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Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is light, fluffy and not too sweet. This frosting is a dream to work with. It takes on almost any flavor and is strong enough to pipe roses and other decorations.

What is Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC) anyway? Is this the national frosting of Switzerland?

Honestly, I have no idea if they actually make SMBC in Switzerland. A so-called “swiss” meringue refers to the process for making the meringue that is the base of this buttercream.

To make a swiss meringue you stir egg whites and sugar over simmering water until the temperature reaches between 120°-160°F.

Warming the egg whites this way will melt the sugar and partially coagulate the egg proteins. This makes a very stable meringue that is super easy to work with and is a great base for light and fluffy frosting.

Scroll through the step by step photos to see exactly how to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

two photos showing how to monitor the temperature of meringue for swiss buttercream
1. Whisk the egg whites and sugar over simmering water until the temperature reaches 120-160F.° 2. Whip the meringue to full peak. When the temperature reaches about 80°F you can start adding the butter.
two photos showing how to add butter and vanilla to meringue buttercream
1. Toss in the softened butter. 2. Add the vanilla extract.
two photos showing how to finish making swiss meringue buttercream
1. After adding the butter and vanilla the meringue will collapse and may look curdled. 2. Keep whipping until the buttercream is light and fluffy.

How to fix Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

  • If you are working in a warm kitchen and your buttercream is just a little too soft you can refrigerate it briefly and then re-whip it until it’s light and fluffy.
  • If your buttercream is a little too cold (my kitchen is fairly cool in the winter and I often have this problem) you can warm the bowl and then whip it until it’s light and fluffy.
  • I use a propane torch to warm up the buttercream, which is fun, but you can also place a small bowl of warm water under the mixing bowl to warm the buttercream.
  • If you do have a propane torch and want to use it, here’s what you do: With the mixer running, wave the torch back and forth across the outside surface of the bowl to warm the buttercream. Keep it moving at all times to avoid burning the buttercream. You’ll see the edges melt a bit and then mix in. This works fast, so be careful.
  • If you have refrigerated or frozen your buttercream, bring it back to room temperature then follow the instructions above for rewhipping.
four photos showing how to fix curdled or chilled swiss meringue buttercream
1. Place chilled buttercream into the mixing bowl. 2. Use a propane torch or a bowl of warm water to warm the buttercream as it whips. 3. The buttercream will curdle a bit, keep whipping. 4. The buttercream becomes light and fluffy again.

FAQs for making Swiss Meringue Buttercream

What is the best temperature for making swiss meringue?

You should heat the egg white & sugar mixture between 120°-160°F. If you are not worried about salmonella in your egg whites you can use the lower end of the temperature range. Bringing the whites up to 160°F will ensure that any bacteria is killed-off.

Can I tint Swiss Meringue Buttercream?

Yes, this buttercream takes color very well. I prefer to use a gel color, but you can use any food coloring to tint the buttercream. Add the food color right after you finish making the buttercream.

How can I flavor Swiss Meringue Buttercream?

You can add melted chocolate to make Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Add raspberry puree or other fruit purees for fruit flavor. Liquors such as Limoncello, rum or Kahlua can flavor Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

Can I make Swiss Meringue Buttercream in advance?

Yes, Swiss meringue buttercream can be stored at room temperature for 1 day, refrigerated for several days or frozen for up to 3 months. Bring the buttercream back to room a temperature and re-whip before using.

Is Swiss Meringue Buttercream shelf stable?

No, after 6-8 hours the buttercream should be refrigerated or frozen.

How much Swiss Meringue Buttercream do I need for an 8″ cake?

This recipe makes enough buttercream to fill and frost an 8″ cake or frost 24 cupcakes.

Can I fix Swiss Meringue Buttercream that is curdled or cracking?

Yes, see the previous section explaining how to fix buttercream.

What’s the difference between Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Italian Meringue Buttercream?

Swiss Meringue buttercream starts by heating egg whites and sugar over simmering water to make the meringue base. Italian Meringue Buttercream is made by pouring hot sugar syrup into whipped egg whites to make the meringue base.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is the perfect filling and frosting for Vanilla Butter Cake, Vanilla Genoise, Vanilla Chiffon Cake or Old Fashioned Buttermilk Cake.

If you want a buttercream that is just as light and airy as a meringue buttercream, but with a slightly richer flavor and color, try making classic French Buttercream. It’s made with egg yolks instead of egg whites.

Now that you’ve made this recipe what should you do with the extra yolks? Check out this collection of recipes that use extra yolks for some great ideas.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

a bowl of swiss meringue buttercream

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: Enough to fill & frost an 8" cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 26 minutes

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is light, fluffy and not too sweet. This frosting is a dream to work with. It takes on almost any flavor and is strong enough to pipe roses and other decorations.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (8 oz, 226g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large (6 oz, 170g) egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 pound unsalted butter (450g) room temperature, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
  • Other flavorings to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar and salt. Set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Stir the egg whites mixture until the temperature reaches between 160°F.
  2. Remove the bowl from the heat and whip the whites in high speed until stiff peaks form and the whites are cooled to about 80°F.
  3. When the whites have cooled, with the mixer running on medium, add the butter one piece at a time. Add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium high and whip until the buttercream comes together.
  4. Store at room temperature until ready to use.

Notes

I always use fresh egg whites. If you use pasteurized egg whites from a carton make sure the package says they can be used for meringue. Some markets sell pasteurized eggs still in the shell, those can also be used for this recipe.

If the buttercream becomes "spongy" while standing re-whisk to correct the texture. The buttercream can be refrigerated 3-4 days or frozen for several weeks. Return to room temperature and re-whisk before using.

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