Lemon Swiss Meringue is light and fluffy like a cloud. There is no better topping for a sweet cake or cupcake.
The tart zesty lemon flavor of the Lemon Swiss Meringue contrasts beautifully with even the sweetest of desserts. This meringue pipes beautifully. It is light and fluffy, silky and smooth, and not overly sweet.
Plus it is super stable. Making it a perfect icing to use on make-ahead desserts.
Swiss meringue might seem intimidating but I have plenty of tips and tricks for you to help you feel confident
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Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Simple ingredients and just a little technique are all you need to make this silky smooth meringue.
- Swiss meringue is great for pipping and is very stable even in warm weather.
- It tastes just like really good marshmallow fluff.
What is Swiss meringue?
Swiss meringue is made by slowly cooking egg whites and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. It is then whisked into bright white fluffy peaks.
How to Use
Swiss meringue can be used to top cupcakes like these raspberry cupcakes filled with lemon curd or pies or to frost a cake.
Pipe it onto a baking sheet and bake it to create crisp meringue cookies.
Egg Whites: When making a meringue you do not want any egg yolk in your egg whites. The fat from the egg yolk will prevent the egg whites from whipping to their full volume.
When separating the egg whites from their yolks the safest method is the 3-bowl method. Use one bowl for collecting egg whites, one bowl for collecting egg yolks, and the third bowl for separating each individual egg.
This way if you accidentally get a little bit of yolk in the third bowl you have not ruined your entire batch of egg whites, just that single egg white.
Save the egg yolks for another recipe like this lemon curd.
Tip: It is easier to separate cold eggs straight from the refrigerator.
Granulated White Sugar: Sugar helps to give the egg whites structure and prevents the egg whites from being overbeaten.
Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice has a better flavor than bottled lemon juice.
Salt: I add at least a pinch of salt to all of my recipes. Salt complements and intensifies the other flavors. For all of my recipes, I use Morton Kosher Salt which is saltier than Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. If you are using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt you will want to double the amount of salt you add.
See the recipe card for quantities.
Metal Whisk: I prefer to use a metal whisk rather than a silicone whisk. They are easier to clean and make sure there is no residual fat coating the whisk.
Instant-Read Thermometer: An instant-read probe thermometer is an essential kitchen tool. It's not only great for testing the doneness of meat This one from ThermoWorks is my favorite. It is recommended by America's Test Kitchen and is super fast and accurate.
Stand Mixer: I have a stand mixer from KitchenAid. My mom and brother bought it for me for my birthday almost 15 years ago. I use it weekly and it still works just like it did when it was brand new. It makes so many kitchen tasks easier and comes with a variety of attachments.
Sign up for KitchenAid’s Newsletter to receive 10% off your next order!
Rubber spatula: For folding batters together, I prefer a stiffer spatula like this one from OXO. It fits comfortably in my hand, is dishwasher safe, and is heat-resistant up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Both the handle and head are silicone coated which makes it easy to clean and safe to use with my non-stick cookware and bakeware.
Creating the Swiss Meringue
In a medium heat-proof bowl whisk together the egg whites, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Place the bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water.
Whisking continuously, cook the egg white mixture until the sugar has completely dissolved and it reaches a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This should take about 5 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the heat. Using a stand mixer, whisk the mixture on medium speed for about a minute.
Increase the speed to medium-high and whisk until stiff peaks form. This should take about 10 minutes.
Four Stages of Meringue
There are four stages you can whip meringue to, foamy, soft peak, stiff peak, and broken.
Foamy Meringue: This is the first stage. After whisking the egg whites for just a few minutes they will be light and bubbly.
Soft Peak Meringue: Continue whisking the egg whites and they will reach the soft peak stage. The meringue will turn white and be shiny and thick.
When you invert the whisk the meringue will form a peak that curls over. The meringue is soft and does not yet have enough structure to support the peak. Typically it takes about 5 minutes of whisking at medium speed to reach the soft peak stage.
Stiff Peak Meringue: Further whisking will bring the egg whites to the stiff peak stage. The meringue will be much thicker than the soft peak stage and have a glossy sheen.
When you invert the whisk the meringue will form and hold a peak. If you invert the bowl the meringue won't pour out.
Confident bakers will hold the bowl over their heads to test the Meringue's thickness. Typically it takes about 10-12 minutes of whisking at medium speed to reach the stiff peak stage.
Broken Meringue: If you continue whipping the meringue past the stiff peak stage it will break. The meringue will look grainy and separated.
How to Fix a Broken Meringue
If your meringue does break you can fix it by beating in a little unbeaten egg white.
Change the flavor of the meringue using different extracts, try vanilla, mint, or almond extract. You could also add two teaspoons of espresso powder, powdered peanut butter, melted chocolate, or pulverized freeze-dried fruit.
Whip the meringue until it has reached medium-soft peaks. Add the flavoring and then continue to whip until it forms stiff peaks.
Add gel food coloring at the same time as you add the additional flavoring to color the frosting.
Swiss meringue tends to lose its fluffiness and become soupy once it is refrigerated. It's best to wait to make it until the day you need it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, cooking the egg whites to 160 degrees Fahrenheit basically pasteurizes them. Use an instant-read thermometer to ensure your egg whites are heated to the proper temperature.
Yes, just be sure to read the labels. Some carton egg whites specifically state that they are not good for meringue.
Two tablespoons of carton egg whites equal one egg white. For this recipe, you will need ¾ of a cup of carton egg whites.
Make sure the sugar is fully dissolved before you begin whipping the egg whites. Your target temperature is 160 degrees. You can also rub a bit of the egg whites between your fingers. If it feels grainy the egg whites need to be cooked longer.
Meringue Won't Reach Stiff Peaks
If your meringue has come into contact with any fat from a stray bit of yolk to a residual bit of fat on the bowl the egg yolks won't reach the stiff peak stage.
To thoroughly clean your bowls and utensils wipe them down with vinegar or lemon juice.
Use the three-bowl method mentioned above when separating your eggs to reduce the risk of contaminating your egg whites.
You may still be able to proceed with the recipe if you can reach the soft peak stage. But your buttercream will not be as firm.
- Make sure your bowls and whisks are completely grease-free. Any hint of fat will prevent the egg whites from whipping to their full volume. Glass and metal bowls are preferred as plastic bowls can bond with fat making them difficult to clean and remove all traces of grease.
- After cooking the egg whites and sugar the sugar should be completely dissolved. Meaning if you rub a little of the mixture between your fingers you shouldn't feel any sugar granules. If there is undissolved sugar your meringue will feel grainy.
- Whisking on medium speed rather than high speed will create a more stable meringue.
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