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Swiss Meringue Buttercream

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This easy Swiss Meringue Buttercream only needs 4 ingredients! Ideal for piping, this recipe makes a silky frosting perfect for cakes and cupcakes. 

These vanilla cupcakes are frosted with a purple colored frosting and colorful sprinkles

Easy Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

I first created this post in the VERY early days of my blog after I had first tried it from Martha Stewart’s cupcake cookbook. It quickly became one of my favorite frostings, but the cookbook lacked a lot of information for those who were making it for the first time.

Over the years I’ve made a lot of variations of this buttercream and I want you to be successful when you make this for the first time too! I know It can be intimidating to make at first, or even seem time-consuming.  But I promise you, once you have the process down, it’s can be quite easy to make and might even become your favorite frosting.

A clear blue glass cake stand with 5 cupcakes on top, 3 of them have purple frosting and two of them have white frosting. They have some very pretty colorful sprinkles on top

What is Swiss Meringue Buttercream?

Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC) is a light, silky and buttery alternative to traditional buttercream. It is much less sweet and therefore allows for the true flavors in the cupcake to shine. Although it seems like this takes more preparation than other types of frosting, the end results are very rewarding. It is easy to pipe and holds its shape very well.

Many people wonder what swiss meringue buttercream tastes like. The answer? SMBC is much less sweet than American buttercream. Its silky texture comes from the high ratio of butter, but as a result, some people think it is too buttery, especially if they are used to American buttercream. The best way to flavor this is by using high-quality extracts, and use as much as you need to suit your own tastes. 

A gorgeous frosted cupcakes on a clear blue glass cake stand

What You’ll Need

Are you ready to make this frosting? Here’s what you’ll need. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for specific amounts.

  • Egg whites – Make sure they are at room temperature
  • Granulated sugar
  • Unsalted butter – Should also be at room temperature. I recommend unsalted butter so that you can add salt to the frosting as needed. I’ve found that salted butter makes this frosting way to salty for my taste. 
  • Pure vanilla extract – Or another flavor of your choice
  • Salt – To taste, but is not required. If using salted butter, do not add any additional salt. 

How to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Ok now let’s get down to the step-by-step. I’ve broken everything down so that you can see how to make this frosting from start to finish.

Heat the egg whites

  • The egg white and butter need to be at room temperature before you begin.
  • Use lemon juice or vinegar to wipe off all utensils and bowls to remove any lingering oil and grease.
  • Make sure you use just enough water to cover the bottom of your pot,  your mixing bowl should not be touching the water. I suggest about 1 ¼ cups for a medium-sized pot. 
  • Place the pot over medium heat and do not pre-boil the water, or it will heat the egg whites too fast, they will cook, and you have to start over. Then add the sugar and the egg whites and immediately start whisking to prevent the eggs from cooking.
  • Heat the eggs and sugar to 160°F. Make sure you constantly stirring or whisking the egg whites and sugar. To see if your sugar is fully dissolved, you can drizzle some of the egg whites in your fingers and rub them together, it should be completely smooth.
A metal mixing bowl over a pot on the stovetop with a candy thermometer attached

Make the Meringue Frosting

  • Transfer your bowl to a mixer, using the wire whisk attachment, beat the eggs white on low for 2 minutes than increase to medium high
  • Beat for another 5 minutes. At this point, your frosting should have turned white and the body of the meringue starts to form.
  • Increase the mixing speed to high. It will start to look glossy as the peaks begin to form.
  • Beat for another 3-5 minutes until the bottom of your bowl is cool to the touch and your meringue has stiff peaks like marshmallow.
  • Turn your mixer down to medium-low. Slowly add your butter, 1 tbsp at a time. As you add more butter, the frosting might appear to have curdled and lost its body, that’s ok. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Switch to the paddle attachment, add the vanilla extract and continue beating on medium-high speed until your frosting start to have stiff peaks. Beat for about 3-5 minutes.
A bowl of Swiss meringue buttercream will vanilla bean extract

Tips for Success

  • The utensils have to be grease-free otherwise the meringue will flop. Where possible,  I use only metal utensils. If you only have rubber, then wipe it down with lemon juice or vinegar to wipe off all utensils and bowls to remove any lingering oil and grease.
  • Use a candy thermometer: I bought mine at target for $10 and it has been well worth the investment.
  • Use colorless imitation vanilla extract, to keep your SMB a crisp bright white, which can be purchased at a craft store or specialty cake store.
  • Make sure your butter is at room temperature: If your butter is too cold, it will not mix well and you will end up with chunks of butter in your frosting.
  • Always use unsalted butter! This allows you to control how much salted is in your frosting. 

Flavor Variations

Frosting FAQs

Does Swiss meringue buttercream harden in the fridge?

I do not refrigerate my cupcakes or cakes after frosting them. Due to the high ratio of butter, this frosting will harden. If you do refrigerate the cake or cupcakes, then it will need time to come back to room temperature before serving. 

Can I make this frosting in advance?

I make and frost my cakes and cupcakes right away, and I store leftover frosting in an airtight container on the countertop overnight.

However, I’ve read that Swiss Meringue Buttercream can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for up to 7 days and beyond that it should be frozen. I have not frozen this buttercream myself.

