Swiss Buttercream · GF (about 10 cups)
If you haven’t made Swiss buttercream before, you may be surprised at just how buttery it tastes. Detractors often describe it as “pure butter.” While I consider that a bonus, for some it’s just too much. Swiss buttercream is two parts meringue and three parts butter which means that butter is essentially the only flavor coming into play. The butter is easily tamed by the addition of chocolate, peanut butter, green tea or… well, any of the variations listed below.
If you’ve yet to be won over by Swiss and want a good vanilla buttercream, give German or French a try. German Buttercream is based on vanilla custard and doesn’t have the same overwhelmingly buttery quality of Swiss. Meanwhile, French Buttercream is made from egg yolks, giving it a rich flavor not unlike French vanilla ice cream.
I love Swiss for its simplicity and ease of preparation. No boiling pots of sugar (as with Italian buttercream) and nothing to compete with the flavor of top notch butter. Swiss meringue purists may get stressed to see me using a little less sugar in this recipe, but I’ve done it like this for the last five years and so far, so good.
This makes enough buttercream to generously frost an 8 inch layer cake with room to spare. When it comes to crumb coating and decorating a cake, nothing is worse than realizing you don’t have quite enough buttercream to finish the project. So this recipe errs on the side of plenty. You can freeze any extra buttercream for up to six months and pull it out in a pinch to frost cupcakes or use as a cookie filling.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream, about 10 cups
10 oz egg whites (it’s okay to go a tad over)
10 oz sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
the scrapings from 1 vanilla bean
2 pounds unsalted butter, cut into 2” chunks and softened to a spreadable state
Combine the egg whites, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean together in an clean bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of water and turn the heat on medium low. You don’t need the water to even simmer, you just want it hot enough to steam, since steam is what actually heats the whites.
Whisk frequently to prevent an egg white omelet forming on the sides, but continual mixing isn’t necessary. Aim to get the mixture to at least a 145° for food safety reasons, but reaching 150° would make for a nice margin of error. If your egg whites are at room temperature, this won’t take very long, maybe just a few minutes. Whites straight from the fridge will take longer.
When the mixture is sufficiently hot, remove from the heat and use the whisk attachment to whip on medium high speed until the mixture has doubled in volume and turned snowy white. Continue whipping until the meringue is cool. Use your hands to feel the bowl itself, rather than simply testing the temperature of the meringue. You want it to feel perfectly cool to the touch with no trace of warmth.
Note: if you are using a glass or ceramic bowl, even if the meringue has cooled, the bowl itself may still be quite warm and continue conducting heat into the buttercream over time. If you are using a glass or ceramic bowl, transfer the meringue to a new bowl before proceeding or continue mixing until the bowl itself is cool.
Turn the mixer down to medium-low and begin adding in the butter, one chunk at a time. If you didn’t let your meringue cool enough, this is when you’ll really regret it. By the time you’ve added all the butter, you may need to scrape down the bowl to fully incorporate any butter or meringue that’s stuck at the sides.
Finally, splash in some vanilla extract or what have you. Just keep adding a 1/4 teaspoon at a time until it suits your tastes.
Caramel: after making the buttercream, whip in 16 ounces of room temperature caramel, or more to taste.
Cranberry: after making the buttercream, drizzle in up to 8 ounces of room temperature Cranberry Syrup. Unlike the caramel variation, you can’t keep adding Cranberry Syrup to taste, as too much will cause the buttercream to break.
Cream Cheese: reduce the butter to 16 ounces, and replace the rest with 16 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature. After finishing the buttercream, whip in 1 ounce lemon juice to reinforce the cream cheese tang.
Green Tea: after finishing the buttercream, whip in 2 Tablespoons matcha powder, or more to taste. Matcha has a naturally bitter flavor, so start small and add the rest a little at a time until it’s just to your liking.
While whipping the meringue, melt 8 ounces milk chocolate and 5 ounces dark chocolate in the microwave, stirring with a spatula every 30 seconds to prevent scorching. Once the meringue has cooled and you’ve added all the butter, turn the speed down to low and add the melted chocolate all at once. Move quickly, as the melted chocolate can form chips against the side of the bowl. Increase the speed to to medium-high and whip until homogenous.
Spiced Chocolate: especially nice with Chai Cocoa Cupcakes. Follow the Milk Chocolate variation, using all dark chocolate instead. After finishing the buttercream, whip in 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste.
Peanut Butter: omit the salt in the recipe. After whipping in the butter, add as much peanut butter as you like (commercial varieties work better). This may sound obscene, but I’ve added up to 32 ounces of peanut butter. Yes, it was insanely delicious.
Nov 11, 2010 · 2:50 PM
A week in the fridge, or a few months in the freezer. I make b-cream every time I have extra egg whites and just freeze it to pull out during a baking emergency. So handy!!
Feb 24, 2011 · 7:21 PM
This is a wonderful recipe! I am going to bookmark this one!
· Tammy · ildolcebacio.blogspot.com/
Apr 03, 2011 · 6:38 PM
Hi Tejeanne! Yes, it is best to re-whip it before spreading. The best way to do this is to divide the frozen buttercream into thirds. Melt 2/3 of the buttercream completely (microwave or water bath), and then put it on the mixer to whip on low speed with the remaining 1/3 that is still frozen. The melted buttercream will soften the frozen part, while the frozen buttercream cools and hardens the melted part, and the result is the perfectly creamy mixture you had before it was frozen.
If the mixture seems slightly curdled, it’s still too cold. Just take out about a half a cup, melt it, and add it back into the mix. This should warm it up to a good consistency. Hope that helps!
Apr 04, 2011 · 4:59 PM
Amazing one. Thank you for posting it. Anyway, I can’t imagine adding more sugar according to purists. Your amount works just perfect and it’s sweet enough. I made it today and added some lemon curd. Delicious.
· Slanecek · tadyjeslaneckovo.blog.cz
Apr 06, 2011 · 11:21 AM
Thanks so much! That sounds delicious.
Apr 23, 2011 · 4:17 PM
Hi Caroline, thanks for finding me on twitter too! It definitely makes more buttercream than you need for a batch of macarons, but the recipe is very friendly to division, so feel free to adjust the recipe and make a half or quarter batch if you like.
I have given such a big recipe because for most home bakers, making buttercream is an onerous endeavor. I can’t imagine doing the work to make buttercream and only having just enough. Whether you make a huge batch or a small batch, it’s the same steps, the same amount of work, same amount of time.
Since buttercream freezes so well (six months +) it seems a shame to have make it over and over when you can just make it once and freeze the rest. Whenever I make buttercream, I divide it into 10 ounce portions and freeze it to pull out as needed.
If you do much baking at all, you’ll be surprised at how handy it is to have in the freezer, to pull out for last minute cupcakes, macarons, cake, or whatever!
May 01, 2011 · 12:20 PM
When I make PB buttercream, I use equal portions of PB to buttercream. This is evil, and somewhat unprofessional, but mind blowlingly delicious. you can just chuck PB into the mixer, while it’s running, until it’s peanut buttery enough for your tastes. Have fun with it!
May 16, 2011 · 1:15 PM
I have a question? You say in your macaron recipe to use powder flavoring and either vanilla bean or extract. Did your vast experiments include vanilla paste and flavor bases or oils and if so did they not give you good results? I was just wondering and wanted to ask the macaron Guru before I start experimenting.
· Little D · email@example.com
May 16, 2011 · 1:29 PM
I've heard good success stories from readers using vanilla paste, and I’ve had good luck flavoring the macs with liquors, but the more liquid you add, the smaller the feet will be, so use reserve. Some types of flavoring, with high oil content, can collapse the meringue, so add them at the last moment. Good luck!
May 18, 2011 · 9:51 PM
Ohmigoodness, Stella, this recipe is wonderful! I made a whole batch and split half into matcha and half into PB to go on top of mini dark chocolate cupcakes for a friend’s bridal shower this weekend.
…I’m not entirely sure there will be any left by the time Saturday rolls around…
Thanks so much for the recipe, the tutorial, and the advice! Half buttercream, half PB may be evil, but if it is I sooooo don’t want to be good!
May 18, 2011 · 10:23 PM
Muahahahahaha! Rock and roll, Casey. I love it!
Jun 14, 2011 · 1:07 AM
I was so afraid to attempt macarons until I read your posts on them! Thank you for all of the recipes and taking them down to cookie scale and making them way less scary. Love your blog as well!! @brisbakingblog
· BriAnna · briannasbakingblog.blogspot.com/
Jun 14, 2011 · 6:50 PM
@Brianna, glad I could take them down a notch, ha ha. Keep me posted if you ever make any.
Jun 15, 2011 · 2:20 AM
If, say, you were to attempt a Nutella variation…would it work?* And what ratio would you use? Somehow I suspect that doing it half and half (like the PB buttercream) might be a bit too much…or would it?
*And by “work” I obviously mean “would it retain structural integrity and not collapse from the additional oils and all that”, not “would it be delicious enough to usher in the Apocalypse”, because that’s a given. Some things must be risked.
Jun 15, 2011 · 10:25 AM
@Psyche1226, I agree. The deliciousness would, in fact, be powerful enough to cause extreme climate change and ultimately usher in the Apocalypse. No doubt.
I would say to just chuck Nutella into the mix, a little at a time, until it tasted sufficiently delicious, but of course, never becoming so delicious that any lives are lost… If you would like to be an extreme baker and make your own Nutella, I have a recipe that blows the "real" stuff out of the water. Check it here.
Jun 15, 2011 · 1:56 PM
What will the egg whites look (and smell) like when they are cooking over the double boiler? Mine got very frothy and I thought the eggs started to cook, yet they never got near 145. I tossed them and will start again – just wondering what to look for. Thanks!!
· jamimess · nightbaking.blogspot.com
Jun 15, 2011 · 2:57 PM
Oh my! I started over, went slower, and didn’t make an omelet this time (I used a different thermometer as well). I just made 1/4 recipe to test, and did half chocolate and half peanut butter. To die for! So silky! Thanks!!
· jamimess · nightbaking.blogspot.com
Jun 15, 2011 · 6:25 PM
@jamimess, oh wow! I’m so proud of you, you got yourself totally straightened out before I could even see your comments. They do get a little egg-white smelly, but you solved the problem, cook a little lower and slower. Congrats! The peanut butter version is a personal favorite.
Jun 29, 2011 · 5:24 PM
HI! I, similar to the others, am so grateful for this website. Your baking advice is so thorough, I think I might even try to make the infamous macaron! Question, have you ever made an Earl Grey tea buttercream? I have tried a few recipes, and don’t want to just throw the tea leaves right in (although I may have by the time you read this!) but have never gotten a really Earl Grey-y flavor.. Any suggestions? Thank in advance!
Jun 29, 2011 · 6:33 PM
@Grace, steep 4 or 5 Eart Grey tea bags in about 3 oz of water for 5 minutes. Then remove the bags and use the concentrated tea to flavor the buttercream. If it’s not Earl Grey-y enough, steep another round of bags and repeat. Don’t steep longer than 5 minutes or you’ll just make the tea bitter. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the site, thank you so much for your kind words. Let me know how the buttercream turns out!
Jul 11, 2011 · 6:53 PM
I am so glad to have found this site. My first macarons were pistachio with pistachio buttercream — fantastic and they freeze really well. But the absolutely best, best, best was your Nutella recipe that I tried first. I cannot come up with sufficient words to describe how good it is. Never buying it in a jar again. Now to use it for my next batch of macarons. What would be the best macaron flavor to pair it with? Not a fan of peanut butter.
Jul 12, 2011 · 2:21 PM
@Sherry, with pistachio/pistachio under your belt, you might try hazelnut Nutella. Just use hazelnuts instead of almonds in the macarons and whip some Nutella into the buttercream. So glad you tried making your own!! The stuff from the store just seems lame in comparison now.
Jul 29, 2011 · 3:51 PM
@Diana, it would mask two, 3 layer cakes. Good question! Also, fresh, frozen, carton, whatever, these whites don’t care. I’ve used whites I froze myself, thawed six months later. No biggie! I used carton whites at a job a looooong time ago, they did swell.
