swiss meringue buttercream {easter cake}

swiss meringue buttercream | movita beaucoup

Let’s talk buttercream, shall we? More specifically, Swiss Meringue Buttercream. European buttercreams, as many of you know, tend to be less sweet than their American counterparts. Some people find them too buttery, but I think this is because many North Americans grew up eating sugary frostings made with copious quantities of confectioner’s sugar. We were cautioned about this at baking school, just as we were warned that some people don’t “get” crusty European breads. (They prefer that soft, white stuff that can survive on your counter for two weeks.) I like to think that European buttercreams are more sophisticated. Swiss Meringue Buttercream probably understands abstract art and wouldn’t be caught dead in sweatpants at the grocery store.

swiss meringue buttercream | movita beaucoup

I adore classic, sugary frostings – especially on cupcakes and cakes for kids – but I think you’ll fall in love with Swiss buttercream if you give it a try. We’re talking meringue mixed with butter, and lots of it. Swiss buttercream is smooth and satiny, lovely on celebration cakes, and doesn’t overpower cake flavours and fillings. It does taste buttery – but with a pound of sugar in the mix, I don’t think you’ll find it unsweet. Swiss buttercream can be coloured and flavoured in a variety of ways, spreads like a dream, and pipes well.

swiss meringue buttercream | movita beaucoup

A note or two: Swiss buttercream will harden up in the fridge (like many frostings) and should be served at room temperature. (Cake, too, tastes best when the chill is gone.) When cold, this frosting really is a bit like eating cold butter, which might be a deterrent if you’re trying to convince someone that a) Swiss buttercream is best, and b) jogging pants shouldn’t be worn to the grocery store. Also, due to the high butter content of Swiss buttercream, it doesn’t hold up particularly well on hot summer days. Some pastry chefs replace a portion of the butter with shortening and add in some confectioner’s sugar for stability – once summer rolls round, I’ll try putting some ratios to the test.

gum paste easter egg | movita beaucoup

As for the rest of my spring offering, the Easter egg sitting atop my buttercream-laden cake was made out of gum paste, and is entirely edible (though not particularly tasty). The teeny-tiny flowers and embellishments were made out of a 50/50 gum paste and fondant mix, and affixed with royal icing. If you haven’t worked with gum paste and fondant before, I highly recommend buying it pre-made. You’ll get a feel for the textures and how to work with them before attempting to make them from scratch, and it’s a little less intimidating. The egg was filled with a nest of cotton candy, and some teeny-tiny chicks. The piped icing details are old school, but I think Easter treats should be reminiscent of old-fashioned bonnets and Sunday suppers, don’t you?

swiss meringue buttercream | movita beaucoup

Also, you should know that this entire cake was developed so I could buy a bag of cotton candy. 2.0 and I saw some at the movie theatre a couple of weeks ago, and I figured if I could find a use for even the tiniest quantity, I could justify eating the rest of the bag. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

If you’re looking for another awesome European frosting, try German buttercream. It has a pound of pastry cream in it. ‘Nuff said.

. . .

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

print and make

Yields enough to crumb coat, frost and embellish a 2 layer, 8-inch round cake.

  • 1 pound granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 pound + 4 ounces butter, cut into cubes, soft
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mise en place – begin by getting organized. Read through the entire recipe before beginning. Measure out all of your ingredients – a kitchen scale and candy thermometer are recommended. 

Place the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer, and whisk to combine. Set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water and heat, whisking gently and constantly, until the mixture comes to 160°F. This will take several minutes. The water should not be boiling and should not touch the bottom of the bowl – just an inch of water will do – as you don’t want the eggs to cook/scramble. (Note: you could also do this in a stainless steel bowl set over the bain marie and then transfer to your mixer’s bowl once heated. If you don’t have a thermometer, be sure to heat until the egg whites are hot and the sugar has completely dissolved. If you rub some of the mixture between your fingers, you should feel no grit.)

Wipe any condensation off the outside of the bowl and then place on your stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. (If you used a stainless steel bowl, transfer to your mixer’s bowl.) Begin mixing on low speed (30 seconds) and then increase speed to medium high. Continue beating until the meringue is thick and glossy, and doubled in size. The bowl should be cool/neutral to the touch, which takes 10 minutes or more. The meringue needs to be cooled so the butter won’t melt when added.*

Replace the whip attachment with your paddle attachment, set on medium-low speed, and gradually add the butter, one piece at a time. (Let the butter get incorporated before adding each piece.) The meringue will deflate and get thin at first, and may begin to look curdled. As you continue to slowly add the butter and beat, it will come together and thicken up. Once all of the butter has been added, increase speed to high and beat until the buttercream thickens and gets smooth/silky. Give the bowl a good scraping and mix again to be sure everything is incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.

