Help me salvage my Swiss Buttercream?

I was trying to make a Swiss buttercream and ran into trouble. For a play-by-play, read below. To cut to the chase, skip to the end.

Here's what I did:
Put 4 egg whites (from the fridge) and 1 c sugar in a double boiler and got it nice and warm/hot. I picked out a few bits that got too hot on the sides (cooked egg white! I'm baking at my sister-in-law's so I don't have my thermometer.)

Used a hand mixer to beat 'em up! I couldn't get them beyond a "heavy ribbon" stage. The mixture would level out in the bowl within 8 seconds, no matter how long I beat them. Seriously folks, I'm talking easily 45 minutes of beating with a mediocre hand mixer. I tried the whip beater, the batter beaters, whipping by hand... they would not budge.

After reading replies to some similar issues here, I thought maybe the trouble was too much sugar:egg whites. So I thought I'd try adding more egg whites...

Two more egg whites (again, from the fridge) in the double boiler, mixed in some of the marshmallowy batter. (Spoiler alert: Don't do this! It resulted in a white, gummy substance which I over-cooked, in part because I had a hard time estimating when it reached pasturization. Pitched it and started again.)

Two egg whites, maybe a teaspoon of sugar. (I thought maybe the bit of sugar would help when incorporating the new stuff into the marshmallowy bowl?) After pasteurizing, I beat the 2 egg whites (including the bit of dissolved sugar) to stiff peaks. (This looked much more like stiff egg whites than a glossy meringue --just to say I truly didn't add much sugar.)

Plopped the stiff egg whites into the marshmallowy bowl. Sorta folded it in until mostly incorporated which left me with a no-longer-ribbon-stage bowl of fluffy white goo. Used the hand mixer with beaters and over about 10 minutes of whipping, reached glossy, soft peaks. Another 10-15 minutes of beating didn't get me anywhere. :(

So I figured soft peaks would have to do. (I didn't dare use more off the sister-in-law's eggs!) I began to add soft slices of room-temperature butter. After 2-3 tablespoons, I added 3-4 tablespoons of whipped, room temperature cream cheese. Gradually added more butter, more cream cheese....and the egg whites seemed to deflate a bit. It won't set up. It's fluffy, but runny. Let's call it a "thin-ribbon" stage. Even after refrigerating overnight, it's not stiff.

At this point, here's what's in the bowl:
6 egg whites
1 C +2t(ish) sugar
5(ish) T salted butter
8 oz cream cheese

What went wrong and how do I salvage this? I have two young nephews eager to frost cupcakes so they can sing me happy birthday :)

  • Posted by: Bakeria
  • September 22, 2022


aargersi September 23, 2022
Do you have pasteurized egg whites? If yes, try this recipe, it’s SO easy and a dream to work with!
HalfPint September 22, 2022
Were you trying to make a cream cheese Swiss buttercream? Are you working with a recipe or just winging it?

Sounds like not enough sugar. Most Swiss buttercream recipes I've seen use 6 egg whites & 2 cups sugar, with ratio of 2:1 (sugar to whites, by weight). This would explain why it wouldn't whip and remain as stiff peaks. Not enough sugar to provide structure. When you don't have a stable meringue, nothing is going to salvage this buttercream. I know from experience.

I hope this is a genuine request and question. Your profile has "I love the science of it all!" but does not seem like you considered the science behind a Swiss buttercream.

Anyhoo, try an American buttercream. It's much more forgiving and does not require any cooking or egg whites. Or you could buy a can of ready made frosting. Good luck!
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