Aug 06, 2011 · 9:02 AM
@Emily, it depends on the size of your eggs, but usually between 8-10.
Aug 27, 2011 · 5:50 PM
Thanks for easily breaking this down for us and including the many different variations. I am actually going to attempt to make this today for the first time with the addition of pulverized freeze dried strawberries! Quick question – I am planning on making the huge full size batch so that I can freeze a bunch for later use (such a brilliant idea – thank you!). After portioning out the amount I will use today, can I freeze the rest of the unflavored buttercream and then flavor it (with extracts, peanut butter, coconut, whatever) after I take it out to use it? Or is it better to flavor it before freezing? I’m assuming I can do it either way, but not sure if one method creates a better texture/flavor. Thanks!
Aug 27, 2011 · 8:04 PM
@Jayne, yes, you can portion and freeze it unflavored, then flavor post thawing. Really, whatever is most convenient, the texture and flavor will not be affected either way. It’s so nice to have a batch or two stored away and waiting for emergency caking.
Sep 12, 2011 · 4:44 PM
Totally BUZZED, Stella! Love these. Great that they are wheat free. Rice flour can be cool…nice crumbly texture. YUM. Thanks
· Chocolate Chilli Mango (Viviane Buzzi) · chocolatechillimango.com/
Nov 03, 2011 · 10:44 PM
I’ve just started making macarons and figured out a lot of these things for myself (except that I don’t have to dry them out! What a time saver! My second batch was still tacky after being left out overnight, and I had to resort to putting the sheet trays on the stovetop with the oven on)…
But I’m one of those people with no kitchen scale and not enough patience to wait to get them. So I guess what I was wondering – having a goal to make at least 4 different kinds of buttercream for macarons with this one recipe – was how many oz the total recipe yielded. (Or how many 10 oz batches I could get from this one preparation.) Thanks!
I should note: My first macarons were made with walnuts, and I didn’t know anything about what to fill them with, so I used lychee honey and fresh peach whipped cream! My second batch were made with pumpkin seeds (salted! Sounds weird, but they came out lovely!) and had a chestnut buttercream and more ground chestnuts, adhered with some agave nectar. All were hits.
Nov 05, 2011 · 10:51 PM
@mindymayhem, This is a pretty big batch of buttercream, it makes right at 50 ounces. So you could definitely whip up a batch to satisfy your buttercream experiment with just a little to spare. I’ve made pumpkin seed macarons many a time, doesn’t sound weird at all! Great minds, right?
Nov 10, 2011 · 7:51 PM
Hi there – how many eggs roughly would 10oz of egg whites be?
· gibble · www.bakelife.com
Nov 10, 2011 · 8:05 PM
@Gibble, There is no universal answer to the question- hence my deep love for baking by weight. The amount of whites per egg really depends on the size of egg, but for “regular” (not large or jumbo) I find they yield about 1 1/4 ounce each; so around 8.
Nov 17, 2011 · 11:51 PM
@Jess, oh no! Two quick questions, are you using a scale to measure the ingredients? And, is your butter room temperature or are you microwaving it?
Sometimes microwaved butter is ultra soft or slightly melted and this will affect the buttercream’s final texture.
Leaving those aside, since butter is a solid at room temperature, the only way for it to become liqiud-y is for it to come into contact with something warmer than itself. This could be from two things. The first would be that the meringue is too warm (so even though it may have cooled it may not if fact be cool, ie room temperature), but that seems unlikely since you said you’ve beat it until cool. The other is that your mixing bowl is retaining warmth from the water bath. So, for example, if you tested the meringue by sticking your finger or a thermometer in it, it would seem quite cool. But if the bowl is still warm (especially if you’re using a ceramic bowl) it will keep conducting warmth into the meringue and could end up melting your butter.
Let me know if any of those sound like the culprit, or any other information you can. I hope we can get to the bottom of this! If you still have that buttercream, it’s possible to save it. You’ll have to refrigerate it overnight as the first step, so if you still have it, let me know and I’ll walk you through the rescue process.
Nov 18, 2011 · 9:57 AM
@jess, if you use any kind of glass or ceramic bowl (or any bowl with a thick wall that will retain heat), that’s a great idea. If you’re using a stainless bowl, then that’s probably not the issue.
It’s my plan to write a full post about how to thaw buttercream/ save a bad batch, but to recap: after you’ve refrigerated it until it’s hard, melt 1/3 of the buttercream completely. Either in a water bath or microwave. Then, while mixing the melted part continuously at medium speed with a whip attachment, begin adding in the solid buttercream a small chunk at a time, until you’ve added it all. It sounds crazy but works every time!
Nov 19, 2011 · 11:56 AM
@jess, Oh that’s so awesome!! I’m glad we found the problem. I’ll make a note in the recipe advising people to do the same if they’re using a non-stainless bowl. Thanks for the wonderful feedback!
Dec 05, 2011 · 9:49 AM
I found your website last week and want to make everything! I am excited to try out the flavoured butter cream! I’m not used to this type of buttercream so I will try a smaller batch first! Love your blog, thanks so much!
· Natasha · CupcakeDarling.wordpress.com
Dec 05, 2011 · 4:10 PM
@Natasha, I’m so glad you’re going to try it out! You’ll have to let me know what flavor you ended up with and how you liked it. For me, this kind of buttercream can’t be beat, it’s so incredibly creamy. Good luck!
Dec 07, 2011 · 4:23 AM
Hi Stella – how do you usually freeze the buttercream, ie. in containers are fine in your 10oz portions? Many thanks!
· Gibble · www.bakelife.com
Dec 07, 2011 · 4:25 AM
Oh – and one more question, how does it keep in the fridge? I am thinking of making up some tonight, freezing most and keeping a 10oz portion for this weekend in the fridge as I’m going to attempt your macarons!
· Gibble · www.bakelife.com
Dec 07, 2011 · 10:08 AM
@Gibble, so glad you’re planning to freeze some. It’s so nice to pull out in a pinch when you need buttercream without having to make any at the time. Actually, I don’t even bother with containers when I freeze the buttercream. I stretch out a sheet of plastic wrap, place a dollop of buttercream in the center, and wrap it like a package (the way you would wrap cookie dough or something. Then I double wrap it in another sheet of plastic and write the date on the plastic with a Sharpie. Then just pop it in the fridge or freezer.
The buttercream should be fine in the fridge for about two weeks. Have fun macaron making!
Dec 10, 2011 · 10:47 AM
Thanks Stella I made my first macaroons today! Made 4 trays in total – but I think the batter was slightly over mixed? It was runny and piping was tricky – though maybe I used too big a piping tip – what size do you usually work with?
The first tray was okay – nice feet, but the macaroons didn’t rise that much – quite thin, but nice and chewy. Second tray – cracked (maybe I didn’t remove the bubbles thoroughly before popping into oven). Third tray had no feet, were slightly over cooked (quite brown and ‘hardened’ looking), but didn’t crack, and fourth tray were good like the first tray.
I found the buttercream texture after defrosting wasn’t as great as when I had made it the other night – was soft and didn’t whip up to the same consistency. Any ideas why this might be? I live in a very humid climate (Singapore) and wasn’t sure if I had melted too much of the portion or maybe not whipped it long enough? Probably about a minute… any advice? Would love to show you the pics of my macaroons, as I’m curious as to how to get them to rise better?
· gibble · www.bakelife.com
Dec 10, 2011 · 12:57 PM
@gibble, if the batter was runny, then the macarons were definitely a bit overmixed. Now that you know how overmixed macaron batter looks, next time, try to stop shy of that. It’s okay if you err too far on the side of undermixing. The most important part of macaron making is knowing what over and undermixed macarons look like. So you’ve got overmixed under your belt, you’re halfway there!
Given the wild differences between all of your trays, I’d say your oven temperature might also be playing a role; it doesn’t sound like it’s giving you even, consistent heat. For future batches, you might try giving the oven ten minutes between trays for the heat to regulate after opening the oven door.
Also, re: the buttercream you definitely have to whip it a few minutes to restore the texture. If it was too soft or slightly runny, you may have melted it too much. When I rewhip thawed buttercream, I usually give it five minutes on medium speed with a whisk attachment. Hope all of that helps, good luck!
Dec 14, 2011 · 2:46 AM
Hi there! I just made a 1/2 batch buttercream following your recipe. I weighed my ingredients neurotically, made sure the egg white mixture was cool/cold (bottom stainless bowl cold) before beating in butter. (*I did NOT use a scraped vanilla bean; I left it out and tried to add vanilla extract at the end AND I used salted butter because I like salt.—could these have been the culprit?) BUT, when I added the second butter stick, as I was beating with the hand-held mixer, it began to separate and get chunky looking. By the end of the pound, it was whipped butter consistency (like thick and spackly, not smooth like frosting)—like I had never had any egg whites to begin with. I wanted to make coffee flavor and added about 1-2 T super strong coffee but it did not blend. The coffee oozed out from between the butter blobs.
Any ideas what I screwed up? I’m a little worried because I was planning to attempt your macarons tomorrow.. And here I botched the buttercream! I might try your refrigerator “save” trick you mention above.. The butter was on the cooler room temperature side to begin with so maybe it didn’t incorporate properly? The problem is I mixed it for a really long time hoping it would blend but the more I mixed, the more it seemed determined to separate.
Thank you so much!
· cheyenne · ginandbutterflies.etsy.com
Dec 14, 2011 · 10:46 AM
@cheyenne, the butter temperature is definitely the culprit; butter that’s not perfectly soft/creamy just doesn’t have the texture needed to emulsify the mixture. It’s easy to save though! No need to ditch it.
If you’re taking the mixture straight out of the fridge, you can try zapping it in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Keep microwaving at 15 second intervals until the buttercream starts to melt around the edges. The biggest thing to remember is if you’re melting it in the mixing bowl, that your bowl will retain heat, so keep in mind that once your done, it will keep melting a bit more.
(Alternately, you can start semi-melting it in a bowl over a water bath.)
Once about 1/2 of the buttercream has become soft, start beating it with a hand or stand mixer (wire attachment) until it’s soft and fluffy. (I often say to melt 2/3, but it’s better to err on the side of caution when you’re just learning the technique, I think.)
In the future (or to anyone else reading!) if this happens to you, just set the bowl of curdled buttercream over a pot of simmering water. Leave it there just until it starts to melt around the edges. Then resume whipping. It should come together nicely, and pretty fast. If not, melt just a little more.
As a sidenote: I am the world’s biggest fan of salty desserts, but this buttercream is not very sweet to begin with and I fear you may not enjoy your salted butter version. Hope it works out though!
Dec 14, 2011 · 2:10 PM
Hooray—thank you so much!! I’ll do this today. I was a little worried about how I would re-purpose a batch of coffee-flavored sweet butter
One more quick question if you don’t mind: Your Champagne & Roses version of the macaron recipe calls for 3oz reduced Champagne added to the buttercream. Is this for a full 50oz recipe as above? Or is it 3oz added to a 10oz macaron-batch-sized amount of buttercream? Thank you again!
· cheyenne · ginandbutterflies.etsy.com
Dec 14, 2011 · 7:07 PM
@cheyenne, whew, I’m glad you don’t have to waste it either! Coffee buttercream sounds awesome, let me know how it turns out in the end!
Also, you’re on the right track with the Champagne. It’s 3 ounces of champagne reduction for 10 ounces of buttercream.
Dec 16, 2011 · 11:48 PM
Success! I heated it maybe 30 seconds total and it beat up perfectly in less than a minute.
Macaron Attempt #1 was so-so. They tasted good, but all but maybe 10 shells out of the entire batch (4 sheets worth) cracked all over the place & maybe one foot-ish looking thing out of the whole lot.
I feel like I got the consistency okay (by maybe 35 turn/squashes, the batter was slow-flowy), possibly it was on the runny side? Videos and photos show others’ batter to be far more coarse looking than mine was but maybe that is because I used pre-ground almond flour. Now I’m wondering if I didn’t blend it evenly enough before it got to the ‘lava’ stage. I’ll see how the next batch turns out (tomorrow). I also think I didn’t smash the whites enough—the cookies were quite poofy.
Thank you again for all your advise and your excellent recipe & Macaron Myths/Commandments!
