There are four common buttercream recipes: American, French, Italian and Swiss.  

Swiss buttercream is by far my favorite.  It is very light and not overly sweet.  I have often had people ask if it is whipped cream icing.

It also has a very nice gloss to it. The egg whites help to stabilize the icing so it’s nice for decorating purposes, but I do add some confectioner’s sugar to help stiffen it a bit.

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If you don’t want to spend the time separating out 12 egg whites (the egg white of a large egg weighs about 1 oz), you can buy a small carton of egg whites from the grocery store.  

Just make sure it’s 100% egg white only with nothing else added to it.  You’d be surprised how much other stuff is in some of those egg white products.  

I use the whole carton, which is actually 16 oz of egg whites.  I haven’t noticed a difference in taste.  

Then again, if you plan on making ice cream like my Peppermint Crunch Ice Cream, then feel free to separate the white and save the yolks.

This recipe will make 2 1/2 quarts of icing, enough to ice and decorate a double layer, 9″ x 13″ layer cake.

It naturally has a very white color to it, which lends itself well to being colored for decorating.

Here are a few tools I recommend to help with your cake and cupcake making:

Double Boiler – a double boiler will keep you from scorching delicate recipes with eggs or chocolate. I also like that this set comes with a steamer pan, which I use to make hard “boiled” eggs.
Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer – You will want a powerful stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Your arms will thank you. I recommend the Professional 600 Series because of it’s increased capacity and the fact that it can handle mixing bread dough with ease. There are numerous attachments available, making it a powerhouse in the kitchen.
Cake Decorating Tips – I consider these tips to be the basics for anyone decorating cakes and cupcakes
Disposable Pastry Bags – I find reusable bags too difficult to keep clean and I worry about bacteria breeding in them. I feel safer using disposable pastry bags.
Cake Decorating Turntable – a turntable makes cake decorating so much easier. I like that this one raises the cake up higher so I can get a better look at it. It also has a really heavy base, so it makes me feel like the cake is more secure. It’s built to last.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe

12 oz Egg whites
1 1/2 lb White sugar
2 lb Unsalted butter, cold (8 sticks of butter)
1 lb Shortening
2 Tbsp Vanilla extract (or lemon, almond or orange extract, also up to 3 oz of light rum, framboise, kirsch, amaretto or Poire Williams)
1/4 c Confectioner’s sugar, sifted

In the top of a double boiler, whisk egg whites and sugar until the mixture reads 140 on a digital thermometer.  

It is very important that the egg whites and sugar reach 140.  For one, it will cook the egg whites and prevent anyone from getting sick.  Second of all, it will melt the sugar and prevent the icing from being a grainy mess.  

Pour the egg white mixture into a mixer with a whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium-high speed until soft peaks form (when the egg whites do not move when the mixer is stopped).  It will also double in volume.

While the whites are whisking, slice the butter into medium pieces and combine with shortening in a large bowl.  The butter should still keep it’s shape.  Do not combine completely.

Once soft peaks have formed, stop the mixer and add 1/4 of the butter/shortening mixture.  

Whisk on low speed for 15 seconds.  Stop the mixer and add another 1/4 of the butter/shortening.  

Whisk on medium speed for 15 seconds.  Stop the mixer and add the rest of the butter/shortening.  

Slowly increase the mixer speed from low to medium high, whisking at each speed for 10 seconds before increasing the speed.  

Continue to whisk on medium-high speed until the icing becomes fluffy and smooth.  Stop periodically to scrape the bowl.  

This is where Swiss Buttercream gets scary.  

You’ve just taken something very heavy (cold butter) and added it to something very light (whipped egg whites).  It is going to break and look ruined.  

It’s ok.  

Just keep whipping until it comes back together and starts to get fluffy again.  It will happen.  I haven’t had it not happen yet.

Once the icing is fluffy, add the flavoring.  

Whisk on low for 45 seconds, then on medium for 45 seconds or until all of the vanilla is incorporated.  

Add the sifted confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar).  Whisk on medium until it is incorporated.  

More or less confectioner’s sugar can be added, depending on the desired consistency.

Once the icing is the consistency that you want, you can divide smaller portions into bowls and mix in food coloring.

This icing can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.  

If it has been chilled, you can whisk it in the mixer to regain the fluffy consistency.  Just start it on low speed and slowly increase the speed to medium-high.  It may break, but it will come back together.

The icing stands up pretty well at room temperature, but you should store it in the fridge or freezer before serving if it’s going to be hot out.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing

Yield: 20
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 12 oz Egg whites
  • 1 1/2 lb White sugar
  • 2 lb Unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 lb Shortening
  • 2 Tbsp Vanilla extract, or lemon, almond or orange extract, also up to 3 oz of light rum, framboise, kirsch, amaretto or Poire Williams
  • 1/4 c Confectioner's sugar, sifted

Instructions

  1. In the top of a double boiler, whisk egg whites and sugar until the mixture reads 140 on a digital thermometer.
  2. It is very important that the egg whites and sugar reach 140. For one, it will cook the egg whites and prevent anyone from getting sick.  Second of all, it will melt the sugar and prevent the icing from being a grainy mess.
  3. Pour the egg white mixture into a mixer with a whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium-high speed until soft peaks form (when the egg whites do not move when the mixer is stopped).  It will also double in volume.
  4. While the whites are whisking, slice the butter into medium pieces and combine with shortening in a large bowl.  The butter should still keep it's shape.  Do not combine completely.
  5. Once soft peaks have formed, stop the mixer and add 1/4 of the butter/shortening mixture.
  6. Whisk on low speed for 15 seconds.  Stop the mixer and add another 1/4 of the butter/shortening.
  7. Whisk on medium speed for 15 seconds.  Stop the mixer and add the rest of the butter/shortening.
  8. Slowly increase the mixer speed from low to medium high, whisking at each speed for 10 seconds before increasing the speed.
  9. Continue to whisk on medium-high speed until the icing becomes fluffy and smooth.  Stop periodically to scrape the bowl.
  10. This is where Swiss Buttercream gets scary.  You've just taken something very heavy (cold butteand added it to something very light (whipped egg whites).  It is going to break and look ruined.  It's ok.  Just keep whipping until it comes back together and starts to get fluffy again.  It will happen.  I haven't had it not happen yet.
  11. Once the icing is fluffy, add the flavoring.
  12. Whisk on low for 45 seconds, then on medium for 45 seconds or until all of the vanilla is incorporated.
  13. Add the sifted confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar).  Whisk on medium until it is incorporated.
  14. More or less confectioner's sugar can be added, depending on the desired consistency.
  15. Once the icing is the consistency that you want, you can divide smaller portions into bowls and mix in food coloring.

Notes

This icing can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.  

If it has been chilled, you can whisk it in the mixer to regain the fluffy consistency.  Just start it on low speed and slowly increase the speed to medium-high.  It may break, but it will come back together.

The icing stands up pretty well at room temperature, but you should store it in the fridge or freezer before serving if it's going to be hot out.

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