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Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Velvety Smooth, creamy, and not too sweet, Swiss Meringue Buttercream is possibly the BEST frosting you’ll ever taste! I promise you won’t be disappointed! This is one of my most asked about recipes and has always gotten rave reviews.  It’s a little extra work, but the payoff is one delicious frosting that can be flavored any way you can imagine!  Just 4 ingredients and voila! You’ll have the smoothest, most outrageous frosting. 



I learned about Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the first time about 10 years ago when I took one of my first cake decorating classes. It was literally mind blowing. I was like ” oooohhhh, now I understand how people get cakes so smooth and cupcakes piped so beautifully….its all in the frosting!” I had never tasted any frosting so silky smooth and delicious.  After that class, I knew that my cakes and cupcakes would be elevated to the next level!  


 I use this frosting for everything! From cupcakes to tiered cakes under fondant, this frosting is perfect.  It is stable at room temperature for 5 days and has a smooth and delicate mouth feel, unlike American buttercream or buttercream made with shortening. Meringue buttercreams can be temperamental, but usually even if there is an issue, the buttercream  is totally savable. 



Swiss meringue buttercream is my favorite buttercream to use. It is not too sweet, like an American buttercream made with confectioners sugar, which can taste really sweet and get quite grainy, in my opinion. A good American buttercream is great if you need to pipe an intricate design and need the shape of the buttercream to become stiff (this is called a crusting buttercream). This is NOT that….Swiss Meringue Buttercream will not crust and it is perfect when you need a super smooth texture like under fondant or when piping cupcakes. It is smooth and yummy, not greasy or slick, like shortening-based buttercreams can be. All in all, it is my go-to frosting!

frosting on a wisk
sticks of butter, brown eggs, sugar and vanilla extract bottle
sugar pouring into oil
wisk in batter
spoon adding vanilla to frosting batter
wisk in frosting
spatula holding frosting in a bowl



Swiss Meringue Buttercream is the easiest of the meringue buttercreams and involves cooking sugar and egg whites over a double boiler, then whipping it up until it becomes a meringue. It will look fluffy, almost like marshmallow, and will be stiff. If you take the whisk out of the mixer, the meringue will stand up in a stiff peak…this is when you know it is time to add the butter and flavorings. 


The other types of meringue buttercreams are Italian and French. They both involve pouring boiling sugar into whipped eggs. These two types are also very delicious, but they are a bit intimidating and not as easy to pull together. So, I’ll stick with my true love, the SMBC. 


If you are not using the buttercream right away, you can store it in the fridge or covered on the counter for a day or two.
When ready to use, just whip it up again! You can also assemble your cake and keep it out on the counter overnight…this buttercream stays at room temperature for up to 5 days! 


Tips for Making Swiss Meringue Buttercream:


 Butter should be soft and at room temperature for about an hour. You want the butter still slightly cool, not warm or soft. The meringue should also be room temperature, not warm. If your butter is too soft or your meringue is too warm, when you add the butter to the meringue, the mixture will turn liquidy….not what you are looking for in a buttercream! If this happens, just pop the whole entire mixing bowl into the freezer for about 10 minutes. This will take away any warmth and then your buttercream should whip up like a dream!





Is it safe to eat raw egg whites? 

A Swiss Meringue is actually a cooked meringue. You are heating your egg whites up to 160 degrees F, which kills any bacteria that may be in the egg whites.  You are actually making an egg white sugar syrup when you  prepare to make the meringue…yum, right? Not really. But once the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is at 160 degrees F, you’ve basically pasteurizing the egg whites and killed any bacteria.  When you heat egg whites for a meringue, always make sure you have the sugar mixed in the egg whites. The sugar protects the egg whites from becoming scrambled eggs.



Why is my buttercream runny?


No worries! Temperature is the key with this buttercream. The egg whites and sugar need to get hot enough to melt the sugar and pasteurize the egg whites, but they need to cool a lot, like completely to room temperature, before adding the butter.  It is easy to get impatient at this point, believe me, I done it myself plenty of times. If your meringue is too warm when you add the butter or if your butter is too warm, you will end up with a runny mess.  If this does happen though, 10 minutes in the freezer, re-whip and you’re good as new!


Why does my buttercream look curdled?


If your buttercream looks curdled, guess what? Keep going, you’re doing it right! This buttercream passes through a stage of this “curdled” look, like something is very wrong….this happens right before it all whips up into a beautiful smooth buttercream, so don’t worry! 


Why is my buttercream grainy? 


The first stage in making this buttercream is melting the sugar and the egg whites together over a pot of steamy, boiling water. When the sugar is completely dissolved, you will get the well-loved smooth texture to your buttercream. If you are tasting grains of sugar, then you did not heat the sugar/egg white mixture long enough to melt the sugar. Usually, it takes somewhere between 5-10 minutes of whisking together the mixture over the double boiler to get to the melted sugar stage. The best way to know if its ready is to dip your finger in and feel the mixture between your fingers. If you still feel sugar grains, keep whisking. 





Swiss Meringue Buttercream only requires 4 very simple ingredients: 


1. Sugar: granulated sugar, not confectioners sugar 

2. Egg Whites:  I use fresh egg whites, not egg whites in a carton. Yes, I know, you will have left over egg yolks. The yolks can be used for so many other desserts (brulee, flan, mousse….yum!) The egg whites and sugar make the meringue. 

3. Butter: The butter is the magic ingredient that makes the meringue into the buttercream. I know I have said it already about a thousand times, but make sure your butter is room temperature but still cool, not at all warm. 

4. Flavoring: Vanilla extract,  lemon, mint, almond…..the options are endless. SMBC is basically a blank slate. You can add whatever flavorings or even toppings such as crumbled cookies. I have some friends that beg me to make my cookies and cream frosting in every cake because it is THAT yummy!






Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Before starting, butter should be softened at room temperature. 
Author: Jeanine


  • Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a double boiler or a large pot and bring to a simmer.
  • Wash and dry the top of a double boiler or a medium sized pot, making sure there is no oil or butter at all in the pot, as fat will ruin your meringue. Pour the 10 egg whites and 3 cups of sugar into pot and place over the simmering water (you are looking to steam the pot. The top pot should not touch the water). Whisk constantly and continue to heat until the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch (rub fingers together in the mixture, you should not feel any sugar granules).  The mixture should reach 160 degrees.  
  • Pour mixture into a stand mixer and beat on high until stiff peaks form…this is your meringue! This should take anywhere from 10-20 min. 
  • Making sure your meringue is not hot at all (this will melt your butter), turn your speed down
    to slow and add the butter pieces into the meringue.
  • Once all the butter is added in, turn up the speed to medium-high. Keep whipping, about 10-20 min, until it looks thick and smooth. If it looks lumpy, keep whipping. If it looks liquidy, your butter may have been too soft. Pop the mixing bowl into the fridge for 15 minutes, then whip again.
  • After its smooth looking, add the vanilla extract. Keep whipping to incorporate. Use and enjoy!
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