· cheyenne · ginandbutterflies.etsy.com
Dec 17, 2011 · 4:27 PM
@cheyenne, generally, I say if the batter is runny, then it’s overmixed (though other things can cause that too). Just make sure your meringue is whipped enough that it’s absolutely stiff, no softness at all. Good luck, keep me posted!
Dec 29, 2011 · 12:09 PM
@Kait, so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for taking the time to let me know how it turned out for you. I love making extra batches for freezing, so handy to pull out for cupcake emergencies.
@Gail, Always reach for granulated when a recipe calls for “sugar.” Granulated sugar is considered the default for sugar. Powdered sugar or icing sugar, is made from granulated sugar so it’s a secondary type that will always be called by its “full name,” so to speak.
My buttercream recipes all use granulated sugar and the macaron recipe uses both; granulated sugar with the egg whites and powdered sugar with the nuts. I hope that clarifies things. Happy baking!
Dec 29, 2011 · 6:59 PM
@Gail, absolutely! Go for it.
Jan 09, 2012 · 7:37 PM
Hi Stella this is wonderful. Altough at first I was mistaken for the measurement (blame my math, I thought 2 pounds = 250 grms how stupid I am) until I realiseD that there is something wrong as the buttercream was too runny. My buttercream will never be same anymore, yours is just too good glad I made a full batch so I’ll be able to put some in the fridge. Well now is the macarons..
Jan 10, 2012 · 3:09 PM
@Melzazky, oh no!! Well, I’m glad you got to the bottom of the issue and fixed it! So glad you enjoyed it, I love that you’re a convert now, ha! Happy macaroning.
Jan 23, 2012 · 1:17 AM
My dad sent me a link to your site months ago…I’ve been missing out! I tried making french macarons for the first time using your recipe for my pastry buffet final..worked out great. I saw you mention essencha tea house which is where I also get my matcha and is conveniently about half a mile from home. I’m now addicted to your blog.
Jan 23, 2012 · 12:02 PM
@Yin, ahh! I’m so jealous, that’s such a lovely part of Cincinnati! Though I’d probably bankrupt myself if I lived that close to Essencha, such a great place. Say hi to Tracey for me next time you visit! And congratulations on a macaron success for the pastry buffet; luckily I didn’t have to do macarons for mine. I got eclairs instead, too easy!
Feb 07, 2012 · 11:54 PM
What is an acceptable alternative to vanilla beans? When I saw the cost of them at the grocery store, I nearly choked. As much as I’d love to follow your directions to a t, I might have to reserve using beans for recipes that absolutely would not turn out without them. Please advise!
Feb 08, 2012 · 10:39 AM
@Krista, you can find vanilla bean paste at stores like Williams-Sonoma, or “gourmet” type groceries. The jar has directions for substitution. You can, of course, just use vanilla extract. But, in any case, the vanilla beans sold at the grocery are crazy expensive and really poor quality; I recommend buying them online instead. There’s a great site called Beanilla which sells vanilla beans at wholesale prices. You can get 10 Madagascar beans for 8 bucks, I love those guys!
Feb 27, 2012 · 9:10 AM
@Snow White, there is a difference! I measure everything by weight; volume for anything but water is a crap shoot.
Mar 13, 2012 · 8:47 PM
@AmandaC, try reducing the sugar by 4 ounces, then whipping in 4 ounces of honey at the end after you’ve added all the butter. Honey’s got a potent taste, so I think 4 ounces is about all you’ll need, but let me know how it works out. Sounds like a perfect match for your lavender macarons!
Mar 16, 2012 · 4:02 PM
If you’re not concerned about food safety, is it necessary to heat the eggwhites or can you just go ahead and whip them up cold? I know you can make meringue without heating the whites, but will it work in the buttercream? I guess the heat helps you get more volume when you beat the whites but how hot does it need to be if you are just after that effect?
I guess i should add that I’m from Sweden and our eggs are perfectly safe to eat raw since our hens don’t have salmonella or whatever it is that makes you avoid raw eggs.
Mar 16, 2012 · 7:26 PM
@Lotta, the heat isn’t for food safety so much as it is for stability. French meringue (made with uncooked whites) is the least stable of all meringues and wouldn’t be suitable for buttercream. You guessed it right, the volume is much better because of the heat. For those reasons, it’s important to cook the whites and sugar in a water bath until it’s quite hot, lest it not achieve the volume and stability needed. Hope that info helps!
Apr 01, 2012 · 10:21 AM
@Diana, for the most part, the buttercream is really forgiving and will absorb just about whatever you want to put into it. That being said, plain fruit purees are often not intense enough (they have a lot of water content) and by the time you add enough puree to give the buttercream a good flavor, it will start to break/curdle due to the excess liquid.
You can get around this by using reductions rather than raw purees. Just cook your puree over low heat (you want to be gentle so you don’t give the fruit a cooked flavor) until they’ve reduced by at least half.
Apr 04, 2012 · 4:49 PM
@Diana, no problem!
Apr 10, 2012 · 8:14 PM
A comment and a question:
Vanilla beans: Amazon! JR Mushrooms, an Amazon vendor, sells vanilla beans that are 8” or longer, vacuum-packed, full, plump, and moist. They make Spice Islands “vanilla beans” look like dead sticks—oh wait, they already look like dead sticks. Anyway, they’re excellent quality, sell for less than a buck apiece, and can be bought in a number of different quantities (in case you don’t make vanilla ice cream/creme brulee/buttercream/macarons every night—but why not?)
Now the question: I made a Swiss meringue buttercream per your recipe, but I find it’s a little oozey for macaron filling. I put about 3/4 tsp cinnamon into about, oh, maybe 80 g of the buttercream and filled a half-batch of cafe-flavored macarons with it. After overnight refrigeration and subsequent defrosting, it tasted divine—the high fat content really amps up the cinnamon flavor—but it squished out like nobody’s business. Co-workers were raving as they wiped the shiny remains from their lips and chins. Do you think more sugar would stiffen it up a bit? I’m in Texas, by the way, and “room temperature” around these parts is 75F in April…
I must say I’ve pored over your macaron posts and have benefited greatly from your experience. I embarked on macarons with confidence, since I’m a dab hand at chiffon pies and therefore unafraid of meringue… but after a couple of dumb-luck successes, my macarons went south and I scurried back to your blog for a much-needed jolt of confidence and myth debunking. Happy to say that the macs are now behaving themselves and meekly rising up on lovely feet. Cheers!
Apr 15, 2012 · 12:18 PM
@annabel, thanks for the recommendation! I’ll have to check ‘em out. I’m a big fan of beanilla.com, they likewise sell the beans either in bulk or by the each, more manageable batches. But the coolest part is they offer such a huge variety of vanillas (from Tahiti, Tonga, Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico and a few others) which each bring their own flavor profile to the mix. No matter where you get them, once you’ve tried chubby, damp beans the crappy ones in the jar just seem depressing. Glad you’re a convert!
As far as the Swiss buttercream goes, it’s pretty soft at room temperature (about the same as room temp butter). Most people do have a tendency to overfill macarons, which will exacerbate the squish factor considerably. I generally pipe in a nickle sized dab of buttercream and when I press the shells together, I try to keep it from spreading out all the way to the edges. That way, even when someone takes a bite, the filling isn’t ejected from the shells, it just spreads out the rest of the way (flush to the edges).
That said, many chefs prefer a sturdier filling for their macarons, so you wouldn’t be alone in wanting something with more staying power.
Apr 25, 2012 · 4:25 PM
I have just had my first (now to be of many)Swiss Meringue Buttercream. This was put on Bakewell Cupcakes.
I have never really liked buttercream previously as it always seems to feel slightly gritty (yes I used icing sugar) but the SMB is perfect!!! Thank you. Next stop – your macaron recipe. The others I have done tasted divine but didn’t look as pretty as I would have liked.
Many thanks, Nonie
Apr 25, 2012 · 5:11 PM
@Nonie, I’m so, so happy to hear you liked the SMB! I am right there with you, I absolutely hate that gritty feel in other types of frosting. You might also like my German buttercream. It’s not quite as buttery as the Swiss (some people think the Swiss is too butter) but it has a great custard-like flavor. It’s nice when you want to do something different, but still want to avoid grit.
Good luck with the macarons!
Apr 27, 2012 · 5:25 PM
@Nicolas, you’ve got it. The more liquid you add to the buttercream, the softer the buttercream will be. If you’re frosting a cake or cupcakes or something where the buttercream can have a more homestyle look, there’s not a lot to worry about. If you’re cake-decorating or otherwise need the buttercream on its best behavior, I’d not add any more than 5 ounces of liquid.
May 03, 2012 · 9:41 AM
Hi Lee! The conversion’s a snap. Just multiply the weight of every ingredient by 28.35. There are tons of online calculators which will do a great job converting if you’d rather not do the heavy lifting. I’m afraid I’m an American through and through, addicted to ounces.
May 04, 2012 · 5:35 AM
Hi Stella, thanks for your help. Some of the baking calculators totally confused me with things like density to be added into their equations. Conversion will now be a breeze.
Was reading your reply on how we can use our extra egg yolks and you mentioned replacing egg whites in this recipe with egg yolks to make french butter cream. So do I just follow the same steps? Is there anything special I need to look out for? Thanks again!
May 04, 2012 · 9:47 AM
@Lee Cheng, oh, weird! Density doesn’t play a role unless you’re converting from weight to volume. Glad I could simplify for you!
I am posting a recipe on French buttercream very soon, but don’t have it ready quite yet. But the way I do it is very similar to Swiss (though traditionally French buttercream is made like Italian; with a hot sugar syrup). Essentially follow this recipe and replace the whites with yolks. They won’t whip up to the same volume, but just whip until cool before adding butter.
May 15, 2012 · 10:27 AM
As per Lee Cheng ‘s question, I also would like to ask about swapping egg yolks into the buttercream. You mentioned that the yolks will not give the same volume, should we add more butter to make it more stable, or do we add more sugar??? I also have the same question for when the buttercream oozing out the macaron, should I add more sugar or should I add more butter to have a Sturdier filling? Afraid to keep adding too much butter, some people dont like toomuch butter flavor. SORRY too many questions . Thank you for helping all of us homebakers out there…
May 15, 2012 · 10:37 AM
@hanh, I make the French buttercream just like the Swiss, no changes. It’s a little denser, but in a luxurious way. European buttercreams, but their very nature, are not particularly sturdy; as a macaron filling, the only way to keep them from squishing out the sides is to a) serve them cold (yuck!) or b) underfill them. 99% of the time, people overfill macarons, because they look prettier that way. But the perfect amount of buttercream will stop short of the edges after sandwiching, and thus not squish out when bitten.
For people who are a little overwhelmed by the butteriness of Swiss, German buttercream is a great option. It’s made with a custard base, rather than meringue, so it has a richer flavor, like ice cream.
May 15, 2012 · 12:32 PM
Hi Stella, I did make the yolk buttercream, I like the taste very much, indeed a bit richer than the Swiss, in a good way . I just want to make it a bit sturdier so I can feel confident giving my macaron to my friends without worrying about the buttercream melting in their cars, would you recommend adding a bit more sugar or butter to stiffen it??? if yes, which one? Again, thank you so much. You are AWESOME!
May 15, 2012 · 6:32 PM
@hanh, unfortunately, European buttercreams don’t work that way; that can’t be made stiffer with more sugar. They will only ever be as stiff as room temperature butter, it’s just their nature.
As long as you cooked the yolks over the water bath until they were over 145° you’ll be fine. Glad to hear you’ve had such a busy baking day!
May 15, 2012 · 11:06 PM
Hi Stella, I was hoping to bring some macarons to my in-laws for a dinner get together this weekend. I am concerned that the fillings in the macarons will be melted while sitting on the dessert table, while everyone is eating away Should I just skip the buttercream altogether, and substitute with something else? I noticed people have been doing Macarons for their weddings, how do they do it? Please give me your professional suggestion . Thank you so much. Having a bitbof trouble with the macarons texture, but will try again tomorrow morning, just need to figure out this buttercream dilemma, please HELP!
