Swiss Meringue Buttercream

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Swiss Meringue Buttercream is a silky, elegant frosting for cakes and cupcakes made with whipped egg whites, sugar and butter. It’s can be flavored with any variety of extracts and it’s perfect for piping. Lots of tips and tricks to learn how to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream. 

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

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 because 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 to! I know It can be intimidating to make at first, but once you have the process down, it’s can be quite easy.

The one thing that you need to account for is time. The egg white and butter should be at room temperature. The butter should be soft but not melting. You’ll also be beating the frosting for over 10 minutes, so just plan accordingly.

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 (SMB) 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.

Tips for making Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • The utensils have to be grease-free, so I use only metal utensils. If you must use rubber, make sure they are only for meringue. I have rubber spatulas which I only use when I have meringue base frosting like royal icing.
  • Use a candy thermometer, I bought mine at target for $10 and it has been well worth the investment.
  • To keep your SMB a crisp bright white, use colorless imitation vanilla extract, which can be purchased at a craft store or specialty cake store.• Make sure your butter is at room temperature before adding it to your frosting. 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. I once made the mistake of using salted butter and the frosting was WAY to salty, I think I ended up throwing it out and starting over.

Flavor variations

It’s also very easy to flavor a Swiss meringue buttercream. For vanilla, I prefer to use vanilla bean extract, but a high-quality vanilla extract works wonders. You can easily use almond, lemon, peppermint or any other extract. It even works for maple buttercream.

I also love to add pureed fruit. I’ve made a strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream several times, but most recently for my Strawberry Margarita Cake. I’ve also made a blackberry buttercream as well.

You can add lemon zest to make a lemon Swiss Meringue buttercream or orange zest for a Mimosa cake.

See my tutorial for Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

A gorgeous frosted cupcakes on a clear blue glass cake stand

How to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Heating the egg whites

• The egg white and butter need to be at room temperature before you begin, so plan accordingly.
• 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, I suggest about 1 ¼ cups for a medium-sized pot. You do not want your bowl to touch the boiling water.
• Place the pot over medium heat and do not preboil the water. If you heat the egg whites too fast, they will cook, and you have to start over.

A metal mixing bowl over a pot on the stovetop with a candy thermometer attached

• Place a heatproof bowl over the pot of water 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 you’re sugar is fully dissolved, you can drizzle some of the egg whites in your fingers and rub them together, it should be completely smooth.

Making the meringue 

• 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

Commonly asked questions

Do I need to put my cake/cupcakes in the fridge after they’ve been frosted?

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 counter top 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 froze 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 to I fixed 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 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 rewhip.

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

Will this frosting melt in hot or humid environments?

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.

Can I use this to make a layer cake?

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.

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!

 

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

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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: Beyond Frosting
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 5 cups or 24 cupcakes

Description

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is a silky, elegant frosting for cakes and cupcakes made with whipped egg whites, sugar and butter. It’s can be flavored with any variety of extracts and it’s perfect for piping. Lots of tips and tricks to learn how to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

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 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.
    • Coffee- Flavor with instant espresso powder together with vanilla extract, start with 1 teaspoon at a time and add for additional flavor.
    • Melt 4-6 ounces chocolate, cool to room temperature. Fold into buttercream using your spatula after adding vanilla extract. 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: Baked
  • Cuisine: American
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50 Responses
  1. Edie Allyn-Page

    You do not need to have the egg Whites at room temp. I mean, you are just going to cook them, right? Also, this goes into the fridge very well. If it loses any fluffiness, you can give it a quick whip before using.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Edie- I think there’s a variety of recipes on the internet that suggest at room temperature and some don’t. It’s just the way I’ve learned and always done it, but to your point, yes you are heating them. Since I am already taking the butter out of the fridge, I take the eggs out as well.

  2. Linda

    Hi Julianne, this is my favorite icing. I’ve been making it for several years now. I would love to try an Italian Buttercream and a French Buttercream. Do you have recipes for them? If so, hoping you can fit them into your blog. I love getting your recipes.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hey Linda! I love to hear that! Currently I don’t have an Italian or French Buttercream but it’s something I can do some more research on!

