When I discovered Swiss meringue buttercream several years ago, I was intimidated by it. I didn't like the idea that I couldn’t just throw everything in a mixing bowl and start mixing as I had done with the buttercream I had been making at the time for my cakes. Swiss meringue buttercream requires a bit of extra time, costs a bit more and involves a process. But let me tell you, it is so worth it. Swiss meringue buttercream is luxuriously light and creamy. It’s silky, fluffy and smooth texture makes it a DREAM for filling and icing stacked cakes. It’s stable and holds its shaped when piped. It's perfect for getting those sharp, precise edges on layer cakes and is a great base for covering with fondant.
How to make Swiss meringue buttercream
You begin the process of making Swiss meringue buttercream by heating egg whites and granulated sugar in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. This process is to cook the egg whites and melt the sugar all while whisking continuously to avoid any scrambling. Once the egg white mixture reaches 160F, it is strained through a sieve into a stand mixer mixing bowl and using the whisk attachment, beaten until stiff peaks form and the bowl is room temperature to touch. At this point, softened butter is popped in piece by piece and then, and you leave it to mix on low for a bit. It's important to mix on low as to not incorporate air. Incorporating air into your buttercream can cause and contribute to cake disasters, such as blow-outs, air bubbles and sinking.
This is the time in Swiss meringue buttercream making that most people think they’ve destroyed it and they pitch all of that glorious (albeit, ugly at this point) buttercream. It’s quite possible your buttercream will look curdled, or super deflated. It might even look separated. But it’s ok. Let it keep mixing. This can take up to 10 or 15 minutes. Keep mixing and it will come together into creamy, silky and smooth Swiss meringue buttercream. Mixing the buttercream on low for a while allows it to fully incorporate, and eliminates air pockets - which is super important if you're making a fondant covered cake. It also helps creates that super silky, creamy texture.
Once the buttercream has come together and is fully incorporated, add the flavorings and a pinch of salt. Don't skip the salt - it helps to define the flavors you add to your buttercream. Swiss meringue buttercream is a blank canvas suitable for many, many types of flavorings. Jams, curds, cookie butters, nut butters, extracts, chocolates, etc. It holds flavors incredibly well so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Some common questions and concerns:
1. Swiss meringue buttercream is too buttery.
This is the most common concern, no doubt. In comparison to American style buttercream that is mostly sugar and the sugar taste is the forefront flavor, Swiss meringue buttercream will seem more buttery as butter is the star in this buttercream. I always suggest to meringue buttercream beginners to try a fruit or chocolate flavored buttercream first so you can really get a since of how delicious, adaptable and amazing this buttercream truly is. Additionally, if you're making a vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream, don't skimp on the vanilla in quality or quantity. I add both vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste to my buttercream. This buttercream is more of a luxury style buttercream meant to showcase high quality flavors and ingredients. It's the perfect vehicle for intense and concentrated flavors.
*Pro tip: If you love the texture and taste of Swiss meringue buttercream but want it a bit sweeter, add ½ -¾ cup of sifted confectioners sugar after the butter is fully mixed in.
2. Can I make Swiss meringue buttercream in advance?
Yes, definitely. You can keep your Swiss meringue buttercream at room temperature for up to two days. If you've let your buttercream sit for a couple days, it will seem kind of spongy if you try to use it as is. Place the buttercream back into the bowl of your stand mixer and mix on low for 5-10 minutes until smooth. You can also refrigerate and freeze the buttercream. Again, you will need to mix again on low speed to smooth out the texture. The buttercream must be room temperature before mixing otherwise, it will separate. I always make my Swiss meringue buttercream in advance and refrigerate it because I'm always making large quantities of it for wedding cakes.
*Pro tip: If you start mixing the buttercream and find that it is still too cold and is separating, you can help bring the separated mixture back together by using a kitchen torch to warm the buttercream. While the mixer is on, run the kitchen torch flame along the outside bottom, of the metal mixing bowl, back and forth, until the buttercream starts to come together. *Only try this technique if you're using a metal mixing bowl.
3. Why aren't my egg whites whipping into stiff peaks?
Your mixing bowl and utensils must be grease free otherwise the eggs won’t whip up properly. They’re temperamental like that. Wipe down your bowl and utensils with a clean cloth and lemon juice or vinegar to remove remaining fat residue. I also don't recommend using carton eggs. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. I also don't find meringue made with carton whites to be as stable.
