Before today, I’d copy & paste an FAQ at the bottom of each recipe on this site that called for Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Because as amazingly fluffy and decadent as Swiss Meringue Buttercream is, it’s also the problem child of frostings.
That FAQ had a couple of tips to “rescue” a broken swiss meringue buttercream, which is really helpful for people baking Margarita Cupcakes at 11pm on Quatro de Mayo. I thought I’d give those tips their own home and add a couple of pictures of the common problems that I encounter when making the frosting.
So a few months ago, I had my camera ready, just waiting on a batch of frosting to implode. I was going to take pictures of my bowl of “What the heck is this?! I can’t put that on a cake!” and then show you how I fixed it. And wouldn’t you know, it turned out perfectly. First try. And then it happened again and again. And again.
Typical. This stuff has given me some serious fits over the years but I’ve always been able to fix it. Except one time… but my math was wrong. And I can’t blame the frosting for that.
I use a slightly adapted version of Martha Stewart’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It’s smooth, fluffy, not overly sweet, and reliable – and scaled down, it’s basically the exact same recipe we used at my parents’ bakery ages ago. And the two issues that I randomly experience are totally fixable. One batch will frost a 2-layer 8- or 9-inch cake and, for a normal person, should cover 24 cupcakes. But I’m an out-of-control liberal cupcake froster so I sometimes need an extra half-batch to get all my cupcakes frosted. I’m currently seeking help for my problem.
The first step
Beat, beat, beat. I’d let the mixer run for 30 minutes or more when I had problems with the frosting. It always came back together eventually but that was life BT – Before Toddler. I now have a 5 minute rule. If it doesn’t come back together after 5 minutes of beating, I just move on to Plan B. Nap time or those 12 hours of preschool a week are now far too valuable for me to stand there and watch the mixer go ’round.
Help! My frosting is too runny! (AKA, Plan B)
That is Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream… syrup? Paint? It’s not frosting, that’s for sure. You’ve whipped the egg whites and sugar until it has cooled to room temp and you’ve just reached stiff peaks, you’ve added your butter and everything is looking absolutely perfect until you add the preserves, or citrus juice, or dulce de leche. And then Pbfffffffffffft, your fluffy frosting breaks into a watery mess.
When this happens, I stick it in the fridge for ~20 minutes and bring it back out. Beat the frosting for a few minutes and it should all come back together into a big bowl of magical fluffiness.
That is Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting. And quite possibly the best frosting I’ve ever, ever tasted. But if you’re still having problems with it, keep going.
Help! My frosting is… cottage cheese? What is that?!
That’s a curdled mess. And just gross. It should have been raspberry swiss meringue buttercream. The technical term for that disaster is “no bueno.” I usually see curdling when I’m re-whipping leftover frosting that has been refrigerated or frozen but occasionally I get it when I’m making a fresh batch.
This was a tip I learned way, way back in the early days of the Daring Baker challenges: take about 1/4 of the frosting out of the bowl and transfer it to a microwave safe bowl. Pop it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds and then stream it back into the bowl while the mixer is running on low. Increase the speed and whip it into a big bowl of fluffy magicalness.
Can you believe how that pretty, fluffy frosting started out?
So that’s how we do it. If this saves just one batch of frosting from being tossed, then I’ll feel like I’ve helped Do you have any frosting tricks or tips to share?