April 18, 2011

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

We had a nice little visit from some of the in-laws last weekend (my brother in-law, sister in-law & boyfriend & another sister in-law) which involved bowling and food. We fired up the BBQ since it’s no longer completely buried in snow (only a couple of feet left) and I made a very yummy cake. DSC00964 I’m not going to include the cake recipe since I cheated and used a cake mix (I added a few crushed chocolate bars to give it a little extra oomph) but I will share the icing recipe. I made a Swiss meringue icing and it was amazing, not quite as good as the stuff that was on my wedding cake but still amazing. Meringue icings have always intimidated me, for some reason they just seemed really difficult and so much work (compared to a traditional buttercream). It turned out to be really simple, a bit time consuming but worth the effort for a special occasion. I adjusted the recipe to make it smaller (Only 4 eggs and 1.5 cups of butter & 1 cup of sugar) but it almost wasn’t enough icing (to coat and fill two 9” cake rounds). I would recommend make the full amount and eating freezing the leftovers. This icing isn’t as sweet as a traditional buttercream, so if you like really sweet icing this may not be for you, this one is super buttery with a mild sweet taste. Unfortunately with this recipe you will be left over with some egg yolks (unless you use that carton stuff); I used mine to make lemon bars later in the week, but you could make pudding or custard with them.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Recipe
6 egg whites
2 cups white sugar
3 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Steps:
1. Place the egg whites and sugar into a metal bowl and set over a pan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water. Stirring frequently, until the temperature of the egg whites reaches 140 degrees. I didn't have anything to measure the temperature with so I heated/stirred until the gritty texture was completely gone.

2. Transfer the heated egg whites and sugar to a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Mix at high speed (or as high as you can go without egg flying out of the bowl) until they have reached their max volume, 5 to 10 minutes and are stiff and glossy.
DSC00958
3.Mix on medium or medium-high speed while throwing in small pieces of butter and mix in vanilla. The buttercream may look like it is breaking down, but keep on mixing and it will come back together.

After I added the butter I thought I had ruined the icing, it became oddly runny and liquidy, so I left the machine running and hoped that it would somehow work out. I came back a bit later and my icing looked horrible, like it had curdled or become dry curd cottage cheese, slight panic set in but I figured that I had already ruined it so I would just let the mixer keep going and maybe it would smooth out. It did, about 10 minutes later I came back and it started to look like this:
DSC00961
Normal icing.

After some googling it looks like I’m not the only one this happens to, so if you make this be prepared, it will turn into liquid then chunky curds and then glorious buttery goodness, don’t panic! Since I didn’t have enough icing to make this cake look nice I dressed it up with skor bits on the side, crushed chocolate bars and drizzled melted chocolate on top. In the end I think it looked great and it tasted pretty good too. The skor bits and topping ended up being really sweet but the icing wasn’t so it seemed to balance out.

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