Meringue refers to deserts that are made from beaten egg whites and sugar. Some recipes add cream of tartar, cornstarch, or lemon juice to stabilize (bind together) the eggs, and many meringues are flavored with almond, coconut, or vanilla extract. What all meringues have in common, however, is their light and airy texture, fluffy, chiffon-like appearance, and mouth-watering taste. Types of deserts made with meringue include meringue cakes, meringue cookies, and meringue pies (the most popular being lemon meringue pie).
What is a Meringue Cake?
Meringue cakes are comprised of two cake layers (butter cake, sponge cake, or yellow cake), each topped with a golden-brown meringue. After cooling, the two cake layers are sandwiched together around a generous mound of soft whipped cream and berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or slices of peaches or nectarines), which comprise the filling.
Baking a Meringue Cake
To make a basic meringue, follow these instructions:
•1. In a clean bowl, separate eggs whites from egg yolks – preferably when the eggs are still cold. (Visit your local kitchenware store or a specialty baking store to purchase an egg separator, which will make this task easier for you, although experienced bakers often separate eggs without the aid of any tools).
•2. Add 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar per egg white (or another binding agent, as per your recipe).
•3. Beat/whip egg whites by hand or with an electric mixer until they form soft foamy peaks, gradually beating in the sugar.
•4. Continue beating egg whites until stiff peaks form.
•5. Beat in vanilla extract.
For a meringue cake, divide the meringue between the two cake layers, smoothing with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean or until the meringue turns golden brown and is crisp on the outside yet soft on the inside. Remove from oven to cool. The result is melt-in-your-mouth meringue cake, ready to be devoured.
Assembling a Meringue Cake
The experts recommend waiting to add the filling (whipped cream and strawberries or other berries) until shortly before serving (freezing/covering the baked cake layers until then). To assemble a meringue cake, place the first layer, meringue side up, on a serving platter; spread whipped cream and berries evenly on top; place the second cake layer, meringue side up, on top of the first layer. Dust top with powdered sugar (icing sugar), cover, and chill until serving time.
Types of Meringue Cakes
Here are but a few of the many types of meringue cakes you can find in your favorite recipe book or on the Internet: Chocolate Meringue Cake, Strawberry and Hazelnut Meringue Cake, Pineapple Meringue Cake, Peppermint Meringue Cake with Chocolate Buttercream, Chocolate Cinnamon Hazelnut Meringue Cake.
Meringue Baking Tip
To prevent meringues from cracking, do not open the oven door until at least half of the baking time has elapsed.