Jun 01, 2012 · 3:25 PM
First of all, your Swiss Buttercream is awesome! I had to make a cake for my neice and wanted to experiment with French Buttercream (Made of egg yolks), but I found that the French Buttercream was a bit looser and doesn’t hold its shape as well as the Swiss Buttercream. I was wondering if it would be okay to mix in some of the Swiss Buttercream together with the French Buttercream to make the French Buttercream a bit sturdier??? I really dont want to throw away the French Buttercream, it would be such a waste, PLEASE give me your advice. Thank you for your help
Jun 02, 2012 · 12:01 PM
@bao kim, have you tried refrigerating the French buttercream until solid and then reconstituting it? I haven’t had any trouble with it being too loose, so I was wondering if maybe it was just too warm.
Jun 15, 2012 · 8:01 PM
Hi Stella – I made this delicious buttercream, and then froze it. I thawed it in the refrigerator. I tried to re-whip it, and it started oozing liquid – not just melting, but literally water-like. Is it because it wasn’t completely thawed? It was pretty hard when I took it out of the fridge. Or could it be that it’s pretty darn hot here today? Sheesh! Any way to save it?? Thanks!
· Bonnie · www.bakecookeatmove.blogspot.com/
Jun 16, 2012 · 1:34 PM
@Bonnie, yup. The buttercream broke because it was too cold. What you can do is set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and let about 1/3 of it melt completely and then try rewhipping. Alternately, if you have a mini blow torch (like they sell for creme brulee) you can heat the metal Kitchen Aid bowl with it to knock off the chill.
Jun 21, 2012 · 8:15 PM
@Susan, I’d say to add in pure almond extract a 1/4 teaspoon at a time until you get to the flavor you’re looking for. You can definitely splash in some amaretto too, maybe up to 2 ounces. If you’d like some texture too, try whipping in a little almond butter at the end (though that might make piping more tricky).
Jun 25, 2012 · 1:00 PM
Hi Stella! Your blog is inspiring and informative—I love it I’m experimenting w a cream cheese buttercream that will survive the heat of an August wedding. I tried your recipe above, but subbed Italian meringue for Swiss(should be more stable, no?)—but it curdled! I think the meringue was too warm when the butter went in, & cream cheese too cold. Suggestions, please? Many thanks!
Jun 25, 2012 · 3:02 PM
@Buttered Toast, it definitely sounds like a temperature issue. I probably haven’t made Italian meringue buttercream in ten years, but the number one reason for a buttercream to curdle is that the fat is too cold. Especially with cream cheese, it needs to be perfectly room temperature. I think you might want to strongly consider incorporating some white chocolate into your buttercream for stability, cream cheese buttercream is notoriously loose and in the August heat you’ll need everything you can to hold it together. Good luck!!
Jun 28, 2012 · 7:57 PM
Thank you so much for all your macaron posts, and this buttercream! My insanely picky eater of a brother has somehow fallen in love with macarons and I’ve decided to try making some… this will be a big help! I have a question… this is probably terrible, but I do not have a pastry bag; I’ve always made do with a thick Ziploc, corner snipped off. Would my macarons mutiny if I were to try that? Should I invest in the real deal ASAP?
Jun 29, 2012 · 8:45 AM
@Liz, in the case of macarons, you’ll have an incredibly hard time getting them to all turn out in a uniform shape with that method. Which is no big deal if you don’t mind the irregularity, but if you want perfect little rounds that sandwich together perfectly, you’ll have to go for a pastry bag (or at least drop a pastry tip into your zippy bag).
You can buy a roll of disposable pastry bags online or in craft stores like Michael’s for about 10 bucks, no huge investment there! And most pastry tips are under a dollar. Happy baking!
Jun 29, 2012 · 4:35 PM
Thank you so much, Stella! I grabbed the disposable bags at Michael’s and they are great. My first batch of macs just came out of the oven. They’re kind of huge (aaahhh!), and no feet, but they seem like the right consistency, so it’s not a total failure! :’ Besides getting over-excited with my piping, is this a sign of over-mixing? My batter wasn’t runny, but perhaps it could have been a bit stiffer…
Jun 29, 2012 · 8:55 PM
@Liz, oh, that’s awesome! I’m glad you found ‘em so quickly. It’s hard to say whether they were over or under mixed, but if you felt like the batter was difficult to handle then that’s probably a sign they were overmixed just a bit.
Jul 14, 2012 · 7:35 AM
Thanks for the awesome recipe, it works really well! Mine curdled at the final stage, but I left it beating and it eventually came together. Little harder to control butter temp in winter!
It’s only the second time making swiss meringue, do you get used to the clear buttery flavour? Though I’m only used to making powdered sugar buttercream, guess I have some tastebud adjusting to do!
Jul 14, 2012 · 11:01 AM
Hi Minty Tea! I’m glad you stuck with it and brought it together! If you ever try Swiss again, you can help a curdled buttercream come together by warming it slightly over a water bath (just until the edges start to melt against the bowl) and then continue whipping. This is really helpful when it’s so cold in the kitchen!
Swiss buttercream is definitely very buttery. I think it’s best once flavored, the butter is most pronounced with plain vanilla. A little chocolate, caramel, coffee, etc, and you won’t really notice it like before. But if you’re looking for a great vanilla buttercream that doesn’t have powdered sugar but tastes like more than pure butter, you might try French buttercream or German buttercream. French is made with egg yolks, so it has a richer ice-cream like flavor. German is based on pastry cream, so it has a custardy flavor too, but much lighter than the French. Hope that helps, cheers!
Aug 01, 2012 · 4:16 PM
This buttercream recipe is delicious! I’ve made the caramel and chocolate versions for macaron filling. I am a vanilla fan and used the plain+ vanilla version to ice a cake recently. I loved the taste of the buttercream out of the bowl but on the cake it was too plain. How much vanilla would you add to the recipe to make it a real vanilla tasting buttercream?
Aug 02, 2012 · 9:41 AM
@Jacque-Lynne, I’m so glad you enjoyed the buttercreams for your macarons! The intensity of the vanilla flavor depends on the quality of the beans used, but if you wanted to take it up a notch, I’d use two beans and 2-3 Tablespoons of vanilla extract to really play up the flavor. You can grab some cake scraps (from the domes of the cake) to use to taste the buttercream so you can get a better idea of how the flavor will interact with the cake.
My favorite vanilla buttercream is the German Buttercream; the milk and eggs in it really bring out the vanilla flavor in a way I think butter alone doesn’t quite accomplish (kind of like ice cream). Which isn’t to say you can’t make a killer vanilla Swiss buttercream, only that I’m partial to German.
Aug 25, 2012 · 5:06 AM
Thank you for your crystal-clear instructions. Looking forward to trying the matcha green tea add-in!
· The Ninja Baker · ninjabaking.com
Aug 25, 2012 · 6:25 PM
Hey Ninja, hope you enjoy it! If you can get a hold of baking rather than drinking matcha, the flavor shines through much better. Happy baking!
Aug 26, 2012 · 4:28 AM
hello stella,first of all i hope i will be clear cause i don t speak very good english,sorry for that.
well,i just discover your blog and it s full of wonderfull recipes and useful tips for novice like me;thank you very much for sharing,i think i m gonna spend a long time on your blog to discover your baking world!!!
i ve made swiss buttercream few times but i always try to cut the amount of butter in order to be less buttery(2oz butter per egg white);i think this is really silky and melt in the mouth,i really love it;but i have a big trouble with its stability,specially when i put melted choc in it or hazelnut spread. i live on an island in a tropical weather,so it s really hard to get a stable buttercream here.it drives me crazy!!!
do you think i have to put more butter in it to get it more stable? do i have to change for another buttercream?and wich one is the more stable???
i would be so happy to get some help because i m tired to try tones of new recipes and never resolve my problem,i feel a bit lost and discouraged .could you please help me for that,you seem to know a lot in that field;
thank you very much ,happy baking
Aug 26, 2012 · 12:25 PM
Hi Vahiné, yup. That butter is crucial to keeping the buttercream stable. Otherwise it’s just a bit of greasy meringue, if that makes sense. Swiss buttercream does indeed have a strong butter flavor and texture, but if you make any flavor aside from vanilla or other extract-based flavors, it becomes significantly less noticeable.
Try making it with the full amount of butter, then adding the chocolate or nutella or what have you. I think you will find the “buttery-ness” will fade back and the other, stronger flavor will shine through.
But! Something else you can try would be German buttercream. It uses less butter than Swiss buttercream and because it’s custard based, it has a rich ice-cream like flavor and not as much of that “pure butter” flavor or texture. It’s great for vanilla too and is very stable. I hope that information helps!
Aug 26, 2012 · 4:45 PM
hi stella,thanks a lot for your quick answer!of course,that’s gonna help me in my trials and errors!!
anyway,your posts about german and faux french buttercream are very attractive,so i’ve planned to try both of them,but following your advice i m gonna do first german BC .i had never heard about it before ;i really hope it’s gonna be stable enough to destress me,ha,ha!!
i would let you know as soon as i ve tried both BC;
again,thk u very much for your help.
Aug 26, 2012 · 10:02 PM
You are welcome, Vahiné. Good luck with the German buttercream, don’t hesitate to drop me an email if you have any questions. I hope it’s stable enough for you!
Sep 12, 2012 · 7:24 AM
Hi Stella! You’re macaron making skills are amazing! The fact that you disregard all those myths, pretty much make them the way you want and that they still turn out perfect is very impressive . Restores my faith in the French Macaron method .
What I was wondering is, I can never really get my egg whites to “clump” in the middle. I use a hand mixer and I get them to the stiff peaks pretty easily, but no clumpage. I usually beat for about 8 minutes all up, should I just keep going? Or is it just the fact that my hand mixer won’t get them to that stage? When I reach the stiff peak stage (it’s glossy, it defies gravity and all that) I stop because I’m scared I might over-mix…about 50% of my batches don’t turn out that great so I’m trying to figure out if its the egg whites or the macaronage stage (which I’m more confident in). Sorry for the essay, and thanks muchly for the great tute!
Sep 12, 2012 · 8:48 AM
I’ve heard from people making them with a hand mixer that it can take up to twice as long, since the horsepower is different. Don’t be scared of overmixing; it’s actually harder to do than you think in a recipe like this (compared to recipes that have you add the sugar a little at a time, or with a lower sugar content).
So next time you bust out your mixer, have at it!
Nov 14, 2012 · 6:59 PM
Hi luv2cook! I know just what you mean. This happens when the chocolate cools as it hits the buttercream, and forms tiny “micro” chips, if you will. It happens when the chocolate is melted, but very cool, or if the buttercream itself is quite cool. This is definitely more of a problem in the cooler months, when “room temperature” cools down enough to keep everything in the kitchen cooler than usual. You can prevent it by making sure the chocolate is just a little warm when you add it, and by mixing it on medium high speed after.
You can kind of reduce the problem, after it’s already happened, by melting some of the buttercream (say about 1 cup) and then whipping it back in to the rest. The cup you melt should look smooth, cos the chocolate melts too, and the extra warmth may help melt out some of the little micro-chips in the rest of the buttercream.
Hope that extra info helps (and that your buttercream is tasty, even if slightly polka dotted).
Nov 15, 2012 · 12:06 AM
I’d say that’s pretty normal. Bubbles or pockets of air form whenever the bowl of buttercream is left to stand, so just give it a good stir (or whip) to deflate any large bubbles before you start frosting the cake.
Nov 18, 2012 · 10:55 PM
Hmmm, I haven’t tried powdered, actually! With gel based colorings, you’ll need to dissolve them in a little water first. The gel doesn’t really dissolve into the buttercream on its own, it ends up with tiny little specks. But liquid color works just fine.
Nov 26, 2012 · 1:40 PM
Just read through all the comments and answers but couldn’t find the answer to my question which is:
I’ve tried the SMBC and I absolutely love the taste but what worries me is it’s softness. I make cakes and I use the American BC would the SMBC be sturdy enough to use? for stacking and such with fondant. Also would the buttercream melt at some point?
thanks so much!
