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Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This all-purpose buttercream has an ultra-silky, stable texture that spreads beautifully over cakes and cupcakes, and can be piped into perfect peaks and patterns.

  • yield: Makes about 5 cups

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Ingredients

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Variations

Martha used this buttercream recipe to create fun Monster Cupcakes for Halloween.

Cook's Note

Chocolate variation: Using a flexible spatula, fold 4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled, into buttercream mixture in step 3, along with the vanilla extract.

Directions

  1. Step 1

    Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

  2. Step 2

    Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.

  3. Step 3

    With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day.

  4. Step 4

    (Optional) To tint buttercream (or royal icing), reserve some for toning down the color, if necessary. Add gel-paste food color, a drop at a time (or use the toothpick or skewer to add food color a dab at a time) to the remaining buttercream. You can use a single shade of food color or experiment by mixing two or more. Blend after each addition with the mixer (use a paddle attachment) or a flexible spatula, until desired shade is achieved. Avoid adding too much food color too soon, as the hue will intensify with continued stirring; if necessary, you can tone down the shade by mixing in some reserved untinted buttercream.

Source
Martha Stewart Cupcakes, June 2009

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Reviews (14)

  • 12 Jul, 2014

    I love this frosting, made it last month for the first time for my youngest Granddaughters birthday cake. Making it again tonight for my oldest Granddaughters cake but it doesn't seem to make 5 cups either time. I wonder if I'm doing something wrong. I'll keep making it but maybe in double batches, I think my family would kill me if I made anything else...

  • 9 May, 2014

    I have been making this frosting for years, and it never disappoints. It is incredibly smooth, and not overly sweet. Love it!

  • 19 Mar, 2014

    This recipe worked perfectly for me, although the whites took upwards of 20 minutes to whip with a hand mixer.

  • 26 Feb, 2014

    This is a great swiss buttercream recipe! It yields a very creamy, soft and not overly-sweetened buttercream with a great texture. I tried the chocolate variation too and it is very good as well, although the product's final colour is brighter than what i have anticipated. If you are looking for a dark-brown chocolate colour I'd recommend adding more chocolate or altarnatively adding some cocoa powder to it.
    In summary, wonderful!

  • 7 Feb, 2014

    Best Swiss Meringue buttercream ever! If yours starts to look sloppy, wet and separated, crank up the mixer and let it beat for 5-10 mins. It will come back together after more mixing. It is fabulous!

  • 26 Jan, 2014

    I just made this and I have to say it was just horrible! I followed the instructions exactly and it amounted to nothing more than a sloppy wet mess! No consistency, no texture, no peaks, just a liquid mess! Complete waste of eggs, butter and sugar! I will not be using this "frosting" recipe ever again!! Terribly disappointed!

  • 1 Dec, 2013

    I love this recipe and it's worked out beautifully every time. I want to try it with the chocolate but am unclear about where in step 3 to fold in the chocolate? Do I fold it in and then beat with the paddle attachment or wait until after the buttercream has been completely beaten with the paddle and then fold in the chocolate?

  • 11 Feb, 2013

    This recipe is awesome! I made 2 batches for a party and it came out perfectly. Everyone kept commenting on the frosting. Very silky and stable. We accidentally left one of the cakes out overnight after the party and it was still perfect. I followed the directions exactly. You do need to make sure the bowl has cooled down. The first time I made it, I think it was a little too warm. So the second time I wiped the outside of the bowl with cold wash cloth.

  • 31 Aug, 2012

    Cook the egg whites & sugar until it registers 120 degrees in an instant read thermometer. Then immediately whip in mixter on high speed with whisk attachment until it cools to 80 degrees...takes about 7 mins. Then start adding the butter. I haven't had this fail yet.

  • 9 Sep, 2011

    I'm not sure what I do wrong, but my buttercream becomes runny, like liquid. Maybe I don't let the egg and sugar cool down enough before I add butter? It's happened to me twice. I will continue to try, because the taste is wonderful!

  • 7 Mar, 2011

    I am a professional pastry chef and this has become one of my 'go to' buttercreams., I have used this recipe several times and have never had any problems with it the day after. Let it come to room temperature and beat on low speed with paddle attachment.

  • 15 Dec, 2010

    I absolutely love this frosting, as it's light and sweet without being overwhelmingly buttery. To make a mint variation, I omit the vanilla extract and use 1T peppermint extract.

    My only tip though is to NEVER try to refrigerate it for use the following day. The liquid and solids completely separated and I just could not for the life of me beat it back into a normal consistency.

  • 3 Apr, 2010

    This is my go to recipe for cakes. I love it and after making several batches for a wedding cake, it became so easy to do, I can't live without it.

  • 26 Aug, 2009

    sounds like your meringue was too hot or over beaten, maybe. that would be my guess. Be sure too, to have a very very clean bowl.