project wedding cake: swiss buttercream

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[Previous Project Wedding Cake episodes: An Introduction, Mango Curd, The Cake is Baked]

Oh, hi. Are you still out there? Oh, right, it’s the middle of a holiday weekend and you’re probably a) at the beach, b) sleeping on a hammock in a backyard or c) taking one of those media breaks the kids are so into these days. And believe it or not, I had a few days off too.

Because of my overly-paranoid baking schedule, I was actually able to not work on the wedding cake for a few days. Once I made a big vat-of-curd, I was pretty much done for a few days, on one of them even making dinner. Like, from ingredients you buy at a store. True story!

I made also made a tiny practice batch of Swiss buttercream, frosted it onto an even tinier cake and declared it my new favorite frosting. All of your advice was tremendously helpful in getting me through the oh-my-god-this-isn’t-working-FAIL period after I added the butter to the egg whites and once again ended up with a bowl of curdly soup. But with my laptop on the counter, I read what you all said–in short, “whip, whip, whip!”–and you know what? It worked. In a span of about 2 seconds, this frosting turns from slosh to, well, a mayo consistency which I know sounds revolting but I can assure you is anything but.

This is exactly what I’m using on the wedding cake for several reasons: one, it doesn’t crust the way a pure meringue frosting and some shortcut buttercreams do; two, it manages to taste so much less sweet than most frosting, likely because its structure comes from the egg whites and butter, not just sugar; three, it’s a lovely frosting that can be made so much smoother than most, and pipes really well, and four, it held up really well in an unairconditioned room for more than a day, convincing me that it’s totally ready for its closeup.

… Which is good timing, because the wedding is tomorrow! Today was Fill and Frost Day and I had some seriously well-practiced help come over, but I’ll get into all of that later. For now, I just wanted to get a little update out there and let you know I’m alive and miraculously, no longer freaking out over the magnitude of this project. Heck, I might have even entertained the idea of making a high-altitude wedding cake for friends next spring, but uh, I was also entertaining my second glass of wine at the time, so um, we’ll see about that.

Swiss Buttercream

The recipe comes from wedding cake genius and my unpaid assistant, Torrie.

For a wedding cake (or most of one, depending on the size)
2 cups of egg whites (approx. 12 large)
3 cups sugar
5 cups unsalted butter, softened (2 1/2 pounds, 10 sticks)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For a 9-inch cake (plus filling, or some to spare)
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
26 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the tiniest amount, if you’re just practicing (or enough to cover and fill the 4-inch cake pictured)
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg white
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. (Here’s a tip: when you transfer to the mixer, make sure you wipe the condensation off the bottom of the bowl so that no water gets into the egg whites. This can keep them from whipping up properly.)

Add the vanilla.

Finally, add the butter a stick at a time and whip, whip, whip.

Deb note: Do not have a panic attack when this takes a while to come together (though I did every time). One super-large batch took 15 minutes, but it did and will come together. Patience, young Jedis.

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