Nov 26, 2012 · 8:54 PM
Hi Dianabb! I use SMBC for all of my wedding cakes, and under fondant too. It holds up just fine. That being said, I’ve never used any other sort of buttercream, so I don’t know how it compares to an American buttercream. It melts at about the same temperature as regular butter, so it holds up in a wide variety of circumstances. I’ve used it for outdoor weddings; it will soften over time, but I’ve never seen it melt on a cake or anything like that.
I always recommend to anyone who does cakes to do a test run whenever trying out a new technique, because a wedding is no place to learn.
Dec 04, 2012 · 5:24 PM
Hi Stella, I can’t wait to attempt your macaron recipe (and many of your other recipes you’ve posted). I plan on making swiss buttercream as well. I have questions about making different variations using just one batch of buttercream. If I wanted to make the dark chocolate variation and the cream cheese variation, can I follow the recipe until right before adding the butter?So I’ve whipped the meringue until it’s completely cool, then I split the meringue into two different bowls. Then I proceed using the directions under cream cheese and dark chocolate variations (I will adjust the amounts of butter and flavor ingredients accordingly).
Would I achieve the same results this way?
Thank you and happy baking!
Dec 05, 2012 · 9:11 AM
Hi luckylove! I think that would work! You’d need to move quickly though; my only concern would be that the meringue for the second batch might start to collapse or act funny while it waits. But it may be fine! If you try it out, you’ll have to let me know how it goes!
Dec 09, 2012 · 6:05 PM
@luckylove, it may work out okay, but it would be a bummer to find out the hard way. I’ll try to do a test sometime to figure out if there’s an upper limit on how long you can wait between whipping the whites and adding the butter.
Dec 18, 2012 · 2:19 PM
Hi Stella,if i don’t have a thermometer, what are some signs that the egg whites are done? And I know after putting them in the macarons it has to be refrigerated for a chewier texture, but will the buttercream’s flavor be affected? I just want to make sure because I’m making these for a present and christmas gathering
Dec 18, 2012 · 8:35 PM
I’ve mastered the technique of making SMBC with added flavor….i’m currently making cream cheese SMBC and I want to CRY! It’s separating and looks like watery cottage cheese. I’ve been beating it slowly for the last five years, and still noting. Do I keep going? Is there a point? Am I failing at life?!
Dec 18, 2012 · 10:48 PM
Hi Drea! You can simply cook the whites until they’re hot to the touch, that should get you where you need to be! They’ll be fine in the fridge with the macarons, just make sure they’re all wrapped up in an airtight container because the buttercream (and macarons) will absorb the odors of your fridge.
Hi Miranda! I know just what you mean. This generally happens when the cream cheese is colder than the rest of the buttercream mixture, it sort of curdles up like that. With Swiss buttercream, though, slow is not the answer. Crank up the speed and beat the crap out of it! This should help it pull together, but if not, try warming the buttercream over a waterbath until it gets a little melty around the edges. The extra heat should help the cream cheese incorporate. Let me know if that works out, there may be a way to save it, so you can also stash it in the fridge and try resurrecting it later. xoxo
Dec 19, 2012 · 9:18 PM
i’ve been searching for a not too sweet buttercream and this is it! i made my first batch and loved the texture and the not so sweet taste =) i do however have a question.. if i now want to make the cream cheese version can i just add room temp cream cheese to the left over buttercream i have? if so, how much cream cheese should i add? (i didn’t make the cream cheese variation from the get go so i didn’t do the 1/2 butter and 1/2 cream cheese.)
Dec 20, 2012 · 10:29 AM
Hi Mary! You can certainly whip in some cream cheese into the leftovers, but I won’t be able to tell you how much cos I don’t know how much you’ve got. I think you can safely whip it in to taste, although you may find it will always have a butter-forward flavor since the ratios will be a little off. But let your taste buds guide you and I think you’ll do well. Also, a generous squeeze of lemon juice will definitely help enhance the tartness of the cream cheese. Good luck! I hope it turns out for you.
Dec 21, 2012 · 4:17 PM
thank you for the tip about the lemon juice =) i saw your post on german buttercream and am now debating on whether i should make that instead (it sounds so yummy!) i’m planning to do the cream cheese version to top carrot cupcakes. Just wondering if german buttercream has the same silky texture as swiss or is it more custard-like? Does it pipe well?
Thank you so much =)
Dec 22, 2012 · 11:54 AM
Hi Mary! The German buttercream has a very comparable texture, very light and silly. The biggest difference between the two is the German has a more custardy flavor whereas the Swiss has a predominately butter flavor. They’ll both pipe nicely, so let your taste buds guide you.
Dec 28, 2012 · 4:28 PM
thank you stella! is adding cream cheese supposed to make the icing very light? i made both german and swiss meringue buttercream using 1/2 butter and 1/2 cream cheese and they both came out very light and airy… almost like whipped cream. they both tasted great, but i was hoping for a little bit of a stiffer consistency since i’m a tad bit obsessed with piping nice swirls of icing atop my cupcakes could there have been something i did wrong?
thank you so much. i appreciate all your help.
Dec 28, 2012 · 6:42 PM
Hi Mary! While this buttercream (with or without cream cheese) is pretty light, it’s also immensely pipeable. It may be that it’s just soft, due to the temperature of the ingredients (like if your room temperature is warmer than mine, for example). Try refrigerating the buttercream for 30 minutes, then beating it and seeing how it holds up after that. Sometimes it just needs a chance to stiffen back up. All that being said, cream cheese buttercreams are almost always a little softer than all-butter versions. If post-chilling it’s still softer than you like, you might try melting and beating in some white chocolate, which should help thicken it up. Let me know how that works for you!
Jan 01, 2013 · 11:02 AM
Hi Mary! Oh, hurray! I’m so glad to hear it it was a hit!! Hope you like the white chocolate version next time.
Feb 09, 2013 · 7:21 AM
Hi, you may have answered this question already but I cant seem to find the answer so I thought I would ask. I read in one of your answers that gel food colouring would need to be mixed with a little water to get it to mix thoroughly in the SMBC. I was just wondering how much water as I dont want to ruin the buttercream.
Thanks for your help in advance x x x
Feb 09, 2013 · 10:44 AM
Hi Corky! It probably depends on the brand, but at least Wilton gel color is notorious for not dissolving in a Swiss buttercream. Just a teaspoon or two is all you need. I mix the gel color with either a little vanilla extract (or other flavoring), or otherwise just a few teaspoons of water in a small ramekin or Dixie cup. Just whisk really well with a fork until all the lumps have broken up.
Feb 20, 2013 · 1:29 PM
hey, stella! so i have some leftover SMBC (your recipe)..if I wanted to make it the cream cheese variation, do you think I could just add cream cheese to it? (even though your directions say to replace part of the butter) I don’t want to make another batch of SMBC…! thanks!!
· megan · whyisfoodsogood.blogspot.com
Feb 20, 2013 · 5:07 PM
Hi megan! You can definitely whip some in to make do with what you’ve got. It might not be as cream cheesy as a pure 50/50 split, but you can probably work a decent amount in. Just make sure your cream cheese is at a very soft room temperature. A squeeze of lemon might help bring out the tangy flavor too. Good luck!
Feb 21, 2013 · 9:57 PM
excellent! thank you!
· megan · whyisfoodsogood.blogspot.com
Feb 24, 2013 · 1:13 AM
Hi Ela! Pie dough and buttercream in one night? My kinda girl! I use the whisk attachment all the way through on this recipe. Thanks for asking, I’ll be sure to go back and make that more clear in the recipe itself. Cheers!
Feb 27, 2013 · 5:03 AM
Hi stella,this is my 1st time writing to you,ive been following your website for quite some time,love love love you.love your buttercream,however i have 1 quick question,about the colour.mine is yellowy so im kinda stuck with that colour.my son always wants a blue cake but i always ended up with green,and when i want to do pink cake for my daughter,i ended up with orange.help me….
Feb 27, 2013 · 9:35 AM
Hi Ike! Two questions, what kind of butter and what kind of food colors are you using? I ask about the butter because in my experience the Swiss BC whips up pretty pale; by no means snow white, but I wouldn’t describe it as yellow at all. So that got me to wondering about the butter; there are some butters and butter substitutes on the market that have color added to give them a more “buttery” look.
You can definitely color the buttercream, but probably not with grocery store liquid color. I would recommend a gel paste, which is much more concentrated. I use a brand called Americolor. Wilton can work too, but it needs to be dissolved in a bit of melted buttercream or warm water before being whipped into the main buttercream.
Let me know what you think so we can figure out this color mystery!
Mar 15, 2013 · 7:20 PM
Hi Lynne! It sounds like you are armed and dangerous for St. Patrick’s Day!! That sounds terrific. Hope everyone enjoys.
Mar 19, 2013 · 8:56 PM
Hi stella,thank you so much for replying.I was waiting for the reply all this time,but somehow I only check the top part not all the way through the bottom,aah….silly me.I used Anchor Unsalted Butter and Wilton Concentrated Gel Colour.It never cross my mind that different brand of butter can have a different colour,again….silly me.I live in Indonesia and we dont really have much choice with butter,what I remember we have Anchor,Lurpak,Elle&Vire,hmm…what else?I think that’s about it,I have to check again.But I’m definitely gonna give it a try,since I really like the taste of your bc and dont want to change to another bc recipe.Thanks Stella,you’re a rockstar!
Mar 21, 2013 · 9:07 AM
Hi Ike! Oh noooo! Glad you finally found my response! While I can’t say for sure if the butter is your problem, Wilton definitely doesn’t work in Swiss style buttercream unless it is first fully dissolved in a bit of liquid (hot water works). But itself, it just whips into the buttercream in tiny beads, giving a poor color. I’d say that’s really the bigger issue here than the butter itself (although I am not familiar with Anchor, so who knows!). Good luck with your future experiments!
Apr 18, 2013 · 8:41 AM
Hi Stella! Finally i had chance to make bc today,and you were right! It wasn’t the butter,it’s the coloring. So I did use different brand of butter,slightly lighter color than Anchor and i use my blue liquid coloring,not Wilton,and they turn blue,yipeee….. But I tried with my old batch of bc too and they turned blue too. So like you said it wasn’t the butter. I am so happy with my blue bc,no more complaints from my boys,thanks Stella
Apr 18, 2013 · 10:19 AM
Ike, that’s great, hurray! So glad you were able to solve the problem, and avoid teasing. Although boys with cake should hushy up and be glad to have a dad who likes to bake!! Haha.
Apr 19, 2013 · 9:46 AM
May 07, 2013 · 4:08 PM
I just made a 1/4 batch as a trial (1 stick of butter, etc.) unflavored so far and it’s delicious! I could eat it straight from the bowl… I am French however! But my American husband kind of made a face when he tasted it and commented “I just prefer cream cheese frostings”. I will try that next . Can you also flavor the cream cheese variety? Would you then omit the lemon juice?
I’m going to fill a batch of hazelnut and pistachio macarons. I’ve been using a different recipe I had success with on my first try, but you inspired me to use different nuts and grind them myself. Next up, I’m trying your recipe (if my 2 month old allows me any pockets of free time lol.)
Thank you for your blog, and your saintly patience answering so many questions!
May 08, 2013 · 6:43 PM
Thank you. Your willingness and diligence in answering questions here is commendable. Your knowledge vast. Your confidence apparent. Thank you. Now my question. I have a limited amount of a wonderful passion fruit curd from Craftsman and Wolves in SFO … I would like to use it to flavor buttercream for macaron filling, but don’t want to waste it with fails…can curd flavor SMB?
May 11, 2013 · 5:24 PM
@Delphine, you might try a French buttercream for your husband sometime. I’ve found a lot of Americans prefer it over Swiss because it has a richer, more custard like flavor. You may think it’s heresy, but I make mine in a baine marie rather than with a sugar syrup. So much easier!
You can definitely flavor the cream cheese batch any way you like, although it will have a softer texture. The lemon juice is just for flavor, so feel free to leave it out.
@bhivedesign, I’ve never whipped a curd into buttercream myself (though I’ve been meaning to for ages. I really can’t imagine why it wouldn’t work, buttercreams are so resilient and able to absorb everything from fruit reductions to chocolate, so I feel pretty good that it would work! I’d start with a small batch of buttercream, and whip the curd in to taste. Make sure both are at room temperature, though!
