My favorite icing to use for celebration cakes is Swiss meringue buttercream. It is not to sweet and has a silky mouth-feel. It is very spreadable and holds up quite well to piping.
When I started making cakes, I was icing them with American buttercream. This is mainly a lot of powdered sugar and butter. I always found it too sweet, but I couldn’t be bothered to make anything more complicated as I just had a hand mixer. Of course you can make Swiss or Italian with a hand mixer – do not be daunted! That was just me and my lazy excuse. 😀
On my 30th birthday, my dear friends in Luxembourg surprised me with the most beautiful red Kitchen Aid Artisan, the mixer of my dreams. Of course I had to make Swiss meringue buttercream! I researched and found these very useful instructions from Sweetapolita.
Let’s make Swiss Meringue Buttercream
You start with making Swiss meringue.
This entails mixing the egg whites and sugar in a metal mixing bowl (prepared by wiping clean with a paper towel and vinegar or lemon juice) and cooking it in a double boiler. I have used fresh egg whites, frozen (and defrosted overnight) egg whites and cold egg whites, and they all come out well. The temperature of the egg whites at the beginning just changes how long it cooks.
Whisk the egg whites and sugar constantly until the sugar is dissolved (mixture is smooth when you rub a bit between your fingers), or if you’re afraid of salmonella, until it reaches 60°C/140°F.
Wipe the bottom of the bowl and set in your mixer. Start whisking on medium speed (4 on Kitchen Aid Artisan) for a minute.
Increase the speed to medium high (at 6 on my Kitchenaid) until stiff peaks form. I usually mix it on 8 for around 30 seconds as well just to incorporate as much air in.
My usual test is to tip over the mixing bowl, if the meringue doesn’t slip it’s ready.
At this point you have a Swiss meringue which you can bake or used as icing.
Silky smooth Swiss meringue buttercream is a few minutes away.
To make SMBC, ensure that the Swiss meringue is cool (you don’t want to melt the butter!) then start adding the butter one tablespoon at a time, mixing at low-speed until each addition is incorporated.
At one point, it will look soupy. Just keep whipping.
When all the butter is in, your mixture may look curdled, but don’t worry. Everything will turn out fine.
Increase the speed to 6 and mix until it forms into buttercream. How long it takes will depend on your mixer, but I find that once the butter is all incorporated it takes me around 2 minutes to get buttercream. With a handmixer, it can take me more than 5 minutes.
It will first look like this. Don’t fret, just keep on whipping!
Then you will be rewarded with silky Swiss meringue buttercream.
Beat with a spatula to get out air bubbles, as this will affect the final look of your cake. Color and flavor if needed and you’re good to go!
Flavors that I like:
- Vanilla (add in 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- Coconut (add in 1/3 cup coconut milk or cream)
- Chocolate (100 grams dark chocolate, melted)
- Strawberry (add in 1/4 cup pureed fresh or frozen strawberries)