Have you ever tried a cupcake from one of those fancy upscale bakeries? You take one bite and notice that the cupcake's frosting is the smoothest, creamiest, most velvety feeling buttercream you've ever eaten! It tastes less sweet than regular buttercream, and it seems to magically melt on your tongue. Well, chances are the cupcake was frosted with a meringue based buttercream. It was probably either Italian or Swiss meringue buttercream. Today I'm discussing Swiss meringue buttercream or SMBC.
Some people have a difficult time making SMBC. The most common complaint is that the end result often tastes like whipped butter! The first time I tried making SMBC I ran into this same problem. Spreading something that tastes like plain old butter on my yummy sweet cupcake doesn't sound very appealing to me! To prevent the overpowering butter taste "experts" say you should:
- only use unsalted butter
- never eat it cold
- add large amounts of flavoring
- never use in it the heat... it melts too easily
I tried each of these solutions and found:
- If you use only unsalted butter, it lacks something in taste. I compare it to eating bread or cookies that are made without any salt... just not a full rounded flavor!
- I like eating SMBC when it's a little cold. Plus I prefer having the option of eating it either cold or at room temperature.
- I'm frugal... I don't like using half a bottle of my expensive flavoring to cover up the overpowering butter flavor.
- Yes it's true, SMBC does not hold up well in the heat. It contains a LOT of butter, so the butter's going to melt if it gets too warm. My recipe helps this problem just a bit... but I still would never use it at an outdoor summer event. I replace a small amount of butter with high ratio shortening. This helps the SMBC hold up better in the heat, and it also helps cut the extreme butter flavor. DO NOT use regular shortening such as Crisco in this recipe! If you do you'll end up with that horrible, awful, greasy, shortening coated mouth feeling. YUCK!!! You can buy high ratio shortening at most cake decorating supply stores or online. I prefer the Sweetex brand over Alpine.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
(Makes about 5 cups)
1 C unsalted real butter
1/2 C salted real butter
1/2 C high ratio shortening
8 egg whites
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1 T vanilla or "to taste"
Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature! Combine the egg whites and sugar in a saucepan. Stir together and boil until it reaches 160 degrees. (Make sure to calibrate your thermometer so it reaches the correct temperature at your altitude.) Remove from heat and pour the syrup into a mixer. Whip the syrup until it reaches stiff glossy peaks. Cut the butter into small pieces. Change the attachment on your mixer from the whip to a paddle attachment. Now add the butter and shortening to the whites gradually... small pieces at a time. Continue beating until it becomes thick and smooth. (Sometimes this can take a while.) Add the flavoring of your choice at the end and beat until it's well combined.
|Cut the butter and high ratio shortening into small pieces.|
|Separate the egg yolks from the whites.|
|Combine the sugar and egg whites in a saucepan.|
|Boil and cook until it reaches 160 degrees.|
|Pour into a mixer and whip until it forms stiff glossy peaks.|
|Add the butter and high ratio shortening small bits at a time.|
|It may look curdled at first but keep beating it until it comes together.|
|Continue beating until it's smooth and creamy.|
A Few Variations
Peanut butter: add 1/4 C creamy peanut butter.
Brown sugar: substitute brown sugar for granulated sugar.
Coconut: add 1/4 C coconut cream (Coco Lopez).
Lemon, lime, or orange: add 2-3 T of freshly squeezed juice then add the zest of one fruit.
Chocolate: add 4-6 oz of melted chocolate.
Fruit: add 1/4 C of any flavored jam.*If you prefer you can use all butter in this recipe instead of high ratio shortening. However, you'll probably need to add more flavoring.
You can store any leftover SMBC in the refrigerator for up to a week. To use the leftovers again... set the SMBC on your counter and let it come to room temperature. Then put it in your mixer with the paddle attachment, and beat the SMBC until it reaches a creamy consistency again. Good Luck!
Up Next... A small 6" cake topped with the most gorgeous peony sugar flower you've ever seen! (At least I think it's the most gorgeous peony you'll ever see. ;)