For each cake that I bring in the office, people always say ‘That’s it, you just can’t top that!’, every time. And so it was the same today with this creation. It actually is quite a simple thing to do (and it actually wasn’t technically perfect!) and really has the wow factor. What I love about cakes is a balance of crunch and creaminess, textures and contrasting flavours, and this really does the trick!
So what is it? Layers of meringues, sandwiched with a chocolate ganache and topped with whipped cream flavoured with vanilla. I decided to have two large meringue discs and top then with smaller meringues on top – could have done three discs, but I had to go across town in public transport with it and figured the smaller meringues would have more chances of surviving the Tube.
The success of this cake is to understand this basic fact about meringues – they are very susceptible to humidity, and so it’s important to let them dry as much as possible. Meringues should be baked at a low temperature – the principle is more to dry the mixture than bake it, let all moisture evaporate and avoid coloration. The best tip is to leave them to cool and dry in the oven overnight (and turn the oven off too!). You will wake up to perfect meringues, ready for use. If you don’t want to use them straight away, they will keep well for a week in an hermetic box.
So if attempting this cake, remember that you should make your meringue at least the day before you want to serve it.
you will need
- 300g egg whites
- 600g caster sugar
OR the ratio is simple, double the weight of your egg whites – you don’t have to make a cake for 20 people after all if this is for a smaller gathering!
Note: if you just want to make a meringue, you can use packaged egg whites – it does cut a few corners (although corners, eggs!?).
What to do
- Pre-heat your oven when you start working – 100 degrees celsius.
- Whip up your egg whites until getting firm (best at room temperature), then add your caster sugar while whipping, in three equal goes. This will allow the mixture to take without ‘compromising’ too much the air going in the whites. You should whip for at least 5 minutes (and a Kitchenaid mixer will make the job ever easier if you do have one). The end result will be a very firm, very glossy mix.
- Spoon on a baking sheet (no greasing required), or pipe it for a fancier result – I piped rounds of about 30 cms in diameter and gave them a fancy edging.
- Bake in the oven for 1 hour. You can test the result by gently prodding the meringue, it should feel solid, not squishy. Now for the most important.
- Leave to cool overnight in the oven.
Chocolate ganache is the purest expression of rich indulgence. It’s the stuff that elevates a simple dessert to patisserie level – the chocolateness is so intense, yet delicate, and its melt-in-the-mouthness is borderline crazy-inducing. And yet, it’s hard to think of a simpler recipe for it. Again, the ratio is important, but easy to remember: same weight of chocolate and cream. The finish will also depend on how long you leave the ganache to cool/ stand – it will be perfect to start using quite oozy after 1 hour, but after a day, it will be quite hard. You typically use whipping cream or double cream, but if you are going to make the mix ahead of time, I would favour single cream, as the ganache will go quite solid and be harder to work if using heavier cream (which is what I have done, so although it was absolutely heavenly tasting, it doesn’t quite have that oozy finish when assembling the cake that is just, well, plain sexy). So for this meowssive cake monster, I used:
- 450g dark chocolate
- 450g double cream
What to do:
- Cut your chocolate in small pieces (or use chocolate chips).
- Heat up your cream until just about to boil.
- Pour over your chocolate.
- Leave to sit for ten minutes to allow the chocolate to melt.
- stir until smooth and glossy.
- leave to cool for about an hour.
Stretching this to 6 steps is really over-detailing it – you could just sum it up by heat cream, pour over chocolate, stir… easy of what?
Whipped vanilla cream
Again with the easy and pretty spectacular… and preparation makes the difference. When whipping cream, it’s best for it to be as cold as possible – so straight from the fridge, or even have it for 20 minutes beforehand in the freezer. This will help it build quicker and bigger. The other great tip that I fell in love with is from the ever so experienced Mary Berry, who recommends using whole fat yoghurt as part of the mix. It makes the lot a little lighter (and boy do we need that!), but also adds a slight tanginess that just lifts the mix. I used:
- 500ml double cream
- 250ml plain greek yoghurt
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla paste
What to do
1. Stick the lot in a bowl and whip, it, whip it good!
Seriously, this is all you have to do, until it forms slight firm mixture – maybe 3 minutes, 5 minutes max? You don’t want to overdo it and end up with sweet butter!
And so there you have your three components, and all that’s left is assemble the lot….
- Spread the ganache on each meringue base
- spoon half of your whipped cream and roughly even it out on your cake
- layer second meringue base already covered in ganache (if you do the ganache at this stage and it’s a bit hard, you risk breaking the meringue)
- spoon the rest of the whipped cream.
- decorate with smaller meringues.
Serve immediately – the meringues will start absorbing the moisture in the ganache if you leave it out too long and go softer the longer you leave them.
Originally, I wanted to add some praline bits to this cake, but I ran out of time as the caramel wasn’t cool before I had to leave the house for kids school run. You could also sprikle it with cocoa powder on top, but I just ran out of time…
More on pralines to come later…
Meringue – pretty easy
Chocolate ganache – easy
Whipped cream – dead easy
The whole lot together = pretty spectacular!