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Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This intensely rich, silken frosting works well on spice, carrot, or pound cakes. Try it on our Caramelized-Apple Spice Cake.

  • Yield: Makes about 5 cups
Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Photography: Maura McEvoy

Source: Martha Stewart Living, November 2007


  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 2/3 cups packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature


  1. Put egg whites, sugar, and salt into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until mixture registers 160 degrees, about 4 minutes.

  2. Beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low. Add butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition (meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added). Beat until frosting is smooth and glossy, 3 to 5 minutes.

Cook's Note

Buttercream can be refrigerated airtight for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature, and beat before using.

Reviews (8)

  • kate e coughlin 26 Jun, 2013

    I've made a number of SMBCs and found this recipe too sweet for my taste. I made sure to lightly pack the dark brown sugar. But I always prefer a recipe that uses weight for measurement. I felt I should have used less dark b/s or possibly light b/s instead. The dark variety gave this a very robust flavor that does not compliment the delicateness of this buttercream. The dark b/s also failed to provide a rich dark color as pictured. I was pretty disappointed and wouldn't make as written again

  • marylesliejohnson 14 Oct, 2010

    I did some research, just in case anyone was concerned about raw egg issues. According to the American Egg Board website, egg whites need to reach 160 degrees to be safe in recipes, such as frostings. So! This recipe should be safe. Can't wait to try it with the Caramelized-Apple Spice Cake!!

  • marylesliejohnson 7 Oct, 2010

    Are there any raw egg issues with this recipe? Or, is whisking the mixture in a double boiler set up to 160 degrees sufficient to cook the eggs??

  • 11866409 30 Sep, 2009

    I've since made this recipe twice and adapted it to cupcakes. The buttercream is amazing and my customers love it.

  • nytefalle 11 Dec, 2007

    Everyone raved about the frosting at a dinner party where I brought the dessert. I'll definitely use this again.

    Using the freshest, best quality butter you have for this frosting is very important. Some grocery store brand butters add artificial flavoring and coloring. A cultured, European style butter would provide the best taste and isn't very hard to make since it costs so much in the stores.

  • hlg22 4 Dec, 2007

    For the person with the question about the butter - the amount is right. Did you maybe use salted butter, or try to substitute margarine? I served this cake at a bridal shower and got tons of compliments - I even had a few guests tell me that they don't normally like frosting, but loved this. It is definitely a true buttercream though, not the shortening and white sugar concoction that passes for frosting at the grocery store.

  • laura 2 Dec, 2007

    I accidently used light brown sugar, so I added some molasses. This is a true swiss meringue buttercream. It is always very buttery, I served this cake to company and everyone loved it. I don't know if you've made this type of buttercream, but, it is the proper amount of butter. European buttercreams are not the same texture as an old fashioned American buttercream.

  • sharonsjones 23 Nov, 2007

    The amount of butter has to be wrong. It tasted like I frosted the cake with pure butter. Horrible. Please respond.

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