4. Why is my Swiss meringue rock hard after being refrigerated?
Keep in mind that Swiss meringue is made with mostly butter, so being that cold butter is hard in the fridge, you should expect your buttercream to harden similarly. This aspect of Swiss meringue buttercream though, is one of perks of using it for layer cakes. Cakes refrigerated with Swiss meringue buttercream are far more stable for transportation and for covering with fondant than a cake covered with an American style shortening based buttercream. Also, buttercream acts as an excellent insulator, keeping your cake moist while being refrigerated. Just bring your cake to room temperature before serving and it will be perfectly soft and delicious.
5. I'm adding loads of gel food color to color my buttercream but it's still not the dark color I want.
Swiss meringue buttercream is oil (butter) based. Gel food color will not allow you to achieve the deep, or vibrant colors that can be easily achieved with shortening based or American style buttercream. To be achieve dark and vivid colors with Swiss meringue buttercream, you need food coloring that is suitable to chocolate, one that is oil based. I like to use Artisan Accents Chameleon Colors.
6. Swiss meringue buttercream costs more to make, takes longer to make and can be more difficult to make. Why would I want to make Swiss meringue buttercream over my go-to American buttercream that is inexpensive, fast, and easy?
Just like some people find Swiss meringue buttercream to be too buttery, some people find American style buttercream to be grainy, greasy or overly sweet. When it comes to taste and texture, it all comes down to personal preference. It's also important to consider workability as well, especially if you want to make professional looking cakes.
The main reasons I find Swiss meringue buttercream to be worth trying and is my preference for my cakes, is for stability and versatility. If you make layer cakes or tiered cakes, it's important to have a base buttercream that is stable for layering, stacking and transporting. Swiss meringue buttercream, as well as Italian buttercream, chills firm allowing for a smooth and stable foundation for fondant or rolled chocolate.
I also find that the support from using a meringue style buttercream, or ganache is important for supporting sugar flowers well in a cake. Buttercream that is more loose, doesn't firm in the fridge (like a shortening based buttercream) just doesn't have the stability of a meringue buttercream or ganache. Using Swiss meringue allows me to get sharp, clean edges on my cakes and stays firm while I am decorating, stacking, and transporting the cake.
Some tips for successful Swiss meringue buttercream:
*Use a candy thermometer or and instant read thermometer to make sure your temperature just reaches 160F. 160F ensures that all the bad bacteria is killed off in the egg whites. However, be sure to bring the temperature of your egg/sugar mixture up slowly and don't overcook your mixture. Rushing this process will result in scrambled and cooked egg whites.
*Swiss meringue buttercream can hold quite a bit of flavorings. When adding liquids, such as fruit purees and other liquids, mix in a little at a time. The liquid needs to be able to emulsify into the buttercream. Another reason you want to add a little bit of liquid at a time, is that adding too much liquid can cause the buttercream to become unstable. I recommend reducing your fruit purees into concentrates before adding to the buttercream. You can also use pulverized freeze dried berries for fruity variations of Swiss meringue buttercream.
*If your finished buttercream appears loose and more pudding-like, it’s possible that the butter was too warm when you added it to the meringue. Pop the bowl into the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes then mix again.
The recipe below is for vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream. But the flavor options are endless. Here are a few popular flavors to experiment with. Adjust the quantities to suit your taste.
*Chocolate - Add 3 cups (600g) of bittersweet chocolate, melted, to a batch of buttercream
*Fruit flavors - Add 1 to 1 ½ cups reduced fruit puree, preserves or curd per batch
*Nut Butters, Cookie Butters, Caramel- Add 1 to 1 ½ cups per batch
*Boozy - Add ¼ - ⅓ cup flavored liqueur such as Bailey's, Champagne, or Amaretto per batch
If you try this Swiss meringue buttercream recipe, let me know! Leave a comment in the comment area below and be sure to snap a photo and tag it #littlevintagebaking on Instagram. I love seeing your Little Vintage Baking creations!
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 9 (300g) large egg whites
- 2 ½ cups (500g) granulated sugar
- 3 ½ cups (793g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 ½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla bean paste
- Weigh out egg whites and granulated sugar together in a non-reactive bowl, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the bowl and place over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water, whisking constantly and gently until temperature reaches 160F.
- Using a sieve, strain the egg white sugar mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Mix on medium speed with the whisk attachment until the mixture is glossy, reaches stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl is no longer warm. You cannot add butter to the bowl if it is warm or the butter will just melt when added.
- Once the mixture reaches stiff peaks, you have Swiss Meringue (Yay!) but we’re going for buttercream here, so onward. Switch out the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment and begin mixing on low speed.
- Add the softened butter cubes, a couple at a time, until incorporated.
- Now, just let it mix. It might curdle or look lumpy but that’s ok. Keep mixing. This could take some time. The buttercream is ready when it is smooth, satiny and creamy.
- Keep mixing on low and add the salt and flavorings. Mix until everything is fully incorporated.
