Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Meringue Cake with Strawberries &Cream

I saw a strawberry bed in a flower catalog that is a triple decker strawberry bed. The design is just like a three-tiered wedding cake with the top layer being the smallest, sitting on the second layer that is bigger, and both of these sitting on the last layer that is the biggest. It looks just like the one in this picture. What you may not see is that there is a sprinkler system in this set-up also. I was thinking that the addition of round rock to the outside of the beds would be a perfect deterant for slugs ~ along with slug bait, of course =0).

I am grateful that even with all the crazy, cold weather, my spring bulbs still managed to survive. I think a peaceful afternoon should always consist of a stroll through your flowers. The fragileness and beauty is always so uplifting. Dinner instantly goes from leftovers to making something a little more innovative. . .even if that means a fresh casserole. And then there is dessert.

I love strawberries. The plump berries colored bright red, the pretty green stem, the memory of how sweet and fresh they taste always gets to me the minute I walk into the grocery store for something I just have to have for a dinner ingredient. I notoriously end up walking out of the store with at least a quart package of beautiful berries. The problem? By the time I get to the berries for making a dessert, exhaustion sets in and I just figure that I will make something with them tomorrow night. . .only. . .tomorrow night never comes. Then the berries are sitting in the refrigerator, taunting me! Can I get away with wasting them just this once? Nope, my conscience is kicking me in the rear-end! I plug in the Ipod, blank out the soon-to-be distant memory of vegging on the couch for the last 2 hours before bed and get to work. What will I bake with these delectable berries? A meringue Cake! I have had this recipe sitting in my recipe holder for months, waiting for the right berries AND TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT!

I slice my berries, and I would now like to say that they are delicious, juicy, AND beautiful! I then mix up the cake batter and pour the thick concoction into my prepared cake pans, smooth the batter out, and whip up the meringue. I smooth out my meringue so that my freshly whipped heavy cream will have a wonderful pallette to rest on while holding the strawberry slices. Now I am wondering why I didn't make this earlier in the week? The recipe didn't take that long, even with me improvising, like I always do =0).

The cake is moist and the meringue is perfectly crunchy on the outside with a soft, sweet interior. The heavy cream is only the thickest, organic heavy cream I could find at Pike's Place Market in Seattle. The recipe came from and the recipe was put together by none other then ME =0D.

Meringue Cake with Strawberries & Cream
4 large egg yolks
1 c. sifted cake flour
1 t. baking powder
1/8 t. salt (just give the ingredients a dusting)
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 c. granulated white sugar
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/4 c. milk

Meringue Layer:
4 large egg whites
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1/2 c. granulated white sugar
1/2 t. pure vanilla extract

1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 T. granulated white sugar
1 pound fresh strawberries, sliced (Add a little sugar if necessary)
Confectioners Sugar (powdered or icing) for dusting top of cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Grease and flour two - 8 x 1 1/2 inches (20 x 3.75 cm) round cake pans. Set aside.

Separate the eggs while they are still cold, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl. Cover the two bowls with plastic wrap and allow the eggs to come to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes).

In a mixing bowl sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in the vanilla extract.

With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans, smoothing the tops with an offset spatula. Set aside while you make the meringue layer.
In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Divide the meringue between the two cake pans, gently smoothing the tops with an offset spatula. Bake for approximately 25 - 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. The meringue layers will have turned a light brown and will be crisp to the touch but soft inside. Place the pans on a wire rack to cool. When completely cooled, remove from pans.

Shortly before serving whip the cream with the sugar until soft peaks form. Slice the strawberries and, if necessary, add a little sugar to sweeten them. Place one of the cake layers, meringue side down, on a serving platter. Spread or pipe half of the whipping cream onto the cake and top with half the strawberries. Gently place the second cake layer, cake side down so the meringue layer is facing up, onto the first layer. Spread or pipe the rest of the whipping cream and then strawberries on top of the meringue. Dust with confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar. If not eating immediately, cover and place in the refrigerator until serving time. The assembled cake will hold in the refrigerator for a few hours.

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