Faux Swiss meringue buttercream is silky smooth and sweet like traditional Swiss buttercream but is super easy to make. With pasteurized egg whites and powdered sugar, you don't need to worry about heating egg whites or dissolving sugar. Even with shortcuts, the rich, creamy, vanilla flavor isn't compromised!
Love frosting? Try this banana buttercream next!
Swiss meringue buttercream (or SMBC) is one of the most delicious frostings out there. It's less sweet than American buttercream but even more buttery and rich. No joke, it tastes exactly like vanilla ice cream! It isn't greasy at all and doesn't form a crust, making it perfect for decorating cakes and cupcakes.
However, to make Swiss meringue buttercream the traditional way, you have to heat raw egg whites and sugar over a double boiler (or bain-marie) to 160°F/71°C for the sugar to dissolve and for the egg whites to lightly cook. Then you have to whip it into a meringue before adding softened butter.
It can be a HUGE pain to make, takes a lot of trail and error, and requires tons of extra equipment, like the bain-marie and a candy thermometer.
In this faux or mock Swiss meringue buttercream recipe, we completely skip the step of heating egg whites thanks to pasteurized egg whites. These egg whites are heat-treated to kill bacteria and are totally safe to eat. This buttercream has the same rich, silky characteristics as traditional SMBC but without the fuss! It's so freaking delicious and easy to decorate with, I don't know if I'll make another frosting again.
This recipe is inspired by Sugar Geek Show's Easy Buttercream Frosting Recipe!
Here are notes about the ingredients used. For quantities and full instructions, see the recipe card below.
- Pasteurized egg whites: Pasteurizing is a method to make food safe to eat or drink by heating it up just enough to kill any harmful bacteria or food-borne illnesses. Lots of stuff we consume is pasteurized, like milk and orange juice. Pasteurized egg whites are totally safe for everyone to eat, and using them instead of raw egg whites eliminates the need to heat them over a double boiler like you would making traditional Swiss Meringue buttercream. You can usually find pasteurized egg whites in the egg section at the grocery store; just double-check that the box says "pasteurized." Pull them out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking so they reach room temperature and whip up more easily.
- Powdered sugar: Using powdered sugar (aka confectioners sugar or icing sugar) eliminates the need to melt granulated sugar in hot egg whites. You don't need to worry about sifting it.
- Vanilla extract: Pure vanilla extract adds a little extra flavor to the buttercream. It's not the same without it! Use clear vanilla for the purest white color.
- Salt: A little finely ground salt keeps the frosting from being cloyingly sweet.
- Unsalted butter: Use butter that is unsalted for the most control of the flavor. Make sure it is softened and at room temperature. If the butter isn't softened, the buttercream will look curdled and clumpy. Pull it out of the refrigerator about an hour before baking.
- Butter: Use vegan buttery sticks to make this recipe dairy free. And before you say anything, egg whites aren't dairy!
Helpful Equipment & Tools
- You'll need a 5-quart stand mixer to make the frosting in. Make sure the bowl you use has at least a 5-quart capacity or the powdered sugar will fly out everywhere. I know from experience!
- You will need 2 attachments for your mixer, the wire whip and the paddle attachment (or flat beater). The wire whip is used to whip air into the egg whites to make them light and fluffy. The paddle attachment is used to smooth out the frosting, prepping it for piping.
Step by Step Instructions
Here's how to make Swiss meringue buttercream with pasteurized egg whites! Before you start, make sure your egg whites and butter are at room temperature. Wipe down and dry your bowl and attachments to get rid of any residue.
STEP 1: Get your stand mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment and add the egg whites and powdered sugar to the bowl. Start by mixing them together on low for 30 seconds or so to avoid a messy cloud of powdered sugar.
STEP 2: Once the egg whites and powdered sugar are lightly combined, increase the speed to medium-high. Whip for 8-10 minutes until a thick, opaque white meringue forms. It should have peaks that stand up with tips that curl on the ends.
STEP 3: Mix in the vanilla and salt on medium-low and then gradually add the room temperature butter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add 1 tablespoon of butter at a time, adding more after the previous addition looks relatively mixed in. Mix for about 10 minutes.
It's super common for the buttercream to curdle at this stage, but it's an easy fix! Remove about ¼ cup of frosting from the bowl and microwave it for 20 seconds or until it's barely melted. Add it back into the rest of the buttercream and continue mixing to smooth everything out.
