Light and fluffy, Swiss meringue buttercream is perfect for icing cakes and using between cake layers. Made by whipping cooked egg whites, this frosting is sure to take your cakes and cupcakes up a notch! One recipe makes about 3 1/4 cups of buttercream.
Ready to up your buttercream game? Look no further than this delicious Swiss meringue frosting! Great for icing cakes and using between cake layers, this light and velvety buttercream pairs well with almost any cake recipe.
Unlike traditional buttercream, Swiss meringue is made by cooking egg whites in a double boiler, then whipping butter into them for a fluffy, creamy frosting. This buttercream takes some time and patience to get right, but you’ll be well rewarded at the end!
Since this recipe involves handling raw egg whites, it’s important to have an instant read thermometer before starting, as you want to get your egg whites to a specific temperature to ensure they’ve been properly cooked.
It’s also important to make sure your eggs (and the bowl they’re in) are completely cooled down before adding the butter, otherwise the hot mixture could melt your butter, turning your buttercream into a soupy mess.
Since this frosting is fairly thin, it’s best used for icing cakes and using between cake layers. It won’t hold its shape well when piped, so stick with traditional buttercream if you want to add piped decorations.
What is Swiss Meringue Buttercream?
Swiss meringue is a buttercream that’s made with egg whites, sugar and butter. Egg whites are cooked with sugar to create a meringue base, then the butter is whipped into the egg whites for a soft, velvety and fluffy frosting!
Traditional buttercream, on the other hand, involves whipping butter and sugar together until it reaches the desired consistency. This common frosting doesn’t contain eggs and isn’t cooked in any way. It’s also sturdier than meringue, making this the better option for piping decorations and flowers.
Swiss Meringue vs. Italian Meringue
Swiss and Italian meringue buttercream contain similar ingredients but differ in how they’re prepared.
Swiss meringue involves cooking the egg whites in a double boiler before whipping them. Italian meringue, on the other hand, requires you to cook the egg whites slowly by adding a stream of hot sugar syrup to the eggs as they’re being whipped.
How to Use Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Light and delicate, Swiss meringue is best used for frosting cakes and adding between cake layers. It doesn’t hold up well to piping and decorating, so leave that to traditional buttercream!
Swiss meringue is also sensitive to temperature and won’t hold up well in heat or humidity. If you frost your cake with Swiss meringue, store it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Once ready, remove it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature before slicing and serving.
How to Make Vanilla Swiss Meringue
- 4 egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Step 1 – Cook the Egg Whites
In the top pan of a double boiler, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt. Whisk the egg whites constantly over simmering water until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer, about 20 minutes.
Step 2 – Whip the Egg Whites
Transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment.
Whip the cooked egg whites until the bowl is cool to the touch and the mixture holds medium peaks.
Step 3 – Add the Butter
As your egg whites mix, slice your butter into 1 tablespoon squares.
Once your eggs have hit medium peaks, switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer at medium speed, add the butter one piece at a time, scraping the bottom of the bowl as necessary.
Make sure your eggs have cooled completely before adding the butter. If your eggs (or the bowl) are too warm, your butter could melt and turn your frosting soupy.
Add the vanilla and beat until well combined.
How to Make Chocolate Swiss Meringue
Want to try our tasty chocolate version? Check out our tutorial on How to Make Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream!
The chocolate version uses all the same ingredients as this vanilla recipe, as well as 4 oz. of bittersweet chocolate for a rich and decadent frosting you can use on cakes, cupcakes or brownies.
How to Store Swiss Meringue
Swiss meringue is best used as soon as it’s made; however, you can store it in the fridge for up to 1 week. You can also freeze this buttercream for up to a month.
If you choose to store the buttercream, bring it back to room temperature and re-whip before using.
Likewise, a cake that is filled or covered with Swiss meringue should not be served straight from the fridge. Let it sit out at room temperature for a bit, then slice and serve.
More Buttercream Recipes to Try
Want to try out some more unique buttercream recipes? Here are a few of our favorites!
Made with butter, shortening, confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar) and vanilla extract, Traditional Buttercream is the frosting you know and love. Quick and easy to make, this buttercream is well-loved for its flavor and versatility. It’s softer and more spreadable than most frostings, but can also be stiffened to pipe flowers and roses.
For something light but durable, try this Italian Meringue Buttercream. The ingredients are similar to Swiss buttercream but in different proportions, so this frosting is a bit sturdier than its counterpart.
Rich and creamy, French Buttercream has a taste and consistency similar to custard or pastry cream. It’s made using pasteurized egg yolks and sugar and is not as sweet as traditional American buttercream.
If you like whipped cream frosting, you’ll love German Buttercream. Light and decadent, this custard-based buttercream combines custard and butter for a tasty topping to your favorite cake recipe.
Also known as boiled frosting or flour buttercream, Ermine Buttercream is smooth, rich and tastes similar to cream cheese frosting (though it does not contain cream cheese). Made by first cooking the flour and sugar, this buttercream has great texture and taste that works best with red velvet or chocolate cake.
Need a great cake recipe to go with your Swiss buttercream? Check out our post on 7 of the Best Birthday Cake Flavors!
Have you ever tried making Swiss meringue buttercream? Let us know how it went in the comments below!
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting Recipe
- Double boiler
- Electric hand mixer or stand mixer
- 4 egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- In the top pan of a double boiler, combine egg whites, sugar and salt. Whisk constantly over simmering water until mixture reaches 160°F on an instant read thermometer, about 20 minutes.
- Transfer mixture to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip until the bowl is cool to the touch and the mixture holds medium peaks.
- Switch to a paddle attachment on the mixer. Beat at medium speed while adding the butter one piece at a time, scraping bottom of the bowl as necessary. Add vanilla and beat until well combined.