As a deep lover of marshmallows, I’ve always had a bit of an opinion about marshmallow-style frostings. Some doctor up an American buttercream with store-bought marshmallow creme. Others are essentially just a meringue recipe: egg whites whipped with sugar. But a proper marshmallow recipe in confectionery involves cooking sugar syrup to the proper temperature, then combining it with gelatin before whipping the mixture until it’s highly aerated. As the warm mixture cools, the gelatin helps set it into the chewy fluffiness we all know and love. Classic marshmallow ratios are difficult to work with as a frosting—too firm and quick-setting to be easily spreadable or pipable. I opt for a middle ground, enlisting the help of just enough egg whites to provide a base structure, meaning I can skip the gelatin, but a higher ratio of sugar to make the texture more like that of marshmallow than meringue. I also add the flavors I'd typically add to my homemade marshmallow: honey and vanilla bean, which means it's as easy to work with as meringue-based frostings, but still reminiscent of the real marshmallow I love so much. —Erin Jeanne McDowell
Test Kitchen Notes
Bake It Up a Notch is a column by Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell. Each month, she'll help take our baking game to the next level, teaching us all the need-to-know tips and techniques and showing us all the mistakes we might make along the way. Today, a very sweet lesson in all things frostings, icings, and glazes. —The Editors
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 10 minutes
- makes about 4 cups
(177 grams) egg whites
cream of tartar
1 3/4 cups
(350 grams) granulated sugar
(170 grams) water
vanilla bean paste or the seeds of 1 scraped vanilla bean, seeds scraped
(85 grams) honey
(20 grams) corn syrup
(226 grams) unsalted butter
fine sea salt
vanilla extract (or 1 tablespoon if not using vanilla bean)
- Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Combine the sugar and water in a medium pot and stir over medium heat until it comes to a boil. When it begins to boil, stop stirring and attach a candy thermometer to the pot (if any sugar crystals have washed up on the sides, wash them away using a pastry brush dipped in cool water). Continue to cook until the syrup reaches 230°F.
- As soon as the sugar hits 230°F, begin whipping the egg whites on medium speed. The goal is to have the egg whites at soft peaks when the sugar reaches 240°F (the final desired temperature).
- With the mixer, add the sugar syrup in a slow, steady stream. Then add in the vanilla paste, honey, corn syrup, and vanilla extract. Continue to whip on high speed until the mixture reaches stiff peaks and the bowl is longer noticeably warm to the touch. The meringue should be smooth and glossy, not clumpy or dry.
- With the mixer still running, gradually add room temperature butter in 1 tablespoon (14 grams) chunks. Continue adding and mixing until all of the butter is incorporated and the buttercream is light and smooth.
- Beat in the vanilla extract and salt and mix to combine.