I love meringue with it's crunchy, chewy texture. It's the most forgiving dessert as you can shape it in any way you wish and the more free-flowing, the better. For Valentine's day, use red berries, for Easter, lemon curd and toasted coconut, and in the Fall, roasted figs. And, as desserts go, it's fairly low in calories!
Makes 1 cake and serves 8 or more. Options for a smaller cake below.
For the meringue:
- 8 large egg whites with no yolk, room temperature
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 4 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
- You will need 3 baking sheets, lined with parchment paper
For the mascarpone cream:
- 1 ½ cup mascarpone cream also known as mascarpone cheese
- ¾ cup 2 heavy whipping cream
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 4 Tbls. sugar or to taste
- 2 to 3 cups fresh berries
- 2 Tbls. powdered sugar for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 275ºF.
- Draw 3 circles of approximately 9-inches using a plate as a guide on the parchment-lined sheets. Turn the sheet so the pencil drawing is under the paper.
- In a *clean metal bowl with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites with the salt until they're holding soft peaks but are not stiff. Gently add in the sugar, spoonful after spoonful, still beating, until you've got a bowl full of gleaming, satiny, snowy and fairly stiff meringue.
- Sprinkle the cornstarch, vanilla, and vinegar on top and whisk just to combine.
- Spoon the meringue onto the baking parchments in three equal “blobs”. Use the back of the spoon or spatula to create flat, wavy discs.
- Put the sheet pans into the oven and and bake for 30 minutes. Switch the pans around and bake for another 30 minutes. If they begin to brown, prop a wooden spoon in the oven door to cool the temperature slightly. You want them to stay white.
- Turn the oven off; let meringues stand in closed oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or overnight, until surface is dry and meringues can be lifted from paper without sticking.
Put a Post-it on the oven so that you don’t forget they are in there!
- In a bowl, whisk (or use a beater) the mascarpone cream ingredients just until the mixture forms soft peaks.
- Save the prettiest disc for the top.
- Place a meringue disc on a platter and spread with 1/2 of the mascarpone cream or to taste.
- On top of the cream, sprinkle one third of the berries.
- Place the second disc on top and repeat. Add the third disk and decorate with remaining berries.
- Just before serving, use a sieve to sprinkle cake with powdered sugar.
- *To clean a metal bowl for whipping egg whites, rinse the bowl with hot water and soap and then rinse with white vinegar and wipe the bowl dry with paper towel. On oily bowl or bits of fatty egg yolk will keep whites from whipping.
- The cake can be served immediately and will be crunchy. It can also be chilled for up to two hours. The longer it’s chilled the softer the meringue will be. Both equally delicious.
- Cut with a sharp, thin-bladed knife.
- Pastry cream or lemon curd can be exchanged for mascarpone cream.
- Add 1 to 2 tsp. (or more) instant espresso powder and more sugar (to taste) to the whipped cream. Use the coffee cream as your filling between the meringues.
- For a smaller crowd simply make four smaller discs. The baked meringue freezes well and can be assembled frozen. Freeze two of the discs flat on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Once frozen, wrap with foil and place in a protected area of the freezer. Use the other two for your cake and cut the filling recipe in half.