How to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream

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Learn how to make Swiss meringue buttercream—the creamy, rich version of buttercream frosting you haven't tried yet.

When it comes to topping off layer cakes, many of us rely on a classic American buttercream frosting. This frosting is made up of butter, confectioners’ sugar and milk and it’s a cinch to make. But there are so many delicious frostings out there that it’s worth branching out—particularly for a rich Swiss meringue buttercream.

What Is Swiss Meringue Buttercream?

Swiss meringue buttercream is a butter-based icing that starts by heating and whisking egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar together. The mix is then whipped and whipped until it cools. After that butter is added a bit at a time until a super-rich buttery frosting has formed.

You can use Swiss meringue icing in place of any of your other favorite frosting recipes. It’s great for layer cakes, swirling on top of a pretty 13×9 cake and can even be used for some simple piping decorations.

This type of frosting does differ from the classic American-style buttercream many of us are familiar with. While the American version tends to be very sweet and can form a bit of a shell after sitting out, Swiss meringue-style frosting is less sweet but much more buttery and rich. It is a bit more heat-sensitive, though, so don’t let it sit in the heat for too long.

How to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

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This type of buttercream frosting does take a bit more time, but it’s worth the extra effort. You can use this best vanilla buttercream recipe as a base for making your Swiss meringue buttercream We omit the white chocolate in this step-by-step since it’s not in the most basic version. It comes to us from Taste of Home Culinary Assistant Maggie Knoebel and it’s so luscious. (She’s also responsible for our best vanilla cake recipe!)

Ingredients:

  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups room temperature butter, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Step 1: Heat Up the Egg Whites and Sugar

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Stat this frosting by whisking together the room temperature egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt together in a heat-proof bowl. The bowl of your stand mixer works perfectly here (and then you won’t need to do any transferring later).

Once combined, place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water—keep it on medium heat. Then whisk the mixture constantly until the temperature reaches 160ºF. It should take about ten minutes.

And if you don’t have one yet, be sure to grab an instant-read thermometer ($100). It comes in handy in so many situations, and it’s one of our Test Kitchen’s most used items.

Step 2: Beat Until Cooled

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Next, remove the bowl from the heat and fit into the base of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Turn up the mixer to high and beat until the mixture is fluffy and has cooled down to about 90ºF. This should take about seven minutes. You can stop the mixer occasionally and check the temperature just to be sure.

Step 3: Add the Butter

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Finally, it’s time to add in this frosting’s namesake butter. Add in the butter—be sure it’s room temperature—a tablespoon at a time until fully combined. Don’t rush this part! Let each addition blend before adding more butter.

Lastly, add in your vanilla paste and extract. If you don’t have one or the other, just add a little extra of what you do have. This will give this frosting tons of flavor.

If you’d prefer another flavor, add in a touch of lemon, almond or peppermint extract. Be sure to go easy with these alternative extracts because they tend to be very strong. A teaspoon or two should be just fine. Start by adding a little, taste and go from there.

The end result should be buttery, creamy and smooth. Try not to eat too much before frosting your cake!

How to Frost with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

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Using Swiss meringue buttercream to frost cakes and cupcakes is easy. This frosting is smooth and easy to work with. You can use our easy cake frosting technique to make a perfect layer cake with just an offset spatula. You can also transfer this frosting into a piping bag and top off your best cupcake recipe.

Be prepared for all your loved ones to be asking for their cakes to be topped with this frosting! Its creamy texture and buttery flavor is worth every minute in the kitchen.

Try Swiss Meringue Buttercream with These Cakes
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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.