Kitchen Fundamentals: Swiss Meringue Buttercream
I first made swiss meringue buttercream when we were living in Florida, sometime in 2008. I don’t even remember how I first heard about this type of buttercream, but we’ve had a love affair ever since I first tried it. Swiss meringue buttercream is a luscious and silky-smooth type of frosting made by cooking egg whites and beating into a meringue before adding butter. I’ve tried several recipes for it, and I always come back to this one because it is absolutely phenomenal and yields perfect results every single time.
This frosting is less sweet than typical buttercream, and it has a rich flavor that can’t be achieved with standard buttercream recipes. It spreads and pipes magnificently, and you’ll believe it with every gorgeous frosting swirl you create. This recipe lends itself well to all sorts of variations, making it suitable for just about any cake or cupcake you can dream up. If you want an utterly delicious, no-fail recipe for swiss meringue buttercream, this is it.
Making swiss meringue buttercream for the first time can be intimidating, so here are some of my tips to help you along the way:
• Clean your mixing bowl and utensils with a towel moistened with lemon juice to remove any grease that might prevent the meringue from forming.
• Don’t be afraid to test the egg and sugar mixture between two fingers. If it’s still gritty when you rub your fingers together, continue cooking until the mixture is smooth.
• Make sure to whip your meringue until glossy, stiff peaks form before adding the butter.
• If the frosting seems runny after adding your butter, simply refrigerate it for 5-10 minutes before whipping again.
• If the frosting looks curdled, do not fear! Keep beating until it comes together (and it will come together).
• If you need to refrigerate the frosting, reconstitute it by heating about a third of it in the microwave until it is just warm to the touch. Beat the remaining frosting in a mixing bowl on medium speed and gradually add the warmed frosting. Beat until creamy.
- YIELD: 8 cups of frosting (enough for about 36 cupcakes)
2¾ cups plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1¼ cups egg whites
5 sticks (2½ cups) unsalted butter, cubed and softened
5-6 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
Combine the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over a small pot of simmering water and, whisking constantly, heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot, taking care not to cook the eggs.
Place the bowl back in the mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Whip on high speed for about 10 minutes, until the mixture forms a stiff meringue and the bottom of the bowl comes to room temperature. Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment.
With the mixer on low speed, begin adding butter a few cubes at a time, beating until they are incorporated before adding more. Once all the butter has been added, increase speed to medium and beat until fluffy.
Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat on medium speed until the buttercream is smooth and creamy.
The buttercream can be used immediately, stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or refrigerated for up to 10 days.
Chocolate: Add ½ cup (4 ounces) melted and cooled semisweet chocolate in a steady stream while mixing on low speed.
Mocha: Add ¼ cup of cold strong coffee and ¼ cup melted and cooled semisweet chocolate, each in a steady stream with the mixer on low speed.
Lemon: Reduce the amount of vanilla extract to 2 tablespoons. Add the zest of 2 lemons and 3 tablespoons of pure lemon extract.
Fruit: Add ½ cup seedless fruit (raspberry, strawberry, etc.) puree.