Squishy Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC)

Oh how I long for the bliss of my novice days when I used American Buttercream (ABC) successfully under my fondant and never had any problems with oozing buttercream or failing fondant.  Alas, I reached for the stars and had to try SMBC because all the Craftsy instructors raved about it and everyone on said it was the only way to go. The first time I tried it it was indeed beautiful, easy to smooth and tasted heavenly.  But I didn’t try it with fondant the first time.  I just iced the cake with SMBC and we (my husband, Stephen) ate it.  

The cake I had planned yesterday was a 10″x3″ square WASC (White Almond Sour Cream) cake torted into 3 layers filled with SMBC.  I used Jessica Harris’ recipe (pretty standard) and replaced 1/3 of the butter with Crisco shortening. Torted, filled and crumbcoated the cake and put it in the fridge. So far, so good.  This is when I got a little nervous.  If I chilled too short of a time I knew the SMBC would not be firm.  If I chilled too long I was worried about condensation making my fondant too wet and I was also worried about air bubbles (still haven’t consistently solved that problem, stay tuned).  I took it out after an hour.  I could press my finger into it without displacing the SMBC but it wasn’t exactly firm.  Whatever, good enough I said to myself. 

Within a few minutes of laying the fondant on the SMBC and starting to smooth it I knew I was in trouble.  The fondant was getting sticky.  I put PS on my smoothers.  Helped a little.  The corners of my square cake started moving.  More PS on my smoothers.  Then the fondant started ripping from my fondant.  My husband (DH, dear husband) has gotten pretty good at being able to tell when I’m on the verge of a meltdown when I’m caking.  Plus, I was starting to yell, “I’m never doing another cake, that’s it!” So, DH, suggested that I try a different way of decorating this one.  There was no hope anyway. I peeled the red fondant off (oh, I had such plans! I was going to do a damask stencil with gold piping gel a la Joshua John Russell) and threw it in the garbage.  I smoothed the SMBC back into a nice tight square (it was furry by this point) and walked away. 

I wondered if it might firm up if I left it out overnight.  Nope, still soft.  BTW, was up until 1230 searching the web for answers.  I planned on decorating it with buttercream rosettes later that afternoon (during baby naptime) so I figured why not try sticking it in the fridge until then and see if it actually ever firms up.  What do you know. About 4 hours later it was firm the way the craftsy instructors recommended.  Well, I’ll be darned.  

I made another batch of SMBC a la Joshua John Russell with 1/3 of butter replaced with Crisco and PS for the rosettes. The rosettes held their shape nicely in my 77F house but they are not firm, several hours later. 

Lavender Rosettes cake

Questions still looming:
1) I don’t know if I’ll be able to use SMBC under my fondant in Florida.  Some FL cakers say yes, some say no. DH says stick to ganache ( he loves ganache) under fondant.

2) If I chill SMBC long enough to get it firm will I able to get the fondant on and smoothed before the SMBC starts to soften and the fondant gets too sticky?

3) If I do #2 will the fact that it got so cold make me more likely to get air bubbles ?

Next experiment (because I never give up):

I will use JJR SMBC with butter/shortening/PS, chill until firm inside a cardboard box (this was recommended as a way to decrease precipitation/condensation) and throw on the fondant as quickly as possible. If it starts to sweat I will walk away from it (so hard!) for about 30 minutes.

If I have another fondant failure I may go back to just ganache or ABC under my fondant. Stay tuned!

By the way, the cake is for a nice lady at our office who is leaving and her birthday is tomorrow.  The other ladies at the office asked me to make the cake.  I didn’t tell DH about it for a few days but I finally had to fess up when he noticed that my usual 5 sips of dessert wine weren’t getting me to sleep and I actually needed melatonin to drive the cake plans out of my head. 

4 thoughts on “Squishy Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  1. Aps says:

    Thanks for this post…im also having problems with smbc. I live in sg and they said that smbc is perfect for the hot and humid weather but it melts when im only 1/3 done with piping. Im able to successfully use it under fondant though by only making a very thin (almost like a naked cake) crumbcoat just to make it stick to my cake. I have yet to try jjr’s smbc.

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