It’s high time I did a post on my freezer staple, swiss meringue buttercream. I made three huge batches over the weekend and my freezer should be stocked for a bit now. I’ve mentioned it before here, but one of my best tricks is to make buttercream ahead of time (when I have the time, as it is a bit time consuming) and freeze it. It thaws out beautifully when you need it, and it’s a real time saver! I can’t take all the credit of course, because I learned this trick from BraveTart, but gosh I’m glad I did! Here is BraveTart’s post on swiss buttercream, but I’m going to give you my version, too. Also, BraveTart has no idea who I am, but I consider it the baking Bible, and I thank goodness I found it for this recipe alone. It’s insanely buttery and rich and delicious, and has received nothing but rave reviews in my house. Enjoy!
Kitchen equipment you’ll need and likely don’t have:
A kitchen scale. I didn’t have one before I discovered that they are necessary for truly precise baking. Not that I’m the greatest baker on earth – I’m certainly not. But this helps. I got mine on Amazon – I believe it’s this one. You can of course get more expensive ones, or cheaper ones. I found mine works well for my fairly limited purposes.
A candy thermometer. I’ve done this without one many times, but it is helpful to have one. I think it would have saved me some headache the first couple times, for sure. But totally not necessary.
Also, vanilla beans – I also buy mine on Amazon. I learned the first time I tried to purchase them at my local po dunk grocery store that they are EXPENSIVE when you buy them there! I’m looking at you, McCormick… Anyway, I had fantastic luck purchasing from JR Mushrooms via Amazon. They shipped free (no Prime though, weh) and were well packaged and fresh. Just my two cents – none of this is sponsored. Just sharing my experience! I don’t let them go to waste either – once I scrape them out for the buttercream, I put them in tiny jars and add good vodka. It makes awesome vanilla extract! Any small jar will do – I have one already made that is in the first McCormick vanilla bean bottle I bought, and have another one I just started in some other random little jar. It just needs to be glass and small to make sure it’s strong! I store unused vanilla beans in a tightly sealed mason jar, but I wish I could smell them all day long!
Two vanilla beans (scraped) and good vodka, just added:
Two vanilla beans, scraped, and good vodka = homemade vanilla extract!
Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming..
The Basic Recipe:
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 10 oz. egg whites (I use egg beaters 100% egg whites for this, so I don’t waste yolks)
- 10 oz. white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- the scrapings from one vanilla bean
- 2 lbs unsalted butter (8 sticks)
Pretty simple ingredient list! Especially if you start keeping these all on hand like I’ve started to do. Let’s get started.
But before you start… go ahead and take out all two pounds of butter, unwrap your sticks, and cut the butter into pats. Let it sit out the entire time you are doing this, and it should be sufficiently thawed to room temp by the time you need it. If not, nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time until it is just soft, but not melted. Okay, now proceed with measuring out your ingredients.
Heat egg whites, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean scrapings in a double boiler (if you’re like me, this is a metal mixing bowl over a regular pot – just make sure the mixing bowl doesn’t touch the water below).
Heat it SLOWLY. BraveTart says just to get the water in the pot to steaming, but in my experience, this just took entirely too long to get the whites to the proper temperature (150 degrees). I bring the water in the pot to a low boil to speed the process up a bit. You want to whisk often to keep from making a sugary omelette. This is the babysitting phase. You just whisk and watch until the egg white mixture reaches about 150 degrees. It starts to look… velvet-y to me, and almost a little frothy – if I was going to describe the texture in words. I put a good picture of it here (from a different swiss meringue recipe) if that helps!
Once the whites reach 150 degrees, or sufficient velvety-ness, pour them carefully into your mixing bowl. Use the whip attachment and whip them on medium speed until white, frothy, and doubled in volume. I pretty much just turn it on medium and walk away. Every time I walk back by, I feel the outside of the bowl. You are NOT DONE until you feel absolutely no warmth coming from your metal mixing bowl. Do NOT rush this process.
Once you finally have whipped the meringue to double volume and cooled it down, you can start adding your butter… SO MUCH BUTTER.
Add the butter one piece at a time, waiting for each to incorporate into the meringue before adding the next. This part also takes a little bit of time, but don’t rush it either. If your butter is still a little bit cold, your frosting might start to look… curdled. Not a pretty word or a pretty look, but don’t worry. Just keep adding slowly and whipping, and it will warm up and come back together (as long as the butter isn’t too cold – hence the importance of setting it out to thaw to room temperature early enough). You’re done!
After you finish adding all the butter, this is when you would add any flavoring or jazz it up in any way! That is, if you’re using it immediately. If I want vanilla buttercream, I add vanilla extract at this point. If I’m making chocolate buttercream, this is the point when you would melt the chocolate and pour it in (quickly). However, I’m freezing this buttercream, so I want to keep it plain. I’ll add the flavorings when I thaw it out (more on that in a minute). I place two sheets of clear wrap on the counter perpendicular to each other (and on top of each other – in an X) and plop the heaping mound of buttercream in the middle.
Wrap it up like a package, label and date it, and then stick it in a plastic ziploc bag or double wrap it again with clear wrap. It’s freezer ready! I made three of these mountains of buttercream, and each should be more than enough to wrap your average 3 layer (or even a bit larger) cake. You can re-freeze what you have leftover, too!
On thawing buttercream:
To thaw frozen buttercream, pull it out of the freezer and break the block into thirds. Put two thirds into your mixing bowl, and completely melt one third in the microwave. Pour the liquid buttercream into the mixing bowl on top of the frozen two thirds, and attempt to whisk it up. If need be, pull out a couple more chunks of frozen buttercream, melt, and repeat until the whole bowl is whip-able. Then just whisk it right back up into icing! It’s super easy, and tastes just like it did the day you made it. This is the point I add any extracts, chocolate, or other flavorings. BraveTart’s post goes into detail about a few suggested flavor combinations, as do the comments, but use your imagination!
Piece of cake! ;)
Now, you just need some cakes or cupcakes to ice… or ya know, a spoon.