JulieM Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 4:40pm
post #1 of

I am on my FIFTH batch of Swiss Meringue and it's not coming together!

I have a candy thermometer and heated the egg whites and sugar to 160. I have a stand mixer and mixed on high FOREVER until stiff peaks formed. I added butter at ROOM TEMP 1 pat at a time and beat for 10 seconds after each addition. And now, the frosting looks like SOUP! I read that you need to be patient and keep mixing in the stand mixer until it comes back together, but I have been mixing it for over HALF AN HOUR and it still is soup.

icon_sad.gif Please help and suggest what I am doing wrong!! Is it possible that the butter was too soft? (it wasn't melted, but veeerry soft). Does anyone have a fool proof recipe? I have tried TWO different recipes. The last one was eight egg whites, 1 1/2 cup sugar and 2 sticks of butter.

Thanks.

53 replies
stsapph Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 5:06pm
post #2 of

That doesn't seem like enough butter, which is what makes it come together. The recipe I always use is:
5 egg whites, 1 cup sugar and 3 sticks of butter. I've tried cutting the butter amount down to cut costs, but it would never come together right .I have used a 1/2 cup more sugar to sweeten it more for a customer and it worked fine. The meringue was just a bit stickier. Also, it use a lot of flavoring for this recipes, normally about 1/4 cup depending on the flavoring. HTH!

LisaPeps Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 5:10pm
post #3 of

What blade are you using when you add the butter?

You use the egg white whisk up until you add the butter, then you switch to the paddle attachment.

Tutorial here:

http://fromscratchsf.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/tutorial-swiss-meringue-buttercream/

HappyCake10609 Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 5:15pm
post #4 of

I agree that it doesn't seem like your recipe has enough butter. My recipe goes by volume, but it's 1/2 Cup Egg Whites, 1 Cup Sugar and 3 Sticks of butter.

Also, I think your butter may have been a bit too soft, you want to get an imprint with you press with your finger, but not have it squish completely. And it could be too warm/humid in your kitchen. I'm in New England and I've had to stop making SMBC a few months ago because I was having such a hard time with the heat & humidity, even if my ingredients were all the right temperature. To try and cool it down, I would stick bags of frozen veggies (or you could use bags of ice cubes) around the bottom of the bowl.

You may be able to salvage your buttercream if you add another sick of unsalted butter (although 8 egg whites seems like it would be more than 1/2 a Cup, so maybe you need 2 more sticks) and try cooling down the bowl....

LisaPeps Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 5:15pm
post #5 of

In one of the replies to problems, FromScratchSF replies

"Oh no! I sorry its not working! Are you in Japan? Few thoughts are you using egg whites from the carton or fresh eggs? Egg whites in the carton make your meringue unstable, if you can get them whipped up at all. Not sure of Japan standards, but eggs here in the US also come pasteurized, and those also make unstable meringue. Always use fresh eggs. You can also try adding in Cream of Tartar (1/8 tsp) into your eggs when you take them off the stove and pop them into your mixer."

Could any of this be causing you problems? (Minus the Japan bits)

luddroth Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 5:15pm
post #6 of

Yes, it matters if the butter is too soft. It should be cold, just soft enough that you can dent it with your finger, but not softer. (I take it out of the fridge, and by the time I've cut it up into pieces, it's just right.) Second, adding one pat of butter at a time is way too slow. I cut it into one or two-inch pieces then add half of it, pulse the mixer to get it to the bottom, and add the other half of the butter. Then, starting on low, gradually increase the speed of the mixer every ten seconds until you get to medium high and beat until it is light and fluffy. Third, I don't know about your recipe, but mine uses 10 egg whites heated with 3 cups of sugar, and then 3 full pounds of butter. I have never had it fail. Even if you cut that in half, it's a lot more sugar and a whole lot more butter than your recipe. Finally, you must use real butter -- the best quality you can find.

itsacake Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 5:16pm
post #7 of

I found when I used the new-fangled silicone beater that scrapes while it beats I had exactly this problem, but when I used the regular paddle, my SMBC worked fine. I actually took two batches of "soupy mess" and beat with the original paddle and they recovered just fine.