Jul 02, 2013 · 7:26 AM
Hi baker, not at all! It’s when you take a vanilla bean, split it lengthwise, then use a knife to scrape out the vanilla seeds from both halves of the pod. You don’t need the pod itself, just the “scrapings” from the inside. Sorry for the shorthand!
Jul 29, 2013 · 4:03 PM
I’ve tried making your cream cheese version 3 x’s, the first was fabulous ~ the last 2 x’s have been complete disasters. I weigh all ingredients, have butter and cream cheese @ room temperature, have beautiful frosting until I add the cream cheese then everything curdles. I’ve tried mixing more, leaving it in the fridge for hours (overnight) and beating again, no luck, warming some up and adding it back…have ended up throwing out pounds of ingredients. Any ideas??? thx/SW
Jul 29, 2013 · 11:45 PM
Hi Susan! Oh, no, that’s so frustrating! When a buttercream curdles, it’s because the ingredients are too cold. Cream cheese seems to take much longer to “warm up” compared to butter, so even if you take ‘em both from the fridge at the same time, cream cheese can often still me much stiffer and colder.
Long story short, there are a variety of reasons the mixture’s too cold (butter cold, kitchen cold, whipping whites too long, etc), but all the problems have the same solution: add heat.
I’m really surprised to hear that warming some of the buttercream didn’t help, but it may simply be that you need to be warming more. Depending on how cold/curdled the buttercream is, up to 30% may need to be melted to have the right effect. So my best guess at this point is just that the buttercream needs to be warmed beyond where you’ve gone so far.
If it ever happens to you again (knock on wood and let’s hope it doesn’t!), snap a photo for me! What we’re calling “curdled” may be some other sort of problem, but without actually seeing the buttercream I can only go with the most likely cause. Let me know and let’s get to the bottom of it!
Jul 30, 2013 · 3:29 PM
Thanks Stella ~ first time I’ve written to a ‘blog’, so cool that you answered! I’ve tried quite a few of your recipes and they are fabulous, really challenging and so incredibly exciting when I do it right! Thanks so much for the response (feel like I just heard from a rock star
Jul 30, 2013 · 9:56 PM
Aw, that’s what I’m here for! Don’t ever hesitate to comment or email if you’ve got any questions; I put these recipes out here on the big ole internet and feel like it’s my job to make sure they don’t cause any trouble. Thanks so much for giving my recipes a shot!
Aug 01, 2013 · 4:02 PM
This is such a great post! I’ve been making SMBC for a while, but most recipes leave me holding my breath, promising to sacrifice a cake layer to the buttercream gods for it to come together. Your post made me realize that this stuff is actually quite resilient and I’ve gotten it to recover from most of my mistakes! I do have a lot of trouble frosting a cake with it because most of the buttercream somehow ends up in my mouth. Weird, I know!
Aug 03, 2013 · 11:58 AM
Hi Heidi Lou! I am so, so happy to help demystify Swiss meringue buttercream for you! It really is a very, very resilient little recipe, able to be frozen and melted and refrozen and rewhipped, but learning how to do all those things can take some time. Hope you can solve the problem of your disappearing buttercream.
Aug 07, 2013 · 12:06 PM
Hi Stella I’ve just tried to make a batch of smbc with cream cheese and it is a disaster. I’ve made smbc before and have managed to fix them before however am struggling this time. It is watery and lumpy. I have mixed it on low for nearly half an hour, still not coming together. Then mixed on high for a similar amount of time and its still broken. I’ve also mixed it after it has sat in the fridge for over an hour. If you could help in anyway it would be greatly appreciated. Much love xxx
Aug 07, 2013 · 1:20 PM
Hi Corky! Ugh, that’s so frustrating. Have you tried melting some of the buttercream? It sounds to me like it’s too cold, which would explain why it’s still a mess after refrigerating. If you scroll up through the comments a little, you can find some more detailed instructions about how to melt buttercream and re-whip. Hope that helps!!
Aug 08, 2013 · 1:11 PM
Hi Stella just a quick update. I made a new batch of smbc with cream cheese but made the smbc as normal, no half and half. I then started to add in the cream cheese spoonful by spoonful and almost instantly my buttercream broke continued beating the stupid buttercream and it final came together hurrah! However when I went to stir it to make sure everything was incorporated it started to break again . I beat it again, and it came together again. It seems like it still wants to break and it slips around the bowl as though its covered in oil if you get what I mean lol. At the moment its in a bowl waiting to be used tomorrow and fingers crossed it stays together . Thank you for running such an informative website and for all your help on this matter. Much love xxx
Aug 09, 2013 · 10:46 AM
Hey Corky! I’m glad you’re getting the hang of it! That’s the funny thing about SMBC is there really is a certain “feel” that you can develop after a while, which helps you kind of wing your way through the troubles here and there. My best guess is still that your ice cream may be a little chilled and could benefit from having a small portion melted. I did suddenly want to double check about your butter and cream cheese: are both full fat?
Aug 14, 2013 · 11:01 AM
Thx 4 sharing your recipe, I was wondering if I can add nutella? Instead of milk chocolate. And how I do it and what is the quantity of nutella i need. My daughter loves nutella and wants a nutella frosting for her birthday cake… She’s turning 8 tomorrow and all the recipes w/nutella that I have found have way to much powdered sugar. Thank you!
Aug 14, 2013 · 1:40 PM
Hi Kary! I think I just sent you an email on the topic, but I’ll post here too for anyone else who may be interested. After you whip in the butter, keep whipping and add Nutella a few tablespoons at a time until the buttercream has the flavor you’re looking for. I’d guess you’d want at least a half cup or so. Hope that helps!
Aug 17, 2013 · 9:37 PM
awesome!! Hope it all goes according to plan!
Sep 04, 2013 · 9:46 PM
Hi Carolyn! I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t ever made a double batch of macarons. You probably don’t have to literally double the times, though. Since you’ve made macarons successfully before, you’ll have a much easier time. The important thing is to whip the macarons to the right stage rather than to follow any particular timetable. So just keep a sharp eye out for that familiar stage of firm peaks. Good luck!
Sep 15, 2013 · 5:07 PM
Hi soccerplayer! Really, whatever you want to use or have on hand will work. I like using dark chocolate, or even unsweetened— the buttercream already has plenty of sugar, so the darker the chocolate the more intense the flavor. Bittersweet chocolate can be up to 40% sugar (sometimes more), so ounce for ounce it doesn’t add as much chocolate flavor.
Sep 19, 2013 · 10:50 PM
Hi Jay! Hurray, I’m so glad you liked it!! The PB version is an especial favorite of mine. Oh man, I hope you’re making chocolate cake.
Sep 20, 2013 · 1:43 AM
Hi Stella – first of all thanks for a wonderful website – you are my go-to girl when trying something new!
I made your delicious carrot cake yesterday and wanted to frost them with (half a batch) of the cream cheese frosting.
I weighed out everything very carefully, cooled both meringue and bowl, cream cheese and butter were at room temperature and cut into 1×1cm cubes.
As i started adding the butter and cream cheese the mixture emulsified just fine, however it became very runny and not at all stiff!?
I put the mixture in the fridge overnight, thinking it would set and that I could save it in the morning. It has become slightly stiffer, but it doesn’t even form peaks! Its like runny custard and tastes very nice too but it sure as hell wont stay on a cupcake!
I have read through the entire ‘‘comments’‘ section of this recipe but I dont seem to find the culprit! My only two theories are: I live in Denmark (notorious for extremely high food prices) where unsalted butter is expensive, not to mention quite hard to come by! So i used salted butter, and instead just omitted the salt. Can this have been the reason? Second, I dont know how much fat percentage cream cheese in the US holds, but my standard go-to brand (not light) has 65% fat. Might this be too little?
I have no hopes of ‘‘saving’‘ the frosting but i would very much like to find out what went wrong!
Oct 29, 2013 · 1:45 PM
Hi stella, i recently asked you about cream cheese smbc breaking. Sadly the next day it was completely broken. Think i beat it for nearly 20 mins trying to get it to come back together but it just wasnt happening. To answer the question you asked yes they were both full fat, but i have another question to ask, as i live in the uk the cream cheese i use is called soft cheese, the brand phillidelphia. Could this be why the cream cheese smbc is breaking? The fat content is 1.2g per 30g serving for the soft cheese i use. Thanks for your help much love x x x
Oct 30, 2013 · 5:07 PM
Hi Courtney, aw I hate to hear it didn’t come together. Unfortunately, continued beating isn’t something that’ll help a broken emulsion, so I’m sorry you had to spend all that time trying! Did you attempt to warm a portion of the buttercream? If you scroll through the comments, you’ll find the directions. Curdled buttercream is almost always a result of the mixture being too cold, and it’s easily fixed by adjusting the temperature. Let me know, and otherwise I’ll start investigating the cream cheese difference.
Nov 01, 2013 · 11:53 AM
Hi Stella, reattempted the cream cheese smbc today and once again it broke. Followed your directions on warming some of it back up but sadly still no luck. Read that you suggest warming a good chunk of the buttercream up somewhere around 30% of it. Tried that too and it still didnt work just got very runny instead lol. Thank you for all your help on this matter. Kind regards xxx
Nov 05, 2013 · 10:00 AM
Hi Courtney. Aww, what a bummer. It may very well be some sort of difference between my ingredients and yours. Either way, buttercreams like this are definitely a tightrope walk because when they’re too cold, they break, and when they’re too warm they’re runny. Cream cheese in particular is fussy because it’s naturally more inclined to curdle compared to butter.
I just checked with my last batch and it clocked in at 67F, temperature wise. Don’t know if you’ll jump in again, but wanted to put that info out there so you can have a better way to evaluate “too warm” versus “too cold” with the buttercream. If you still have the old batch, you can continue to practice on it— these buttercreams can handle a lot of “abuse” and then still come together in the end.
Nov 09, 2013 · 12:33 PM
Hi Stella, I was wondering if you can suggest a buttercream recipe or type that works best to make roses/rosettes for cupcakes. Im gifting a batch to a friend who is getting married and I know she really likes that design. Is there a particular buttercream recipe that works best to get that stable sharper edge for flowers? Im worried it’ll all just melt into blobby edges
Nov 11, 2013 · 12:33 AM
Hi Barbara! With the Swiss buttercream at the right temperature, you can definitely pipe roses and boarders, but my understanding is that it takes a slightly different approach compared to stiffer powdered sugar buttercreams. It’s not that the buttercream is too soft to hold its shape, but that it never crusts over so it’s harder to handle. Most of the folks I know will make the roses with a stiff buttercream, but mask the cake in a tastier option. I don’t make roses myself (I’m terrible at it!), so I can’t offer any firsthand advice, I’m afraid.
Nov 25, 2013 · 1:35 PM
Hi Jg! Generally speaking, square cakes suck up a lot more buttercream than round (it takes extra to get nice, sculpted corners). I think a single batch of buttercream would be enough to fill and crumb coat the cake, but I doubt it would be enough to fully frost/decorate it. I think a 1.5 batch would get you through perfectly, but if you think you’ll be doing something with a lot of frosting (like scalloped borders, or other frosting-intense decorations) a double batch would give you plenty of wiggle room.
Nov 26, 2013 · 9:52 AM
Hi Missljayeg! The buttercream itself will hold up fabulously— I’ve used it for outdoor weddings in July (just refrigerate overnight, then it’ll hold for several hours), but the fondant may present a problem. Trapped under the fondant, the cold buttercream may sweat when it’s brought out into the heat. I haven’t done a fondant wedding cake in over ten years, so I’m afraid that I don’t have any solid advice. You can probably find out more about the risks of sweating through a google search, and I hope that gets you headed in the right direction!
Jan 12, 2014 · 10:20 AM
Hi Stella, I’ve been making smbc for some time now (a different recipe) and finally have some time to experiment a lil’. I would like to make tea infused buttercream using tea leaves instead of bags. However, the tea is pretty light and I’m afraid the flavor wouldn’t come out. What would be your advice on this?
I was also wondering, what would be the ratio of additional liquids to smbc?
Also, as with the cream cheese frosting, I’ve been looking for a recipe that is not so sweet and sugary but most of them have copious amounts of icing sugar and its either they don’t come out smooth..or they don’t hold up at all….