Colour and flavourings can now be added if desired. Store covered in the refrigerator. Swiss meringue buttercream also freezes well. When using chilled buttercream, allow it to come to room temperature and then beat in your stand mixer for a few minutes (until smooth) before using. Frozen buttercream should be at room temperature before re-whipping.

Decorated cakes can be stored in the refrigerator, but should be served at room temperature.

*If you added the butter while the meringue was too warm (or your butter was too soft), and the mixture doesn’t thicken, you may be able to save your buttercream by placing the bowl in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes and then beating again on low speed. Additional butter can also be added – just add a few cubes, one at a time, until the buttercream thickens up.

56 Responses to swiss meringue buttercream {easter cake}

  1. girl in a food frenzy April 14, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    Such beautiful & delicious skills. I could never be a master baker, but your clear instructions make me hope I might one day!

    • movita beaucoup April 15, 2014 at 6:58 am #

      Thanks so much! Also, there are some great Swiss Meringue Buttercream tutorials online – many have different troubleshooting tips – ain’t the internet great?

  2. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef April 14, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    The only time I make swiss meringue buttercream is when I make a Bûche de Noël. I love the stuff with it’s creamy texture and 90 pounds of butter. I never thought of it as being less sweet but I suppose it is. I learned to make it in the US so someone there must like it. 🙂

    • movita beaucoup April 14, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

      Maureen, you probably don’t wear jogging pants to the grocery store, thus you wouldn’t find this buttercream unsweet. That’s baking science.

  3. Rock Salt April 14, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    It’s possible – nay, likely – that I may die from how beautiful this cake is.

    If you don’t hear from me any more, you’ll know what’s happened.

    • movita beaucoup April 14, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

      I will bring buttercream to the celebration of your life.

      • Rock Salt April 14, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

        That would be perfectly appropriate, thank you.

  4. Patricia Groves Dobrowski April 14, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    Hi – sorry, but I think in the first sentence of the recipe, you might have wanted to have us combine the eggs and sugar, not the butter and sugar. Looking forward to trying this one when I have a bit more time! Thanks!

    • movita beaucoup April 14, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

      Great catch!! I’m on it…

    • movita beaucoup April 14, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

      Fixed! Thanks so much, Eagle Eyes!

      • Patricia Groves Dobrowski April 14, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

        Thank you!

  5. Lynne April 14, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    Oh, I love good, homemade, not-loaded-with-sugar buttercream!! Never tried the Swiss version, and I won’t be doing it for this Easter since I still am not over the nasty bronchitis I’ve been battling. But you know, I love your explanation about how some people actually don’t like this – my daughter shocked me with the fact she doesn’t like it (yes, this is the SAME daughter who did NOT name my granddaughter Movita!) Come to think of it, when she was a teen, she used to eat those canned frostings with a spoon (*I* wasn’t the one who brought that contriband into the house, believe me). Maybe the good buttercream was cold when she ate it… Hmm – since her palate has been elevated to stinky cheeses and good wine, I really have to try this when I’m feeling better to show her the difference.

    And I have to say – you have outdone yourself with this cake!!! Oh, my – this is heavenly sweetness!

    • movita beaucoup April 15, 2014 at 7:01 am #

      Canned frosting is awesome! I can’t deny it. However, life is about balance, right Lynne? Swiss buttercream will pair with the wine and stinky cheese meals, and the canned frosting can be reserved for… evenings of reality tv! I need ALL sorts of frosting in my life…

  6. Willow @Will Cook For Friends April 14, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    I am ALL ABOUT European buttercreams. I can barely stand the shortening + confectioner’s sugar we call American buttercream. I believe it has a place, but that place is not in my mouth. I used Swiss Meringue Buttercream on my wedding cake, and prior to slicing into it, about 90% of the guests told me again and again that they hate frosting, and generally scrape it to the side. (This is coming from people who had only ever had American buttercream). Not a single bit of frosting was scraped off my cake. ‘Nuff said.

    Also — your egg nest is absolutely gorgeous. Your skills never cease to amaze me. 🙂

    • Lynne April 14, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

      “I believe it has a place, but that placae is not in my mouth.” Oh, laughing here – I love that. My feelings exactly!!

    • movita beaucoup April 15, 2014 at 7:03 am #

      The beauty of buttercreams is that there are so many to choose from! I think European buttercreams are more… adult. When I want a playful cake, I always go with American buttercream. Also, it’s more sturdy. But for a wedding? Swiss is a classic. I’m not surprised that it was a hit!