Hi will the frosting melt on a cake if you are having a out door part,
I don't recommend any frostings to be out in the sun or heat for longer stretches of time. This is a more stable buttercream, and if it is chilled, it will do better outside for a bit longer. But with that said, avoid leaving out at high temperatures or in the sun.
How many grams of white chocolate can i use in this recipe? It says 600 but whitenchoc is normally sweeter than milk chocolate.
Hi Janne! I think I'd cut it down to no less than 400g. I wouldn't cut to much because you still want the flavor. I'm actually making a white chocolate SM next week. I'll report back here with my results. -Ash
Your recommendations were outstanding!! My cowormers loved it! I felt like a pastry chef of buttercream, lol
I'm making my best friend's wedding cake later this year and am just gearing up to practice my first tiered cake, and first SMBC! It will be a semi-naked (leaning towards fully naked) two-tiered cake with a 10" base and 8" top tier, each with four layers (two cakes sliced in half, for a total of four layers), a bc dam around the edges, and ganache filling. How much of this recipe would you suggest making? At least double seems called for, but triple seems like a crazy amount of eggs whites (27 egg whites??!?), and may be way more than I need. Thank you!
Hi Steph! I would go with a double recipe. Hope you love it!
mary m wheeler
can you use half butter and sweetex to swiss merginue buttercream
Hello ash , I followed your recipe and it came out REALLY AWESOME!! .. I decorated my cake with it .. can the cake sit out of the fridge over night?
Hi Benedicta! You can leave the cake out overnight. So happy you love the recipe! - Ash
Of late, my buttercream has been turning yellow whilst I have been icing my cakes. Initially it is white and fluffy but then a seems to turn. Is it because I have over beaten it? Or it is out if the fridge for too long?
Not sure what I am doing wrong.
Hi Jo! There's a few reasons why buttercream can turn yellow when icing the cake if it gets too warm. This means that it is starting to melt/separate a bit. It can also mean that the egg whites were not at stiff peaks before adding butter. The meringue won't hold up and will start to deflate more and more as you use the bc. Make sure that you are rewhipping your buttercream once it has been brought to room temperature after coming out of the fridge. Hope this helps! -Ash
If I only have a hand mixer will this be ok?
A hand mixer will work just fine. - Ash
I’m a first time user of smbc and had a question about leaving a cake out, typically a wedding cake.
If I’ve stored the cake in the fridge overnight and then travelled and set up at the venue, will the cake stay firm and in the condition I left it in? Will it melt/wilt or will it keep its shape?
I’m worried that once it’s been out for a few hours it won’t look as good as when I left it. Or the buttercream will sweat/run.
Any tips appreciated! Thank you 😊
Hi Kayleigh! Yes, it will keep its shape! That's why I have preferred to use it with my wedding cakes. The cake will be chilled and easier to travel with and will slowly come to room temperature just in time for the venue to serve it. If you're worried about any condensation, transport the cake in a closed box so the cake can start to come to room temp without getting any moisture on the surface. Hope you love it! Ash
I’ve tried the recipe, it’s too sweet for my taste. can i reduce the sugar? if yes, how much can i reduce?
Also, my buttercream turn out yellowish. what can i do to make it white?
Hi Cindy! I would not reduce the sugar any lower than 100g or 125g (1/2 - 3/4 cup) just because it can start to effect the stability of the meringue. Did the buttercream get super light and creamy? It should have an off-white, maybe a slight yellow hue because of the butter. To offset any yellow color, use tiny toothpick amounts of purple gel color to cancel out the yellow tone. Just mix in very little at time, until the buttercream is white. I hope that helps! - Ash
Hi! Is it okay to frost frozen cakes with room temp SMB? Just brought my cakes out of the freezer after finishing my SMB and now I’m concerned the texture might change?
Hi Carissa! Yes, you can. The texture will change slightly, mostly because it will firm up a bit because of the cold, but once it's left to come to room temperature, it'll be just fine. -Ash
Thanks for the great directions. I am making a tiered cake and was wondering if I could use the traditional American Buttercream in between the layers and SMB on the outside. Would that taste ok? Just not sure the company will like SMB over entire cake...
Hi Mickey! You can totally do that! I actually do that quite often. Ash
Used this recipe to pipe St Patty's Day cupcakes and it turned out beautifully and delicious! I've tried a number of recipes and your ratios for egg whites, sugar, butter have the best results so far. Also easy to remember for scaling purposes (3:5:8). https://www.instagram.com/p/CMgB9RCAp8h/?igshid=1s7pr1a9ofb5s
Fabulous! Happy you love the recipe! Thank you! Ash
I just made Swiss meringue buttercream for the first time using a different recipe, with a slightly higher ratio of butter compared to the egg whites and sugar. It tastes pretty much like butter. I'll take your tips next time in adding more vanilla and vanilla bean paste with a little confectioner's sugar at the end. My question is - I found it difficult to get those sharp, smooth edges you mention. Do you have any tips for this?