The proportions of the recipe I mostly use is two cups of egg whites, 4 cups of sugar, 2 lbs of butter and 10 oz of shortening (though you can use all butter if you like and your climate cooperates)

JulieM Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 9:08pm
post #8 of

Thank you everyone! I think my butter was too soft - I put it in the fridge for 10 min. while I got the egg whites and sugar heated up again. Also, I added another whole stick of butter.

IT WORKED!!!!!!!!! yes! I can't believe it took SIX tries...

Thank you so much for your quick responses. I am so thankful for cake central and the friendly bakers on here. icon_smile.gif

all4cake Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 9:41pm
post #9 of

When my butter has gotten too soft and it doesn't want to come together like it should in the mixer bowl, I either put icecubes in a kitchen towel or retrieve bags of frozen vegetables from the freezer and place, still inside their bags of course, around the base of the mixer bowl. It helps chill it without having to remove the bowl, cover and chill then remix.

FromScratchSF Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 9:52pm

Hello Julie, glad it worked! I can look at your recipe and tell that 2 sticks of butter is not enough. When making SMBC you can always add too much butter and it'll work, but you are creating an emulsion, so without enough fat to bond with your sugar it will never come together.

Everyone has their own recipe/method for making anything so no disrespect to whats posted above, but I think just adding the extra stick of butter would have brought your SMBC together. I've never seen anyone suggest cold butter when making a meringue buttercream, everyone from Toba Garrett to Rose Levi Bernbaum says butter at least 72 degrees or warmer. Cold butter breaks your meringue and gives less in volume of finished buttercream. But again, whatever works for you!

Adding cream of tartar helps to strengthen the meringue which helps in humid climates, so you might want to try that as well. If you don't have cream of tartar on hand, I've recently read that fresh lemon juice can work in a pinch. You don't want to add enough to change the flavor, you just want to add a little acid to strengthen the protein (egg whites).

Try my recipe next time, I think it's foolproof and tastes really yummy!

Jen

PS - always super cool when someone from the UK (or other places around the world) suggests my blog! Thanks icon_smile.gif

FromScratchSF Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 9:54pm

Correction - I've never seen anyone suggest adding cold butter straight off - but we do cool the bowl if working in a warm kitchen if the buttercream is too soft.

Jen

imagenthatnj Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 10:17pm

JulieM, try FromScratchSF's recipe. It's so foolproof I'm translating it to Spanish for my sister in Ecuador. FromScratchSF, you give me permission, don't you?

Adding all the butter at once at the lowest speed is the greatest tip ever.

LindaF144a Posted 23 Jun 2011 , 11:46pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

Hello Julie, glad it worked! I can look at your recipe and tell that 2 sticks of butter is not enough. When making SMBC you can always add too much butter and it'll work, but you are creating an emulsion, so without enough fat to bond with your sugar it will never come together.

Everyone has their own recipe/method for making anything so no disrespect to whats posted above, but I think just adding the extra stick of butter would have brought your SMBC together. I've never seen anyone suggest cold butter when making a meringue buttercream, everyone from Toba Garrett to Rose Levi Bernbaum says butter at least 72 degrees or warmer. Cold butter breaks your meringue and gives less in volume of finished buttercream. But again, whatever works for you!

Adding cream of tartar helps to strengthen the meringue which helps in humid climates, so you might want to try that as well. If you don't have cream of tartar on hand, I've recently read that fresh lemon juice can work in a pinch. You don't want to add enough to change the flavor, you just want to add a little acid to strengthen the protein (egg whites).

Try my recipe next time, I think it's foolproof and tastes really yummy!

Jen

PS - always super cool when someone from the UK (or other places around the world) suggests my blog! Thanks icon_smile.gif




No disrespect to Jen, cause she knows her stuff. But this has been my experience having done numerous experiments with the various SMBC recipes and methods.

