celebrating the swiss on st. patrick’s day
Last weekend, like any American mutt, I celebrated my questionable Irish heritage by eating and drinking too much on St. Patrick’s Day. This year, instead of drinking green milk and boiling meat according to a recipe that doubles as kitchen kitsch, I made a cake inspired by Irish libations but filled with buttercream of Swiss origins. Specifically, we are talking a Guinness chocolate cake with three different types of Swiss buttercream (because I couldn’t dare pick just one and it’s not like the Irish are known for their moderation): Guinness buttercream, Bushmills Irish whiskey buttercream, and Baileys buttercream.
My pal Jessica had folks over to wear green, discuss not being Irish, eat corned beef, potatoes, cabbage, soda bread, and drink Jameson and Guinness.
My contribution to the smorgasbord was this giant booze cake.
Read more if you care about booze cake and things that are Swiss!
The cake recipe I used was a riff off of this one, except as you can see I went with standard cake pans instead of a bundt pan and didn’t frost it with ganache. There are plenty of Guinness/stout/chocolate cake recipes out there, but I liked this one because it didn’t call for molasses (many of them do) and all that butter and sugar suggested that it would be moist (please note: that word is only acceptable to use if you are referring to baked goods).
And although the cake was tasty, and the Irish booze boozey, I think the Swiss buttercream was the star. Simple, light, and fluffy, a professional and unapologetically neutral frosting that is functional and practical where other buttercreams tend to be fussy and over-powering. It’s a recipe that any home baker—Irish, Swiss or otherwise—should know.
makes about 6 cups
This recipe is for Swiss buttercream, which is simply Swiss meringue with butter whipped into it. In my opinion, it is the most versatile and friendly of the buttercreams. It is white, very light, simple to make if you have a stand mixer, and easy to incorporate other flavors or colors into. Italian buttercream is also white, light, and fluffy, but some people can get tripped up cooking the sugar syrup to the exact right temperature. French buttercream is also delicious but it is made with egg yolks instead of whites and therefore is more rich and flavorful and it usually turns out slightly yellow because of the yolks. “Simple” or “American” buttercream is just fat, either butter or shortening, whipped with powdered sugar and is usually very sweet, heavy, and can also be slightly yellow if you use butter. When in doubt, go with Swiss.
I N G R E D I E N T S
6 egg whites, room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
D I R E C T I O N S
Place a medium sauce pan of 1/3 - 1/4 full of water over medium heat. Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk in sugar and salt. Place the bowl with the egg whites over the pot of water on the stove and begin whisking.
Continue whisking the whites over the hot water and adjust the heat accordingly to keep the water simmering.
The egg white mixture will become voluminous and warm after a few minutes. Continue whisking until the whites are hot (not warm) to the touch. Technically I think this is around 160°F on a candy thermometer, but my old French pastry instructor used to say it is ready when “it bites you,” as in when it basically burns you when testing it with your finger.
Remove the bowl of whites from the pot of water. Attach the bowl to your stand mixer and using the whip attachment, whip on high speed until it is cool, about ten minutes.
Congratulations! You just made Swiss meringue! To make Swiss buttercream, switch to the paddle attachment, and on low speed mix in the softened butter, a few tablespoons at a time, waiting several seconds between additions before adding more.
Just when you are almost finished adding the butter, your buttercream might start to look like it is breaking or separating. Fear not my friends because miraculously it will suddenly come together to yield a luscious and satiny textured frosting. When you have mixed in the last of the butter and it has all come together like one big happy family, mix in the vanilla extract, or other flavoring you plan on using.
As I mentioned earlier, Swiss buttercream works well with the addition of other flavors and colors. For my Guinness cake I whisked some Bushmills whiskey into one third of the batch and some Baileys into another third.
Then I made a Guinness reduction by cooking some Guinness with sugar to make a syrup which served as the flavoring for the Guinness buttercream.
Voila! Three boozey buttercreams fit for a Swiss-Irish king.
Then I filled, assembled, and decorated the cake with a simple dusting of cocoa powder.
And that is how to celebrate the Swiss, the Irish, and the gluttonous on St Patrick’s Day.