Hi Theresa! I like to use the upside down method. This is a good guide for that method: https://mcgreevycakes.com/ganache-a-cake-with-razor-sharp-edges/ I hope this helps! Ash
I made cupcakes for an event ahead. I’ve made my buttercream and is refrigerated. Should I frost my cupcakes with the Swiss buttercream early morning I will not be home later to do it? My husband will be bringing them that evening. My question is. Can I frost the night before and refrigerate cupcakes or frost cupcakes early morning? If I frost early morning do I refrigerate until needed or refrigerate. I’m Just worried they will get soggy if I leave them out or if I refrigerate the buttercream will get to form.
Hi Nicole! The Swiss meringue buttercream will not get soggy on the cupcakes. It's pretty solid, and doesn't weep. You can do either option with success. It will not need to be refrigerated if you're eating them the day you frost your cupcakes.
Love SMB but wasn't sure if I can freeze the whole cake frosted with SMB. Will the texture change?
Hi Genny! Yes, you can freeze a cake with SMB. The texture shouldn't change at all. Just be sure you have it wrapped really, really well to avoid any sort of freezer burn and to make sure it doesn't absorb any freezer smells. Defrost the cake in the fridge to avoid any wetness or cracking that could occur, and bring to room temperature before serving. Ash xx
Hi! I will be making my son’s wedding cake so a few questions please. Can you use egg whites in a carton and if so do you still need to heat them. I’ll be using this on a few tiers of dummies so will it work? Thanks.
Hi Lulu! I don't recommend using carton egg whites for traditional Swiss meringue buttercream because they're ultra pasteurized, and with some brands, it means that they won't whip up properly. Some do, some don't.
If you're wanting to make a buttercream with the carton whites, try my mock meringue buttercream. https://thelittlevintagebakingcompany.com/almond-peach-biscoff-cake-with-dulcey-faux-meringue-buttercream/
Just follow the recipe, but omit the dulcy (blonde chocolate). No heating required and it tastes very similar to Swiss meringue bc.
Thank you for the recipe! I've been using SMBC for years but I never can get a silky airless texture, no matter how long I mix in low speed with paddle attachment:( is it because of the recipe I used? And medium speed for kitchen aid stand mixer is speed 4 or 6? Low speed means 1?
Here is the recipe:
1 cup egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Looking forward for your reply, thank you very much Ashley
Hi Theresa! I use the mixer on a 6 for buttercream. Sometimes the buttercream won't get smooth due to the butter being too cold, even if it was room temp. If you have a kitchen torch and you're using the KA steel bowl, turn the mixer on low speed, and pass the kitchen torch back and forth on the sides of the bowl, a few seconds at a time. The fire won't hurt the bowl. This will get some of the bc to "melt" a bit, making it softer and easier to mix. You'll be able to see how the air bubbles will start to disappear, and it gets smoother as it mixes. Just be sure that it doesn't melt too much or it'll be too soft. I hope that helps! Ash xx
How long will this stay good in the fridge? Can you freeze it?
Hi Holly! You can absolutely freeze it. It will last in an airtight container in the freezer for 2 months. You can refrigerate it for up to one week.
Hi Ashley, glad I came across this post! I am looking at trying SMBC to use for a stacked cake where I would normally use an American buttercream. Where you have said you can refrigerate SMBC and it will firm up making it a great choice for transporting. If the cake is refrigerated and then removed and needs to be transported for a fair distance 1-2 hours and then displayed where it cannot be refrigerated would the SMBC stay firm and sturdy and hold up or is there a decent probability of the buttercream not holding up to this?
This buttercream will be just fine out at room temperature. I typically transport the cake while cold, set it up for the event (or tell my client to leave the cake out at room temp), and after a few hours sitting out at room temp, it will be ready to serve. Hope that helps!
Hi Ashley! Ive only made SMBC a couple of times now and one of those times it looked like it came out great, but I ran into a problem. After about 15min (after the point of mixing) the buttercream shrunk in volume and it became hardened/super stiff. Is that what you mean by it sinking? It was so odd because it seemed like the right texture when I stopped mixing it. Ever hear or experience something like that happening?
Thanks for the great post!! 🙂
Hi Liz! Did it get super stiff before or after you added the butter? If it was before, it's possible that you overwhipped the meringue. If it was after you added the butter, I'm unsure of what could have gone wrong. Let me know if this post helps you out next time you make it, and if you need any more help, DM me on Instagram. Thank you Liz!