Once the frosting looks creamy, you can start testing it. It's done when it doesn't taste like butter anymore and is sweet, almost like ice cream.
STEP 4: Once all of the butter is added, switch to your paddle attachment. Mix on low for a couple minutes to remove any air bubbles.
STEP 5: After everything is smooth and tasting delicious, it's time to use your frosting! You can use a piping bag with a piping tip, an offset spatula, or a spoon to frost it on cupcakes, cakes, cookies, brownies, or whatever else you like.
Expert Baking Tips
- Use clean equipment and tools. Wipe down the stand mixer bowl and the whisk attachment with vinegar before starting. If there's any fat or residue, the egg whites won't whip up properly, so making sure your equipment is clean and dry beforehand really helps.
- Add the butter gradually. If you add all the butter at once, you'll have a soupy mess!
- Just keep mixing! If you test your buttercream and it still tastes like butter, keep mixing it. The final product will be silky and sweet.
- Add purple food coloring. For the purest white color, add a teeny tiny drop of purple food coloring to offset the yellow color of the butter.
Additions & Variations
Swiss meringue buttercream is so versatile; there are tons of different flavorings you can add to it! Here are some ideas you'll love:
- Chocolate: Adding melted chocolate or cocoa powder to the frosting creates a rich and indulgent flavor.
- Fruit puree: Adding fruit puree to the frosting creates a fruity and fresh taste. You can use raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, or any other puree or jam you prefer.
- Freeze-dried fruit: ¼ cup of freeze-dried fruit powder adds great flavor. I did this with freeze-dried strawberries as pictured below for my strawberry vanilla cake recipe and it turned out great.
- Espresso powder: Adding espresso powder to the frosting adds a delicious coffee flavor that pairs well with chocolate cakes.
- Citrus zest: Citrus zest, like lemon, lime, or orange, creates a refreshing and tangy flavor that pairs well with vanilla cakes. I did this for my chocolate lemon cake recipe.
- Food coloring: Add a couple drops of gel food coloring to the frosting to make it whatever color you like. I recommend gel because it is much more vibrant than water-based food coloring.
Storage & Freezing
Faux Swiss meringue buttercream should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It doesn't hold up in the heat as well as American buttercream, so it's important to keep it cool! It'll last up to 1 week. Make sure to give it a good mix to make it smooth and creamy again before using.
I don't recommend freezing buttercream because the texture will change drastically. It won't be nearly as smooth and creamy. The egg whites can also weep as it's thawed out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whatever you do, don't throw it out! If your buttercream looks curdled after mixing in the butter, it's probably because the butter was colder than the egg whites. This is actually an easy fix! Just remove ¼ cup of frosting and microwave it for 20 seconds or until it's just melted. Pour it back into the bowl of the stand mixer and continue mixing. The heat will bring everything back to an even temperature and smooth the curdled texture.
If it's too soft, it may be because your butter was too warm. Put the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes and see if that helps.
To prevent grittiness, you can sift your powdered sugar in before mixing. Not mixing long enough can also make buttercream seem gritty, so try mixing it a little longer.
Faux Swiss meringue buttercream is stable enough to frost cakes and cupcakes and doesn't crust. However, it's a little more sensitive to heat than American or Italian buttercream. It'll hold up just fine in temperatures up to 85ºF. But, if you plan on putting it in direct sunlight, it may melt. To avoid any disasters, make sure to keep it in the shade!
More Frostings and Fillings to Try
Faux Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 5-quart stand mixer with the wire whip and paddle attachments
- 113 grams pasteurized egg whites room temperature
- 453 grams powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 453 grams unsalted butter room temperature
- Place the egg whites and powdered sugar in the bowl of a 5-quart stand mixer. With the wire whip attachment, beat the ingredients on low for 30 seconds.113 grams pasteurized egg whites, 453 grams powdered sugar
- Increase the speed to medium high and beat for 8-10 until a meringue forms that is thick and opaque with tips that stand up but bend at the ends.
- Mix in the vanilla and salt on medium speed for about 20 seconds.1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon salt
- Turn the speed down to low and add the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix on low for about 10 minutes.453 grams unsalted butter
- Stop the mixer and switch the wire whip for the paddle attachment. Beat for about 1 minute on medium to remove air bubbles.
- Use the buttercream for piping cupcakes and frosting cookies and cakes!