Swiss Meringue Buttercream

For years I have been avoiding the cult of meringue buttercream.  I've done this mainly because it just seemed to hard to be bothered.  I tried French buttercream years ago, and I found while I could make it on my old Sunbeam Mixmaster, it just never worked on my Kitchenaid.

But I have been watching my old school friend, Gail Turner, using Swiss Meringue Buttercream on many of her creations, and I thought, if Gail can do it, so can I.  I humbly asked for her recipe and she shared it with me.  Being ever the adventurer, I thought I'd use it for the very first time on my best friend's wedding cake - because living dangerously is fun!

The process of making the meringue buttercream was relatively easy, although there is a point where you think it's gone horribly wrong.  Look away at that point, and by the time you turn your head back, a miracle will have happened!

300g egg whites
375g caster sugar
675g unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. Place the egg whites and sugar in a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water on the stove top. Whisk until the sugar has melted and the mix is warm to the touch.  This is important because it cooks the nasties out of the egg white.

2. Transfer the egg white mix to the bowl of your Kitchenaid and whip using the whisk attachment. Beat until soft peaks form - about 10 minutes.  Ad the vanilla.

3. Start dropping in cubes of butter - about one tablespoon in size.  This is the point where it will begin to go a bit soupy.  DO NOT PANIC!  Keep adding butter until it's all combined, then keep mixing.  Add the pinch of salt.

4. You will see the mix appear to curdle at one point.  Again, DON'T PANIC.  Keep mixing - the mix will solidify and become beautiful creamy butter.

5. The high butter content of this mix will make it pale yellow.  If you want it to be white, add icing whitener (titanium dioxide).  You can make it other colours at this point too - but remember there will be a yellow undertone (like with white chocolate ganache).  If you whiten the icing and then colour, you may have trouble achieving brilliant colours.

Use right away with either smoothing or piping techniques.  If you refrigerate the buttercream, bring it back to room temperature and beat it smooth again before use.  Good luck!  Try not to eat the buttercream straight from the bowl.


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