Jan 17, 2014 · 2:00 PM
Hi chefpinky! I don’t recommend using tea leaves to flavor…well, anything but water. The way the leaves are processed make it a very poor flavoring agent for any other application, as the flavor quickly turns bitter and can oxidize in the oven.
The “great tea” flavor most of us know comes from Matcha, a Japanese tea powder. It uses a unique sort of tea leaf and processing method to make a wonderful powder, and many companies specialize in making matcha for baking- so its flavor shines through in baked goods, ice cream, buttercreams, etc. I use Matcha Jade Bliss from a local company called Essencha, it’s wonderful for making Green Tea buttercream. A 1 ounce tin will last you quite a while!
As for the amount of liquid you can add to Swiss Buttercream in general, I’ve found it to be about 2 ounces (though that can really vary by the viscosity of the liquid itself, like bourbon versus maple syrup).
And about cream cheese buttercream…. have you seen my recipe for German buttercream? It’s my favorite way to make cream cheese frosting.
Feb 08, 2014 · 11:38 AM
Hi Stella. I’m baking a dark choc layer cake for a friend who requested for an Oreo cake. I’m wondering if plain unflavored SMB will work taste wise as a whole cake. I love your German version (made quite a few times) but not sure if it can hold up as I intend to pipe rosettes all over as frosting.
I’ve read online some bakers r able to pipe rosettes using SMB, I’m just not sure if plain version will b too buttery as a “Oreo” cake. What would u recommend to flavor the SMB if German is too soft for rosettes?
Feb 08, 2014 · 12:05 PM
Hi Sophia. Your friend sounds pretty lucky to cash in on a homemade Oreo cake! The Swiss and German buttercreams have almost identical textures, but I’ve never tried to pipe roses with either (though I’ve piped boarders and shells, etc). My understanding is that roses can’t be made with non-crusting buttercreams, or at least they can’t be made with the same technique.
With plain, unflavored Swiss Buttercream, the butter flavor is very intense. So your friend might find it a little too buttery for a pure-Oreo flavor. The custard flavor of the German may be a little rich for the Oreo flavor too, but it’s certainly less buttery.
I don’t know what sort of timeline you’re on, but a pure Swiss meringue (1:1 egg whites and sugar) would make an excellent frosting, with a simple, sweet vanilla flavor like “white” Oreo icing. But you would need to serve it within 8-12 hours of frosting (for the best texture). I’m not sure if that really answers your questions, but lemme know and I’ll be happy to help you brainstorm a solution!
Feb 08, 2014 · 4:28 PM
Hi Sarah! I’m sorry to hear about your troubles, but fortunately the solution is easy. When buttercreams curdle, it’s not because they need more whipping, but because they’re too cold. Generally this has to do with the butter and cream cheese being too cold, but sometimes it can happen in the winter if your kitchen is especially chilly.
You can quickly get it back into shape by completely melting a full cup of buttercream, then adding it back to the rest. Whip on low to combine, then increase to medium to reincorporate. If it doesn’t look smooth, melt 1/2 cup and do the same. I hope that helps, let me know if I can answer any more questions!
Feb 10, 2014 · 9:47 PM
Hi Sophia! Sorry I didn’t get back any sooner. Honestly, I can’t speak to the tropical climate situation, but presuming some sort of air conditioning is in effect, I think you’d be okay.
My German buttercream is basically an egg-enriched ermine. You could probably omit the eggs and increase the cornstarch, but having not done this myself I can’t give you any specifics about the measurements needed.
Feb 25, 2014 · 5:00 PM
I was so happy to stumble upon your site and to see that you are still answering questions from years ago regarding your SMBC post!
I make swiss meringue buttercream all the time and I can’t seem to figure out how to get rid of all of the air bubbles that form during the butter addition stage of the recipe. It drives me crazy!!! When I make bigger batches for bigger cakes, there are fewer but I don’t always need big batches, I need a real solution! It’s just so hard to get rid of them and cover them up when im frosting. Please help?!?
Feb 25, 2014 · 9:10 PM
Hi Tauri! Glad to be hanging around years later to keep helping! My first inclination is to wonder if you’re whipping at too high a speed, it sounds like you may be experiencing more bubbles than normal. Bubbles do form in buttercream, but generally it’s nothing to take note of.
The first solution that comes to mind would be to take a bit of the finished buttercream and liquify it (roughly a cup per single-batch). While it’s still a bit warm, add it to the buttercream and mix on low speed. This extra warmth should be enough to raise the temperature of the buttercream slightly, and hopefully melt out any unwanted air bubbles for a creamier texture.
As for adding the rosemary flavor, I would recommend infusing 4 ounces of the butter with 1/4 ounce chopped rosemary. Just melt the butter, add the rosemary while it’s hot, and let the two steep for about 30 minutes. If you’d like your buttercream super smooth, strain the butter before using. This may be weaker or stronger than you’d like, but I’m hoping it’s a good place to start! Keep me posted, I hope we can get a delicious, bubble-free rosemary buttercream for you.
Feb 28, 2014 · 4:28 AM
Hi Stella. Please help! I make a simple butter cream using 200g butter, 3 cups sifted icing sugar, 1/4 cocoa powder, and a dash of cream to loosen it. I have made this for the last few years. today I have made 2 batches, and both have split. This has never happened before. I cooled one batch in the fridge for a few minutes and stirred it up again, and the consistency just gets stiffer and grainer (to the eye not to the touch). It’s almost like the texture of soft modeling choc. Any ideas?
Feb 28, 2014 · 11:48 AM
Hi Mo. Aw, that stinks. I actually haven’t made that style of buttercream in about twenty years (lol!), so I am not very familiar with the reasons it might fail. Generally, when a trusted recipe fails, there’s often some sort of change that’s unaccounted for. For example, perhaps the formula for the butter has changed, or you grabbed a different brand of cream or cocoa than usual, etc.
The other thing might be the temperature, the behavior you’re describing makes me think the frosting may be too cold. Recipes can behave very differently depending on the temperature of the butter. This can be due to seasonal variations, or a change in behavior- like using butter straight from the fridge or giving it less time to come to temperature.
Hopefully something I’ve said will ring a bell and you can figure out what is going on with your frosting. Good luck!
Feb 28, 2014 · 11:46 PM
Hi Linda! It takes color very well, with a little help. Scoop out a bit of buttercream (like 1 Tablespoon) and melt it completely, then let the gel dissolve in the warm, melted buttercream before adding it to the rest. Otherwise, the gel paste can form little flecks of color. I assume this has something to do with the encapsulating effect of fat, but I’m not sure.
Mar 01, 2014 · 2:08 PM
Hi Linda! Either way, but you will definitely need to rewhip the buttercream before you use it.
Mar 08, 2014 · 12:20 PM
Hi Lys! You can definitely cut the recipe in half, but this will alter the whipping times and narrow the window for macaronage (since it will take fewer strokes to achieve). I’ve never made a batch that small, so I’m afraid I don’t have any suggested timetables for a half batch.
Mar 08, 2014 · 11:19 PM
Lys!!!!!!!! Ahh, congratulations, I’m so happy to hear about your success!!! Yay!! Thanks for keeping me posted!!! You can definitely add fruit reductions to a buttercream, but I don’t recommend straight up fruit puree. Basically, fruit purees are 75% water and 25% flavor, so by the time you add enough for the flavor to shine through, the buttercream turns soupy. I have a few recipes for fruit reduction posted in the “Recipe Box” so check those out to get some ideas for concentrating the flavor of different fruits. Good luck!!
Mar 09, 2014 · 3:50 PM
Hi Stella. So I tried to make your Swiss buttercream. I used a stainless steel bowl over a pot of water and for the life of me could not get the eggs hot enough without cooking. They ended up being too cooked to make meringue so I whipped them up, added the butter, some powdered sugar and vanilla and it came out all right for the macarons but i would like your advice so I can make it right next time. Help!!!
Mar 09, 2014 · 8:41 PM
Hello! Thank you for your tips and tricks!! 8 days ago I made a chocolate swiss buttercream, it turned out great. Today I tried re-whipping it and it separated…it was even drawing some liquid. Any tips/ reason this may be. Also I did leave it out for a little while so it would come to room temp..HMM was it not warm enough?
Mar 10, 2014 · 11:34 AM
@Lys, it may have to do with your waterbath set-up. For a waterbath, you need a pot that’s large enough to fully cradle the bottom third of your bowl. If the pot’s too large, the bowl will make direct contact with the bottom of the pot, which will cook the egg whites directly. You also only need an inch or so of gently steaming water, and the water should not touch the bowl. If the water’s at a roiling boil, the egg whites will indeed heat up too much. You just want a steady supply of steam. Let me know how that jibes with your experience and we’ll see if that fixes the problem.
@Moriah, it sounds like it was indeed too cold (the number 1 reason for curdling/breaking). If you’ve still got the buttercream, it can be fixed! What you need to do is fully melt about 1 cup of the buttercream, so that it’s warm and liquid. Add it back to the rest, mix on low to combine, then increase speed to medium and whip until creamy. If it still looks broken, repeat with 1/2 cup melted buttercream, and keep melting and whipping until it looks smooth and creamy. Hope that helps!
Mar 10, 2014 · 12:26 PM
Thank you so much Stella! I ended up trashing the CSMB. It was just a small amount left over from a trial and error attempt. I am making more this weekend, and intend to use it a few days later. I appreciate you getting back to me so quickly. If it happens again I will use your suggestions.
Mar 10, 2014 · 3:11 PM
Hi Stella it’s me again. Sorry for so many questions. Now that I have made several normal macaron batches, I wanted to make chocolate ones using your recipe. Should I just sift cocoa powder with the almond flour and powdered sugar? I also read another comment where you said it will affect macaronage. Any suggestions? Thanks so much, and sorry again haha I’m such an amateur with these.
Mar 10, 2014 · 6:08 PM
Hi Moriah, aw sorry you had to scrap the buttercream, but glad to hear it wasn’t too much. Best of luck with the next batch, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any other trouble. The fastest way to get in touch with me is twitter, where I can respond in real-time (@thebravetart). I’m always happy to help!
Mar 10, 2014 · 6:11 PM
No problem, Lys. I’m glad to help! If you scroll to the end of the macaron recipe, it’ll list the specific amounts, but I recommend pulsing the cocoa with the powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor to make sure it’s thoroughly incorporated. Basically it requires a little more folding than you think, once you think it’s “just right” (by normal macaron standards) you have to keep going a few folds more. They really are more challenging than standard macarons, but also extremely delicious come what may. Good luck!
Mar 11, 2014 · 11:49 PM
Hi Lys! I’m not a huge fan of Wilton’s gel paste with macarons. It’s formulated for icings and fondants, so it often oxidizes in the oven, turning brown around the edges. But yes, excessive amounts of any color will alter the bake times, in direct correlation to how much is added. Look for brands marked “heat safe” or “for baking” to make sure the color stays true.
Mar 16, 2014 · 8:21 PM
Ok cool. So I got to thinking this weekend, and was getting sick of the snow and cold. I thought of summer and thought, “How amazing would PIÑA COLADA macarons taste?!” Crazy right? So I wanted your advice on how to go about it. I was thinking coconut in the macarons and pineapple/rum in the filling but wanted your input. Thanks!
Mar 16, 2014 · 10:51 PM
Hi Lys! Oh yeah, that sounds like an amazing antidote to the cold. I’ve actually made pineapple macarons before, with freeze dried pineapple ground into a powder and pulsed in with the nuts and sugar. But they behave a little unusually because of the high acid content. Coconut macarons would be a great option (you might even try freeze dried pineapple in the frosting!).
You’ll want to use an equal weight of plain, unsweetened coconut in place of almonds. Coconut flour is too finely ground and will absolutely ruin the macarons. They won’t grind up as finely as the almonds, but they still turn out amazing. Huge feet, too!
Mar 23, 2014 · 8:18 PM
I’m a strictly American girl, Fahrenheit all the way!
