Do you have an unfounded fear of making Swiss meringue buttercream frosting? Please put that frobia to rest, because with a little stand-mixer stamina, it actually comes together quite beautifully.
When I say that the frosting is beautiful, I mean, obviously, that it looks beautiful. However, I was slightly disappointed in the taste. As far as frostings are concerned, Swiss meringue buttercream is supposedly the best of the best. Personally, I thought that the flavour was almost too buttery (yes that phenomenon is possible), and slightly greasy.
Luckily, everyone else Loved it. (I felt like Elaine, when she said that she didn't like The English Patient.)
I'm just happy that I finally made this legendary frosting.
I had heard stories about the horrors of making Swiss meringue buttercream. Stories of people having to throw out batches of frosting because it clumped up and curdled like scrambled eggs or spoiled cream in hot coffee. For this reason, I avoided making it for years.
But it always taunted me...making Cadbury bunny chicken clucks whenever I'd see it in recipes.
So last weekend I decided to find out if the Swiss meringue buttercream was in fact, the delicious diva of the frosting world. And even though I was disappointed in the flavour, I have to admit that the shiny, glossy appearance was quite impressive.
I'm sure that I'll try making Swiss meringue buttercream again, but for now my favourite frosting is still classic, plain, simple, slightly under-rated, buttercream.
Lemon Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
for the cupcakes
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
4 Tablespoons grated lemon zest (about 4-5 lemons)
1 cup ( that's 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 room temperature eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup buttermilk (allow it to sit at room temp. for about 20 minutes)
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
for the frosting
4 large, room temperature egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into bits
1 1/2 cups (8 oz) purred strawberries [Note: I used frozen berries. Once thawed, I ran them through the food processor until smooth and measured out 1 1/2 cups.]
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line muffin tins with paper (this recipe will make about 24 cupcakes).
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking Powder, and salt; Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand-mixer (or any large mixing bowl if you're using a hand-held), combine the sugar and lemon zest. Use your finger tips to rub the zest into the sugar until it's moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, using the paddle attachment, beat on med-high until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute per egg. Scape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the almond extract.
In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and lemon juice.
Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared tins (about 3/4 full for each).
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or the tops spring back when lightly touched and a small knife inserted into a center cupcake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven allow the cupcakes to cool completely in muffin tins before frosting.
Swiss meringue buttercream: Fill a heavy pot with about 1/2-inch of water and bring to a simmer. Place the egg whites and sugar into a heat-proof bowl that's large enough to sit over the pot without touching the water. (Basically you're creating a double boiler.) Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to 160 F. on a candy thermometer (the sugar should be completely dissolved).
Pour the hot mixture into the bowl of a stand-mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until it begins to thicken. Increase the speed to med-high and beat for about 6-8 minutes, until glossy, stiff peaks form. By now the whites should have cooled off quite a bit, and the bowl should feel cool enough to touch. Turn the speed down to low and begin adding the butter, about 2 Tablespoons at a time. Beat well after each addition. The frosting may start to appear clumpy, especially towards the last bits of butter, but keep beating away...it will smooth out eventually. Once all the butter has been added and well combined, switch over to the paddle attachment. On low speed, beat in the strawberry puree and beat for about 6 minutes, until smooth.
If desired, scoop the buttercream into a large piping bag and frost the cupcakes. Or, if you prefer, simply frost with a small off-set spatula.
Cupcake recipe yields 24 cupcakes
Frosting recipe yields about 5 cups
Both recipes adapted from Martha Stewart