Swiss Meringue Buttercream is silky smooth with a pale ivory color (perfect for adding color) and has a slightly less sweet taste than American buttercream. This Swiss meringue buttercream frosting gets its name from the double boiler method of mixing egg whites and sugar as is typical for making traditional meringue.
I LOVE the pale ivory color of this sophisticated buttercream, which will transform any ordinary cupcake or cake into a visually striking treat like these stunning White Cupcakes, Cherry Buttercream Frosting, and Peanut Butter Buttercream. Add a few drops of quality gel food coloring, and top off your masterpiece with additional decorative sprinkles or piping designs!
This super smooth and silky Swiss Meringue Buttercream is soon going to become your go-to frosting recipe when decorating cupcakes, and cakes, or even for creating some delicious cookies like these frosted Candy Cane Cookies. And if you love Swiss Meringue Buttercream, try my Italian Meringue Butter cream too!
Why You’ll Love Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- This buttercream is silky and smooth, easy to pipe with a beautiful glossy finish for wedding cakes, and cupcakes.
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream is less sweet compared to American Buttercream – perfect for those with less of a sweet tooth.
- Easily adapt this buttercream by adding various flavoring extracts or food coloring.
What Ingredients do I Need for Swiss Meringue Buttercream?
- Egg whites – I’ve used large eggs at room temperature. You can store and use the egg yolks in the fridge for other recipes.
- Granulated sugar – To melt with the sugar.
- Butter – Unsalted and softened. You’ll need about 3 sticks, cut into ½-inch cubes.
- Vanilla extract – Use high-quality extract for the best taste.
- Salt – A pinch of salt helps to highlight the flavor of this Swiss buttercream.
PRO TIP: It’s important to note that this Swiss meringue buttercream is not shelf stable, so once you use it to decorate your cupcakes or cake, don’t let these frosted treats sit out at room temperature for longer than 1-2 days maximum, and certainly not in warm conditions or direct sunlight.
How to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream
PREP: Combine the egg whites and granulated sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer and whisk in a simmer over a double boiler set-up until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the simmering water heat and whisk the egg mixture with a whisk attachment in a standing mixer on medium-high speed for 10-12 minutes. The egg mixture will become a glossy and fluffy mixture and cool while being whisked into stiff peaks. Check that the bottom of the bowl is cool before proceeding with the rest of the recipe steps.
Add the butter 1-2 cubes at a time until completely combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Whip the mixture at the LOWEST speed for a total time of 4-5 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and resembles a frosting.
DECORATE: Decorate cupcakes with this Swiss Meringue Buttercream by adding the buttercream to a piping bag with a cake decorating tip. Make swirls on your cupcakes in a counter-clockwise direction, swirling up and towards the center of each cupcake.
- Since this recipe fills most of a 4-5 quart standing mixer bowl, it’ll be somewhat unlikely that you’ll be able to double the ingredient quantities unless you have a larger bowl.
- Salted butter can be used but then omit the pinch of salt called for in the ingredients list.
- The meringue must be cooled completely and the butter must be softened before combining the two. The bottom of your bowl should have no warmth before you combine these ingredients. Should the bowl not be cool after 12 minutes of beating, press a cold cloth against the underside of the bowl.
- Adding the butter to warm meringue or using overly soft butter will affect the consistency of the buttercream. If this happens, you can try to salvage the buttercream by placing the whole bowl into the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes and then returning it to the mixer – it should still come together well after this.
- Switching from a whisk to a paddle attachment after adding in all of the ingredients helps to slowly beat out some of the air. Even if your buttercream looks a bit separated after adding the butter, it should come out silky smooth once you beat the mixture with the paddle attachment on a low speed. If, for whatever reason, you don’t get a silky smooth consistency at this point, pop the bowl into the refrigerator for 5 minutes and try again.
- This buttercream is great for piping open or closed stars or for using a petal tip.
- Only use quality gel food coloring to give this Swiss buttercream some color. Liquid coloring will make it appear blotchy.
- While you could probably use a handheld mixer for making this buttercream, I suspect it’s going to take quite a bit of arm strength and additional time!
- Make sure to use a heat-proof bowl over the boiling water when mixing the sugar and eggs. A metal bowl will suffice but not a glass mixing bowl since that will likely crack.