Mar 23, 2014 · 8:22 PM
@Trinigourmet not really, I’m afraid. You may squeak by with an ounce or two less, but significantly reducing the butter content will destabilize the buttercream. I’m not sure if you’re trying to tame the buttery flavor or slash the calories, but if you’re worried about the flavor being too intense you might try my French or German buttercream instead. They both have a slightly more custard-like flavor that mellows the butter’s intensity.
Mar 24, 2014 · 12:17 AM
Hello! I found your blog from a google search and I’m hoping you can help me. A week ago I tried making some strawberry smbc but, apparently, I added too much fruit purée and my buttercream broke. I just read through all the comments and saw the post about reducing purée to intensify the flavor. Is there any way I can salvage this batch of buttercream? I stuck it in the fridge but haven’t had time to do anything with it yet. Can I make another plain batch of smbc and combine the two to fix the first batch? Or do I just need to scrap it? Thanks for your help!
Mar 24, 2014 · 10:57 AM
Hi meelers! Aw, I hate to hear about that, how frustrating. You could make a second batch of buttercream and combine the two to “average out” the textures. I’m not sure that you’ll be able to achieve an intense flavor because you won’t be able to add as much puree as you normally could since the texture of the original buttercream has been compromised. But you could flavor it with dark or white chocolate instead, so at least you’d have a flavorful, useable buttercream.
Mar 30, 2014 · 7:54 AM
Hi Stella!! I was wondering if I can use vanilla extract intead of the vanilla bean in this recipe and in the german buttercream recipe. I can’t find vanilla bean in my town so, it would be so much easier to replace it with the extract. If so, how much do I add to the recipe??
· Socervi · soniascupcakes.net
Apr 02, 2014 · 11:43 PM
@Slow, I think you could probably leave the sugar quantity where it is, then whip in honey to taste after adding the butter. Reason being is that my version of Swiss meringue has less sugar than a “genuine” Swiss meringue, so I’m afraid if you cut it back it might not behave so well. You’ll have to let me know how it goes!
@Socervi, absolutely! I just use vanilla bean because I always have it on hand from work. I’d aim for a Tablespoon of extract because this is such a big batch. Hope you enjoy!
Apr 08, 2014 · 6:33 PM
So I’ll start off by saying I love this website and all of your recipes!
Now for my question lol.
So whenever I make buttercream, it’s a hit or miss. The past few times I’ve made Swiss BC it’s been a DISASTER! It breaks super bad, it’s a soupy curdled mess, with all the butter at the bottom. When I have the bowl over the double boiler, I make sure I have my thermometer set to ring at 145F, always whisking so I don’t make an egg white omelet. Then, bc I know metal bowls carry some carry over heat, I have an ice bath waiting (nothing too frigid- I started doing this bc the first time I did this recipe it was a DISASTER), and I shock it for like 2 secs, then I whisk it as instructed.
That part turns out just fine. It’s when I start adding the butter that the you- know- what hits the fan. I add the butter a little at time, and it’ll start off okay, but the more I add, the more clunky and curdled it gets! By the time I add all the butter, it looks like cottage cheese and all the the fat sits at the bottom! I was so disheartened, I strained the fat out and poured what seemed like a bag of powered sugar into it until it at least combined- but it was more like royal icing than a nice fluffy buttercream . What I’m doing wrong?
BTW it wasn’t until I read these posts did I realize the trick of melting a cups and rewhipping! Next time I’ll try that! But, I kinda want to know what I’m doing wrong in the first place lol.
Thanks & you rock!
Apr 09, 2014 · 12:04 PM
Hi Alma! Aw, I’m sorry to hear the buttercream’s been giving you so much trouble. You’re describing the behavior of a cold buttercream, so we gotta warm you up.
First step: skip chilling the bowl. Swiss meringues don’t ever need an ice or water bath, they’re all about harnessing warmth so they can whip up fluffy and light! That blast of cold (however brief) is holding your meringue back, so it doesn’t have enough air to accommodate the butter. It also makes the bottom of the bowl the coldest place, even if only by a degree or two, which is why the butter is seizing up down there.
Second step: let the meringue whip until it naturally sheds all of its heat. This could take ten minutes or more, don’t rush it. With glass or ceramic, you do have to worry about a warm bowl, but not with metal. Stainless steel doesn’t retain heat very well, but it’s an excellent conductor. So if it feels warm it’s because the meringue itself is warm. Just remember that “warm” is a relative term with butter. 80 F feels cool compared to body temperature, but it’s warm enough to melt butter and make a soupy buttercream.
Third step: make sure that butter’s nice and soft. Not smushy or sticky, but soft and pliable. Your finger should make a nice indentation in the butter when firmly pressed, it shouldn’t poke right through.
As you saw in other comments, you can warm a cold/curdled buttercream by melting a portion, but it may not help if the meringue is substantially underwhipped. That’s a deeper, structural problem based on too little air in the mix. Basically, once you start adding butter, the meringue immediately starts losing air. If it doesn’t have enough air in the first place, the creamy butter emulsion cannot form.
Anyhow, I know that’s a suuuuper long explanation, but hopefully it will help you get the buttercream where it needs to be!
Apr 15, 2014 · 3:40 AM
Thanks for getting back to me Stella! So I tried the butter cream again & I’m happy to say I conquered it! Who knew something so small as my butter being too cold could be the cause of such constant heartache?? (Well except for you lol) So I made cake pops with this recipe & my fav. choco cake recipe & it was AWESOME! Then I tried to make macaroons with this buttercream and well…. that was a different story. From what I read in the macaroon forum is that if your macaroons keep coming out cracked & hollow its most likely due to under-mixing. So when I tried again this time, I thought I made it to the “lava” stage, and alas- still got cracked & hollow macaroons . But I shall not despair! I will try again, and next time I’ll make sure I’m meaner to the meringue so I get beautiful, crack-free macaroons with feet! And even if I fail again, it’s like you say- they still come out yummy
Apr 17, 2014 · 12:49 AM
@Alma, that’s great news!! So happy we could solve things without too much fuss, whew. If you’re making Macarons, you might check out my recipe for Faux French buttercream. It’s made with egg yolks, so it’s a great way to use up all the leftovers and the method is identical to Swiss. Easy! Good luck with your macaron adventures, just remember to get in there and beat ‘em up to mush out the air.
Jul 06, 2014 · 6:20 PM
Hi Stella – I’m going yo try making thai iced tea macarons by adding 1 tbls thai iced tea mix to your recipe. Any suggestions on a filling? I want something with a strong milk taste to offset the thai iced tea flavor and can’t come up with anything. I’ve been making lots of your recipes – love your animal crackers and beignets among many others. Thanks so much!
Jul 07, 2014 · 4:47 PM
Hi SW! I’m not sure I would recommend adding the iced tea mix to the macaron batter. You may discover a wonderful surprise when you do, but I fear that the tea leaves would make the batter excessively bitter as they’re not meant to be consumed directly but only as an infusion. Tea leaves also do some really weird things in the oven, and the flavor rarely comes through as expected due to oxidation. That being said, of course I am all about experimentation and I hope you have a pleasant surprise with the mix!
As for the filling, a German buttercream would be perfect because it is made from milk so there is a strong dairy flavor to begin with. Some readers have recently let me know that it’s a wonderful macaron filling, so while I haven’t used it that way myself (I always use French buttercream to use up my yolks) I’ve had confirmation that it’s a tasty option.
Alternately, you could steep the tea leaves directly in the hot milk for the German buttercream. Steep the same length of time indicated on the package, but using two or three times more tea than listed. That will create an intense flavor so that even when mixed with butter the flavor can shine through (steeping for a longer time will only make it taste bitter). Then strain the tea flavored milk and proceed with the recipe as directed. I hope that helps, feel free to leave another message or email me if you have any questions. Cheers!
Jul 17, 2014 · 10:54 AM
Hope you love it, Susan!
Aug 16, 2014 · 6:01 PM
Do you know of a buttercream recipe that does Not use any eggs and uses granulated sugar that is not cooked? No confectionary/powdered sugar. I work at a place where the buttercream recipe is top secret and from conversation around the shop it sounds like it has no eggs and uses granulated sugar. It is made at night when there is only one person working!
Aug 18, 2014 · 2:24 AM
I was searching the internet for swiss meringue buttercream recipes for my cupcakes (having a charity bake sale in 2 weeks!), was afraid I’d mess the swiss meringue buttercream. I’m so glad I found your site, my confidence level is slightly higher now as your instructions, tips and advice are just perfect!! THANK YOU!
Aug 19, 2014 · 11:12 AM
Hi Curly Top! You know, I truly don’t. I have a no-egg/no-powdered sugar recipe that I use myself (and that will be in my book) but it is cooked to dissolve the sugar. It sounds like this place may have a trick like gellan up their sleeve.
Aug 19, 2014 · 11:13 AM
Hi Natalie! Oh, I’m so happy you found me! Good luck preparing for the bake sale, and be sure to let me know if you have any questions. I’ll keep a close eye on the comments so I can get back to you in time.
Sep 04, 2014 · 10:54 PM
Hi Stella! Is it normal for the egg white mixture to take over 15 minutes to even start getting fluffy when mixing? I did the double boiler and cooked it low and slow (I tend to burn things first time around) and it took a super long time (almost an hour) but finally got to 150 degrees without burning! The only bowl I had that would work was shallow so I dumped it into my kitchen aid mixer and started it immediately… 15 minutes later the mixture is barely fluffy. Is this because I switched the bowls before mixing at all? Any help would be much appreciated!
Sep 04, 2014 · 11:11 PM
Update- after 30 minutes of mixing the egg white mixture it got lite, fluffy and white. However after adding the first drop of butter I now have soup. Per your responses to others it seems my butter might be the issue (too warm/melty). Can I still rescue my soup to be buttercream? I have it in my fridge while I cross my fingers!
Sep 12, 2014 · 10:51 AM
Hi KimF. Oh my goodness, it should definitely not take that long to warm up. In a stainless steel bowl, I can warm my meringue in about 10 minutes. The problem might be your thermometer, the type of bowl (eg, ceramic or glass, which are more dense), an ultra low stove temp, or some combination of factors.
It’s generally about 15 minutes to whip on my Kitchen Aid stand mixer (it’s 450 watts). It may take longer with older models, or with the artisan series, which has a lower HP. It definitely will turn to soup at the first addition of butter (because the fat deflates the meringue) but should thicken as rest is added. After 30 minutes of whipping, I don’t think your meringue would be too warm, but if your kitchen aid is the sort with a glass bowl, then that could be the problem as the bowl will retain heat.
If you scroll up through the comments, I’ve done a few walk throughs on how to salvage a soupy buttercream, so you can definitely get it fixed.
Sep 13, 2014 · 8:40 PM
Hi Stella, I am so in love with your site! I have a question if you would not mind, I am making a castle cake for my daughter’s birthday which will be covered in homemade marshmallow fondant and I am wondering if I can use Swiss Buttercream for filling and crumb coating? Would it be strong enough to withstand heavy fondant? Sorry for silly question, I am not professional baker at all. Not quite sure how it will go together, I feel that SB is more delicate and indulgent to just throw fondant on it. But usual buttercream seems to be too sugary. Any advice? Many thanks in advance, Stella! (Cannot wait when your book will be published! Autumn 2015 is soooo long…
Sep 25, 2014 · 3:11 PM
In your opinion, which is the best coffee flavored buttercream, swiss or german? I have both stached in my freezer and I wanted to make a chocolate cake with coffee buttercream, but I don’t know which to use. I bet both will taste good, but… What’s your favourite?
Sep 27, 2014 · 12:38 PM
I have a question about using smbc for wedding cakes and its stability.
How many days can smbc be stable for as often my wedding cake process may start 4 days prior to wedding date due to decorations etc.
Is smbc stable for that many days (the cake is not refrigerated).
What’s the maximum days its stable for at room temperature please?
Thank you. X
Oct 20, 2014 · 3:29 AM
I’ve had a friend request cupcakes with candy corn flavored frosting for our Halloween party. The only recipes I can find online are buttercreams with powdered sugar… I hate powdered sugar frostings . Any suggestions on doing a candy corn flavored Swiss meringue buttercream? Thanks!!
P.S. I hope you continue posting. I love your recipes. Your site is so inspirational!