When I was a teenager, I love store-bought frosting and box cake mix. I spent my Friday nights baking at home, as opposed to what the popular kids were doing. As a young adult, I learned to make American buttercream from scratch. I couldn't go back to store-bought frosting after that. Later I discovered Swiss and Italian Meringue buttercream and fell in love.
What's the difference between American, Swiss and Italian buttercreams? Here's a quick breakdown. American buttercream is thick and often times, too sweet. The base is usually made with butter and powdered sugar. Sometimes, cream cheese substitutes some of the butter.
Swiss and Italian buttercream, on the other hand, have a base of meringue (beaten egg whites). It is the meringue that makes it so fluffy. Butter is then added, making it rich. Italian and Swiss buttercream differ in how the sugar syrup is prepared. Swiss sugar syrup is prepared with the egg whites, whipped over a double boiler initially. The mixture transfers over into a stand mixer and then whipped to stiff peaks together. In Italian buttercream, the sugar syrup is prepared in a sauce pan on its own. The egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks in a stand mixture and the hot sugar syrup is then slowly added.
Flavor-wise, Swiss and Italian taste the same. However, I prefer the Italian way as it's much quicker. For those who are iffy about uncooked whipped egg whites, the Swiss buttercream would be a better choice.
Swiss and Italian buttercreams take a bit more preparation, but the end result is so worth it. They are great as fillings and frostings on cakes. Because they are also so stable, they are great for intricate pipping. Enjoy my version of an Italian meringue-style mocha buttercream
Italian Mocha Buttercream Recipe
Makes about 3 cups frosting
Check out my mocha cupcake recipe to go with this frosting.
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 egg whites (bring to room temperature)
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 lb pound softened unsalted butter
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (melt over a double boiler)
- 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in a splash of hot water
- In a small sauce pan, combine the water, cream of tartar, and sugar. Heat on medium high until candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees F.
- In the meantime, in a stand mixer with a whip attachment, beat the eggs and salt until fluffy (about 3 minutes on high)
- Once the sugar syrup reaches 240 degrees F, slowly pour the syrup along the side of the bowl of the stand mixer into the eggs with the whip running on low. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until the eggs have cooled to room temperature.
- Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, to the egg mixture while beating on high. It will get to a point where it will curdle. Do not be alarm. Continue to add the butter. The buttercream will smooth out and come together.
- Add the chocolate and espresso. Mix until combined then frost on cakes as desired. For a stable Italian Mocha Buttercream for pipping purposes, mix this frosting with 1/3 to 1/2 of the American Mocha Recipe below.