  3. Rica

    love this recipe and i’ve been using this recipe ever since. 😀
    i’m really glad i discovered this. thanks for sharing. i have a question, though. can i use champagne or margarita or tequilla or bailey’s to the buttercream as flavoring instead of vanilla? will it affect the consistency of the buttercream? thanks

  4. Tracey

    I followed the recipe exactly. It came out exactly as you said. However it is quite tasteless. It’s pretty, pipes well but even adding more vanilla didn’t fix it. I’ll stick with traditional buttercream icing that my family and friends look forward to. I did wait to experiment and make this when it wasn’t humid.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Tracy- yes it’s far less sugary than traditional buttercream frosting, and a much more mild taste. I am so glad you tried it!

      1. Hannah Cantrell

        I LOVE the consistency and taste but if you wanted something that tastes more like American buttercream I would add clear vanilla extract (different than regular vanilla extract) and a tiny bit of butter extract and it will give you a similar sugary frosting taste!

  5. Elham

    I used your SMBC recipe this weekend and it was my first time. It came out awesome. It was a hit.Thank you very much for sharing it.

  6. Roxanne

    Hi Julianne ~ I’ll be making this frosting to go on top of your Hot Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes for a “Cupcake War” we’re having at work on Friday for our Holiday Party. I have 4 dozen cupcakes baked…can I double this recipe or do I have to do two separate batches?

  7. Vicky

    Gosh this took some time! But it is delicious, and I’m hoping, worth it on the cake 🙂 A couple of things I wish you had in your recipe notes for a first timer like me (I panicked and had to do some googling) – be prepared for how much it drops from a massive, stiff meringue, once you start adding butter. I thought I had done something wrong and that I had ruined it because suddenly there was half a bowl instead of the full one it had been. It also took quite a while to get the first couple of butter bits in because it had been rather stiff and didn’t want to mix all together. The second panic came when it suddenly looked a bit soupy and curdled and again I thought I had ruined it. After looking up a few other places I found out it was either adding butter too fast or it was too warm, but just keep beating. I kept it whipping for another 3 minutes or so and suddenly it looked smooth and creamy again! Phew! All in all, a helpful recipe and delicious frosting. Thank you.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Vicky! First of all, CONGRATS on your first time make this frosting!! I know the feeling of intimidation, I actually feel that every time I make it! HA! I really appreciate the feedback, I will look to make those improvements!

  8. Enna Regnoc

    I live in Ohio. We don’t make this frosting (aka 7-minute frosting, recipe has been around since WWI) on humid summer days.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Thanks for sharing Annie, I’ve never been to Ohio! But you’re correct it’s not good for humid days because it’s all butter.

  9. Violetta

    worked out perfectly and pipes easily just a shame it tastes awfull!! The taste of slimy sweet butter remains after eating yuckkkkk.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Violetta, I am sorry you did not enjoy this. It is a much less sweet frosting than traditional buttercream and as such, without enough extract, you will have buttery notes left on your tongue.

  10. Sylvia

    Hello, I need to make a cake 2 days before the event and drive 6 hours with it. How do you suggest I store the cake before transporting it? It will have swiss meringue buttercream flowers decorations. Will it hold up?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Sylvia, the frosting should be fine, but you need to keep it is a very cool and dry place. If it’s humid or too warm the frosting will melt

  11. rica

    hi. i tried to make this 2 times already and i love the taste and the smooth texture. however, due to the smoothness, it cant really hold up. is there something that i did wrong? i live in a tropical country wherein it gets really hot. so is there a way for SMB not to be too soft? can SMB be used with a russian icing tip?
    thanks!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Rica, I think the problem is the climate. This is a butter heavy recipe, so unless refrigerated, it will melt rather quickly. I would try a more traditional American buttercream that is less butter and more sugar. It tends to be a bit more stable. I’ve never used Russian piping tips.

  12. Ashley Jones

    Julianne, Sweet Sweet Woman, I could kiss you right now! This is AMAZING! I’ve had a very rough week with my American Buttercream recipe and about 6 months ago I unintentionally started a home bakery. It’s a long story but I swear I was ready to through my mixer across the room last week and I searched and searched for something better and easier to work with. Many many years ago I burnt a pan cooking up sugar for something different I’ve been terrified to try anything of the sort since.. and this recipe changed just changed everything for me! It came out perfect and it’s stable and tastes amazing. HUGE thank you! I’m going to make another batch and dance around my kitchen now! 🙂

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Ashley! Oh my gosh girl, tell me about it! Your cakes are amazing!! The chicken nugget cakes? OMG! SMB is more work for sure but it is such a different product than American buttercream. I am so glad you got over your fears and you’re cooking sugar again. Confession, I am totally afraid of making caramel sauce! I would also like to suggest you see my post for the Perfect Vanilla frosting. I’ve gotten pretty great reviews on it. I am here to help, so just reach out if you have any more question!

