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A Swiss meringue buttercream is a buttercream based on a sugar and egg white mix that is first heated and then whipped. The average recipes I could find use roughly one part egg white to two parts of sugar1, some a bit more, some less2.

I would like to reduce the sugar, but of course the sugar is not used just as sweetener, but is critical for the stability and texture of the meringue. So:

What’s the minimum amount of sugar or lowest sugar-to-egg ratio needed for a Swiss meringue buttercream?

Two side notes:

  • As egg sizes definitions differ and we’re talking ratios, please either use weight or state the egg size and the locale in your answer.
  • This question is not about the butter to meringue ratio. I realize that the amount of butter will influence the stability of the buttercream.
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  • I doubt you can separate the effect of the butter (i.e. I suspect the answer would be a function of butter content, considering the limiting cases). I wouldn't mind being proved wrong though, and I think the question is interesting (+1). – Chris H Nov 6 '18 at 17:47
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Sugar is used to dissolve the egg whites and the protein film on the surface of the air bubbles (source).

Looking at meringue ratio recommendations, here is what I found.

By varying the amount of sugar in the final mix, you control how hard or soft the final meringue will be. As a general rule, add a total of 1/4 cup of granulated or superfine sugar for each egg white. Do not make meringues that have less than 2 tablespoons of sugar per egg white. If you use any less, the foam will not set and the meringue will shrink.

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