This is THE Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe that we use in all our classes. Swiss Meringue Buttercream, if you have not had it before, is soft and silky. American style buttercream can sometimes be a bit grainy, depending on the icing sugar (confectioners sugar) used. It also develops a slight crust when it is exposed to air. Swiss Meringue Buttercream, on the other hand, does not develop a crust and remains the consistency of soft butter. It must be said that it is not everyone’s cup of tea! It is very buttery and soft. So before making large quantities of it, do try a bit and see if you like it. The recent Royal Wedding Cake made for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding was enveloped in this buttercream. So, without further ado, let’s get into this:
Swiss Meringue Buttercream – see notes after recipe for variations
2 egg whites (60ml)
120gms caster sugar
250gms unsalted butter, room temperature
1tsp vanilla extract
In a heat proof bowl, add egg whites and caster sugar. Put this bowl on a pot of simmering water. Mix gently to avoid heating and cooking the egg whites into an omelette. You do not need major whisking, just gentle stirring. If you are feeling brave and know exactly how your microwave behaves, you can do this step in the microwave in 30second intervals. The idea is to dissolve ALL the sugar crystals and not overcook the egg whites. You should end up with a smooth and thick eggy syrup.
Put this syrup in a clean mixer bowl fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip this mixture into a stiff meringue and until the bowl is cool to touch. If you add butter before the bowl is cool, the butter will melt. Now add butter, a tablespoon or so at a time, wait until it is fully incorporated before adding the next chunk. Add vanilla extract and your buttercream is ready!
Swiss Meringue Buttercream is notorious for being tricky. If you are stuck, some of these suggestions might help.
1. If, after adding butter, your mixture looks like curdled soup rather than thick buttercream, put the mixer bowl in a fridge, have a cup of tea to calm down and start mixing again once the mixture has cooled down completely.
2. For very white buttercream, you can use vegetable shortening instead of butter. However, this does taste very different to buttercream.
3. Ensure that ALL the sugar is dissolved before you start adding butter. Once you start adding butter, sugar will not melt into the buttercream and you will be left with an unsalvageable gritty buttercream.
4. This buttercream mixes well with flavours. Experiment with caramel, salted caramel, melted chocolate, lemon zest, orange zest, elderflower cordial etc.
Here is the beautiful and simple royal wedding cake made by London’s very own, Violet Bakery in Hackney, for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. You can see how fluffy the buttercream looks and now you have a recipe. Go create!