I find that if I add cold butter one tablespoon at a time it helps to cool the meringue. And I do it on medium speed too. icon_surprised.gif I wait until the meringue is about 87-90 degrees before adding the butter. It usually cools it right down in about 1/2 to 1 stick to a nice 65 degrees. And I measured a batch with room temp butter and with cold butter. I did not loose any volume. I get 6 cups of frosting either way. I don't get soup this way like I did when I let the butter get to room temp. So it doesn't take as long to get the frosting made.

I agree that the amount of butter was not enough. I have not read what the other people have responded, so I can't comment on their suggestions. But your recipe had too much egg and not enough butter to make it work, like Jen said. Try FromScratchSF's recipe, or try a 1:2:3 ratio - one part egg, 2 parts sugar and 3 parts butter. Both will give you a beautiful frosting.

I did not know about the cream of tartar stabilizing the SMBC in humid weather. In which way? I mean does it help stand up to the heat and humidity, say 76 degrees and 100% humidity. This would be very interesting if it does. And is it the standard 1/8 tsp per egg white? I am going to try that on my next batch. I just made a 20 egg batch today for three cakes. But the next stuff I'll try this trick. It is quite humid here this weekend and all summer long for that matter.

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 12:41am

Acid helps to strengthen proteins and make them more elastic. It helps to get a nice siff meringue and helps prevent it from deflating from overwhipping. It won't help your finished buttercream in heat... the butter will still melt/clarify.

Give it a try and see if it helps though!

Jen

LisaPeps Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 12:51am

It works the same with Royal Icing made with real egg whites. You add cream of tartar or lemon juice to strengthen it for string work and piping

luddroth Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 11:14am

Hi to Fromscratch -- it's Toba Garrett's recipe I use and I learned to make SMBC in her class. She recommends that the butter be soft enough to dent with one's finger, but not soft all the way through. She cuts it into 2-inch pieces and adds half of it, pulses the mixer, and adds the other half. Her recipe is the one I use -- it's in her book, The Well-Decorated Cake. Usually by the time the eggwhites are at the stiff peak stage, the bowl is no longer warm to the touch, but sometimes I wrap the base of the bowl in a cold towel to speed the cooling a little. Maybe the coolish butter helps cool the meringue the rest of the way...?

LindaF144a Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 4:52pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by luddroth

Hi to Fromscratch -- it's Toba Garrett's recipe I use and I learned to make SMBC in her class. She recommends that the butter be soft enough to dent with one's finger, but not soft all the way through. She cuts it into 2-inch pieces and adds half of it, pulses the mixer, and adds the other half. Her recipe is the one I use -- it's in her book, The Well-Decorated Cake. Usually by the time the eggwhites are at the stiff peak stage, the bowl is no longer warm to the touch, but sometimes I wrap the base of the bowl in a cold towel to speed the cooling a little. Maybe the coolish butter helps cool the meringue the rest of the way...?




This has been my finding also. when I say I use cold butter, it is probably best described this way. Straight from the fridge may not work, however with a meringue at a temp above the melting point of the butter,it just might because the butter seems to cool the meringue down before the meringue can heat up the butter.

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 5:35pm

I'm wondering - have either of you stuck a thermometer in your butter before you use it in your SMBC? If so, what temperature do you think is the best?

I know that Linda is an experienced baker, and if you are lucky (LUCKY!!!) enough to have taken a class with Toba herownself, then not only do you rule! But you probably have some skills. My advice is geared more for the foolproof recipe seeker that does not have as much experience in the kitchen, or is unable to look at a recipe and see that 2 sticks of butter is not enough fat to sugar/eggs and is struggling to make her recipe work. "Room temperature", "cold", "warm", "slightly warm" are all subjective terms. Room temperature in my condo right now is about 64 degrees - in June. It's overcast and jacket weather out, and will be until about late August. That's why I say butter should be at 72 degrees or warmer because none of those terms work for me.