Some people believe that meringue was invented in the Swiss village of Meiringen and improved by an Italian chef named Gasparini between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century.
- While I’ve used unsalted butter in this buttercream, you can use salted butter instead if you prefer or don’t have unsalted on hand.
- Swiss meringue buttercream tints very well with good quality gel food coloring. I don’t recommend using liquid food coloring as it seems to create a speckled effect in the buttercream.
- Add food flavoring to this Swiss meringue buttercream for strawberry-frosted cupcakes, lemon-flavored cupcakes, or peppermint-flavored cupcakes.
- Add some texture to this buttercream by including some shredded coconut.
Buttercream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or for an extended time of up to 3 months in the freezer.
In both instances, store your buttercream in an airtight container or gallon-size freezer bag.
When ready to use your stored buttercream, bring it to room temperature and then beat it on a low speed with a paddle attachment in a mixing bowl for a few minutes before frosting your cupcakes or cake.
Yes, there is! Despite many using these terms interchangeably, there is a difference between buttercream and frosting in terms of the ingredients used.
While buttercream and frosting are much thicker than icing or glaze, buttercream is typically made with a sugar base and butter, while frosting has a cream base added with butter.
This Swiss Meringue Buttercream is extremely light and airy with a silky smooth texture and a stunning sheen, thanks to the meringue component of this recipe. You’ll find that the flavor of this Swiss Meringue Buttercream is similar to whipped marshmallow creme with a delicious buttery richness. It’s great for piping swirls and borders but unsuitable for more intricate piping.
While there are various types of buttercream, the three main types include Swiss Meringue Buttercream, American Buttercream, and Italian Buttercream.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
This buttercream gets its name because the recipe starts off as if you are making Swiss meringue. The method of making this buttercream is slightly more technical compared to American buttercream since it requires a double boiler when mixing the egg whites and sugar. It’s also used more frequently by the more experienced baker.
The texture is silky smooth with a pale ivory color (perfect for adding color) and has a slightly less sweet taste than American buttercream.
American buttercream is the easiest type to make and is, therefore, ideal for beginners since it doesn’t require the double boiler method. This buttercream is sweeter than the other two types of buttercream and tends to form a thin crust when exposed to air after a certain amount of time.
Italian Buttercream (or Italian Meringue Buttercream) is the most complex buttercream to make out of the three types while also being the most stable in form and shelf life.
Like Swiss buttercream, Italian meringue buttercream also gets its name from the recipe process, starting off with making Italian meringue. In this recipe, boiling sugar syrup has to be carefully mixed into egg whites while they are being whisked, which is why this type of buttercream is usually reserved for professionals or highly experienced home bakers.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 8 large egg whites at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter softened (3 sticks), cut into ½” cubes
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt optional
- In a large HEAT-PROOF mixing bowl (preferably the metal bowl of a standing mixer), add the egg whites and 2 cups of sugar.
- Select a saucepan that the heat proof mixing bowl can set on top of, but not fall into. Fill this saucepan with several inches of water and bring to a low boil.
- Place the mixing bowl with egg whites and sugar over the boiling water (similar to a double boiler set-up). Whisk the egg whites while heating until the sugar is completely dissolved – the egg whites will be warm to the touch and if you rub a bit of the egg whites between your fingers, it will be smooth. You should not feel any sugar granules. Remove from heat.
- Attach mixing bowl to the standing mixer. With the WHISK attachment, beat egg white mixture on HIGH speed for 10-12 minutes. The egg whites will cool and beat into a glossy meringue with stiff peaks. Feel the bottom of the mixing bowl to ensure it is cool to the touch before proceeding on.
- When the meringue has formed stiff peaks and is cooled, add the butter – 1-2 cubes at a time. Mix each addition in to the meringue completely (still using the WHISK attachment) until incorporated.
- Continue adding 1-2 cubes of butter at a time until it is all combined.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and switch out the whisk for the PADDLE attachment. Add vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.
- Beat on the LOWEST speed using the PADDLE attachment for 4-5 minutes or until the airy mixture becomes smooth and thick like a gorgeous frosting. (see notes below for troubleshooting consistency issues).
- To frost cupcakes with a swirl, fit a large piping bag with cake decorating tip #1M. Fill the piping bag with buttercream. Pipe buttercream onto cupcakes in a counter-clockwise direction, swirling up and toward the center.