Getting over Intimidation:

Swiss Meringue Buttercream. A substance known as divine, indulgent, light, and butter.

Oh, and intimidating.

Many people are a bit frightened to venture out of the safe (and still yummy) world of butter+shortening+powdered sugar+vanilla=buttercream. Why? Their world is yummy and creamy, but here’s the thing, once you overcome that fear, you will wonder why you were intimidated in the first place. All in all, SMB is easy to make and rather fun. I’ve broken it down a bit.

You start of by making meringue, of course. Meringue is basically a combination of egg whites whipped into a smooth and glossy submission with sugar. Now, since the egg whites are essentially raw here, because of the fact that we aren’t cooking the meringue at all, what we need to do is ‘cook’ the sugar and egg whites together. Hand in hand. Peanut butter and jelly. Bread and butter.


…me and vanilla. MOVING ON.

By setting the bowl with the egg whites and sugar over another pot of simmering water, you create what is called a double boiler. Of course, if you have an ACTUAL double boiler (lucky..) then you are free to use it. Here, you will whisk consistently for a while. The sugar will dissolve and the mixture will get hot. How hot, you say?

Why,…162 degrees! Okay, I fumbled with my camera a bit and it got warmer. Don’t worry, the egg whites won’t curdle as long as you consistently whisk the mixture. This temperature is the perfect one for getting off any potential nasties in your eggs. They are cooked now!

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer (like here, my Norman Gentle.) with the WHISK attachment. Now we are going to make meringue! Or beat the tarnation out of it, whatever floats your boat. Whisk on high until the mixture is doubled in size, frothy, and holds its shape when you lift the whisk.

It’s purty :). At this point, add in your vanilla (this is vanilla bean paste, its a bit MORE vanilla-y…you know how I am. Is this a problem? It’s a GOOD problem.) Beat it until the vanilla is combined, then stop, just so you can prep the butter. It is definately possible to over-work the meringue, don’t let that happen.

Cut the butter into tablespoons and have them ready. This is a lot of butter, but hear me out…

This is buttercream…

Start up the mixture on high again, and drop in the butter, a tablespoon at a time. I like to go at intervals of 3 seconds. In other words: Butter..1 Mississippi, 2 (ditto), 3 (you know the drill)…butter…repeat Yes, it takes a few minutes, but this will ensure a smooth consistency, and less chance of melting. It also emulsifies, or evenly distributes little butter bits all through the mixture.

Please note, it will look SOUPY for a little bit, YOU HAVEN’T FAILED HERE, KEEP PURSUING. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. *insert cliche inspirational movie quotes here*

It will also, when you near the end of your butter, look like this:

I can see it now:


Now, let’s here Julia Child speak here: “DON’T be AFRAAAID.” Keep beating that mixture, keep going, this is normal. Totally normal. Like me. You know what helps? Get what I call “Frosting Hearing”. Basically, when you keep beating that frosting, you will slowly notice that it will make a sort of ‘slapping’ sound in the bowl as it comes together or gets homogenized. That’s the ultimate way of doneness.

And there you have it! Buttercream! Or, in correct terms: Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Next, Italian Buttercream! A little more intimidating, but one thats also, like, yummy and yum.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Recipe found from Here
1 c egg whites (from about 6 large eggs)
1 1/2 c sugar
pinch of salt
1 lb 4 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 t vanilla extract (or seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean)

-Combine the egg whites, sugar and pinch of salt in a large metal bowl (I usually do this right in my stand mixer bowl). Put the bowl over a pot of simmering water (double boiler-style), and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved. The mixture will feel hot to the touch.

-Transfer the hot mixture to your stand mixer and whip on high speed until it turns white and about doubles in size. This will take about six minutes. Beat in the vanilla and the lemon juice.

-Add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, on medium speed, mixing after each addition. Raise the speed and beat until smooth; this may take up to ten minutes. The mixture may appear curdled along the way; this is normal. Just keep beating and the mixture will become smooth again.

-Buttercream will keep, covered air-tight and refrigerated, for up to two weeks. Bring to room temperature, then beat on low speed before using.

Happy Baking!

2 responses to “Getting over Intimidation:

  1. love the step-by-step! a perfect SMB– it’ll never intimidate you again!!

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