Butterfly Cupcakes & Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Monday, April 4, 2011

My brother and his fiancee got engaged in November, set the wedding date at the very end of February, and are getting married in May. (My brother will be deployed this summer, and they want to be hitched before he leaves.)

Needless to say, time is flying! I could hardly believe it when I realized that the bridal shower was only a few days away. And I kinda-sorta panicked a little when I still didn't have a plan for the cupcakes that I had promised to make. This is coming from someone who is normally a monster planner. I'm going to go ahead and blame the situation on the whole "working mom" thing.


On Friday, I still hadn't decided what kind of cupcakes to make. I wasn't planning on doing anything fancy with the decorating; just a pretty color frosting in a little swirl on top. But then, as I was going through my bookmarked recipes looking for exciting flavors, I came across cupcakes that I had saved a LONG time ago (almost two years ago, actually), just waiting for an excuse to make them. And, well, this was the perfect excuse.

Enter: Butterfly cupcakes.

The other five bridesmaids and I had agreed on not really having a "theme" for the party. We were going more for a "look and feel," which we decided should be sort of "light and springy." When I designed the invitations, I used lime green and aqua colors, so we stuck with them. So imagine my glee when I saw these cupcakes, knowing that I could use those same colors--AND, don't pretty little butterflies just scream "spring" to you?

Given that this was Friday and the shower was on Sunday, and I was just then making the decision to do these, I knew I was a little insane. But I also haven't done a real time-intensive project like this since before Nora was born, so I figured I was due. I ran out and got all of the supplies I needed on Friday night, and made half of the butterfly wings that same night. I made the remainder of the butterfly wings and the antennas on Saturday morning, then baked the cupcakes and made frosting during the day, and decorated on Saturday night. Whew.

I'm sure you're probably wondering how I made them. And, well, Lord knows I didn't have time to take pics during the process. I barely got them done in time, people. Luckily, however, Annie over at Annie's Eats put together an awesome pictorial on how to do them. So head on over there to check it out, if you're so inclined. (And, before you ask, I got the adorable cupcake wrappers--which just so happened to be in the exact colors that I needed; score!--at Michaels.)

The other reason I almost checked myself into an institution is because I chose THIS occasion to deviate from my usual vanilla buttercream. Instead, I chose to make a much-more-labor-intensive swiss meringue buttercream, since I keep seeing so many food bloggers talking about it. And while it came together pretty easily for me, it did take a lot more time.

After all is said and done, I have to admit that I don't really get what all of the fuss is about. But it's good--I guess I was just expecting it to be A-MAZ-ING. If you are put off by traditional buttercream because it's too sweet for you, you'll probably love this--it's sweetness is much more mild. When I tried it straight out of the mixing bowl, my initial reaction was that it tasted like straight butter. And no wonder, considering how much butter goes into the recipe. However, when paired with cake, the flavor of it is actually quite complimentary. I think it's just one of those things that you'll have to try for yourself!

Oh, and I used this recipe for my white cupcakes.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
(Source: Annie's Eats)


- 5 large egg whites
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees and the sugar has dissolved.

2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

3. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don’t worry, it will come together!)

4. Stir in the vanilla extract and mix just until incorporated. Tint with gel icing color as desired.

5. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

Yield: about 5 cups


Vanessa April 5, 2011 at 7:31 AM  

These are absolutely beautiful! I'm inspired to make some myself, I just need to find an occasion!

Eric's Mommy April 5, 2011 at 8:45 AM  

Absolutely beautiful Heather!

Cynthia April 5, 2011 at 11:20 AM  

Heather, you amaze me. I neglected to mention that at that shower. These were perfect for the occasion. The fact that you spent all that time creating these beautiful cupcakes with a sick 6 month old baby is astounding. Love you so much. You rock!!

Heather April 5, 2011 at 1:15 PM  

Thanks, all!

Mom--Very sweet. Thanks, but Michael was obviously a huge help. He did most of the Nora-wrangling, and also did ALL of the clean-up in the kitchen for me. It took teamwork! :)

Amanda April 5, 2011 at 10:27 PM  

I love these! I've been too busy to make the time to give them a try, but I have to one of these days. In terms of the swiss icing, I too wasn't impressed. Too much extra work for not a lot of flavor.

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