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Swiss Meringue Buttercream: Everything You Need to Know

If you're a baking enthusiast or have ever indulged in a delicious slice of cake, chances are you've heard of buttercream. But have you ever tried Swiss meringue buttercream? This delectable icing is a popular choice among professional bakers for its silky smooth texture and light, airy consistency. Over the years it's been my go-to buttercream for making wedding and celebration cakes and after reading this blog, you'll see why!


In this blog, we'll dive deep into what Swiss meringue buttercream is, how it differs from other types of buttercream, and how you can make it at home. So whether you're a seasoned baker or a beginner, read on to learn everything you need to know about this heavenly buttercream!


What is Swiss Meringue Buttercream?



Swiss meringue buttercream is a type of icing made with egg whites, sugar, and butter. It has a silky smooth texture and a delicate, light flavour that is perfect for cakes, cupcakes, and other desserts. Swiss meringue buttercream is known for its stability and is less sweet than other types of buttercream.


It is made by whisking egg whites and sugar over a double boiler until the sugar dissolves, then beating the mixture until it forms stiff peaks. Softened butter is then added to the meringue mixture, resulting in a smooth, creamy buttercream. Swiss meringue buttercream is a popular choice for wedding cakes and other special occasions, and it can be flavoured and coloured to suit a wide variety of tastes and themes.


What are other types of buttercream and how do they differ?



When it comes to decorating cakes and cupcakes, buttercream is one of the most popular choices. But did you know that there are different types of buttercream? Each has its own unique taste, texture, and uses. let's take a closer look at other types of buttercream and compare them to Swiss meringue buttercream (which is my go-to for cake decorating!).


American Buttercream


American buttercream is the most common type of buttercream and is likely the most recognisable topping for UK cakes and desserts. It is made with powdered sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla extract. This buttercream is known for its sweet taste and can be easily flavoured and coloured. It is also easy to make and work with, making it a popular choice for beginners. It does, however, have a grainy, matt finish when decorating cakes, and so it can be difficult to achieve a smooth, silky finish on the outside of your cakes.


Italian Meringue Buttercream


Italian meringue buttercream is similar to Swiss meringue buttercream but has a more complex preparation process. It is made by cooking sugar syrup to a precise temperature and then whipping it into a meringue made from egg whites. The butter is then added to the meringue, creating a creamy and luxurious icing. Italian meringue buttercream is less sweet than American buttercream and has a silky texture. It's a popular alternative to Swiss meringue buttercream, although the method can be a little trickier to grasp.


French Buttercream


French buttercream is made with egg yolks, sugar, and butter, resulting in a rich and flavourful icing. It has a smooth texture and a light sweetness. This buttercream has a beautiful flavour but is more delicate and less stable than other types, making it best suited for cakes that will not be transported or left out for too long. For this reason, it wouldn't be my go-to for wedding or celebration cakes that are on display for several hours.


German Buttercream


German buttercream is made from pastry cream, which is a custard-like mixture made with egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and milk. The pastry cream is then whipped with butter to create a creamy and light buttercream. German buttercream has a subtle sweetness and is a good choice for filling cakes.


Swiss Meringue Buttercream

And finally to recap, Swiss meringue buttercream is a smooth and silky icing made from egg whites, sugar, and butter. It has a light and airy texture and a delicate flavour. Swiss meringue buttercream is more stable than other types of buttercream, making it a great choice for decorating cakes and cupcakes.


Here are a few key reasons why Swiss meringue buttercream is my go-to buttercream:


  1. When it comes to decorating a celebration or wedding cake, Swiss meringue buttercream allows you to create a super silky, smooth finish. I like to decorate my buttercream cakes with colours and patterns using palette knives and I love that the silky texture is similar to oil paint. The colour stays vibrant, mixes well as a colour palette and has a lovely smooth finish once applied to the cake.

  2. Swiss meringue buttercream has a more delicate flavour profile compared to other buttercreams, as it contains less sugar and relies on the flavour of the butter to enhance the taste. This makes it a popular choice for those who prefer a less sweet icing.

  3. Swiss meringue buttercream is known for its stability, which makes it ideal for decorating cakes and cupcakes. It can hold its shape well and is less likely to melt or collapse in warm temperatures, unlike other buttercreams that may require refrigeration to maintain their consistency.

Overall, Swiss meringue buttercream is a versatile and elegant icing option that offers a unique taste and texture compared to other types of buttercreams.


What is Swiss meringue buttercream best used for?



Swiss meringue buttercream is an incredibly versatile icing that can be used for a wide range of desserts. Its light and airy texture and delicate flavour make it a popular choice for decorating cakes and cupcakes. Swiss meringue buttercream is particularly well-suited for:

  1. Wedding Cakes: Swiss meringue buttercream is a popular choice for wedding cakes due to its stability and ability to hold intricate designs.

  2. Layer Cakes: Swiss meringue buttercream is a great choice for layer cakes as it can be easily spread between layers and is less likely to compress or squeeze out.

  3. Cupcakes: Swiss meringue buttercream has a great structure for piping into elegant designs, making it perfect for decorating cupcakes.

  4. Macarons: Swiss meringue buttercream is commonly used to sandwich macarons together, as its light and creamy texture complements the delicate macaron shells.

  5. Filling for Pastries: Swiss meringue buttercream can be used as a filling for pastries such as eclairs or cream puffs, adding a light and fluffy element to the pastry.

