Cupcakes/ Frostings & Sauces

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

May 7, 2022

Satiny and shiny, airy and perfectly smooth, Swiss meringue buttercream is one of my all-time favorite frostings. Use it for cakes, cupcakes, and even cookies!

Does anyone else secretly eat cake just for the frosting? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE cake; but I could eat an entire container of frosting on its own. It’s just so delicious!

Or more specifically, I could eat an entire container of Swiss meringue buttercream on its own (my personal favorite). This type of frosting is so incredibly luscious, rich, and creamy. Made with a cooked meringue base, it’s incredibly versatile because you can flavor it however you like.

Here’s everything you need to know to make perfect Swiss meringue buttercream!

What is Swiss meringue buttercream?

In America, the term buttercream usually indicates standard butter and powdered sugar frosting. However, in classic French baking, there are 3 types of buttercreams: French, Italian, and Swiss. All three are made with whipped egg whites, sugar, and butter, but they vary in their cooking technique (in fact, French buttercream isn’t cooked at all).

Today, we’re talking Swiss meringue buttercream. Making this buttercream involves whipping cooked egg whites and sugar into a meringue, then gradually adding butter as you whip the egg whites to make a beautiful frosting. For flavor, I always add vanilla extract to the base, but you can add other extracts, liqueurs, and even melted chocolate.

How to make Swiss meringue buttercream

Swiss meringue buttercream involves some technique to get right, but not to fear: I’m going to explain exactly how to make it! One of the most important things to note is making Swiss meringue buttercream is all about emulsifying ingredients at the right temperature.

  1. Cook the egg whites and sugar. The first step is to combine the egg whites and sugar in a stainless steel or glass bowl that fits over a saucepan. Fill the saucepan a third of the way with water and place the bowl on top on the stovetop creating a double boiler. Keep the flame on medium to low, allowing the heat to gently cook the eggs and melt the sugar. While you don’t need to constantly whisk the eggs, whisk them every minute or so to prevent them from scrambling. Once the sugar is completely melted and the egg whites feel smooth and warm between your fingertips, you’ll know it’s ready for whipping.
  2. Make a meringue. Pour the cooked egg white mixture into an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the salt and turn the mixer on high and whip until the egg whites form a meringue. It will appear silky and shiny, but continue whipping until the meringue has cooled down to room temperature. This can take awhile, around 10 minutes or so.
  3. Add room temperature butter. Once the meringue has cooled to room temperature, slowly add room temperature butter to the mixture, a few pieces at a time, as the meringue continues to whip. Do not turn off your mixer. Allow the butter to gradually emulsify and turn into magical buttercream frosting. This can take a few minutes as well, so allow it to whip for 3-5 minutes. Don’t be surprised if it appears curdled – this is just the process of the buttercream emulsifying.
  4. Add vanilla extract, or any other flavorings or extracts. Once the buttercream is made, you can flavor it however you like. Extracts, liqueurs, and melted chocolate are all great options!

Tips for making perfect Swiss meringue buttercream

  • Cook the egg whites on a low flame. Using a double boiler protects the eggs slightly, but too much heat will cause them to scramble or burn. Keep the flame on a medium-low heat to prevent this.
  • Keep your egg whites away from fat. Fat inhibits egg whites from whipping into meringue, so if any yolk or butter gets into your egg white-sugar mixture before being whipped, it won’t whip up properly.
  • Use room temperature butter. This ensures the butter incorporates completely into the room temperature meringue.
  • Allow the meringue to cool completely before adding the butter. If your meringue is still warm when you add the butter to it, the butter will melt and your buttercream will appear soupy (although you can fix this).
  • Keep whipping. It can take several minutes for the butter to completely emulsify into the meringue, so allow it to whip for at least 5 minutes before exploring any troubleshooting options.

More of my favorite frostings

Having issues with your buttercream? Check out the Troubleshooting section of my white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream post to learn how to fix any problems that arise.

5 from 2 votes
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Prep Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
YIELD: 12 cupcakes

Rich, creamy, and satiny smooth, this Swiss meringue buttercream is perfect for decorating all types of cakes and cupcakes.