      • Willow @Will Cook For Friends April 15, 2014 at 8:32 am #

        Now that is true. American buttercream is there for you when you need it not to melt/ooze/slide around like melted butter. I may or may not have purchased a second refrigerator for the express purpose of keeping my swiss-meringue’d cake cold and happy. Yeeeaah…

        • Willow @Will Cook For Friends April 15, 2014 at 8:36 am #

          Speaking of which, people really waren’t very helpful when I told them the fridge size I needed was “large enough to hold a 4-teir wedding cake, with removable shelves and doors.” Yeeaah…

          • Lynne April 15, 2014 at 11:12 am #

            Are you kidding, Willow?!!! You are talking my language here… I so *get* this. Oh, btw – if you ever need someone to say, clean the buttercream off this Wedding Cake Fridge, I’m your lady! (and thankfully you can’t actually see the inside of *my* too small, old, ugly, I-hate-it-so-much apartment refrigerator… )

            • Willow @Will Cook For Friends April 16, 2014 at 10:20 am #

              The funny thing is, I made that huge and glorious wedding cake when we only had like, twenty people (just close family members), for the sole purpose of making a huge and glorious wedding cake. The entire bottom tier of cake went to work with my husband the next day, and now everyone in his office knows me as “that awesome cake lady.” As for tiny refrigerators, tell me about it… we have an older house, and the space for the fridge is extremely limited. When I actually went to look at fridges, I had to rule out 80% of them on size alone — all these newer appliances are made to fit brand new mcmansion houses. Not cool! Fortunately I was able to find one that, while small, had removable shelves and double doors so the cake could get in and out.

  7. Lynne April 14, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    … sorry for the typo. ‘place’ not ‘placae.’

    I hate typos…

  8. rosiebeaucoup April 14, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    So beautiful.

    • movita beaucoup April 15, 2014 at 7:03 am #

      Thanks, mummy!

  9. Ang April 14, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    BEEEautiful and I feel I have found the twin to my daughter every time I read your posts . . . she whole-heartedly agreed to a day at The Ballpark watching the Rangers play baseball with her wonderful family . . . not strange considering how wonderful we are . . . however, she is NOT particularly fond of that sport. Her motives were soon clear when I had to buy copious bags of COTTON CANDY, within minutes of stepping through the gate.

    • movita beaucoup April 14, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

      WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!! They have cotton candy at baseball games?

      I think I like sports now.

  10. Stephbo April 14, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    As lovely as this cake is, the cotton candy is the part which makes me the happiest. Cotton candy is a feast for all of the senses!

    • movita beaucoup April 15, 2014 at 7:04 am #

      I would maim for cotton candy.

      • Stephbo April 16, 2014 at 1:52 am #

        You and me both, sister. I actually registered for a cotton candy maker when I got married. Nobody got it for us. Curses.

        • movita beaucoup April 16, 2014 at 6:48 am #

          You need new friends.

  11. Beth April 14, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    Just SO BEAUTIFUL, you are so talented it takes my breath away, truly.

    • movita beaucoup April 15, 2014 at 7:04 am #

      Aw, Beth!! Thanks. You’ve made my day!

  12. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen April 14, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

    Well I’m just gobsmacked! This is the prettiest AND original cake I’ve seen in years. You’ve got so much talent in your sugar kissed finger tips Movita!! I love this cake! Tutorial for the egg coming soon I hope??xx

    • movita beaucoup April 16, 2014 at 7:54 am #

      Thanks, Barbara! And: why didn’t I think of doing a tutorial? I’m on it… xox

  13. Christinearan April 14, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    Just beautiful…makes me almost ache for Easters of years past. The colours…I want this cake when I am home and no switching out butter…full butter please!!

    • Christinearab April 14, 2014 at 10:27 pm #

      Ummm…my name is christinearab….not sure what happened there…

    • movita beaucoup April 15, 2014 at 7:05 am #

      Woman, I would never give you anything other than butter. I will make you a most beautiful cake. You will weep. And we will watch the Golden Girls.

  14. atasteofmadess April 14, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

    This cake is just gorgeous! I have been trying to make the perfect buttercream, but mine end up unspreadable 🙁 You are so talented!

    • movita beaucoup April 15, 2014 at 7:07 am #

      Thank you! Swiss buttercream feels very silky – and it’s much looser than one might expect. Yet it spreads beautifully and is able to hold its shape when piped. It’s quite amazing!

  15. Melissa@EyesBigger April 15, 2014 at 12:11 am #

    This is just the prettiest thing I have seen all day!

    • movita beaucoup April 16, 2014 at 7:54 am #

      That just brought a buttercream tear to my eye…

  16. gottagetbaked April 15, 2014 at 1:39 am #

    Any recipe that involves a pound of anything is automatically a winner. More is more, as I always say! You’ve totally convinced me to try swiss buttercream. And since German buttercream has a pound of pastry cream, I obviously need it in my life. I hate cloyingly sweet frostings which is why I try to use as little powdered sugar as possible. A blogger tried one of my cake recipes and declared my frosting disgusting, saying it was basically a layer of butter on her cake. My feelings were hurt for a nonosecond and then I just laughed. You can’t win ’em all!