Overall, Swiss meringue buttercream is a versatile icing that can be used for a variety of desserts. Its stability and light texture make it particularly well-suited for wedding cakes, layer cakes, cupcakes, macarons, and pastry fillings.


Painting with Swiss meringue buttercream



Swiss meringue buttercream is not just a delicious icing, it can also be used as a medium for painting and decorating cakes. With its smooth texture and ability to hold its shape, Swiss meringue buttercream can be easily coloured and used to create stunning and unique cake designs. Here are some useful tips on how to paint with Swiss meringue buttercream and create beautiful designs.


Choose the Right Tools


To paint with Swiss meringue buttercream, you will need a few basic tools. A set of food colouring, small brushes, and palette knives will be essential. You may also want to consider investing in a cake turntable to make it easier to access all areas of your cake. You can find all my recommendations to get you started in the FREE Cake Decorating Tool Guide.


Create Your Palette


Swiss meringue buttercream can be easily coloured with food colouring. I highly recommend using oil based food colouring for Swiss meringue buttercream, such as Colour Mill.


Edible gel food colours which are commonly used in the UK such as Sugarflair and Wilton are based on water, and as we all know water and oil won't mix together. When you’re trying to colour your buttercream (specially Swiss meringue buttercream) with gel food dyes, you’re only going to achieve light shades of colour. You will colour the sugar part of the buttercream but not the butter part. You may find yourself using a full bottle of gel colour and still not being happy with the final colour. I used to wonder why the colours on my gel colouring bottles would look so different to what I could create when mixing with Swiss meringue buttercream.


On the other hand, oil based food colourings such as Colour Mill blend effortlessly and allow you to colour all parts of the buttercream resulting in a deeper, more vibrant colour, and you don’t have to use as much food colouring to achieve it. Being able to use much less food colour on your cakes means the taste of your buttercream won’t be as altered as it would be with standard gel colours.


Plan Your Design


Before starting your design, plan out your design on paper or in your head. Think about the colours you want to use and the overall theme of your cake. You can sketch out your design before applying it to your cake, or take a look through Instagram and Pinterest to get some inspiration for your next design.


Apply the Buttercream


Once you have your design planned out, start applying the Swiss meringue buttercream to your cake. Use a small brush or palette to apply the buttercream to the areas you want to paint. Take your time and be patient, as Swiss meringue buttercream can be a little more difficult to work with than traditional paint. You can always scrape the design off and start again if you go wrong, practice makes perfect!


Add Details


Once you have the basic design in place, you can start adding details with different shades of buttercream. Use a smaller brush to add fine details and add dimension to your design.


Refrigerate and Set


Once your design is complete, refrigerate your cake to allow the Swiss meringue buttercream to set. This will ensure that your design stays in place and doesn't smudge or smear. If you're working in a warm room or its a particularly hot day, you may find it helpful to refrigerate your cake a couple of times during the design process to allow the cake to re-set.


In conclusion, painting with Swiss meringue buttercream can be a fun and creative way to decorate your cakes. With the right tools and some patience, you can create stunning and unique designs that will impress your guests. Remember to plan your design, take your time, and have fun with it!


What are the common mistakes or issues when using Swiss meringue buttercream?


Swiss meringue buttercream is a delicious and versatile icing, but it can be tricky to make. Here are some common mistakes or issues when making Swiss meringue buttercream and how to avoid them:

  1. Overbeating the meringue: If you overbeat the meringue, it can become dry and clumpy, making it difficult to incorporate the butter. To avoid this, stop beating the meringue once stiff peaks have formed.

  2. Adding butter too quickly: Adding butter too quickly can cause the Swiss meringue buttercream to become soupy or curdled. To avoid this, add the butter slowly.

  3. Using warm or melted butter: If the butter is too warm or melted, it can cause the Swiss meringue buttercream to become too soft or runny. To avoid this, make sure the butter is at room temperature and cut it into small cubes before adding it to the meringue.

  4. Adding flavourings too early: Adding flavourings like vanilla extract or cocoa powder too early can cause the Swiss meringue buttercream to become too runny. To avoid this, add flavourings at the end, once the butter has been fully incorporated.

  5. Not cooling the meringue enough: If the meringue is still warm when the butter is added, it can cause the butter to melt and the Swiss meringue buttercream to become too soft. To avoid this, make sure the meringue is cooled to room temperature before adding the butter.

  6. Storing the buttercream incorrectly: Swiss meringue buttercream can become hard or grainy if stored incorrectly. To avoid this, store the buttercream in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to three months. When ready to use, let the buttercream come to room temperature and re-whip it to restore its smooth texture.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can make a smooth and delicious Swiss meringue buttercream that will be the perfect topping for your cakes and cupcakes.


Learn how to decorate cakes like a pro!



For a full recipe and method, check out my tried and tested Swiss meringue buttercream recipe that I use for all my wedding and celebration cakes.


If you're a visual learner and would like a video tutorial on making Swiss meringue buttercream and stacking and smoothing a buttercream cake, I have the perfect online course for you! My online Buttercream Basics Course contains three in-depth modules which take you through every step of decorating with Swiss meringue buttercream, including a whole module on how to fix any potential issues when first starting to make this delicious buttercream!


If you wanted to go a step further and learn how to paint with Swiss meringue buttercream, how to use edible gold foil and decorate a cake with fresh flowers, check out the Buttercream & Design Masterclass which features 10 modules to take you from an amateur baker to a skilled professional cake decorator!


You can find more information on all the available online cake decorating courses here.

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