Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Meringue Layer Cake

I headed straight to the kitchen as soon as I arrived home from New York this afternoon.  I didn't even unpack...which is very unlike me!  I needed every spare minute I could find in order to have everything ready for my sedar tonight.

Meringues can be tricky to make, but not with this recipe.   You may think it's complicated just from the picture, but there are only 3 steps: making the meringe and then two types of whipped cream.  The recipe in The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook calls for chocolate whipped cream and coffee whipped cream, but I have found that the coffee whipped cream is a bit strong for my taste.  I decided to swap out the coffee whipped cream for plain vanilla whipped cream and was much happier with my choice.  I've also toyed with the idea of using strawberry whipped cream, but haven't gotten to it yet.  I think it would be a nice contrast to the different chocolate flavors in the dish.

Serving the cake can be a bit messy, but don't worry, it tastes better that way.  

Meringue Layer Cake
adapted from The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook by Elinor Klivans


1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips 
Sliced strawberries (for garnish)
Powdered sugar (for garnish)

Meringue Cake

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to fit 2 baking sheets.  Trace three 8-inch circles on the parchment and leave room for another circle (not marked).  Line the baking sheets with the parchment, marked side down.
Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder into a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed until the whites are foamy and the cream of tartar is completely dissolved.  Beat on medium speed until the egg whites look shiny and smooth and the movement of the beaters forms lines in the beaten whites.  The whites should cling to the beaters when you stop the mixer and lift up the beaters.  Slowly beat in the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, then beat for about 1 minute.  Sprinkle the powdered sugar over the egg whites and mix on low speed.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Use a spatula to spread equal amounts of the meringue mixture in each marked circle.  You will use about 3/4 of the mixture for the circles.  Spread the remaining meringue mixture in any shape about 1/2 inch thick on the baking sheet with only one circle.  This meringue will be broken into little pieces after baking to garnish the top of the cake.  

Bake for 1 hour until the meringues feel crisp and dry to the touch.  Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in the oven for 1 hour.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and cool the meringues on baking sheets for about 30 minutes.

Make two types of whipped cream.

Chocolate Whipped Cream
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl in the microwave or using a double boiler.  Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Set aside until completely cooled.  Beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Whisk about 1 cup of the whipped cream into the chocolate until blended.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Coffee Whipped Cream
3/4 cup cold heavy whipping cream
2 tsp. instant coffee powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat the cream, coffee powder, powdered sugar, and vanilla until firm peaks form.

Plain Vanilla Whipped Cream
3/4 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract 

Beat the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until firm peaks form.

Strawberry Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
4Tbsp. processed strawberries (take freshly washed strawberries and pulse in food processor until they become a thick, seedy liquid)

Whip the cream until it looks like whipped cream.  Mix in sugar. Mix in strawberries until just combined.

Spread a tablespoon of one whipped cream in the center of a serving plate to prevent the cake from sliding.  Place a meringue layer smooth side down on the plate.  Use a thin spatula to spread about 1 cup of the first whipped cream evenly over the meringue.

Top with another meringue layer and spread the second type of whipped cream over it.

Top the cake with the remaining meringue layer and spread the remaining of the first type of whipped cream over the top of the cake.

Crush the meringue for the garnish into pieces up to 1/2 inch in size and sprinkle them over the top of the cake.

At this point I've found it best to refrigerate the cake for a few hours before serving.  This helps the meringue soften so it's easier to cut into.

Just before serving, garnish with sliced strawberries if desired, and sift the powdered sugar lightly over the top of the cake.
Use a large sharp knife to cut the cake into slices.  The cake can be covered and refrigerated overnight.

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