SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
If like me, your icing repertoire hasn't expanded past a simple American buttercream, cream cheese frosting or chocolate ganache. Then it's time to delve into the world of meringue buttercreams. Unlike American buttercream which simply combines butter + icing sugar, Italian, Swiss & French, add eggs to the mix, using different techniques to create fluffier, more balanced and stable buttercreams.
Swiss meringue uses egg whites and the application of heat through a bain marie to dissolve the sugar and cook the eggs. This recipe requires a little more attention and time than your simple American buttercream but the end result is worth it for the balanced sweetness and marshmallowy, silky texture.
This recipe will top 1 x 20 cm round cake (as seen in the picture below). If you want to top a dozen cupcakes or sandwich your cake then double the recipe.
I N G R E D I E N T S
3 Large egg whites *Keep your egg yolks! These will store in the fridge for upto 3 days or freezer for 6 weeks. Ideal for egg washing pastry or a batch of custard.
200g Caster sugar
125g Unsalted butter (Room Temp)
1/2 tsp Fine salt
F L A V O U R C H O I C E S
You can always build on flavours, add the initial amount then taste your buttercream, If you wan't more spice or a deeper richer colour then gradually add more.
Salted caramel - Add 75g room temp salted caramel
Chocolate - Add 75g room temp melted choc and 1 tbsp sifted cocoa
Nutella - Add 75g
Vanilla - 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Cinnamon - 2 tsp ground cinnamon
K E Y U T E N S I L S
Heat proof mixing bowl
Electric hand whisk or stand mixer
Pan with simmering water
*Sugar thermometer (Ideal but not required)
M E T H O D
Separate your egg whites from the yolks. I do this by using the shell to pass the yolk back and forth as the egg white falls into a bowl. Alternatively you can crack the whole egg gently into a bowl and lift the yolk out with your fingers.It is crucial you do not break the yolk - if any yolk get's into the white, you will need to discard and start again. This is because the fats in the yolk stop the protein structure forming as the whites are whipped. Basically the egg whites want to velcro together but the egg yolk creates a slip and slide so they can't grip each other.
Cook the egg whites and dissolve the sugar. Place the whites and sugar in a heat proof bowl and whisk till combined. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. The steam is the gentle, indirect heat needed. Set a timer for 5minutes and whisk continuously to ensure even cooking. The mix will turn pale and frothy. You can test this by taking a small amount of the mix between your fingers, if it is smooth then remove from the heat, if there are sugar crystals continue heating. If you have a thermometer, you want the mix to reach 160F/21C.
Whip it. Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer to your stand mixer with a whisk attachment (if you have one, otherwise use your electric hand whisk). Whisk on high for 10minutes or until stiff peaks form.The meringue should be thick, glossy and hold pointed peaks when the whisk is lifted
Now the butter. Feel the outside of the mixing bowl and dip your finger into the meringue to check the temperature. You need the mix to be cool before adding the butter. Gradually add the butter 2-3 chunks at a time, only add more once combined.
Flavour time. Now you've got your buttercream the only thing left to do is flavour it! Add the fine salt and initial quantity of chosen flavouring, whip till mixed thoroughly. Taste the mix and adjust to your palette, take into consideration the flavour of cake you are icing, so to compliment and not over power.
T R O U B L E S H O O T I N G
- My buttercream is really stiff - the likely cause is the the egg whites and sugar were heated for too long, causing the sugar to start caramelising. There isn't a fix for this, just next time make sure you reduce the cooking time.
- My buttercream is runny - your mix was too warm when you added the butter, place the buttercream in the fridge for 30mins then try whipping again.
- My buttercream is lumpy - your butter was too cold, you want your butter to be at room temp. If it's too cold but your egg mix is ready, cut it into small pieces and squish between your fingers as you add it to the bowl. Microwave with caution for short 10 seconds blasts...this more often than not, ends up in a liquid puddle, so keep a very close eye and touch.
S T O R A G E
Can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up-to 3 days, allow to come up to room temperature, then beat with paddle attachment on high before icing your cake.