Lemon Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

February 22, 2012

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


  1. Thanks for your honest appraisal of this frosting. Needless to say, I haven't tried it either, although with the word 'meringue' in the title, it's always beckoned me. Regardless of what it tasted like, the cupcakes do look sensational. And how awesome that your tasters loved them!

  2. These are the most beautiful cupcakes ever!

  3. Oh, that meringue buttercream looks amazing! What a great combination of flavors.



  4. Ta petite crème me plait beaucoup
    Je te souhaite un bon jeudi

  5. Love the Elaine comment! I've always been interested in making swiss merigue buttercream, but the warnings to not attempt without a stand mixer have held me back. Now that I do have one, I think it's in the cards for me. The appearance is gorgeous and, I've got to say, you've certainly piqued my interest about the taste!

  6. I have made strawberry SMBC and I have found it to be very easy to make except on humid days. I like it but it isn't my first choice. It does have a delicious fragrance. The chocolate SMBC is really good and not as sweet. Great job with these cuppies. Jaackie

  7. I hear that the buttery taste is an acquired taste, but that after you've "acquired" it, you'll never go back to regular buttercream, because it's just too sweet.

    I haven't tried it myself, but maybe one of these days!

  8. Depends on the recipe - some butter creams are way more buttery tasting than others, while some are nice and light and fluffy. It does look beautiful!

  9. Oh, bummer. I'm so sorry that you had a bad experience with Swiss Buttercream. Don't give up! I made my first one, from America's Test Kitchen for a coconut cake. I loved the frosting. I loved that it wasn't super sweet, and I don't recall it tasting super butter. I still love a buttercream, but I gotta say that the Swiss buttercream sure did it for me! Still they cupcakes look lovely and pretty-- just like you.

  10. It does look beautiful! I'm glad you were honest about how you felt it tasted though. I'm the most brutal critic of what I make, so even when everyone insists they LOVE something, I know when there's something I could improve.

  11. i had the biggest baking fail ever yesterday. i was making cupcakes for a friends bday. the cream cheese frosting was runny and the buttercream separated! i was on the verge of quitting baking forever!

    these cupcakes look gorgeous! you are a baking expert!

  12. I love swiss meringue - I need tot try strawberry!

  13. @Connie, It's terrible when the frosting separates (and when the confectioners' sugar is suddenly gone, yet the frosting it still in a semi-liquid state). I've been on the verge of throwing in the whisk several times. :D

  14. I've just started trying out SMB, and oh boy is it temperamental. Probably the bane of my existence, but I like the light, subtle taste of it. It doesn't overpower the cupcake and it's lovely in macarons.

    But I do see where you're coming from, there is a distinct buttery taste that kind of leaves a film on your tongue at first.

    Beautiful cupcakes!

  15. Lemon and milky strawberry. A harmonious balance! :)

  16. I love swiss meringue buttercream! The cupcakes look lovely, even if the frosting wasn't your favorite. I would suggest trying it again, though. You might be surprised!

  17. These are beautiful! If you find the frosting heavy, I bet a vanilla whipped cream with the strawberries stirred in would be heavenly w/ the lemon flavor!

  18. You talked me into it, I am definitely going to try the Swiss meringue buttercream next time I make cupcakes! Thanks for the awesome tutorial.


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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