How to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream

UPDATED ON AUGUST 22, 2023

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is my favourite buttercream to make. Not only because it’s easy, but because it has the smoothest texture and leans lower on the sweet scale.  Perfect for frosting cakes and filling macarons. 

Because this buttercream is made from a stable meringue, it holds its shape and performs well in warmer temperatures making it ideal for creating beautifully, piped decorations and is a favourite for professional cake decorators.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream on chocolate cupcakes in blue wrappers

This recipe is included in Module Two: Sugar and Fillings of the Kira Bakes Gluten Free Pastry School.  This Swiss Meringue Buttercream will be making future appearances when we get to Module Three, Five and Six as it’s great when paired with gluten free cakes, cookies and other desserts.

What is Swiss Meringue Buttercream?

Preparation: Swiss Meringue is a glossy, marshmallow-like confection that comes together within minutes of gently heating and whipping sugar and egg whites over a bain-marie. 

Best for: Because Swiss Meringue is heated to a temperature of 46C/115F during the mixing process, it is much more stable than French Meringue and safe to consume without further baking and will hold its shape. This means it’s perfect for making buttercreams, cake fillings and adding pipping and decorative elements to desserts. 

Stability:: Swiss Meringue is moderately stable and can be used in certain recipes without further cooking.

Bain-marie infographic

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Ingredients

list of the ingredients needed to make this Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

  1. Eggs Whites. Egg whites are what make up the main structural portion of our meringue and its really important that you have no traces of egg yolk in your whites. The fat in the yolk will keep the egg whites from whipping to a stiff peak
  2. Granulated Sugar. White sugar, either granulated or caster is not only going to add sweetness to our Swiss Meringue Buttercream but it will also give it a lovely, glossy sheen.
  3. Unsalted Butter. Butter is our secondary structural component and turns our meringue into a rich buttercream perfect for layer cakes and cupcakes.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream in piping bag

What’s the difference between Swiss Meringue Buttercream and American Buttercream?

American Buttercream is a classic north American frosting made by creaming together softened butter and icing sugar. It’s a simple and quick recipe that results in a sweet and fluffy texture.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is made from a base of Swiss Meringue, which then incorporates softened butter. The results are a silky, smooth buttercream that is less sweet than its American counterpart. 

Tips for making perfect Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  1. All equipment and utensils must be clean and dry. No traces of fat or grease (this includes egg yolk) can come into contact with the egg whites. The fat will interfere with the protein strands and will prevent the egg whites from whipping up to stiff peaks.
  2. Use room temperature egg whites. The room temperature egg whites will whip up faster as the proteins are relaxed and can better form a network that will aerate and maintain its shape.
  3. Indirect heat ONLY. Make sure the mixing bowl does not come into direct contact with the simmering water. You can also make a ring out of foil to keep the bowl from touching the hot water.
  4. Use clean sugar. Sugar that has come into contact with flour or other ingredients will cause the meringue to deflate or not whip to stiff peaks.
  5. Using an electric mixer. Using an electric mixer is ideal when making meringue as the egg whites will whip up quicker and be more stable. If whipping Swiss Meringue by hand, use a large, balloon-style whisk and add the sugar very slowly so you don’t weigh the proteins down. Try to use a vigorous, back and forth motion while whisking to create the most friction and air movement.
  6. Keep whipping. Often when making this recipe for the first time, people think they have done something wrong because after adding the butter it turns loose and soupy. This is normal and will thicken up again after whipping for several minutes. 
Swiss Meringue Buttercream

How to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Lets get baking! (Step-by-Step Instructions)

Mis en Place

Going back to the Kira Bakes Gluten Free Pastry Principals, this is always our first step when baking as it not only helps ensure accuracy during the mixing process, but it also makes the whole baking process a lot more relaxing and enjoyable. It’s a win/win!

If I’ve said it 100 times, I’ll say it again. Measuring ingredients by weight not volume is the magic sauce to gluten free baking! I always do my best to provide the cup (volume) measurements where possible. If you are going to measure by volume, click this link for tips on the correct way to measure by volume.

Scale the following ingredients

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Ingredients:

600g unsalted butter (room temperature)

240g egg whites (approx 8 large US eggs)

450g or 2 cups caster or berry sugar (superfine)

1/2 tsp cream of tartar (optional)

2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Prepare the equipment

  • Stand Mixer with whisk attachment
  • Bain-marie (medium saucepan and large heat-proof bowl or stand-mixer bowl)
  • Large balloon whisk
  • Silicon spatula

Method

Step 1

Place raw egg whites and sugar in a bowl of a stand-mixer and whisk just until they are combined. 

