Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe
Silky, shiny, fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream, this recipe is what cake-lovers dream of.
Maybe an unpopular opinion for a pastry chef, but I don’t like cloyingly sweet desserts. I adore cake, but I cannot stand overly sweet butter-icing. In fact, this sometimes gets me into trouble when I leave it behind on my plate - sorry, not sorry! Just like with savoury dishes, it is important to balance the salty, sweet, acidic and bitter flavours of dessert components.
For cake icing, I achieve this balance in two ways. The first is creating a lighter structure with fluffy and shiny Swiss meringue. The second is by adding an acidic component like tart citrus, bright berries, sour stone fruit, or dark bitter chocolate. Most chefs taste their dishes for seasoning as they cook, but pastry chefs don’t always have that luxury because we can’t taste-test a cake before it’s been baked. Luckily, buttercream gives the possibility to verify the balance before serving.
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225g egg whites
450g non-salted butter, room temperature
Generous pinch of sea salt, to taste
20-400g of fruit or chocolate, to taste
Place egg whites in a *squeaky* clean bowl of a stand mixer. Any grease leftover from a previous recipe (or egg yolk) will give you a hard time with the meringue. I like to spritz the bowl with a little vinegar and dry it out with a clean kitchen rag.
Add sugar to egg whites and place bowl over a bain-marie (double boiler).
Whisk until the egg whites are 55°C and the sugar is completely dissolved.
Add a pinch of sea salt and place the bowl on the stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
Whisk on high until the meringue holds stiff peaks.
Whisk on medium until the bowl feels close to body temperature.
Add pieces of butter, one at a time, waiting for each piece to be incorporated before adding the next piece.
If your buttercream splits, your meringue or butter were too cold.
To remedy this, grab your kitchen torch! And heat up the sides of your bowl (while continuing to whisk) so that the butter starts to melt a little along the inside and create an emulsified icing.
If you don’t have a kitchen torch (a pity, they’re so much fun! lol) return your bowl to the bain-marie and whisk until it comes together. Or if you have a gas stove, turn the burner on low and place your bowl on the edge and whisk.
*Buttercream will last on the counter for up to a week, in the fridge for two weeks and in the freezer for up to 6 months. When you are ready to use it, but it back in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir it with the paddle attachment. If it splits, you know what to do! 🔥