I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. When I want something sweet, I’ll eat a piece of fruit or add a little honey to my tea. Another option is this berry crisp as it has both fruit and honey, and is delicious without being too sweet.
When it comes to holidays or other special days, a cake can feel like the best way to help celebrate. And while there is nothing at all wrong with an unfrosted cake (it’s still a treat to eat!), it doesn’t look very festive. When an especially fancy-looking cake is in order, frosting is a must. I created this mocha Swiss Meringue buttercream for that reason and it turned out perfect.
Less Sweet Swiss Meringue Buttercream
The most common type of frosting made by home bakers here in the U.S. is American buttercream. It’s just butter and powdered sugar (a LOT of powdered sugar) whisked together with a little vanilla extract. It’s super easy to make and super sweet. I’ve made it occasionally, but it’s not my favorite.
This time around I decided to try something new and learn to make a Swiss meringue buttercream. I heard that Swiss buttercream was fluffier and less sweet and wanted to try it. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be!
Making Mocha Swiss Meringue Buttercream
To make a Swiss buttercream I first had to make a Swiss meringue. If you don’t know, meringue is a fluffy egg white and sugar topping. Not difficult to make, just lots of whisking. I’ve made Swiss meringue before because it’s what I use to top my sweet potato casserole.
Step 1 – Double Boiler:
To make Swiss meringue, you’ll need a double boiler. If you don’t have one on hand, chances are you can make one out of stuff you already have in your kitchen. Just find a glass bowl that will sit steadily on top of a medium-sized saucepan. Put a couple of inches of water in the bottom of the saucepan and put the bowl on top. Make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t low enough where it touches the water in the saucepan. Ta-da! Double boiler.
Step 2 – Heat:
Next, combine egg whites and sugar (I like coconut palm sugar) in your double boiler bowl. Heat it until it’s warm, whisking once in a while. Then heat it up to 160°F while whisking constantly. The sugar should be melted.
Tip: If you don’t own a kitchen thermometer I highly recommend ordering one. I use mine for temping meat, milk when I’m making yogurt, oil when frying, and sometimes baking or making frosting. Here’s the one I use.
Step 3 – Whisk:
Transfer the warmed egg white mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and let it whisk until it has cooled to room temperature. You can put a bag of frozen peas or ice cubes around the bowl to make it cool faster. I usually move around the house getting other things done while it does its thing.
Step 4 – Butter:
Next, add the room temperature butter one tablespoon-sized chunk at a time until it’s all incorporated.
Step 5 – Flavor:
Last, add some flavor. Since this is a mocha buttercream, I use chocolate and coffee. For the coffee part, I dissolve Four Sigmatic instant coffee granules into vanilla extract. For the chocolate part, I use chocolate chips melted to room temperature. At this point though, the buttercream can be flavored or colored any way you’d like, or be left plain.
I’ve gotta admit something to you all. I’m not the very best frosting maker in the world. I just don’t do it enough. Sometimes my experiments work out and I hit on something great and sometimes it’s a disaster. The flavors are always fantastic, it’s just the texture that’s a little wonky. For that reason, I haven’t had a lot of luck with ingredient substitutions. So if anyone knows better than me, feel free to chime in on the comments so we can all learn!
- Butter – It is just so much softer than coconut oil at room temperature so I haven’t found a way yet to make this frosting dairy-free while still using minimally processed, real food ingredients. However, you could make a decadent pourable ganache rather than a buttercream. Just follow this chocolate truffle recipe and use coconut cream rather than dairy cream. It’ll thicken as it cools so pour it while it’s still pourable.
- Sugar – I like to use coconut sugar for this recipe. You can use honey or maple syrup for this recipe, just keep in mind that your frosting will have that flavor. And use a little less. Honey and maple syrup are sweeter than granulated sugar.
- Flavors – Substitute away! Just make sure you add the flavors at the end after the butter is all mixed in. If you just want chocolate buttercream, leave the coffee out. Going for vanilla? Leave out the coffee and the chocolate. Try adding a fruit puree for both flavor and color. Maybe whisk in some lemon curd?
Mocha Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe
- Add a couple inches of water to a double boiler or a saucepan with a medium-sized glass bowl placed on top.
- Add the egg whites and sugar to the top of the double boiler or glass bowl and whisk to combine.
- Heat over medium-high heat whisking occasionally until warm.
- Once warm, continue heating and whisking until the mixture reaches 160°F and the sugar is melted.
- Transfer the egg white mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until the mixture cools to room temperature.
- While the egg whites are whisking, combine the vanilla extract and instant coffee in a small bowl and set aside.
- When the egg whites are cool, they should be stiff and fluffy. They’re now a meringue!
- Add the room temperature butter to the meringue one tablespoon at a time while whisking at a fairly high speed.
- When all the butter is added the mixture should be smooth and frosting-like. Scrape around the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Add the vanilla/instant coffee mixture and the melted cooled chocolate and whisk to combine.
- Use immediately.
Do you make frosting like my Mocha Swiss Meringue Buttercream? I’d love any tips!