Hello there! It has been a WHILE since my last post. Not to say that I haven’t been baking recently. It’s just been crazy.
And what better way to restart than by posting something sweet and lovely. In the past months, I’ve made a lot of layered cakes decorated in buttercream, with or without fondant. In the course of learning to make layered cakes, I came across a few types of buttercreams other bakers use to fill their cakes—American buttercream, Swiss meringue buttercream, German meringue buttercream, and the Cooked buttercream (a.k.a. Magic buttercream).
Everyone should be familiar with American buttercream: that sweetly simple combination of butter and icing sugar, plus a bit of milk. This is usually the type you find on most cupcakes. I have used it before, but usually found it grainy, with some sugar particles remaining in the final buttercream no matter how much milk I added, or how long I beat the mixture. I’ve also tried the Cooked buttercream, a “revelation” according to one blogger. To be fair, I did find it really smooth and stable, but it tasted mildly of the flour used to give it body. It does have its uses (mostly for frosting cupcakes), and so will be covered in detail in a separate post. Then there is the Swiss meringue buttercream, which is very similar to the Italian meringue buttercream, except for the method of making the meringue. I particularly love the Swiss meringue buttercream because it is smooth, has great flavor, and holds very well even in the warm Philippine climate. Also, it’s simpler than the Italian meringue buttercream which requires cooking a sugar syrup.
- 3 egg whites
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla (or other flavor extract)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 bar butter (225 grams), unsalted and at room temperature
- Gel food color
Combine the egg whites and the sugar in a mixer bowl. Set the bowl over a simmering pot of water (i.e. double boiler). Continuously whisk the egg whites to prevent any whites from cooking. Do this until all the sugar dissolves into the whites. If tested between two fingers, there should be no grains of sugar felt. Be careful as the mixture will be hot at this point.
Take the bowl off the simmering water. Starting at the lowest speed on a mixer, whip the whites with a whisk attachment, gradually speeding up to maximum. Whip the egg whites until the stiff peaks stage. Keep whipping until the meringue reaches room temperature—test by touching the sides of the bowl. If you find that the meringue takes a while to cool while whipping, try wrapping a towel dampened with cold water around the bowl. Don’t proceed to the next step until sure that the meringue is at room temperature.
Whisk in the vanilla and salt. Reduce the speed to medium. While whipping, add in the room temperature butter one (1) tablespoonful at a time, making sure that the butter is fully incorporated before adding more. You will notice that while you’re adding the butter the egg whites will seem to break apart. Don’t worry, that does tend to happen. What I like to do once all the butter has been added is to turn of the machine, scrape the sides of my bowl, and switch to my paddle attachment. Resume whipping, increasing the speed to the highest setting. At this point, just sit back and give it time. You will notice that within 5 minutes, the slightly soupy consistency you got while adding the butter will have lessened, the mixture becoming smoother, glossier and slightly stiff. Just keep mixing until everything is smooth and spreadable. Don’t forget to scrape the sides of your bowl from time to time.
Turn off the mixer. You can then fold in additional ingredients like cooled melted chocolate for some chocolate buttercream, or gel food colors of your choice.
And that’s it! Quite simple. This buttercream is great for spreading, filling and piping. I’ve made some buttercream roses with it, and it definitely holds sharp edges using star tips. Try this one out and tell me how it goes for you in the comments below.
Note: I haven’t been taking a lot of photos recently, so I’m missing ones for when I’m adding the butter. I’ll update this post once I have new photos. 🙂