My favorite vanilla frosting is definitely a cooked flour frosting (recipe here), because it’s light and creamy without any of the tooth-aching sweetness of standard American buttercream, and without the mouth-coating butteriness of Swiss meringue buttercream. For a second choice, though, between American and Swiss I would prefer Swiss meringue if not for one thing– the sheer amount of extra work involved in making the meringue. First you separate all your eggs, being careful not to let a single speck of yolk contaminate the whites. Then you dissolve the sugar in them, whisking the whole time over a double-boiler to avoid cooking them. Then you have to beat them into a stiff meringue, which takes forever even with a stand mixer. If you’ve let even the tiniest bit of fat into your egg whites, they don’t whip up. So much trouble! And the strangest thing is, once you’ve done all that work to create a fluffy, stable, fat-free meringue… you beat a whole bunch of butter into it, immediately deflating it. It makes no sense!
But then I did a little digging online and read– wonder of wonders!– that you don’t have to go through all of that. That the beating of the egg whites is completely unnecessary, and that you can skip that step (and the attendant non-contamination stress) entirely, and still come out with a perfectly good frosting. I had to try it.
I decided on a raspberry variation to fill my daughter’s chocolate birthday cake. Since I was covering it in ganache and fondant I only needed a relatively small amount to fill the layers, so I cut the recipe in half (but the full recipe, which makes about 4 cups of frosting) is below.
Swiss Non-Meringue Buttercream (from The Cake Blog)
- 8 ounces (227 grams) egg whites- 1 cup
- 16 ounces (454 grams) granulated sugar- 2 ¼ cups
- ½ ounce (14 grams) corn syrup- 1 tablespoon
- 16 ounces (454 grams) unsalted butter softened but not warm- 2 cups
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) vanilla extract
Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl. Make sure the mixture is well mixed so the sugar can protect the eggs from cooking. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 2-4 minutes on high in 30 second intervals, whisking well after each 30 second heating. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 160ᵒ F/72ᵒ C. (Alternatively this step can be carried out in a double boiler over simmering water). Pour the syrup into a cake pan or shallow metal bowl and chill in the freezer for 20-30 minutes until it is quite cool (45-60ᵒ F).
Meanwhile, beat the butter in a mixer for 2 minutes on high until the butter is lighter in color and aerated. Add the cooled syrup in two additions to the butter beating 1 minute after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat 30 seconds until smooth. Can be used immediately, or you can store at room temperature for 2 days, the fridge for 2 weeks, or the freezer for 2 months.
The frosting came together very easily– the cooking of the egg whites was done in the microwave, and after that the mixer did all the work– though it was very dense and very, very buttery. But all Swiss Meringue buttercreams are, which is one reason many Americans don’t like it very much. It really does taste a lot like plain old sweetened butter when it’s any colder than room temperature (which it is when you make it, due to the cold syrup). To help combat this, you can add 1/4 cup or so of heavy cream and whip it in. Other liquids (like liqueurs) or fruit purees would also work– in my case I used raspberry pie filling, and it did lighten up the frosting somewhat and make it appear more spreadable, rather than like, well, butter.
This would probably be even better with some melted, cooled chocolate added, or a few spoonfuls of lemon curd, again to cut the “sweetened butter” effect that you get. I almost never use Swiss Meringue buttercream to frost cakes or cupcakes, just because it’s so buttery that a thick layer of frosting is too much– but it’s great for a filling between cake layers if you’re going to frost in something else as contrast. And now that you know how to make it without making a meringue, you can try it too!