How to Make Swiss Meringue
Learn how to make Swiss meringue, a style of meringue that involves heating egg whites with sugar over a double boiler. Meringue can be used to make cookies, top pies and tarts, or made into silky smooth Swiss meringue buttercream.
- Skill Level: Intermediate
Swiss meringue is a type of meringue that involves heating egg whites with sugar over a double boiler. Heating the mixture stabilizes the mixture and also gives it a silky smooth texture.
I love using Swiss meringue to top pies (like classic lemon meringue pie) or turn it into a frosting (Swiss Meringue Buttercream). Many people actually prefer this kind of buttercream to American buttercream because it is smoother and less sweet.
Swiss meringue pipes like a dream and holds its shape without weeping for a much longer amount of time than French meringue. For this reason, it is a wonderful pie topping, especially if you aren’t serving it immediately. Because Swiss meringue is heated during the preparation, it’s safer to eat, especially if you aren’t baking it.
Egg Whites: The egg whites in meringue serve two main purposes. They are the liquid in which the sugar dissolves into and they are the protein structure for creating the web that will trap air bubbles to create volume.
Granulated Sugar: Sugar stabilizes the protein web that traps the air (and sweetens the mixture). The earlier in the process the sugar is added, the more stable the meringue.
Cream of Tartar: Cream of tartar is an acidic ingredient that helps to unstick the egg white proteins from each other which creates a fluffy meringue. If you don’t have cream of tartar, you can substitute with lemon juice or white vinegar.
Salt and Vanilla: Both salt and vanilla are used for flavor. The salt also offsets the sweetness.
How to Make Swiss Meringue
Before beginning the recipe, set a medium saucepan filled about halfway with water on the stove over medium-low heat. Bring the water to a simmer. Meanwhile, separate the egg whites from the egg yolks and measure out the rest of the ingredients.
Whisk all of the ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a heatproof mixing bowl.
Set the mixing bowl over the pan of simmering water. If the water is touching the bottom of the bowl, pour a bit of it out. Continuously stir the mixture with the whisk, but do not whip air into the mixture. Check the mixture periodically by rubbing it between your fingers until there is no grittiness from the sugar granules. If you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 160°F/71°C.
Plain egg whites begin to thicken and coagulate starting at 145°F/62°C. However, sugar acts on the proteins in the egg whites and slows down the coagulation process which means the egg whites will remain liquid during this heating stage.
Once the mixture feels smooth between your fingers, transfer the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or use a hand mixer). Whip on medium speed for a few seconds and then move up to medium-high speed until the mixture cools down and holds stiff peaks, about 5-7 minutes.
The mixture will turn very glossy, thick, and almost marshmallow like.
How to use meringue on a pie or tart
Once the pie filling has cooled slightly, apply the meringue. The easiest way to apply the meringue is to use a rubber spatula and simply pile it on top.
Make sure to “seal” the meringue topping all the way to the edge of the pie so it touches the crust. This will prevent the meringue from shrinking.
After the topping is added, you can leave it as is – it will harden slightly as it sits. Or, you can bake it at 425°F/220°C for 4-5 minutes, until lightly browned.
Allow the pie to cool completely before refrigerating, then chill for at least 3 hours before serving.
How to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Cut 454 grams (1 pound, 4 sticks) of unsalted butter into cubes and let sit at room temperature while you make the meringue. It doesn’t need to be completely at room temperature.
Make the Swiss meringue.
Once the Swiss meringue bowl is cool to the touch, keep the mixer running and add chunks of the butter into the meringue. The meringue will start breaking down and look very curdled. This is normal!
Once all of the butter is added, switch to the paddle attachment and keep whipping until the texture becomes smooth and fluffy.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and use to frost cakes or cupcakes.
Swiss meringue buttercream can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. When ready to use, allow it to come to room temperature and re-whip it until you have the desired texture.
Ways to Use Swiss Meringue
What are the different types of meringue?
There are 3 main types of meringue: French, Italian, and Swiss. French meringue is the most simple method to make with only 2 ingredients and no heating involved.
Italian meringue is the most stable type of meringue, it can withstand higher temperatures and is very dense. For this reason, Italian meringue buttercream is great for piping intricate designs.
Swiss meringue is denser, glossier, and more stable than French meringue but not quite as stable as Italian. It’s deliciously smooth, velvety, and marshmallowy.
MORE RECIPES FROM BAKER BETTIE!
If you loved this tutorial, you might like to try these other delicious topping recipes!
- 150 grams (about 5 large) egg whites, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar, *see note for substitution
- 225 grams (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Set a medium saucepan filled about halfway with water on the stove over medium-low heat to bring to a simmer.
- Separate the egg whites (5 large) from the egg yolks. Measure out the rest of the ingredients.
To Make the Meringue:
- Combine all of the ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a heatproof bowl. This includes the egg whites, cream of tartar (½ teaspoon), granulated sugar (225 grams), salt (¼ teaspoon), and vanilla extract (1 teaspoon). Whisk to combine.
- Set the bowl over the pan of simmering water. If the water is touching the bowl, pour a bit of it out.
- Stir with the whisk continuously, but do not whip air into the mixture. Check the mixture periodically by rubbing it between your fingers until there is no grittiness. If you have a thermometer, the mixture should reach 160°F/71°C.
- Once the mixture feels smooth between your fingers, transfer the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Alternatively, you can use a hand mixer.
- Whip on medium-high speed until the mixture cools down and holds stiff peaks, about 5-7 minutes.
- Use immediately.
*If you don't have cream of tartar, substitute 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar.