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Perfect Chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. This creamy frosting is silky smooth, rich in chocolate flavor, and not cloyingly sweet like chocolate American buttercream.

side view of chocolate cupcake with chocolate Swiss frosting

The best chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream

Chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream is a stable frosting that isn’t overly sweet. And it’s an easy chocolate meringue frosting to make.

Cooked egg whites and sugar make up the base of chocolate Swiss meringue frosting. Then butter, salt, vanilla, and chocolate are added for flavor.

The cooked egg whites and sugar are whipped into stiff glossy peaks, then the butter is slowly added. Once the butter is fully incorporated, vanilla and melted chocolate are mixed in. The result is a lusciously creamy frosting that is extra smooth, creamy, and not overly sweet.

It takes time to whip this frosting and errors can occur. But, I’ve outlined exactly how to achieve success and what to do if something goes wrong.

Why this Swiss buttercream recipe works:

  • The perfect ratio of egg whites and sugar creates a not-so-sweet meringue base.
  • A good amount of butter is slowly added to give the frosting it’s silky texture.
  • Melted and cooled chocolate is added at the very end and the result is the silkiest frosting ever with tons of chocolate flavor.
  • While the recipe calls for semisweet chocolate, you can use milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or bittersweet chocolate. White chocolate also works well!
  • The texture of this buttercream is perfect for piping on cupcakes, slathering over cakes, or sandwiching between cookies.
chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream being piped onto chocolate cupcakes

Chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream ingredients

Swiss meringue buttercream requires a handful of ingredients to make the base of the frosting. Once the base is made, you can add melted and cooled chocolate to create the silkiest chocolate buttercream of your life.

  • Egg whites: Egg whites are combined with sugar to make the meringue. Avoid using carton egg whites as they are difficult to whip up. And it’s easier to separate the whites from the yolks while the eggs are still cold.
  • Sugar: Use regular granulated sugar. Confectioners’ sugar will not work with this recipe.
  • Butter: I prefer unsalted sweet cream butter but regular butter works also. The butter must be cut into 1 tablespoon-sized pieces and it should be at room temperature.
  • Vanilla extract: I like to add a splash of good quality vanilla even though this is a chocolate frosting. You can skip it if you wish.
  • Salt: Salt is a personal preference when it comes to SMBC. I always add a pinch to any frosting recipe. It deepens the flavor and ties everything together.
  • Chocolate: Use high-quality baking chocolate. Avoid using chocolate chips, compound chocolate, or melting wafers. They won’t give you the best results in the frosting. Melt and cool your chocolate before you start making the buttercream.

How to make chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream

The process of making chocolate SMBC is exactly the same as if you were making basic Swiss frosting.

Step 1: Thoroughly clean all tools

This means you must wash and dry the mixing bowl and beaters. Also, wipe them down with vinegar to cut any residual grease. Even the smallest amount of greasy residue will prevent the egg whites from whipping up.

Step 2: Heat the egg whites and sugar

Heat the egg whites, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer set over a pot of barely simmering water. You only need about 1 inch of water in the pot and make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water.

Whisk gently but continuously as you heat the mixture to 150°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Step 3: Whip the meringue

Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer and whip on medium speed until the mixture has cooled and is the consistency of shaving cream. It will be thick, glossy, and retain stiff peaks.

You’ll know the meringue is cool enough when the outside bottom of the bowl isn’t warm to the touch.

Step 4: Add the butter

Once the meringue is cool, start adding the butter. Add 1 tablespoon at a time with the mixer on medium speed.

And don’t add the next piece of butter until the previous one is fully mixed in.

process shots for making swiss meringue buttercream

Step 5: Add the chocolate

Add the melted and cooled chocolate plus the vanilla. Mix on medium speed until fully combined.

Turn the speed up to medium-high and whip until light and fluffy. This should only take about 30 seconds.

process shots for adding chocolate to swiss meringue buttercream

Important tip: Don’t be alarmed if the buttercream starts to look curdled once you add the butter. This is normal.

Continue to let the frosting mix until it comes back together. And don’t add the chocolate until the buttercream base is smooth and creamy.

Equipment needed

There are a few kitchen tools needed to make chocolate SMBC. While some of these items are completely optional, others are an absolute must!

Stand mixer: A stand mixer is best for making meringue buttercream. I’ve read that you can use a handheld electric mixer but keep in mind that it will take a significant amount of time to whip the meringue into stiff peaks. I’ve had no success using a handheld mixer.

Whisk attachment: You’ll need the whisk attachment for the stand mixer in order to whip the egg whites properly.

Whisk: A large balloon whisk is great when heating the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler.

Silicone spatula: A large silicone spatula is also great for scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Instant read thermometer: If you have never made Swiss meringue before, an instant-read candy thermometer will be most helpful. Use it to test the temperature of the butter and the cooked egg whites.

Pot or saucepan: You’ll need a medium-sized pot to set the mixing bowl over in order to cook the egg whites. You’ll use the mixing bowl from your stand mixer so make sure the pot is wide enough for the bowl to sit over the top without going too far into the pot.

silky swirls of chocolate Swiss meringue frosting on top of chocolate cupcakes

Helpful Tips

  • Plan ahead. The butter must be softened slightly. This means it will need to sit at room temperature for 30-40 minutes to become soft enough to use.
  • Prep your work station. It’s good practice to measure all the ingredients and have them set out before you begin. Also, set out all the tools you will need.
  • Use high-quality ingredients. The quality of the ingredients you use will make all the difference. Choose real baking chocolate, not chocolate chips or compound chocolate.
    • Also, use quality unsalted butter. I prefer sweet cream butter but regular butter will work just as well.
  • Cool the melted chocolate. Do not add the melted chocolate to your buttercream until has cooled to the touch. If the chocolate is warm, it will melt the frosting causing it to curdle or turn to soup.
  • Switch up the chocolate. The recipe calls for semisweet chocolate but you can use milk chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, dark chocolate, or white chocolate as long as it’s real chocolate in bar form.

Troubleshooting Swiss meringue buttercream

A lot can go wrong when making Swiss meringue buttercream or at least you might think it went wrong. But for most issues you may run in to, there are simple tricks to help get your buttercream back on track.

Meringue won’t whip to stiff peaks: If your meringue (the cooked eggwhite mixture) isn’t reaching stiff peaks after mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes, it’s quite possible the egg whites were contaminated with traces of egg yolk or grease/oil.

You can try letting it whip for a few more minutes but if it’s still not reaching stiff peaks, you’ll need to start over with clean tools. It’s helpful to wipe the mixing bowl, beater, whisk, and/or spatula with vinegar after they’ve been thoroughly washed and dried.

Curdled buttercream: It’s quite normal for Swiss meringue to curdle or separate as the butter is being added. This is perfectly normal. If you added all the butter and the frosting still looks curdled, it’s a good idea to walk away for 5 minutes and let it keep mixing. The majority of the time, it will come together.

If the frosting is still curdled after walking away for 5 minutes, you can still salvage it.

  • Use a hairdryer. While the mixer is running on medium speed, heat the outside bottom of the bowl with a hairdryer. Once the frosting starts to come together, turn the hairdryer off and continue mixing on medium-high speed until it’s light and fluffy.
  • Use the microwave. Place about ⅓ cup of curdled frosting into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it for about 15-30 seconds. Whisk it and add it back to the frosting in the mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until the frosting comes together. Turn the speed up to medium-high and mix until it has thickened.

Thin, soupy buttercream: Thin or soupy frosting is the result of the meringue being too warm or the butter being too warm. This is easily fixable by placing the entire bowl with the whisk attachment in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Rewhip the mixture on medium-high speed until it has thickened.

Ways to use chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream

  1. Slather it over layer cakes:
  2. Pipe it onto cupcakes:
  3. Sandwich it between cookies:

You’ve got this!

You’re now well-equipped with everything you need to make chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. You know exactly what ingredients to use and steps to take to achieve success.

Happy Baking! Or I should say, happy whipping.

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side view of chocolate cupcake with chocolate Swiss frosting

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: 4 ½ cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

This perfect Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe is lightly sweet, creamy, and loaded with chocolate flavor. It's much less sweet than American buttercream and whips up to be silky and light. The frosting is versatile enough to be slathered over layer cakes, piped onto cupcakes, or used a filling for sandwich cookies.

The recipe makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes or a two-layer 9-inch cake.


  • ⅔ cup (113 g) sugar
  • 4 (140 g) large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups (339 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened - SEE NOTE 1
  • 10 ounces (284 g) semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature- SEE NOTE 2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Combine the sugar, egg whites, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water. Whisk gently and continuously while heating the frosting. It should register 150°F on an instant-read thermometer. The sugar should be fully dissolved.
  2. Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer and fit it with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is the consistency of shaving cream and the outside of the bowl is no longer warm to the touch, 1-2 minutes. (if the meringue is warm it will melt the butter.)
  3. Gradually add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until smooth and creamy. (Only add the next tablespoon of butter once the previous one has been fully mixed in.)
  4. Once all the butter is added, scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix on medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and vanilla. Mix on medium speed until combined. Turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds.


  1. The butter must be softened to about 60°F. It should be soft enough to press an indent with your fingertip but not so soft that it is greasy or melty. Butter that is too soft will turn the frosting into soup.
  2. Use high-quality baking chocolate in bar form. Avoid using chocolate chips, melting wafers, or any form of compound chocolate. Those simply will not work with this recipe.
  3. You can use semisweet, milk, dark, bittersweet, or white chocolate as long as it is real chocolate in bar form.
  4. Do not begin adding the butter until the meringue has cooled completely! If the meringue is warm, it will melt the butter and turn the frosting into soup.
  5. If your frosting curdles and won't smooth out with 5 minutes of mixing, don't panic. You can salvage it by heating the side of the bowl with a hairdryer while the mixer is running. Do this until the frosting starts coming together, turn the hairdryer off and continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy. Or you can place about ⅓ cup of curdled frosting into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it for about 15-30 seconds. Give it a good whisk then add it back to the main bowl of frosting. Beat on medium speed until the frosting comes together.
  6. If your frosting is loose and soupy, it can be salvaged by placing the bowl and whisk attachment in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Then rewhip the frosting until it is light and fluffy.
  7. Do not add the melted chocolate until it has cooled to the touch. Warm chocolate can cause the buttercream to curdle or loosen too much.

Make ahead tip

  1. The frosting can be made 1 day in advance. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature and re-whip before using it.
  2. The frosting can also be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight then let it come to room temperature and re-whip before using.
  3. Cakes or cupcakes frosted with SMBC can be left out at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Or store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 183Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 9gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 34mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 1gSugar: 12gProtein: 1g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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Slightly adapted by The Cake Bible, page 236.

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  1. I tried this and everything was going well until I started added the butter. It turned completely liquid. I thought maybe things were a bit warm so I looked up how to fix it by putting it in the fridge. But it stayed liquid.
    My egg whites were beautiful and whipped until I started adding the butter. It didn’t even fully incorporate but I could see small bits of butter in the liquid. Any idea what went wrong?

    1. It sounds like the meringue was still too warm for the butter and the butter melted. The trick of putting it in the fridge should have helped solve the issue. Maybe you should have left it in longer.

  2. Delicious! I used the frosting for my Triplets Birthday Cake. It was a huge hit! Thank you!

  3. Sarah Leone says:

    Will adding milk chocolate make the frosting sweeter?

    1. Yes, it will make the frosting taste slightly sweeter since milk chocolate is sweeter than semisweet chocolate.

  4. Could I add a bit of coffee to this?

    1. I wouldn’t add any liquid to this frosting. You could try a little instant expresso powder. I would add it to the egg whites with the sugar to make sure it gets fully dissolved.

  5. Can you use this frosting for filling the layers of a cake? I didn’t see that use and was curious. I’m assuming yes, but thought I would ask just in case.

  6. Do I melt the chocolate with anything like cream or just over a heated pot ?

    1. Don’t add anything to the chocolate. Simply melt it over a pot with 1 inch of barely simmering water.

  7. oliwia Zofia Ratajska says:

    Can you make it without the Instant Read Thermometer?

    1. You really need the thermometer to make sure the egg whites reach the proper temperature to kill off any bacteria.

  8. This is the BEST frosting I have ever used on a cake. American buttercream is always too thick,but this is nice and light, not too sweet, and spreads beautifully. I added a tablespoon of espresso for a kick! Delicious! Thank you!

  9. Thank you for the delicious recipe. I did come across a problem at the end and wanted to see what I can do better next time. When I put in the chocolate, it hardened and put little chocolate clumps in my buttercream. I used the baking chocolate bars for it. Melted them and waited for them to cool. What did I do wrong?

    1. It sounds like the chocolate cooled down too much. You want it to remain fluid and melty but not be so hot it melts the meringue. Make sense?

    2. @Jen Sobjack, Yes, so what is the perfect temp for the chocolate? Thank you for your response.

  10. Would you be willing to give some name brand options for the chocolate?