  13. Rachel

    I tried to colour my smb with Wilton gel color and it wouldn’t take the color….it’s like the Color just disappeared , when i kept adding. Any suggestions? I love to color my buttercream and i love the SMB. Help please!

  14. ola

    Hi ,,, i would like to try this ,,, but i do not have a candy thermometer ,, how can i know the exact temperature?
    after mixing the egg whites and the sugar ,,, if it did not return to room temperature after finishing mixing should i turn off the mixer and wait or continue mixing till it reaches room temperature? this may take half an hour or more !

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Ola, I have only ever made this with a candy thermometer, so I would suggest doing some more research on Swiss Meringue Buttercream before attempting. I’ve also heard that you should be able to rub the mixture between your finger tips and not feel any of the sugar crystals, meaning that they have dissolved into the egg whites. You do not need to wait until this reaches room temperature when mixing, it is more about the consistency of the frosting when the stiff peaks form.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Ela, this buttercream is the fluffiest buttercream ever. It can be used for piping but you should test a few first! Also if you are going to be piping, make sure you are not in a warm climate or the frosting will melt as it is mostly butter.

  15. Elaine Bravo

    I was so happy with the end result , but upon using it the next day it turned out a disaster, I followed the instruction, kept it in an airtight container, leave at RT before using be sure to re-mix again, after I mixed it with the mixer, the butter was ok but I think the rest of the ingredient like eggs & sugar started to liquefy , I felt so sad…… & I was staring at the buttercream asking myself where did I went wrong : (

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Elaine, I am spry to hear you had trouble 🙁 Unfortunately, with egg whites, they can be effected by any number of things such as temperature or humidity change. I wish I could be there to help you.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Elanie, the general rule of thumb that I have read is that if you are not serving it that day or the next, it should be refrigerated. It can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. However since it is all butter based, the frosting will harden, and you need to allow several hours for it to come back to room temperature before you use it. If you are piping on cupcakes and serving the next day, make sure they are kept in a cool, dry place.

  16. kaye

    Hello. This is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing. I attempted to do this Swiss meringue buttercream yesterday and failed. After I added the butter, like Ashley, it became runny even after several minutes of mixing. I only have a handheld mixer and it took me a very long time to get to that shiny stiff peak stage, so I was really frustrated after that. 🙁 I am thinking, what would happen if I leave out the butter? Would the eggwhite mixture hold if I pipe it? I live in a tropical country (almost around 40C these days), so I really need something that would hold shape. Please help. Thank you.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Kaye, I am sorry this was not successful for you. I have honestly never tried to do this with a handheld mixer, but I can imagine your frustration since this needs to be mixed for 10-15 minutes on the egg whites alone. If you leave out the butter, you are essentially making a marshmallow frosting. I have never made this without butter so I can’t give you an honest answer as to weather or not it will work. Your tropical climate night have something to do with it. Was your butter melting when you added it? Since you live in a warm climate, I would suggest trying a buttercream using Crisco instead of butter. It will hold it shape but much. However, that will be a little oiley, so try adding a pinch of salt, some milk and whatever extract flavor you are looking for.

      1. Kaye

        Hello! Thanks for answering. It took me forever to reply. Yes, perhaps the butter was melting a liiiitteeellll bit when I added it. Perhaps that’s the culprit apart from the hot weather we had (it’s now rainy season here). I will try doing this again and I will also try to do it without butter. I will let you know the outcome. Thanks again. 🙂

  17. Susan J

    I am early in my infancy of baking and piping. I have made a few different buttercream frosting and I have to say this is the easiest and most delicious buttercream frosting by far!!! This recipe will be my go-to frosting!

  18. Ashley

    I LOVE your SMB. I can get the flavor and meringue just right, but as soon as I add the better it gets really soupy and looses it’s fluffy-ness. The butter is softened and I only mix it for about 1 – 2 minutes after the last tbsp. is dropped in. Sooo confused. Any tips?

    Thanks!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Ashley- just keep mixing the butter into the egg whites. Increase the speed one or two stops. The mix will appear curdled but just keep the mixer going, it might take several minutes.

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