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Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

Scott Phillips

Yield: Yields about 5 cups

Swiss meringue buttercream is the king of buttercream frostings. It’s silky, smooth, and, unlike some other types of buttercream, doesn’t leave a greasy or gritty feeling in your mouth. (Because the sugar is dissolved before adding, it won’t form clumps and create an unpleasant texture.) It’s a great choice for filling decorated and stacked cakes because it’s creamy and delicious, yet it’s very stable and holds its shape. It also retains its color well in warmer weather, as opposed to American-style buttercream, which can start to yellow. Finally, this buttercream pipes beautifully and works well as a base when you’re adding fondant decorations onto cakes.

This recipe is excerpted from Great Cake Decorating. Read our review.


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup large egg whites (from about 4 large eggs) or 1/2 cup of pasteurized egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 lb. (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract


  • In a heatproof bowl large enough to fit on top of your saucepan, whisk together the sugar, egg whites, and salt.
  • In a 2-quart saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Set the bowl over the simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water) and heat the mixture, whisking occasionally, until the mixture registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 12 minutes. If using pasteurized egg whites, you don’t need to bring the mixture up to 160°F; just heat the mixture until it is warm to the touch.
  • Pour the egg white mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). On medium-high speed, beat the egg white mixture until it resembles a white, fluffy cloud, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Lower the mixer speed to medium low and add the butter, a few cubes at a time. The mixture may begin to appear curdled, but this is okay; keep the mixer running until the buttercream is smooth, glossy, and white (it will lighten in color during mixing), 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.
  • If not using the buttercream immediately, refrigerate in an airtight container (see Make-Ahead Tip, below).

Make Ahead Tips

The buttercream can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week. To bring refrigerated buttercream back to a useable consistency, transfer it back to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until the buttercream is fluffy, about 15 minutes. The mixture may appear curdled before it comes back together.

Wildflower Honey Buttercream
Substitute 1/2 cup of high-quality wildflower honey for 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar in the master recipe.

Blackberry-Cabernet Buttercream
Combine 2 cups cabernet, 1 cup blackberries (smashed with a fork or potato masher), and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a heavy-duty 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened and reduced by a third, about 20 minutes. The mixture should have the consistency of maple syrup. Strain through a fine sieve and let the syrup cool completely. Stir 1⁄4 cup of the syrup into every 2 cups of vanilla buttercream. Refrigerate the remaining syrup in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze it for up to 3 months.

Chocolate Buttercream

Melt 1/2 cup chopped 60% dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl on high for 45-second intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted. Set the chocolate aside, stirring occasionally, until cool to the touch, about 20 minutes. Fold the chocolate into 2 cups of vanilla buttercream using a rubber spatula.

Toffee Buttercream

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil evenly with cooking spray. Combine 2 cups granulated sugar, 8 ounces (2 sticks) cubed, unsalted butter, and 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt in a heavy-duty 4-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat until golden brown and bubbling, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour the mixture onto the prepared pan, spread it out with a heatproof spatula, and let it cool completely, until the toffee is hard and cool to the touch, at least 1 hour. Then turn the toffee out onto a cutting board and chop it into small pieces with a chef’s knife. Add 1⁄2 cup of chopped toffee to every 2 cups of the vanilla buttercream. Store the remaining toffee in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.


You may substitute pasteurized egg whites for raw egg whites. If you do, warm them in the microwave for a few seconds before using them. The meringue will not get as fluffy, but it doesn’t have a noticeable effect on the final product.


Rate or Review

Reviews (2 reviews)

  • User avater
    thebusychef | 08/06/2020

    Easy, delicious. I made a lemon cake so I used lemon zest for the buttercream flavoring. Will keep the recipe. I like that it has very few ingredients and yet the result is very nice

  • User avater
    starchgirl | 09/08/2015

    Practically perfect buttercream frosting. Smooth, shiny, and not too sweet.

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