    • movita beaucoup April 16, 2014 at 7:57 am #

      First, you should know that ‘cloying’ is one of Rosie Beaucoup’s most favourite words.

      Second, that blogger probably wears jogging pants 24/7 and might hate Europe.

  17. Sandra R April 15, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    This is stunning!! And I appreciate you sharing your butter cream expertise. But why is it some of the American bakery (grocery store type usually, but not always) cakes have this frosting that tastes of shortening and leaves a slick thick coating on one’s tongue? Is it just the shortening? I would encounter this at work, when people would bring in a celebratory cake that looked good but oh my! It was so hard not to spit out the birthday cake of a coworker in front of them! Thankfully in semi-retirement I am less exposed.
    This cake should be on Cute overload, it is that cute.

    • movita beaucoup April 15, 2014 at 11:15 am #

      You are absolutely right – it’s the shortening. Some bakeries and grocery stores use shortening in their buttercreams to make them pure white, more stable, and prolong shelf life. There are certain shortenings – high ratio, sps – that tend to leave a thicker coating on the tongue, and some bakeries use those. They are great for certain products and lamination, but do have downsides. We used shortening in a great number of products at baking school – and they all tasted wonderful – but when I’m baking at home, I lean toward butter. Lots. Of. Butter.

      I’m really glad you didn’t spit any cake out at the workplace. That sort of thing can really damage one’s street cred.

      (Also, CuteOverload? Best compliment ever!)

  18. themessybakerblog April 15, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Too much butter? Who has the nerve to say that? Um, crusty bread is the only kind of bread for this carb-loving gal. Clearly Americans have no idea what’s up. This cake is absolutely stunning. I almost don’t want to eat it, but we all know that’s not going to happen.

    • movita beaucoup April 16, 2014 at 8:00 am #

      Working at our bakery outlet last year was a real eye opener – I thought our chef instructor might be exaggerating about the whole crusty bread situation. HE WAS NOT. I guess you love ’em or hate ’em. (But I think we all know who’s right.)

  19. glutenfreezen April 15, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    Such talent you have! Gorgeous and sounds amazingly tasty. And who on earth doesn’t “get” crusty bread… We used to buy crusty baguettes in high school and a cube of butter to snack on! No Wonder Bread for us.

  20. Amy April 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    Oh my gosh, I love that fluffy nest of birdies!!!! So CUTE! And your little flower details are gorgeous.
    I’m totally one of those people that finds European buttercream too buttery 🙁 I love that super sugary sweet stuff! But I promise I know good bread.

  21. natalie @ wee eats April 16, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    Swiss buttercream is the best of all the frostings, but I’m often too lazy to make it… then again I’m often to lazy to do most things.

    Also, you’re cake is beyond ridiculously adorable. I love it SO. MUCH. Can I come to Easter at your house?

  22. Meg Skop April 18, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

    I can’t stop laughing at your personification of Swiss meringue. Abstract art and no sweatpants to the grocery store. Hahaha! This sounds absolutely divine and you are a master of beautifully crafted details. Always a joy to read.

  23. Renee April 18, 2014 at 11:14 pm #

    Beauty! If I were a frosting I would totally be Swiss Meringue Buttercream. And I so agree that no one should leave their house in sweatpants. Especially men. Happy Easter!

  24. jessieharrold April 19, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    I have never made Swiss buttercream…crazy. Although we aren’t very sophisticated in our house usually, my daughter does have a sick love of eating butter with her fingers, so this should be right up her alley. Along with wearing Velcro shoes, shirts with lions on them, and telling everyone who will listen when she’s found a booger. (followed by a reassuring “Ada get it!”)

  25. consuelohoneyandfigs April 20, 2014 at 6:51 am #

    Sighs I’m not a fan of either: American or European buttercreams oops. I hate the taste because it seems too rich for me :”( Anyway, I love how pretty they look and this Swiss meingue one sounds delish. And it makes your cake look adorable too! Seriously, you’re so talented! I made a layer cake yesterday and it looks so “”””””””rustic””””””””” that it is making me want to cry lol.
    This one is a beauty, I love it!
    Happy Sunday! xx

  26. emma April 25, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    Sometimes I wish I had a pair of jogging pants. I really just have misshaped sweat pants covered in cat hair. They are not at all worthy of jogging, and perhaps are misshaped due to all the butter I enjoy consuming.

  27. movita beaucoup December 28, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    Comments on this post are now closed as it was published in April 2014. Thanks for stopping by!


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