Grainy swiss meringue buttercream

Decorating By lilcupcake0309 Updated 20 Apr 2014 , 9:36pm by MBalaska

lilcupcake0309 Posted 28 Mar 2014 , 4:08pm
post #1 of 13

I've successfully made SMBC twice now and messed it up 4 times. I have no idea why it works sometimes and other times it does not. I whisked my egg whites and sugar over simmering water until the sugar felt dissolved between my fingers. Then i put the bowl in my mixer with whisk attachment and whisked until cooled down about 5 mins. And it was marshmallow fluff like and very stiff. Then i added all my butter and it came together nicely. When I tasted it, the sugar was grainy like it hadn't melted earlier. This exact same thing happened before. I used 6 egg whites (8 oz), 16 oz sugar and 24 oz butter. This was double the recipe that I successfully made 2 days ago.  I don't get it. And I'm not sure if it has to do with the temp of my kitchen or if I'm whisking the eggs and sugar for too long in the mixer- like maybe it shouldn't get stiff like marshmallow fluff. No Clue and I just wasted so many ingredients and money :(

12 replies
thecakewitch Posted 28 Mar 2014 , 4:27pm
post #2 of 13

AWhisk the egg whites and sugar over bain marie up to 160deg. F not by feel between your fingers.

lilcupcake0309 Posted 28 Mar 2014 , 4:33pm
post #3 of 13

I did that the first time- made it sure it got to the right temp and it was still grainy when I was finished :/

musicmommy1 Posted 28 Mar 2014 , 4:38pm
post #4 of 13

Hi lilcupcake!


Sorry that happened. So frustrating when something doesn't turn out. I'm actually having a bit of a problem with my chocolate cupcakes as I type, so I totally understand.


Anyway- I am by no means a SMBC expert but here are my thoughts. I use FromScratchSF's recipe for SMBC and have made is successfully many times. It calls for


6.25 oz egg whites (12.5 oz)

7 oz sugar (14oz)

1lb of butter (32 ounces)

and a pinch of salt.


I've doubled it several times as well, and I put the doubled measurements in parenthesis. In comparison to the recipe I use, It seems to me that perhaps your ratios may be off- too much sugar and not enough butter and egg whites. Perhaps this is why it is tasting grainy? Also, I cook my egg whites and sugar to 160 degrees to make sure all of the sugar is dissolved. But I have also heard others say they cook them to 140 degrees with success. Either way, you may want to use a candy thermometer to double check your temp, as this would be a good troubleshooting measure.


As I said, I am not a smbc expert, so hoping others may chime in with their ideas :) 

Danilou Posted 29 Mar 2014 , 1:31am
post #5 of 13

I use sweetapolita's recipe and have no problems. The first time I made SMB it didn't work for me.  I don't use a thermometer either, Double check that your sugar is dissolved, if in doubt whisk a little longer and make sure there's not a built up on sugar around the sides of your bowl.  For me, I find when it's ready the whites start to look more runny and a little frothy. But that's just me. It seems like you're doing everything else right, if your sugar and whites are ultra stiff after beating and cooled down. With your butter make sure its soft enough that you can push your finger through it, but NOT so that it's started to melt and look shiny and drippy. You'll have more success if you weigh your whites as well!  I've made this recipe a HEAP of times, She uses slightly less butter than other recipes!!!!

Eachna Posted 31 Mar 2014 , 2:31pm
post #6 of 13


I don't use a thermometer either. I make sure my hands are VERY VERY clean (I wash with soap, including under the nails and around the wrists) and then I scoop a little of the whites out and I run my fingers over them. I use that gesture where you rub your thumb in a circle across your middle and index finger in a little circle. If I can feel the sugar grains it's not fully melted.


OP: Try melting the sugar into half the egg whites (set aside the other half until you think the sugar is fully melted), then add the reserved whites right at the end (when you think all the sugar is melted) and keep stirring/heating for maybe another 30 seconds just to heat up the reserved whites a little.


I find some kinds of sugar are more finicky than others (not sure if it's the process behind refining it or what), and if you reduce the liquid they melt into...they behave and do what you expect. I sometimes have a similar problem with making simple syrup and the same trick works there.

planetsomsom Posted 20 Apr 2014 , 3:06am
post #7 of 13

Grainy meringue buttercream is extremely common and isn't really about the ingredients or clean hands.


I'm actually not totally sure how it happens in swiss meringue, because you're not boiling it much right? But I have experienced this with the italian version the first few tries because once the sugar is dissolved/cooked, any contact it has with undissolved crystals of sugar will turn the entire thing back into solid crystals, causing that graininess. The opportunity for this to happen in italian meringues is:


a) when you pour the sugar into the egg whites, but there were crystals splashed onto the side of the pot and now it's touching them.

b) when you pour the sugar into the egg whites, but then the mixer splashes the sugar onto the cool mixing bowl, where it hardens, and then you mix that hardened splashed sugar into the icing and ruin the whole thing. Don't let the icing touch any part of the bowl above that original icing line, or let the sugar seep to the bottom where the mixer can't reach... it will just solidify there too.

But can it happen to swiss meringue too?

AZCouture Posted 20 Apr 2014 , 4:12am
post #8 of 13

AWhy don't you use a thermometer? I mean, I eat raw steak and hamburger, and only cook my pork chop until it's not dark pink. But a product heavy with eggs for the public? I wouldn't dream of not using a thermometer.

AZCouture Posted 20 Apr 2014 , 4:15am
post #9 of 13


Original message sent by musicmommy1

As I said, I am not a smbc expert, so hoping others may chime in with their ideas :) 

I'll go ahead and declare myself an expert, and after at least a thousand batches, I still want proof that the egg white has been cooked properly, and my fingers aren't proper testing equipment.

nancylee61 Posted 20 Apr 2014 , 11:04am
post #10 of 13

AI do heat to 150 - 160 degrees. On the 160 end, my eggs smell like they are cooking. If you do this with purchased egg whites, do you have to heat that high?

Also, I wash everything with lemon juice before - the bowl, the whisk, the beaters. I read it won't meringue if there is oil/grease on anything. And I make sure the egg whites are really stiff - I saw on Top Chef pastry that they had to hold the bowl upside down for 10 seconds without it moving to be stiff, so I do this, too. Luckily, with some patience, this always comes out.

Keep at it! Nancy

gadgetgirlcakes Posted 20 Apr 2014 , 3:54pm
post #11 of 13

I have a question. We made this in school and only heated to110 degrees. Is this because we used pasteurized eggs? Also 1instuctor told us it wasn't true that it wouln't come together if a yolk broke and you got a bit in the whites. Just scoop it out. Another told us that any fat it touches will make it not come together and made us clean everything with vinegar. I know yolk is 100% fat. SO is she right that a bit of yolk can just be removed?

MBalaska Posted 20 Apr 2014 , 9:36pm
post #13 of 13


Now this last youtube video here ^^^^ has a good visual with lots of pop ups with information.


But as to your sugar/grainy question - in candy making when you leave grains of undissolved sugar on the sides of the pan, or on the spoon, you will cause the mixture to re-grain when cooled. But  As you can see in the videos you can push the egg sugar mixture up on the sides of the bowl that is heating and capture all of those stray grains. 


For the egg yolk question - someone recently posted a tutorial that actually had a deliberate spot of yolk placed in the egg whites before they whipped them up, and showed that it still beat up nicely.   You'll have to search to find it, it's out there.   (was it Beyond Buttercream? She's brilliant!! )


""....We made this in school and only heated to110 degrees. Is this because we used pasteurized eggs?...""""

              that probably was their reasoning.  

Quote by @%username% on %date%