Swiss Meringue Buttercream is a staple in the cake world, and for good reason. Cake decorators rave over it compared to traditional buttercream (made with butter and icing sugar) as it has a smoother, more velvety feel with no grittiness, and is great for filling, crumb coating, fully icing cakes and piping.
I often make an Italian Meringue instead, but I’ll save that recipe for another day. I wanted to put Swiss Meringue Buttercream up first as it’s the type of buttercream people look for more frequently when they decide to try something a bit more difficult than whipping up some butter. The differences are minimal and are mostly to do with what method you prefer.
You can use SMBC under fondant. You can also refrigerate a decorated SMBC cake, just bring to room temperature to serve.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream can be flavoured and coloured however you like, the variations are endless:
Use cocoa or cooled melted dark chocolate to make chocolate SMBC
Use melted white chocolate for white chocolate SMBC
Freeze dried powders make fantastic fruit flavoured buttercream
Any type of flavouring oil, extract, syrup or zest can be added.
Colour using gel or powder colours for best results.
Keep in mind that the colour of your Swiss Meringue Buttercream is influenced by your butter and flavouring, so it will inevitably be a slight yellow colour. You can counter this using whitening products.
I use a little bit less butter in my Swiss Meringue Buttercream as some can find it a little too buttery, you can increase it if you like. Also see the extra tips at the bottom of the page if you have any trouble. Let me know if you try this recipe and what you think!
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 large egg whites (approx 150g)
1 1/2 cups (300g) white sugar
340g softened butter, cubed (I use salted as that’s what’s easily available in NZ, otherwise add a pinch of salt)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Add egg whites and sugar to a very clean mixing bowl, then set it over a pot of simmering water to create a bain marie. Ensure the bottom of the bowl is not sitting in the hot water. Whisk together your eggs and sugar constantly while heating. Once the mixture gets to 60C, remove.
In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk your egg white mixture until it is a thick and glossy meringue and your bowl feels cool to the touch. This can take up to 10mins depending on your room temperature. Once it is cool and your meringue is thick, switch to a paddle attachment. With your mixer on a low speed, start adding in your butter, one cube at a time, until all your butter has been added and is fully incorporated and your buttercream looks silky and smooth. Finally add your vanilla and/or other flavouring.
I made a quick video to show you the process as it happens. After I added my slightly too warm butter I had to whip it for another minute or two to get that thick consistency. You can actually see the moment in the video when it starts coming together perfectly.
Butter too warm and melted? Cool the buttercream in the fridge for 10mins then re-whip.
Butter too cold and still has lumps? Remove 1/3 of the mixture, microwave it until warmed then add back and re-whip. Alternatively, heat the outside of the bowl with a hair dryer or a kitchen blowtorch while mixing.
If your Swiss Meringue Buttercream looks like it’s separating or becoming curdled, keep mixing! All is not lost! As long as you have that thick meringue to start with you can generally save it.
Store in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Bring back to room temperature and re-whip to bring back the correct consistency.