it in to make Champagne Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
These are just a few ideas! You’re really only limited by your own imagination.
Just be careful not to add a whole lot of liquid, or your buttercream could separate.
How do I make Swiss Meringue Buttercream?
Follow the instructions on the recipe card below, and watch this quick video to see just how it’s done:
Here are some recipes that taste great with Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream
- Vanilla Cupcakes
- White Cupcakes
- Strawberry Cupcakes
- Butter Pecan Cupcakes
- Mango Margarita Cupcakes
- Peanut Butter Tagalong Cupcakes
- Apple Cinnamon Pancake Cupcakes with Crispy Bacon Sprinkles
- Grapefruit Champagne Mimosa Cupcakes
- Pina Colada Cupcakes
- Mocha Cupcakes
- Cranberry White Chocolate Cupcakes
- Snickers Cupcakes
- Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes
- Brownie Sundae Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes
- Black & White Malt Shoppe Cupcakes
- Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream
- Salted Caramel Mocha Heaven & Hell Cake
- Vanilla Malt Layer Cake with Cashews & Salted Caramel
- Chocolate Layer Cake
- Banana Split Mini Bundt Cakes
- Neapolitan Macarons
- Shamrock Shake Macarons
- Kir Royale Macarons
- Strawberry Rose Macarons
Find more great frosting recipes on my “Icings, Frostings, Fillings, & Toppings” Pinterest board!
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- 6 large egg whites
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- In a large glass or metal bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar.
- Set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, and stir continuously, until the sugar is completely dissolved. (Check by rubbing a small amount between your thumb and forefinger; it should be hot to the touch, and feel smooth, not gritty.)
- Remove the bowl from the simmering water and whip on high speed until the meringue is thick, white, glossy, and can hold stiff peaks. (It should be cooled completely. There should be no hint of warmth when you place your hand on the side of the bowl. Refrigerate the meringue for 15 to 20 minutes if necessary.)
- Add the butter in, a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. (If the mixture begins to look curdled, continue to beat until it comes back together, before adding the remaining butter.)
- Fold in the salt and any other flavorings you may be using.
This recipe makes enough to fill and frost 1 triple-layer 6-inch layer cake, 1 double-layer 8-inch layer cake, or 2 dozen cupcakes.