At 72 degrees you can still pick up your butter and easily put in a dent. Many consider that "slightly cold" or "slightly warm", so I'm curious how close to that temperature you use your butter after measuring the temperature... I venture to guess it's very close to that. I prefer to use butter warmer in my SMBC, but I also have a different ratio then you both are using. It works for me. Anyway, although I am saying different words then Toba, I'm really only trying to give a qualifiable measurement that leaves very little for interpretation.

Jen

1Cake-At-ATime Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 5:45pm

I wish I would have found this thread last night, I could have saved a 4 quart soupy mess. I tried Ron Ben Israel's White Chocolate SMBC recipe and I don't think it was the recipe itself, it was me. But again this was my first time making SMBC. His recipe called for:

6 oz White Chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
9 Large Egg Whites, room temperature
1+1/2 cups Sugar
1+1/2 LB Unsweetened Butter (6 sticks), softened

I still don't know what I did wrong, as I used the egg whites from the carton with that amount of sugar and heated up over the stove using the double boil method. I started getting a little cooked egg around the sides, but nothing too scary. I then whipped the egg/sugar mix for a long while and it never formed peaks, just got a little frothy. I then added room temp butter. End result: SOUP

So, I tried again, but this time using InspiredbyMichelle Cakes buttercream recipe (sub w/white choco):

1 cup (220g) caster sugar
3 egg whites
300g unsalted butter, room temperature and chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g dark chocolate, melted

It worked, BUT it was really soft and whipped icing and I wanted it American Buttercream thick. So I added about 1/2 cup of Sweetex and a bag of PS. It thickened up and became really really smooth no air bubbles, clumps or anything. Maybe because I blended two types of BC's together?

The only problem I found was that once the cake was cut (after being in the freezer overnight and then thawed out this afternoon), the icing started to slide from the cake a bit. My first time every experiencing this...I mean I have seen other peoples cakes do this, but never mine. It is and was very humid today in Germany at about 49%, so I can only think of that as the culprit to the icing sliding down.

Overall, I will try SMBC again, but I need something that crust or something that will firm up so I can smooth it. The texture was awesome and the flavor with the white chocolate was unbelievably good.

LindaF144a Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 6:04pm

Jen - I have taken the temp of my butter just because I am anal like that . icon_biggrin.gif

It is about any where from 63-68 depending on how long it sits out before I get to it. At 72 my butter cannot get a dent because my finger will go through it. I take the butter out of the fridge, cut it into about 8 cubes. By the time I get to it about oh probably 20-30 minutes later it is at the temp range I mentioned.

Whatever works for you is what one should do. If I let the butter sit to 72 and very soft, I have to put the bowl in the fridge to cool for a bit. That won't work once imopen my store so cool butter it is.

To 1cakatatime - I believe the problem you had was you did not get good stiff peaks before you added the butter. And you might not have gotten stiff peaks because of the kind of egg whites you used. Some, but not all, pastaurized egg whites will not whip up. At my store it says that in the carton. It is hit or miss if it works, so I use fresh. Being you are in Germany and I am in the states, I will not say definitively this is the issue.

Also if it is humid and you have no AC this could be issue too. Just stick the bowl in the fridge if it doesn't set up and see if that helps. Once I had let it set overnight to get a good set up. But it is summer here and now the AC is on all the time, so I have not had that same problem.

Forgive any typos please. I am on my IPad and it takes longer to correct, so I am skipping then proof reading today.

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 6:10pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1Cake-At-ATime

I wish I would have found this thread last night, I could have saved a 4 quart soupy mess. I tried Ron Ben Israel's White Chocolate SMBC recipe and I don't think it was the recipe itself, it was me. But again this was my first time making SMBC. His recipe called for:

6 oz White Chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
9 Large Egg Whites, room temperature
1+1/2 cups Sugar
1+1/2 LB Unsweetened Butter (6 sticks), softened

I still don't know what I did wrong, as I used the egg whites from the carton with that amount of sugar and heated up over the stove using the double boil method. I started getting a little cooked egg around the sides, but nothing too scary. I then whipped the egg/sugar mix for a long while and it never formed peaks, just got a little frothy. I then added room temp butter. End result: SOUP




I saw his blog post too, and it was a head-scratcher for me that one of his tips was to use egg whites out of the carton. Maybe he gets a different product in New York, but every egg white carton I've picked up at the grocery store here says "not suitable for meringues". However, I CAN buy egg whites from my restaurant distributor in gallon buckets that are OK for meringues, I've been told it's because there are "stabelizers" in them to make them work. Check your carton and see what it says because it sounds like you might have the unsuitable kind. And without stiff peaks, your SMBC will fail no matter the recipe.

