Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Sucks

swiss meringue buttercream
This cupcake reminded me of the one on the banner that S drew for me.
You thought I made that banner? I'm not that clever.

I was originally going to title this post, "Martha, your buttercream sucks." Looking around the internet, however, it turns out that the buttercream recipe I made has also been attributed to Dorie Greenspan, and is very similar to copious other Swiss meringue buttercream recipes. Thus, I have concluded that ALL buttercream recipes suck. That's good, because I hate to pick on Martha. I love her even though she makes me feel completely inadequate. She challenges me to make beautiful things that I would never think to make without the burning fires of feminist hatred her encouragement.

But honestly, even aside from all the stunning creations that no modern woman should feel guilty for failing to master, you have to love someone who brings you absolutely stellar recipes like, this one for Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies.

Back to the buttercream. My friend K and I made Valentine's cupcakes yesterday and I, of course, was swayed by all the claims about how Swiss meringue buttercream is more stable, smooth, beautiful, buttery, etc. If it were up to K, we probably would have made traditional sugary icing which would have been better. In retrospect, I think I was also swayed by all the accolades for Swiss meringue buttercream LAST time I had to make buttercream, only to decide that it was bad and then, apparently, promptly forget. This isn't to say that SMB isn't smooth and stable and beautiful and buttery. It's very buttery. In fact, it really just tastes like whipped butter (and we didn't even use all of the butter the recipe called for). Also, I rather like whipped butter so I suppose I should amend that: Swiss meringue buttercream tastes worse than whipped butter. It's just sort of blahhhhh. This, from someone who sometimes just likes to eat butter. I don't want to ice my cupcakes in blahhhhh.

But the internet seems to think SMB is awesome. I tried googling both "Swiss meringue buttercream sucks" and "I hate Swiss meringue buttercream," but I could only find people raving about it. I must be wrong.

Tell me what I did wrong, internet! It is that David Lebovitz hasn't provided a definitive buttercream recipe? Do I need to shell out for artisan butter? Is it just that buttercream is too wussy to go on top of chocolate and I should stick to ganache? (Mmmmm, ganache).

valentines cupcakes
Awww, hearts and pink and saccharin  buttery feelings.

So, I'm not going to give you a Swiss meringue buttercream recipe. Instead, I'm going to give you a recipe that I've seen floating around that sounds both strange and fantastic. One of the totted benefits of SWB is that it is "less sweet" than traditional buttercream, right? Here's a different recipe for a less sweet buttercream that doesn't look like it's compensating for its lack of sweetness by rubbing its butter in your face. I'll try to remember to try it next time I have to ice something. If you test this before I do, let me know how it went because I sort of stitched this method together from a bunch of different flour frosting recipes based on what I thought would work well.

Flour Frosting Recipe (aka, the only non-gluten-free icing)

You'll need:

1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 flour
1 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla

In a small saucepan, whisk the sugar, milk and flour together. Cook over medium heat (whisking now and then) until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens (~15 minutes?) Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then transfer it to your mixer and beat in the butter. Add vanilla, beat to proper consistency.

buttercream recipe
We are not yet fantastic at piping, honestly. 

I should mention that the chocolate cupcakes were excellent, and they are a Martha recipe, too, from her creatively titled recipe book, "Cupcakes". Great go-to chocolate cupcake recipe that I will certainly make again the next time I am required to make cupcakes. Probably filled with salted caramel and iced with chocolate ganache.

chocolate cupcakes
Because if you cut the middles out, you don't have to eat as much of the cake bit.


  1. I know its been forever since you posted this, but I just want to say: I AGREE! I hated SMBC the first time I made it and so, a couple years, many many cakes and batches of frosting later and being much deeper into the cake decorating world, I decided to make a supposedly "less buttery" buttercream (German meringue buttercream) so I could try it again. Same results - its awful, I think I will probably end up eating the rest of my cupcakes frosting less I dislike it so much. Just wanted to let you know that you're not alone.