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If you’re looking for a delicious, not overly-sweet, slightly leveled-up buttercream, look no further than the Swiss Meringue Buttercream!
Swiss buttercream is like the classier and more refined older sister to American buttercream.
It’s less sweet than American buttercream, so it’s a terrific option for frosting cakes, cupcakes, fill French macarons, and more!
While it can seem a little intimidating to make, I’m here to show you it is TOTALLY doable.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream is definitely easier than you might think, and it’s actually very forgiving.
My favorite part is that it is a perfect blank canvas for ANY flavor additions. I’ve listed a bunch below to get you started.
I’ve created a video inside the recipe card below so you can actually see what each stage is supposed to look like, with tips and tricks along the way in case you are worried you messed up somewhere along the way!
How to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream
What is Swiss Meringue Buttercream?
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream (aka SMBC) is made by whipping a mixture of egg whites and sugar that has been gently heated in a double boiler until the sugar dissolves and the eggs are cooked.
- The egg white mixture is then whipped up into a beautiful glossy meringue.
- Cubes of butter are then gradually added to the meringue, then flavor ingredients.
- It’s more complicated than American buttercream, but is so delicious and the texture is so silky smooth that it’s well worth the extra steps, especially for special occasions!
What’s the Difference Between Swiss and American Buttercream?
- American Buttercream is basically a combination of beaten butter, powdered sugar, and flavoring(s).
- It is by far the simplest and easiest buttercream, but can often have a very sweet one-note flavor profile.
- Check out my recipe for American Buttercream here, for a quicker, slightly sweeter but equally delicious buttercream.
Are There Other Types of Buttercream?
- Italian Meringue: Similar to Swiss, but a little more complex. Italian Meringue Buttercream is made by cooking a sugar syrup and carefully drizzling this into an egg white mixture.
- French Buttercream: Similar again, but French Buttercream contains egg yolks instead of egg whites. It can be the most difficult to make, as it requires cooking a hot syrup, then drizzling this into egg yolks, which can scramble easily. It’s ultra-rich and smooth but may result in the consumption of raw eggs.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Tools
- Candy Thermometer: For ensuring your egg white/sugar mixture has reached the correct temperature. An instant-read thermometer will also work.
- Whisk: For whisking the egg white/sugar mixture constantly throughout heating.
- Stand Mixer: The best tool for SMBC! While this can be done with a handheld electric mixer, I don’t recommend it as it will take much longer.
- Piping Bags: For piping your perfect Swiss meringue buttercream onto your cake or cupcakes.
- Piping Tip: This Ateco #825 star tip is my favorite piping tip.
Flavor Customization Ideas
Feel free to get creative here! Add more or less depending on your preferences, and even combine two flavor ideas for something more unique. Be sure to taste as you go, and add a little more flavoring as needed. If you’re adding a liquid, be sure to add it slowly, in tablespoon-sized increments. If you get a little heavy-handed, see the note above about curdling.
- Vanilla Bean: Add 2 tablespoons pure vanilla bean paste or the scraped seeds from 1 bean.
- Chocolate: Add 2/3 cup cooled melted chocolate
- Mocha: Add 3/4 cup sifted cocoa powder and 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- Raspberry or Strawberry: Add 2/3 cup seedless raspberry or strawberry preserves + red food coloring if desired
- Almond: Add 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Nutella, Peanut Butter, or Cookie Butter: Add 3/4 cup to buttercream
- Mint: Add 1 teaspoon peppermint extract + green food coloring if desired
- Lemon or other citrus: Add 2 tablespoons fresh zest and 3 tablespoons fresh juice
- Hazelnut: Add 1 teaspoon hazelnut extract
- Coffee: Dissolve 1 tablespoon espresso powder in 2 tablespoons hot water and add in at the very end
- Caramel or Dulce de Leche: Add 3/4 cup to buttercream
- Brown Sugar: Substitute the white sugar for brown sugar in the recipe.
- Spiked: Add 2 tablespoons flavored liqueur such as Chambord, Kahlua, or Bailey’s.
Recipes Perfect for This Buttercream:
large (150 grams) egg whites
(250 grams) granulated sugar
sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter,
at room temperature
pure vanilla extract
Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with a paper towel and lemon juice or vinegar, to remove any trace of grease. Make a double boiler by placing the mixer bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.
Add the egg whites and sugar to the bowl, whisking constantly but gently, until the temperature reaches 160°F, or until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot and foamy. Carefully wipe the bottom of the bowl dry.
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin to whip, until the meringue is thick, glossy, and stiff peaks are achieved. The bottom of the bowl must no longer feel warm to the touch. This should take about 7 to 10 minutes.
Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add the butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated. Continue beating until it has reached a silky smooth texture. This may take several minutes.
If the buttercream curdles, simply keep mixing and it will come back together and be smooth. If the buttercream is too thin and runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes before continuing mixing with the paddle attachment until it comes together. Add the vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
Add additional flavors, purees, or mix-ins as desired.
To make ahead:
Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Let come to room temperature and beat on low with the paddle attachment, until creamy, before using.
To use under fondant:
Frost the cake as smoothly as possible. Place in the refrigerator until the buttercream has hardened before covering in fondant. Cover with fondant straight from the refrigerator.
This makes enough frosting to generously frost a 9-inch two-layer cake or about 2 dozen cupcakes. This recipe can easily be doubled.
Please don't panic if the frosting looks curdled as you mix in the cubed butter and/or flavorings. Just keep mixing and it will eventually come back together and look creamy and smooth again.
This recipe was originally created in 2015 and was recently updated with more recipe tips and FAQs.
Tips for the Perfect Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Cooking the egg whites/sugar: Don’t be tempted to crank the heat up too high. Allow the water in your double boiler to just simmer, to slowly raise the temperature of the egg whites and sugar without cooking your egg whites.
- Whisk constantly: If you stop whisking, the egg whites can cook on the sides and bottom of the bowl. Keep the mixture moving, to prevent chunks of scrambled eggs from ending up in your buttercream.
- Whipping speed: Once you move your bowl to the mixer, start whipping slowly and increase the speed as the mixture thickens. I stop increasing the speed once it’s on medium-high. This allows the air to slowly be incorporated into the meringue, to create a stable base, and also allows the bowl time to cool before proceeding with adding the butter.
- You want stiff peaks: Ensure your meringue has reached stiff peaks before adding the butter. Medium peaks won’t result in a thick, luscious buttercream. Stiff peaks are sharp points in meringue that don’t bend or droop.
- Ensure your bowl is completely cool before adding the butter: If your meringue or the bowl are at all warm, the butter will melt and you’ll end up with a soupy buttercream. Don’t add the butter until the bowl is completely cool and back to room temperature.
- Curdling isn’t a big deal: It’s normal and totally okay if your buttercream looks separated, curdled, or chunky while the butter incorporates. It might happen again when you add your flavorings, especially if they’re liquidy. Don’t worry! Keep mixing with the paddle attachment and it will come back together eventually, becoming a super creamy, smooth buttercream.
- If your SMBC contains air bubbles: Mix on your mixer’s lowest speed for a few minutes, or even mix by hand with a rubber spatula for a few minutes, to smooth out the buttercream and pop those pesky air bubbles.