Having first tasted this years ago in Switzerland, I was taken by the fact that it didn’t seem as dense and sweet as normal buttercream icing. It really is not that difficult to produce ― it’s rather like making meringue, but unlike meringue has butter whipped into it. This creates a light, fluffy, mousse-like icing that can be used for satiny-looking swirls and ruffles which, on cupcakes, resemble whirls of soft-serve ice-cream. Pictures by Penelope Mitchell (click here for more on Penelope),
6 extra-large egg whites (weighing in total approximately 210g)
500g butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes (not starting to melt or liquid)
Pinch of salt
Flavouring (start with 1/2 teaspoon extract at a time) and/or colouring (add drop by drop)
Variations: chocolate, raspberry, blueberry, lemon, etc. (see below)
- Ensure that you have a very clean, heat-resistant mixing bowl (if you have an electric mixer, use the bowl that comes with it). Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Add the egg whites and sugar to the bowl. Whisk gently and constantly until the sugar dissolves and the temperature of the mixture reaches 70°C (or until it is hot to the touch and when you rub the mixture between your fingers, you can’t feel any grains of sugar).
- Now transfer the bowl to an electric mixer (or use an electric hand-mixer). Whisk the egg and sugar mixture together for approximately 10 minutes or until the bowl no longer feels warm to the touch (i.e. it is neutral in temperature) and the meringue is glossy and has reached a stiff peak consistency.
- Next switch to the paddle attachment on your electric mixer. (Alternatively, you can continue to whisk but this reduces the amount of air in the mixture for piping purposes.) Add in the butter, a small cube at a time, mixing at low speed as you do so. Beat until all the butter is incorporated and the meringue has a satiny appearance. At this stage, add the salt, flavouring, colour and any purées or melted chocolate.
Sometimes it may look as though the buttercream has curdled, but continue to beat, and it should all come together to resemble the buttercream shown in the picture below. If the mixture is still too hot or too liquid, place it in the fridge for a while to cool and then continue to mix.