Jen

1Cake-At-ATime Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 6:13pm

yeah I looked at the box this morning and sure enough it said "not good for meringue". For the second batch I used regular eggs and just disposed of the yokes, but I hate to do that every time. Maybe when we get return to the states (in 2 weeks YAY!) there will be other brands of egg whites.

stormrider Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 6:18pm

Egg whites out of a carton do not act, taste or resemble real egg whites in any way except for making rubbery omelets!! I did a deliberate almond cookie experiment with them and the deflated the second they hit the oven heat! Real egg whites never did that in this recipe. Definitely not good for meringue or any type of real baking application.

imagenthatnj Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 6:31pm

I make IMBC with egg whites out of a carton. All the time. I only made it with real egg whites twice. Then because people are always afraid I decided to start using carton egg whites.

It works.

I do start whipping the egg whites long before I put my sugar/water to boil. And I do always add cream of tartar.

Now, at the end, the only thing I'm doing differently from all the recipes out there is add the butter all at once at low speed. (I read everywhere medium and high speed, until I saw FromScratchSF tutorial.) Ron Ben Israel's recipe (from his manager's blog) also advises low speed when you add the butter.

Maybe it is the cream of tartar, but the carton egg whites do work. I've read about other people here at CC who use them in IMBC and SMBC. Those other people also have used the powdered egg whites...which I'm going to try next when I have some time.

I have to check though if my egg whites say "not good for meringue" 'cause that would be crazy if they are still whipping for me!

Like they whipped for the poster here?

http://cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=2407831&sid=965c5605b25972e70076daa6dc9c7a70

imagenthatnj Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 6:33pm

Just want to make sure people don't use Egg Beaters! I think that's something else. lol

1Cake-At-ATime Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 6:40pm

icon_eek.gif @ imagenthatnj - I DID USE Egg Beaters!!! The Egg Beater Egg whites! Oh man, no wonder I was having issues. icon_lol.gif

I have had no problems using them for baking though.

imagenthatnj Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 6:45pm

Oh, that's why. That's not egg whites. And if you ever want to use powdered egg whites, that's not the same as meringue powder.

Edited to say that I didn't mean to say that egg beaters are not egg whites. They are, but I think they have more stuff added to them. I just know not to use them for meringues, and that's all I care to know.

1Cake-At-ATime Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 6:46pm

Oh wait, no I just checked...they are AllWhites Egg Whites. But it does say not good for meringue.

imagenthatnj Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 6:55pm

Hey! Those are the ones I use all the time! That's crazy. I've never read the not good for meringue line. And I've been using them for 4 years already.

And this is what's on their website (see the word "frostings" there?)

AllWhites® 100% Liquid Egg Whites are delicious scrambled, as a white omelet or as a tasty protein fruit drink! They are also great for French toast, quiche, meatloaf, cakes, frostings, cookies and batters and coatings for baking!

I'm going back home tonight to check for that line.

But they do work. Trust me. Maybe you have to whip longer before you add the butter.

1Cake-At-ATime Posted 24 Jun 2011 , 7:03pm

Weird. On the side my carton, the green and white box with blue "All Whites" lettering says:

"AllWhites 100% Liquid Egg Whites are heated during the pasteurization process and therefore not recommended for meringues or angel food cake"

Its the AllWhites carton with the veggie omelet on the front.

This is the reason why I cannot wait to return to the States because being overseas for six years has me out of touch with certain food products. I didn't even know this stuff existed until our commissary started carrying them about two months ago. icon_sad.gif

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