Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I recently made a birthday cake for someone, and I was looking for a good frosting to use. Buttercream always strikes me as far too rich, and also, it’s not great in warm weather (melting frosting is not pretty). Enter meringue buttercream. The egg whites used in meringue buttercream stabilise the butter, making it great for piping designs and warm weather. There are two types of meringue buttercream: Italian and Swiss. Italian meringue buttercream involves making a sugar syrup and then pouring it into already-whipped egg whites. Swiss meringue butter involves heating the sugar and egg whites in a double boiler. Some people prefer Swiss meringue buttercream because you heat the egg whites (food safety and all that). I prefer it because it doesn’t involve a candy thermometer or me try to experimentally figure out if something is in the soft ball stage. So without further ado, I present to you Swiss meringue buttercream.

swiss meringue buttercream
Swiss Meringue Buttercream in action

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes 10 cups, give or take (so if you’re making 30 or so cupcakes, you can definitely halve this)

10 (300g) egg whites
2 1/2 c (500g) sugar (doesn’t have to be caster, but that’s what I use)
680g unsalted butter, cool but not cold, and cut into cubes
1 tbs vanilla extract (plus a little more if you’re not using any other flavourings)
a pinch of salt

1. Wipe everything that you’re using (bowls, utensils, etc.) with lemon juice and a paper towel to get rid of any residual grease.

2. Put the egg whites and sugar into the top of a double boiler. Gently whisk the sugar into the egg whites.

3. Heat the egg white-sugar mixture over gently simmering water until the sugar has completely dissolved into the egg whites and the mixture feels hot to the touch.

4. Transfer the egg white mixture to a mixing bowl, and beat on medium-high speed until the egg whites are thick and glossy and the bottom of the bowl no longer feels warm to the touch. Do not proceed until the bottom of the bowl no longer feels warm, or the butter will melt.

5. With the mixer speed on low, add the cubes of butter one at a time. If the mixture curdles, keep beating and it will come back together. When the butter is completely incorporated, add the salt and vanilla and any other desired flavourings, and frost away!

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