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Rich, buttery Swiss meringue buttercream is the perfect frosting for a birthday cake or wedding cake.

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What Is Swiss Meringue Buttercream?

Swiss meringue buttercream is a type of frosting made from a base of Swiss meringue, plus plenty of butter. It's one of several different styles of buttercream frosting used to frost cupcakes and layer cakes, or as a filling for macarons and other desserts.

What Is Swiss Meringue?

Swiss meringue, aka meringue cuite, is a type of meringue made by beating egg whites and sugar together in a double boiler (a pan or bowl set above simmering water) until sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch. It’s then removed from heat and further beaten until doubled in volume. The result is a foam of air bubbles enclosed in egg white and stabilized by sugar.

How to Add Flavoring to Swiss Meringue Buttercream

You can customize Swiss meringue recipes with add-ins in place of or in addition to vanilla extract. For chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream, add melted chocolate. Add lemon curd to the recipe to make lemon Swiss meringue buttercream. Swiss meringue buttercream can also be colored with a tint of gel food coloring.

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5 Types of Buttercream

Different methods of making buttercream yield varying textures and levels of creaminess. Find the best buttercream frosting recipe for your favorite cake recipe or next baking project:

  1. French buttercream: French buttercream involves making a sugar syrup, then mixing the hot sugar syrup into beaten egg yolks. Using an electric mixer, slowly add softened butter until the frosting reaches the desired consistency. The egg yolks give this buttercream a rich flavor and yellow color. Traditionally, this type of buttercream fills the layers of dacquoise, a French meringue cake.
  2. German buttercream: This style of buttercream starts with making a vanilla custard with whole milk and eggs. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter until it’s light and fluffy. To finish, slowly add the custard to the butter so the milk won’t curdle. German buttercream is a very creamy, rich, dairy-forward buttercream that also makes an excellent base for cream cheese frosting.
  3. Italian meringue buttercream: Buttercream frosting is one of the most popular applications of Italian meringue. To make Italian meringue, add hot sugar syrup to beaten egg whites, and turn it into buttercream by simply adding butter. As the most heat-stable of the buttercream frostings, Italian buttercream is ideal for frosting celebration layer cakes, like wedding cakes or birthday cakes that might spend hours at room temperature.
  4. Swiss meringue buttercream: Like Italian buttercream, Swiss buttercream starts with making a meringue. To make Swiss meringue, you beat egg whites with sugar over hot water and add the butter bit by bit. Swiss meringue buttercream is relatively quick to make and yields impressive results.
  5. American buttercream: The method for making American buttercream, also known as quick buttercream, involves mixing confectioners' sugar (aka powdered sugar or icing sugar) with butter and sometimes milk or heavy cream—no heat, no eggs. Some pastry chefs don't consider this type of frosting buttercream since it is not very creamy.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe

Makes
About 4 cups
Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Cook Time
10 min

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Set up the double broiler. Fill a medium saucepan with 2 inches of water and top with a heat-safe mixing bowl.
  2. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the egg whites, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar to the bowl and stir with a rubber spatula to combine.
  4. Cook, stirring constantly until the temperature of the egg white mixture reaches 185 degrees Fahrenheit, about 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer the egg white and sugar mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  6. Whisk on high speed until mixture has cooled to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit and glossy, stiff peaks form, about 10 minutes.
  7. Reduce the mixer to medium-high speed and add butter one tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly.
  8. Using a rubber spatula, occasionally scrape the bottom of the bowl.
  9. Once the butter is fully incorporated and the frosting looks thick and creamy, add vanilla extract and mix at low speed to incorporate.
  10. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container.
  11. You may need to re-whip before using.

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