Regardless if you put this frosting in the refrigerator or freezer, it will need to come back to room temperature prior to using, and you may need to rewhip it with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer.

A close up shot of a pretty cupcake topped with purple Swiss Meringue buttercream and pretty sprinkles

My frosting looks curdled or runny. how Do I fix it?

During the process of adding the butter, the egg whites lose all the air, and the gorgeous white meringue turns to a soupy curdled more liquid-like consistency. Don’t worry! We aren’t finished yet.

Once all the butter has been added and mostly incorporated, change to the paddle attachment and start to whip the buttercream. After a couple of minutes, you’ll notice the curdled frosting start to stiffen, and just like magic, your Swiss Meringue Buttercream comes together.

It has never happened to me, but I have read that if your frosting is still soupy, then you can put it in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes and then re-whip.

Lots of beautiful cupcakes frosted with Swiss Meringue Buttercream that is covered with colorful sprinkles

Does Swiss meringue buttercream hold up in heat?

This frosting has a high butter content, if you live in a hot or humid environment, I do not suggest using this frosting. I’d rather recommend American buttercream such as my perfect vanilla frosting.

Is this frosting good for piping?

Yes! Due to the very light and airy texture of this frosting, it is great for piping! However it is a softer frosting, so I would expect it to “settle” a bit.

Is this frosting good for layer cakes?

Yes! It works great for layer cake, but you’ll need to increase the amount of frosting you’re making. For a 3 layer 8-inch cake, I use 10 large egg white, 3 cups of unsalted butter and 2 1/2 cups of granulated sugar plus your extract.

 
A close up show of a vanilla cupcake topped with Swiss Meringue Buttercream and colorful sprinkles. The cupcake has a big bite taken out of it

I sure hope that you’ll give this frosting recipe a try! It’s quite different and far less sweet than traditional American buttercream and it pairs really well with cakes that have fruit!

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A clear blue glass cake stand with 5 cupcakes on top, 3 of them have purple frosting and two of them have white frosting. They have some very pretty colorful sprinkles on top

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 5 cups or 24 cupcakes

Description

This easy Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe makes a silky, elegant frosting perfect for cakes and cupcakes! Made with whipped egg whites, sugar and butter, this frosting can be flavored with any extract and is ideal for piping. 

Ingredients

  • 5 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Wipe down the inside of your stainless-steel bowl with vinegar to remove any grease. Combine sugar and egg whites in the bowl with candy thermometer attached.
  2. Set the bowl over top of a pot with 1 ¼ cups water covering the bottom. Place over medium heat.
  3. Stir constantly with a whisk until the mixture reaches 140°-160°  The sugar should be dissolved in the egg whites. You can test this by placing a drop on your finger tips and rubbing them together. The mixture should be completely smooth.
  4. Immediately place the mixing bowl on your stand. Using the wire whisk attachment, beat the eggs white on low for 2 minutes than increase to medium high.
  5. Beat for another 5 minutes. At this point, your frosting should have turned white and the body of the meringue starts to form. Increase the mixing speed to high. It will start to look glossy as the peaks begin to form. Beat for another 3-5 minutes until the bottom of your bowl is cool to the touch and your meringue has stiff peaks.
  6. Turn your mixer down to medium-low. Slowly add your butter, 1 tbsp at a time. As you add more butter, the frosting might appear to have curdled and lost its body, that’s ok. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  7. Switch to the paddle attachment, add the vanilla extract and continue beating on medium-high speed until your frosting start to have stiff peaks. Beat for about 3-5 minutes.

Notes

  • Original frosting recipe from Martha Stewart has been adapted over the years
  • The utensils have to be grease-free, wipe down your bowls, whisks and spatulas with vinegar or lemon juice prior to starting
  • Use a candy thermometer for the most accurate temperature.
  • Always use unsalted butter! This allows you to control how much salted is in your frosting.
  • To tint the buttercream, slowly add the color gel and beat with paddle attachment or fold in with a spatula until completely incorporated.
  • Flavor variation:
    • This can easily be flavored with any type of extract vanilla bean, peppermint, almond, lemon etc. Start with ½-1 teaspoon at a time. Lemon, lime or orange zest is a great way to add a more intense flavor.
    • See the full tutorial for my chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream
    • Strawberry or blackberry  purees can be added for natural flavoring

Nutrition Information:
1 cupcake’s worth
176
9.4g
13.6mg
15.4g
9.6g
9.5g
0g
.9g
40.7mg
  • Category: Frosting
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: swiss meringue buttercream recipe, swiss buttercream, meringue frosting

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60 Responses
  1. Calla

    Hi, I’m curious about what if I want to use my buttercream that I’ve put on freezer / refrigerator before, how long does it take to re-whip the buttercream until its ready again? And what kind of mixer attachment do I need to use for re-whipping? Thank youu

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Calla, You should only need to rewhip for a couple of minutes, and I would recommend using the paddle attachment.

  2. Nikita

    Hii, I would love to try making this recipe but when exactly we change the attachment from wire whisk to paddle attachment? After all of the butter goes in or when…? Thank you in advance <3 🙂

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