How to Make Swiss Meringue

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Fluffy, light, billowy—yes, that sounds like a description of clouds. It's also how we'd describe this versatile Swiss meringue! Use it to top cakes, cupcakes, and meringue pies, or bake it on its own to make crunchy meringues.

Photography Credit: Cindy Rahe

Swiss meringue is a stable, fluffy frosting that only requires a few ingredients and a smidge of patience, but results in something that’s spectacular. It’s reminiscent of a marshmallow with a spreadable consistency.

HOW TO MAKE SWISS MERINGUE

The biggest difference between Swiss meringue and other meringues is the way it is cooked. You start by gently warming egg whites and sugar over a warm water bath, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Undissolved sugar can result in a grainy meringue, so rub a little between your first finger and thumb to test. If it feels smooth with no grains of sugar, it’s ready.

Then you just whip this mixture in a stand mixer until it forms bright white, fluffy peaks. As long as the sugar is dissolved, it’s a pretty foolproof method!

If you’d like to flavor or add color to your meringue, add vanilla (or other flavor extracts) or a few drops of food dye or gel once the meringue reaches a medium-soft peak, and then continue whipping.

WAYS TO USE SWISS MERINGUE

I love Swiss meringue for its versatility. It can be used to frost a cake (like this one), and it also pipes beautifully. You can bake by itself to make crisp meringues, use it to top a lemon pie and then brulée the edges, or whip it with softened butter for the silkiest (and in my opinion, best) buttercream.

When used as a frosting on its own, it’s light and marshmallow-y, which makes it a great choice for when you want something that’s not too heavy—like for a picnic or cookout on a hot summer day. Swiss meringue is also very stable and will hold well, even in warm weather.

Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

MAKE SWISS MERINGUE THE DAY YOU PLAN TO USE IT

For maximum fluffiness and marshmallow-ness, I prefer to make my Swiss meringue the same day I plan to frost and serve my cake. It will lose its fluff and become soupy once refrigerated or frozen, so it’s best not to make or store it ahead of time.

This said, you can assemble and frost your cake or cupcakes the night before and refrigerate overnight. I find that the frosting holds up pretty well this way, though it may lose a little density and become more foamy than marshmallowy.

This recipe makes enough to frost a 3-tier naked cake (as in, just filling and top, no sides) or about a dozen cupcakes. Double the recipe if you’re planning to both fill and frost a layer cake.

USE SWISS MERINGUE WITH ANY OF THESE RECIPES

How to Make Swiss Meringue

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  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (198 grams) sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Special equipment:

Method

1 Combine egg whites through salt: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt.

Swiss Meringue Frosting Recipe combine egg whites, salt and sugar

2 Dissolve the sugar into the egg whites: Bring a saucepan with a few inches of water to a simmer. Set the mixer bowl over the simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.

Continuously, but gently, stir the mixture until the egg whites are very warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved, about 4 minutes. Test this by dipping a finger into the mixture and rubbing it between your fingers—the mixture should no longer have any grains of sugar in it and should be very warm to the touch.

How to make Swiss Meringue Frosting dissolve the sugar into the egg whites How to make Swiss Meringue without a thermometer test to see if the sugar has dissolved

3 Beat the meringue: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the meringue on medium-low speed until foamy, about 2 minutes.

Gradually increase the speed and beat until you achieve a stiff peak that droops only slightly when you lift up the whisk, and the bottom and sides of the bowl no longer feel warm to the touch, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and beat a few seconds to mix it in.

Swiss Meringue without butter beat the meringue How to Make Swiss Meringue without a thermometer beat the egg whites

4 Using your Swiss meringue: Swiss meringue is best when used immediately and served the same day. Do not refrigerated it in bulk or it will lose its lightness and become weepy.

However, you can frost your cake or cupcakes and refrigerate overnight if needed; the meringue will be less airy the next day, but still fine.

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Cindy Rahe

Cindy Rahe is the recipe maker and picture taker behind Hungry Girl por Vida. She loves to bake from scratch and make things that taste as good as they look. Cindy was born near Seoul but grew up in California and Nevada. She believes strongly in homemade birthday cakes, creamy coffee, and making room for dessert.

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2 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Michele

    This looks wonderful!!

    I would like to make this and then bake it to make it crispy. Would I follow the same directions as other meringue recipes?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Michele! Yes, indeed! Here’s Elise’s preferred method for baking meringues, which I think would work just fine with this recipe: “Put the cookies sheet in the 300°F oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Leave them in the oven overnight. In the morning they should be ready – crisp on the outside, light and airy on the inside. If they are a little marshmallowy or chewy on the inside in the morning, just let them dry out for a few more hours.”

Swiss meringue without butterHow to Make Swiss Meringue