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 1 pound (4 sticks/450 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. In a heatproof bowl, combine egg whites, sugar, and salt, and set mixture over a saucepan of simmering water, keeping heat on low. Constantly yet gently whisk mixture by hand until warm to the touch and smooth, and sugar has completely dissolved. If you have a thermometer, the temperature should reach 150F/65C. Remove from heat.
  2. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg white mixture until stiff peaks form and meringue is thick, glossy, and room temperature, about 10 minutes (start with low speed and gradually increase to medium-high). Make sure the bowl isn’t warm before adding the butter, otherwise it will melt.

  3. On low speed, add a few tablespoons of butter at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. Once all butter has been added, keep beating until very smooth. If at some point the mixture curdles, keep beating until smooth again. Add vanilla and beat on low speed until combined. At this point, you can add any additional flavor (such as extracts), then beat until smooth.

  4. Frosting can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Before using, bring to room temperature and whisk by hand for a few seconds until satiny and smooth.
Recipe Notes

Having issues with your buttercream? Check out the Troubleshooting section of my white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream post to learn how to fix any problems that arise.

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  • Reply
    August 14, 2018 at 1:49 am

    How do I cut this recipe in half? I don’t need that much icing and I have never made Swiss meringue butter cream before but I’m excited to try it for the first time an don’t want to mess it up! Thanks!

    • Reply
      August 15, 2018 at 8:44 am

      Hi Kathie, you need to use half of the amount of each ingredient. The method is the same. For the 2.5 egg whites, use 2 egg whites plus 1/2 egg white.

  • Reply
    October 28, 2018 at 4:40 am


    I’ve been dreaming of a chocolate cake frosted with salted caramel meringue butter cream, and I’m wondering if I could just add a cup or so of your salted caramel sauce into this buttercream, or if the texture will turn too sticky or loose. Do you think this could be a problem?

    And thank you for the super-clear recipe, as a beginner in using a standing mixer I’m always super into any recipes mentioning what kind of attachment is needed in each step.

    Many thanks!

    • Reply
      October 28, 2018 at 10:08 am

      Thank you, Ingrid! You can add the caramel, but I suggest to start with 1/4 cup, then add more until you like the flavor and texture. That way it won’t ruin your frosting.

      • Reply
        November 5, 2018 at 2:22 pm

        Thank you for suggestion to start easy – half a cup was just enough. The frosting turned up absoutely beautiful and delicious! Next time I’ll probably cut down the amount of sugar for the meringue to be able to use more caramel, hah. But anyway: it was delicious, will do again!

  • Reply
    October 23, 2020 at 1:32 am

    Hi Shiran!

    You have such amazing pictures and wonderful recipes! Thank you for sharing them with us.

    Wondering if you can give us the weight measurements of the egg whites?

    • Reply
      November 3, 2020 at 9:40 am

      Thank you so much, Kathi 🙂 A large egg white weights about 30 grams (or can be up to 40 grams depending on where you’re from).

  • Reply
    February 6, 2021 at 1:25 pm


    I am curious if I am I supposed to beat on low speed the entire time I’m adding the butter or do I increase the speed? Thanks! Love your recipes.

    • Reply
      February 22, 2021 at 2:47 am

      I beat on low or low-medium speed the entire time 🙂

  • Reply
    Brenda A
    March 9, 2021 at 12:45 am

    I have a hand mixer with just the standard beaters, not whisk or paddle. Any tips on making this work with that arrangement?

    • Reply
      March 30, 2021 at 6:50 am

      Hi Brenda. The standard beaters are ok for whisking, so you can use that.

  • Reply
    May 17, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    Hi, If i want to frost an 8 inch layer cake does this recipe enough or should i double the amount ?? Can’t wait to try this!!

    • Reply
      May 25, 2021 at 2:27 pm

      Hi Sonia, this recipe will be enough for an 8-inch layer cake. 🙂

  • Reply
    March 26, 2022 at 6:03 pm

    I want to frost a three layer cake and have enough to decorate the top of the cake with piped swirls. Will this recipe be enough to do that?

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