Recipe: Meringue Buttercream Madness!

Simple, smooth, and seriously delicious, buttercream is anything but basic. Whether light and fluffy or rich and creamy, buttercream is what sweet dreams are made of. Reva Alexander-Hawk is here to turn even the most discerning cakers into buttercream believers, sharing three moreish meringue-based recipes that are sure to captivate your clientele.  If you’re new to Meringue buttercreams this informative blog post on all things buttercream will get you up to speed!

I found my love for buttercream in culinary school and quickly tossed it aside when I realized that I could buy ready-made fondant (we had to make it from scratch at school and I am not talking about marshmallow fondant either). You see, when I first started out, fondant was just starting to become the medium of choice; featured in all the wedding magazines, brides were clambering for it. Fondant and I became fast friends and I was able to establish myself as the go-to cake artist for elaborate fondant cakes. Sure I would still make buttercream cakes, when I had to, but I would always try to talk my clients into fondant because it was fast and convenient. Does this sound familiar? This went on for a few years until I met my buttercream guru and friend, Marc Gravelle. I watched him pipe flowers and sculpt with buttercream, and I realized that I had neglected my buttercream skills for far too long. Determined, I started a journey to learn all that I could about the medium that is buttercream, and I am so glad that I did. In recent years I have noticed a resurgence of customers demanding buttercream. It also occurred to me that there was a lack of buttercream

skills being taught at schools and cake conventions, which further added to the void in the market. A void I was more than happy to fill.

Bountiful Buttercreams

The term buttercream tends to be used as a catchall, but in truth, there is an incredible array of variations, with the most common being a cooked meringue-based type such as Swiss (SMBC), Italian (IMBC), and French (FMBC)—a whole egg buttercream. The other types are frostings that are made with a combination of fats and sugar such as American, Simple, Crusting, and Decorating Icing to name a few. Each buttercream has its place in the world of cake decorating and none should be looked down upon, even if it doesn’t contain any real butter. High-ratio shortening has become my friend since I moved to Georgia.

Location, Location, Location

When it comes to the topic of what buttercream is best, it really boils down to location, climate, and clientele. What is perfect for the Cakers and Bakers in one part of the country may not be the best choice for others. Bakers in the Deep South need a more heat-resistant recipe than those up in Maine. Your geographical location will determine the best recipe to create for your own cakes.

Now when it comes down to which buttercream is best for decorating that is a different story all together. For this you need to think of your buttercream as a tool and you need to choose the right tool for the job. If you are looking to create a stiff flower, or an element that really needs to hold its shape, then a basic decorators icing will do the job. If you are looking to create soft, romantic flowers, then a SMBC would be in order. This is where you need to start playing, experimenting, and practicing with different types of buttercream.

Meringue Mixology

It is no secret that meringue-based icings are my favorite and this is because they are perfect for all cakes both inside and out. Created by cooking granulated sugar and egg whites, or whole eggs, these buttercreams give you a silky smooth base to add in numerous flavorings; creating not only the perfect canvas but the perfect bite. Meringue buttercreams tend to be less sweet than their American-style counterparts, but their texture and mouth feel is undoubtedly more luxurious. Meringue buttercreams can be used in combination with any other buttercream. For a sweeter variation, try mixing 50/50 combination of cooked meringue buttercream and simple ABC icing. Yes, it is okay to be a buttercream mixologist.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC)

Components:

  • Bain-marie (double boiler)
  • Whisk
  • Stand mixer with both beater and whisk attachment
  • Mixer bowl (thoroughly cleaned of any residue)
  • Heat-resistant rubber spatula
  • Candy thermometer
  • Measuring cup
  • Ingredients:
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated
  • 1 lb 8 oz. butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • Vanilla to taste

Method:

  1. Combine egg whites and sugar, heat over a bain-marie until sugar is dissolved and mixture has reached 140° (warm to the touch).
  2. Remove from the heat and pour into mixer bowl, a stand mixer is preferred.
  3. Whip on high speed until mixture is stiff and cool to the touch.
  4. Switch over to beater, add room-temperature butter to meringue in small amounts until all is fully incorporated.
  5. Flavor to taste.

Storage:

Will keep 4 to 5 days at room temperature or 3 weeks refrigerated. Follow all state health department laws when storing buttercream.

Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC)

Components:

  • Small saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Stand mixer with both beater and whisk attachment
  • Mixer bowl
  • Heat-resistant rubber spatula
  • Candy thermometer
  • Measuring cup
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 Cup Sugar, Granulated
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 lb 4 oz. butter, unsalted
  • Vanilla to taste

Method:

  1. Heat sugar and water in saucepan, stir until all sugar is dissolved then do not stir and let boil.
  2. Pour egg whites into bowl of mixer, whip until the sugar mixture reaches 238° on candy thermometer.
  3. Once sugar mixture has reached hardball stage, 248°, remove from heat.
  4. With the mixer running, gradually pour hot sugar into whipped egg whites, and continue to whip on high speed until bowl is cool to the touch.
  5. Change whisk to beater, add in room-temperature butter, a little at a time, until fully incorporated.
  6. Add in flavorings to taste.

Storage:

Will keep 4 to 5 days at room temp or 3 weeks refrigerated. Follow all state health department laws when storing buttercream.

French Meringue Buttercream

Components:

  • Bain-marie
  • Whisk
  • Stand mixer with both beater and whisk attachment
  • Mixer bowl
  • Heat-resistant rubber spatula
  • Candy thermometer
  • Measuring cup
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated
  • ¼ cup water
  • 4 eggs, whole
  • 4 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 lbs butter, unsalted

Method:

  1. Heat sugar and water in saucepan, stir until all sugar is dissolved then do not stir and let boil.
  2. Place eggs, yolks, and salt into a mixer with a whip attachment. Whip on high.
  3. Heat sugar mixture to hardball, 248°, remove from heat.
  4. While eggs are still whipping, pour hot sugar in a slow stream into the eggs.
  5. Continue to whip until cool.
  6. Switch to paddle, add in room-temperature butter and flavorings, and beat until fully incorporated.

Storage:

This buttercream should be stored in a refrigerator when not in use. It will keep for 3 weeks refrigerated. Follow all state health department laws when storing buttercream.

Reva Alexander-Hawk

Reva is a lifelong baker. As a graduate of the distinguished California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, she has studied baking and pastry with industry leaders and continues to value the importance of education both as a student and an instructor. In 2002, Reva officially launched her own cake and pastry business, Merci Beaucoup Cakes. Calling on her connections in the Los Angeles area, she developed a glowing reputation as a high-end cake decorator, supplying cakes across California and beyond. Her efforts landed her on three seasons of the show Amazing Wedding Cakes. Reva has taken on new challenges; moving her operations to the East Coast, appearing on numerous Food Network programs, writing books, and expanding her teaching efforts.

Weblinks: facebook.com/mercicakes instagram.com/mercicakes happysugarbakingland.com