This Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream is incredibly easy to make, perfectly sweetened and has a light, silky texture. It is the perfect topping for cakes or cupcakes! Its silky texture makes it the perfect frosting to achieve that perfectly smooth coating on a layer cake.
I am generally a card-carrying member of the Italian Meringue Buttercream Club, but IMB can be a bit tricky with the timing of the meringue and the sugar syrup, and the temperature of the butter. When I’m feeling pressed for time, I will lean on my old friend Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMB).
She is steadfast and stable: the buttercream version of the best friend who always has your back and will pick up your call no matter the time!
This SMB is the perfect amount of sweetness and is light and silky. It almost melts in your mouth! I have flavored mine with vanilla extract but you can also flavor it with caramel sauce, lemon curd, melted chocolate, berry jam or any number of extracts. It really is the perfect base for any flavor!
What are the benefits of Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream?
- The meringue will make the buttercream more stable than its American or German counterparts. This means that if your buttercream needs to be in a warm room for an hour or two, you will be alright!
- The meringue makes the frosting more structurally sound. IMB or SMB are perfect for those extravagant layer cakes or cakes with a looser frosting. The butter and meringue set solid in the refrigerator, so you can tier up! Just be sure to use cake straws or popsicle sticks. To give the additional layers stability. Even the best SMB will crush under the weight of two tiers of cake, filling and buttercream! It’s not magic!
- The Swiss Meringue is faster than any other meringue based buttercream!
- Unlike Italian Meringue, where I do not suggest making it without the protection of a stand mixer, SMB can safely be done with a hand mixer.
- The meringue not only adds stability but it cuts the sweetness of traditional American buttercream. In American frostings you have to use confectioner’s sugar for the stability, but the meringue gives you all the perks without the cloying sweetness.
How do I know if I should use Swiss Meringue Buttercream or Italian Meringue Buttercream?
So glad you asked, my inner pastry nerd could hardly contain herself!
- Generally speaking either SMB or IMB will give you the same stability. IMB is a bit more stable because there is additional sugar in the syrup and the more sugar, the more stable a meringue. Thus if you find yourself in need of extra support or you are in a hot environment, I would lean towards IMB.
- This SMB is a bit less sweet than my IMB recipe because it doesn’t have that extra sugar syrup. If you have a sweet cake, sweet or rich fillings (think chocolate ganache, jams, or a sweet stabilized whipped cream), you might want to go with a Swiss Meringue Buttercream to balance some of that sweetness.
- Like I said above, SMB is much faster to make than IMB with less margin for error, so if you are tight on time, I would go with SMB.
Ultimately it’s all about you! You can watch my YouTube tutorial on IMB and then decide, which buttercream you prefer!
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Heat about an inch of water up in a medium sauce pot until it is just about simmering. The most important thing is that the bowl of your stand mixer should fit inside so that it is “nested” but the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
- Whisk together egg whites and sugar. Then place the bowl over top of simmering water and continue whisking constantly. Cook the whites and sugar just until it reaches 130°F on an instant read thermometer or until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. The meringue will have started to gain a bit of volume and feel lighter at this point as well.
- Move the bowl to your stand mixer and fit with the whisk attachment. Be careful and use a towel because the bowl will be hot if you have a gas burner! Beat on high speed until the meringue reaches stiff peaks and cools slightly.
- Switch to the paddle attachment and then add all the butter. Beat on medium until all the butter works itself into the meringue and a silky smooth buttercream forms.
- If there are a few stubborn bits of butter, you can gently heat the sides of the bowl with a kitchen torch and it will melt those remaining pieces. Don’t do it too much or for too long in one spot, or the other butter will melt and you can’t come back from that.
- If you add your butter when your meringue is too warm, and you now have a soup, don’t stress! Let the butter work in completely (or it will solidify in the fridge and you’ll then have a chunky buttercream) and then pop the whole bowl and attachment in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes. Continue the mixing process. The NUMBER ONE RULE is be patient!
- Once your buttercream comes together, switch back to the whisk and beat it up until it is light and fluffy! Frost away!