Thursday, August 2, 2012

Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the Hesitant

When I was engaged and contemplating making my wedding cake, I tried to work my way through The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. That is a really, really good book, and from it I made my first successful scratch cakes. However, Rose Beranbaum is a New Yorker, and had an amazing distaste for sweets, considering her career.

I made her buttercream and it came out a lot like whipped butter. That frosting was so much work and such a failure that I wrote off homemade frosting for years. I didn't try again until my recent Wilton class, which uses American Buttercream exclusively.

Not too long ago I read BakeWise by Shirley Corriher and Rose's Heavenly Cakes, a more recent book by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I realized that my earlier frosting failure probably wasn't a failure at all, just a disagreement. To a New Yorker without a sweet tooth, the ideal frosting is supposed to be a lot like whipped butter (probably).

Reading Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystified by Sweetapolita (a name that is a LOT of fun to say outloud–try it!) made me reconsider making buttercream, and the directions in Bakewise convinced me. Thus began my ambitious plan to make several types of frosting and compare them, inspired by All Yellow Cakes Compared by Anna at Cookie Madness.

Briefly, In Swiss Meringue Buttercream, you make a meringue from cooked egg whites and then combine it with butter. I adapted my recipe from BakeWise.

My ingredients are 4 egg whites (mine are from a carton, which might have been a mistake), 1 cup sugar, 9 ounces unsalted butter, 3 ounces shortening, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Please let me take a minute here to admire my new kitchen.

I heated the egg whites and sugar over simmering water to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, the held them there for 2 minutes.

I beat the egg whites at the highest speed for five minutes, then on a slightly lower speed until cool. I only got to soft peaks; I think I would have gotten firm peaks with fresh egg whites.

I transferred the meringue to another bowl and washed my mixer bowl.

Switching to the beater blade, I combined the shortening and butter

I stirred in one quarter on the meringue on low speed,then switched back in the whisk and stirred in the rest.

It looked kinda funny, so I kept mixing on low until it was smooth.

We all tried the finished frosting. I could eat it straight. My husband liked it but though it might be better a little cooler (it's still very warm in Maryland). My son liked it "just a little bit," probably because it is a lot less sweet than the American Buttercream he is used to.

Stay tuned for the next episode of The Great Frosting Experiment!

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