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A layer cake on a cake turner covered in vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This Swiss meringue buttercream is elegant, smooth and has a wonderfully rich flavor, but isn’t overly sweet. It can be left pure vanilla or you can easily add flavors to compliment your cake. This buttercream is great for piping roses or doing basket weave as well. This makes enough to cover one 8-inch cake, plus more for piping decorations.


  • Revolving Cake Decorating Stand Let it do the work for you. A must to get a perfectly smooth finish!
  • Straight or Offset Spatula Make sure the blade is long enough to cover the entire cake. If it is too short you will have streaks in your icing. You can use a straight or off-set spatula, whichever feels more comfortable.
  • Stand Mixer for making buttercream - you can also do this with a hand held mixer, but this takes much longer. I like equipment that frees me up to be doing other things!


  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) egg whites from about 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups (660g) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch kosher salt


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the sugar and egg whites and beat on medium speed to mix. The mixture will be very thick and grainy.
  • Put 1 inch / 2.5cm of water in the bottom of a double boiler or a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Place the bowl with the sugar mixture over the simmering water and stir the mixture with a rubber spatula until the sugar is completely melted. Brush down the sides of the bowl. Feel the mixture between your fingers to check for graininess. Once all the sugar has melted and the mixture is smooth, the syrup is hot enough (140°F / 60°C) to be safe to consume.
  • Return the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with a clean whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed until the egg foam is light, fluffy, and glossy and the bowl feels just about room temperature. (If the egg foam isn't cooled sufficiently, the butter will melt when you add it.)
  • Once the egg foam is whipped and cooled, turn the mixer speed to medium, add the butter, two tablespoons at a time, and beat until incorporated. WARNING: After you have added about half of the butter, it may look curdled and runny, this is normal and you should continue adding the rest of the butter. Turn the speed to low, add the vanilla and salt, and mix until incorporated.
  • Use immediately.


Adding color or flavorings: When you are adding to the buttercream be sure that you are not changing the consistency of it too much. If you want to add a liqueur or other liquid, do it in small intervals until you have the taste you want. If you want a coffee flavor, it may be best to use a slightly diluted espresso powder.
If you saw me make champagne buttercream on my decorating cakes episode of Zoe Bakes on Magnolia Network, here's how you can do it yourself:
  1. Use champagne extract, as I did in the show. Just be sure to start slow and taste as you go.
  2. PRO TIP from Pastry Chef Minda Ringdahl of Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen: You can reduce a bottle of champagne to a thick concentrated syrup. You will need to reduce the sugar content of the buttercream and add the syrup to taste. Minda has used this method with red wine in an American buttercream (yum!) and I have tried champagne in buttercream as well!