If you are like me you never grew up with Swiss meringue buttercream. That's okay! We had that over the top sugary sweet American style buttercream that you want to make sure to have a nice cold glass of milk close at hand to gulp down with each savory bite. Yes, there will always be a place in our hearts for our nostalgic childhood buttercream.....but Swiss meringue. This buttercream just takes our cakes to an all new level that one simply can't ignore, and that is what we are going to journey and discover here.
I will admit up front that this buttercream is a little more high maintenance then our traditional American style buttercream. However, as with most things that require the added attention, it is well worth it. I have heard from many how they are afraid to try to make it. This is not the first tutorial on how to make SMBC (Swiss Meringue Buttercream) and it won't be the last. I am going to show you the way I learned....it may not be the exactly the same as others you have seen but it works for me and my clients love it. I wanted this tutorial to be as thorough as possible to take all the fear out of it for anyone wanting to try. So I have included a step by step video at the end of this post for those are a little more visual and wanting to see how the consistency of the buttercream changes along the way.
However, I will be talking more in this post about the tips and tricks through trial and error that I have learned over the years.
5 egg whites
1 cup + 2 TBSP of sugar
1 pound of butter (room temp)
1-2 TBSP vanilla extract
You will need:
Double boiler (you can make this with your Kitchen Aid mixer bowl over a pot of hot water)
Fill your pot with a little water (not much) and set the burner to medium high. While your water is heating place your egg whites and sugar in your mixing bowl that will serve as your double boiler off to the side. Please make sure you do not get ANY egg yolk in your egg whites. Any fat in the bowl is going to affect your meringue and will make a noticeable difference. If you do get some of the yolks in the bowl try and scoop it out with an eggshell.
Once your water is ready mix your egg/sugar mixture with a whisk the entire time. Don't walk away from the pot for even a minute or you could end up with some scrambled egg in your buttercream.....not really desired for what we are going for. Typically this process takes 5-10 minutes depending on how hot your stove top is. You want to look for your egg/sugar mixture to thin out a lot and get frothy. I use my clean fingers to dip in and feel for sugar granules. If you are not comfortable with that you can use a candy thermometer. The syrup is done around 140 degrees. I have read before that up to 160 degrees provides a more stable buttercream. I don't know if there is any truth to that.
When I first started making SMBC years ago everyone said the same....once the syrup is cooked put it on the mixer and let it whip for about 10 minutes or cool to the touch. Working in a hot, humid kitchen my bowl would be quite warm even after ten minutes frustrating me to no end. So I did a few things to tweak my efforts according to my environment. I live in tropical South Texas where it is always hot or hotter. If you live in similar environments my solutions could work for you as well. Once my syrup is off the boiler I put it in the freezer for about ten minutes. Did you know you could make your syrup in advance and store it in the refrigerator or even the freezer and have it ready to go when you have an order to make? Gotta love advance prep work!
Once your bowl is chilled place it on your stand mixer and whip at high speed with your whisk attachment. This usually takes about ten minutes so I leave it with a timer and go attend to other things. End result should look like this stiff and sticky beautiful meringue.
At this stage switch out your whisk attachment for your paddle attachment. Turn your mixer on the lowest setting and put in chunks of your butter. Your butter should be at room temperature. When you pick it up it should still be firm but an impression from your finger should remain. This stage takes a little while also and it is a great time to walk away and go do something else. Relax....maybe have a cup of tea?
After awhile if you come and check on your buttercream you may see this. This is the curdled stage....the stage that many have panicked and believed they broke their buttercream. It is not broken or ruined. While it looked great in the meringue stage it will break down while incorporating the butter. Given a little bit of time it will come back together beautifully.
A word of caution with regard to that climate situation again. I once made this buttercream many years ago for a cake I was making and realized I needed more. So I started a new batch right away. I was working on my cake and enjoying the rain outside while I let my buttercream mix. After a few minutes I went to check on my buttercream and it was soupy.....really soupy. I continued to let it spin for over half and hour and nothing changed. I did not realize then that the humidity from the rain (and my weather stripping that needed to be changed) was having a horrible effect on my buttercream. So lesson learned and I pass on that little bit of wisdom to you saving you the heartache of that experience. Humidity does not play nice with baking in general.
Humidity aside this is what you will end up with. A beautiful silky and fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream. Note that this is BUTTERcream....so if you put your cake in the refrigerator it will firm up very nicely but not so great to eat a mouthful of. Make sure to thaw completely before consuming to appreciate it fully.
This recipe is a terrific base for a wide range of flavors that you can imagine and it is great for piping! ~ Enjoy xo