How to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream, the perfect frosting!
Over the past few months, I have been testing and re-testing recipes to be included in the baking book. One of the challenges that baffled me until recently is how to get the perfect swiss meringue buttercream. Deemed as the professional bakers’ frosting and better than the classic buttercream, my curiosity led me to few well known recipes, mostly from blogs but none of them turned out the way I wanted. One recipe was downright soupy and the other was more like curdled eggs. Most likely it is my own shortcomings but after few months of failures I was more than determined to get it right.
This time with my own ratio and my own techniques.They turned out just like what i dream of swiss meringue buttercream, silky smooth and not too sweet. After few suceesses of this method, I am confident to share it here with all of you.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMB) uses egg whites, sugar and butter. I worked out a ratio that does not require hefty amount of egg whites, yet enough to frost a dozen cupcakes or a large 9 inch layer cake.
For Vanilla SMB:
3 large egg whites
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
100g fine granulated sugar
90g icing sugar
180g unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
This ratio can be doubled for large quantity, but I recommend sticking to this ratio for stability of the frosting. Don’t worry it is not too sweet!
SMB method is slightly tricky whereby the egg whites and granulated sugar are whisked in a bowl over boiling water, ie the double boiling technique. This ensures the sugar is fully melted, which gives the silky smooth texture to SMB. Once the mixture is slightly pale and start to bulk in volume ( if you have a candy thermometer, it should reach around 70 C or 160 F), transfer to kitchen mixer or hand mixer with WHISK attachment.
I use whisk attachment throughout and never swap to paddle attachment at any point.
Keep beating on medium-high speed ( Speed 6 on Kenwood) and add in the salt and cream of tartar. I find that this gives better stability to the egg white meringue. You should whisk until the meringue is stiff, on average took me 10 minutes until it looks like the photo below.
Once the meringue is stiff and the mixer bowl is completely cool to touch, I add in the icing sugar all at once and beat again on low speed intially until all the icing sugar is incoorporated. Then increase the speed to medium-high and start adding the butter.
Here is the tricky part. This is when most recipes somewhat failed me and most people complaint that the frosting became soupy. I dice the butter to small cubes and leave them out until the butter cubes reach almost room temperature but still slightly cold to touch. Add the butter cube by cube whilst the mixer is on high speed, until all the butter is mixed in.
One common mistake!
Don’t add all the butter at once, as the mixture will be soupy and curdled.
After a minute, the frosting should be thick and glossy. This is when I will flavour it, for example vanilla extract for vanilla SMB.
To flavour the frosting, I sometimes add in fruit puree but the puree must be cold, thick like Greek yogurt consistency and around 2-3 tbsp in total quantity, and no more.
The frosting is now ready to be piped, or layered between cakes.
A bit on piping..
For the picture above, I use piping tip 1M ( open star tip), and swirl from the edge of cupcake all the way to the middle.
1. My meringue does not form stiff peaks!
The basic of meringue requires using fresh eggs, in clean dry bowl. Ensure that there is no mix-in of egg yolk in your egg whites, and the bowl, spatula and all tools used are clean, non greasy and dry. Whisk using balloon whisk until pale and sugar is fully melted before transferring to kitchen mixer.
2. Is the egg whites safe for consumption?
As the mixture is ‘cooked’ on double boiling, the egg whites are safe to be eaten by anyone, including children.
3. How to know if the eggs are fresh?
Take an egg and dip into a pot of water. If the egg sinks that is a sign that egg is fresh, discard egg which floats on water.
4. Can I use salted butter, shortening or margarine?
You can use salted butter but do omit the salt from the recipe. Shortening can substitute butter on equal amount but won’t taste as nice as butter. I strongly discourage using margarine for any bakes, as it contains trans fat which is harmful for health.
5. How do I store my SMB?
The best option is obviously to use the SMB on the day itself, but you can store it up to 5 days in the fridge. I would not recommend freezing this recipe as once thawed, the texture will not be similar to the fresh or chilled SMB.
Feel free to ask questions by leaving comment below. You can also print this for future reference using the ‘Print’ button.
Note: I am conducting a hands-on class on Cakes, Cupcake and Decorating technique in TOTT store this 29th September, which include session on SMB. Do join in the fun, and cupcake recipe as above picture will be shared in my upcoming baking book.