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Fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream

March 30, 2011

Despite my love of baking, and I have been baking for about 3 years now, I have only ever attempted a meringue buttercream once in my life. And it was disasterous. I tried to make an Italian meringue buttercream and ended up with well… a bowl of lumpy mess and crystallised sugar. I was so disappointed.

But I still wanted to learn how to make a meringue buttercream. I have mentioned in my previous post on Bea’s what my idea of a perfect icing is – I really wanted to achieve that light and fluffy texture. Meringue based buttercream is also not as sweet as a classic/normal buttercream which uses a heck of a lot more icing sugar (you can use granulated/caster sugar for a meringue buttercream). 

So, I got in touch with a friend of mine who is currently taking a patisserie course in Australia and she advised me to attempt a Swiss meringue buttercream instead. Swiss Meringue is simply prepared by cooking the egg whites and sugar together in a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water (double boiler/bain marie). The mixture is whisked while it cooks until the temperature of the mix reaches 60C. The mixture is then removed from the heat and whipped at high speed until it forms stiff peaks and has cooled… and ta-da! Meringue!

The best advice my friend gave me is to ‘RELAX!!!’ and not to get stressed out when making this buttercream. STOP thinking it’s so much harder than a normal buttercream. It isn’t. You just need a bit of patience and arm muscles. She didn’t give me an actual recipe so here’s one I’ve used.

What you’ll need

  • 2 egg whites
  • 120g caster sugar (it’s ok if you use granulated sugar as well)
  • 240g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

How to make the meringue buttercream

1. Place both the sugar and egg whites into a mixing bowl (I put it into my Kitchenaid mixing bowl directly) and place it over a pot of boiling water.

2. Whisk manually (get them arm muscles going!) until the sugar dissolves in the egg whites. Test this by rubbing some of the mixture between two fingers. You are looking for a smooth, silky texture with no more sugar granules. When you get this, stop whisking.

Tip: You can use a sugar thermometer to test the mixture has hit a temperature of 60C but the ‘smoothness’ test worked for me.

3. Use the whisk attachment on your mixer to whisk the mixture until it becomes stiff. The meringue will be a bright white colour, and the bowl will be cool to the touch. It took 4 minutes on my Kitchenaid mixer on speed 6.

4. Reduce the speed on the mixer to medium and add the butter to the meringue in 4 separate smaller chunks, waiting for each chunk to have been mixed thoroughly before adding another small chunk. Keep mixing for another 5 minutes and the buttercream should become smooth (at about 3 minutes it did look a little curdled but I just let my mixer do its thing).

5. Add the vanilla extract and mix until thoroughly combined – another minute on my mixer.

Yields enough buttercream to top 12 cupcakes

I added 2 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter to my meringue buttercream and used it as a topping for my peanut butter cupcakes (recipe to be posted soon!). I must admit, the buttercream did not hold up as well in warmer conditions (e.g. in my office) as the Italian meringue buttercream I made from my lesson at Bea’s so I will be attempting the Italian version again very soon.

On reflection, I’m taking my buttercream making learning experience rather slowly.. firstly making the classic buttercream.. 3 years later, the Swiss meringue buttercream. Ugh… too slow!


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