Monday, August 8, 2011

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Irish birthday cake made with Swiss meringue buttercream.
Cake decorating is an exciting thing for me- there's always something new to learn! As long as I've been decorating cakes, I've always used a traditional American buttercream made with either shortening, butter, or a combination of both, depending on the particular use, mixed with confectioners sugar, meringue powder, and flavored with vanilla extract. This frosting is not a bad one, and I've found that many people love it homemade. In the past few months though I've learned that American buttercream (AMBC) is not the only type of buttercream out there, and it's definitely not always the best option for decorating cakes.

Cake torted and covered in a light crumb coat.
Over the weekend I finally set aside some time to make Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC). From what I've learned there are three main types of meringue buttercream: Swiss, Italian, and French. They are made with sugar, whipped egg whites, and lots of butter. The result in each is a very light, not overly sweet, and smooth frosting. The difference between the three is the method of preparation. As I said before I am just learning this, so I have only made SMBC, and let me tell you- it is nothing short of amazing!

Still working on achieving the perfectly smoothed look.
Irish birthday cake.
SMBC is SO smooth and tasty. It is not overly sweet, which I love, and it can be flavored in so many ways (which I am hoping to experiment with soon!) The recipe I tried is from baker and decorator, Jennifer Bratko who runs a successful cake business in san Francisco, From Scratch SF. She is very precise and accurate in her recipes, making them nearly flawless. I've read through many of her blog posts about cake, butter, frosting, and decorating. I always learn something new. Jennifer's recipe for SMBC is made by whisking sugar, egg whites, and salt over a double boiler until it reaches a temperature of 160 degrees F. It is then transferred to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whipped on high until stiff peaks form. The last step is to add 1 pound of room temperature butter to the meringue and to fit the mixer with a paddle attachment. The butter and meringue need to be mixed on the lowest possible setting until the butter emulsifies with the meringue creating a super smooth and light frosting. Here is the link to Jennifer's recipe and tutorial. Don't be afraid to try this one out! It will definitely change your opinion on buttercream.

Smooth top and sharp edges.
Since it is difficult for my husband and I to eat a whole cake ourselves, I made this cake for the friend of a friend's birthday party over the weekend. It was simple white cake with a vanilla bean SMBC. Everyone loved it and said that it was the lightest creamiest frosting they've ever tasted, success! Besides being so tasty, SMBC is actually much easier to decorate with. It smooths out very quickly and easily, giving a nearly flawless finish and sharp edges.

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