*This is when you can add cream of tartar (optional)

Step 2

Place the bowl over a medium high sided pot, with simmering water and continue whisking gently until the mixture reaches a temperature of 45C/115F.Pastry Chef Tip: If you don’t want to use a thermometer you can wait until the mixture feels slightly warmer than body-temperature and then rubbing some of the mixture between your index finger and thumb. It should feel smooth and have no sugar granules.  

Step 3

Remove the bowl from the bain-marie and begin whisking on medium high speed. whip the egg mixture on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and it has cooled completely (around 32°C). This will take approx. 10-12 min.

Note: It is important that your meringue is cool otherwise your butter will melt and your buttercream will be runny

Step 4

Switching to the paddle attachment, begin beating in room temperature butter 2-3 tablespoons at a time. Once fully incorporated, add vanilla. Beat on medium-low until combined and smooth.

If you want to add vanilla extract or flavoured liquors or juices, you can do so now. Make sure not to add more than 1 tbsp of liquid to the buttercream, otherwise it will begin to lose its volume.

Storing Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is best when used immediately but will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. If refrigerated, allow the buttercream to come to room temperature and re-beat until smooth.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream in mixing bowl

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Q&A

Question: Is Swiss Meringue Buttercream gluten free?

It is gluten free! Because Swiss Meringue Buttercream only incorporates three ingredients, sugar, egg whites and butter (and sometimes cream of tartar/lemon or vinegar). It is naturally gluten free and safe for anyone who is celiac or can’t tolerate gluten.

Question: Can I make Swiss Meringue Buttercream ahead of time?

Definitely! You can make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream up to a week ahead of time as long as you store it in the fridge. Before using, allow the buttercream to come to room temperature and re-beat the buttercream with the paddle attachment until smooth. If it looks lumpy or slightly oily you can gently warm the butter cream over a brine-marie (double-boiler), just for a few seconds at a time! You don’t want it to melt. You just want the butter to soften enough so that it will re-emulsify.

Question: Why does my Swiss Meringue Buttercream look curdled?

Depending on the temperature of your kitchen and the humidity, buttercream will sometimes curdle slightly. To avoid this, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar as this will help stiffen the egg whites and create more volume which will decrease the chances of it curdling.

Print
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Swiss Meringue Buttercream on chocolate cupcakes in blue wrappers

How to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream


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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Kira McMullan
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 1100g or 56 Cups 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

We’re breaking down  how to make my favourite buttercream of all time! Swiss Meringue Buttercream is easy to whip up, silky smooth and perfect for frosting cakes and filling macarons.

 

Because this buttercream is made from a stable meringue, it holds its shape and performs well in warmer temperatures making it ideal for creating beautifully, piped decorations and is a favourite for professional cake decorators.


Ingredients

Scale

600g unsalted butter (room temp)

240g egg whites (approx 8 large US eggs)

450g or 2 cups caster or berry sugar (superfine)

1/2 tsp cream of tartar (optional)

2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)


Instructions

Step 1

Place raw egg whites and sugar in a bowl of a stand-mixer and whisk just until they are combined.

*This is when you can add cream of tartar (optional)

Step 2

Place the bowl over a medium high sided pot, with simmering water and continue whisking gently until the mixture reaches a temperature of 45C/115F.

Pastry Chef Tip: If you don’t want to use a thermometer you can wait until the mixture feels slightly warmer than body-temperature and then rubbing some of the mixture between your index finger and thumb. It should feel smooth and have no sugar granules.   

Step 3

Remove the bowl from the bain-marie and begin whisking on medium high speed. whip the egg mixture on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and it has cooled completely (around 32°C). This will take approx. 10-12 min.

Note: It is important that your meringue is cool otherwise your butter will melt and your buttercream will be runny

Step 4

Switching to the paddle attachment, begin beating in room temperature butter 2-3 tablespoons at a time. Once fully incorporated, add vanilla. Beat on medium-low until combined and smooth.

If you want to add vanilla extract or flavoured liquors or juices, you can do so now. Make sure not to add more than 1 tbsp of liquid to the buttercream, otherwise it will begin to lose its volume.

Storing

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is best when used immediately but will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. If refrigerated, allow the buttercream to come to room temperature and re-beat until smooth.

  • Prep Time: 25 minutes

Recipe questions? I’d love to help!

Connect with me @kirabakesglutenfree or info@kirabakesglutenfree.com

Gluten Free Pastry Chef Kira McMullan, eating slice of cake

Ready to try another Gluten Free Recipe? Why not bake my Gluten Free Homemade Caramel or Gluten Free Brownies.  

The next lesson is Module Three: Cream and Custard. Modules launch the last Monday of each month. Make sure to sign up to my newsletter for reminders and other gluten free recipes and tips.



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