A cake without any cake — now that’s some serious fun. This has got to be the most unusual cake I’ve ever made, but, please, if you love me . . . or if you’ve ever loved me . . . or if you think you could love me, please go make this recipe. Make it; eat it; share it; or just eat it all alone in the closet and don’t tell a soul. Whatever you do — please try this. Dramatic? Well, yes, I’ve been accused of such, but a liar? Not as far as I know, so trust me on this one. Grant and my father-in-law each ate some today and both claimed that this is a new favourite, and that it’s now, brace yourself, in their top 10 desserts of all time. I have to agree with them, because it’s simply that good; strange and unique, but out-of-this-galaxy good.
I was yearning to try something totally different than a classic, or even not-so-classic, layer cake — I wanted to put a toe or two outside my comfort zone, and this was a great way to go. I am a meringue lover, no question, and I love it in every form: freshly whipped, piped and baked, fluffed into buttercream, piled high and browned on pretty much any pie, and well, now as cake layers. For those of you who haven’t experienced the simple delightfulness of baked meringue, it tastes sweet and light, and becomes airy, crispy, and biscuit-like, but completely and utterly melts in your mouth.
As a cake layer in this dessert, you get 3 layers of this amazing taste and texture, sandwiching the fluffiest, creamiest, and most flavourful mascarpone/whipped cream/Creme de Cacao filling, and then, oh, and then, layers of rich, dark, truffle-textured chocolate ganache swirled in between it all. How could a dessert not be decadent with 2 cups of mascarpone? If you’re not familiar with it, mascarpone is an Italian triple-cream cheese that you can buy here in Canada in small containers, usually alongside the ricotta cheese. It is quite costly, though, but it’s richness and flavour are worth the price, in my opinion (if you’ve eaten Tiramisu, you’ve likely had mascarpone.). How did this cake come to be? Well, I came across a recipe from celebrated Canadian chef, Lucy Waverman, with this combination of ingredients, but structured as a rectangular dessert with paper thin layers. It was a recipe in the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) Food & Drink magazine from Holiday 1999 — a total hidden gem for recipes. Love it. Who knew going to the liquor store could inspire so many great desserts?
I just couldn’t resist building it layer-cake-style. For such a quirky and almost messy looking dessert, I love how clean it serves. Sounds funny, but it brought me a tremendous amount of joy to cut into it and see how easily it slices, and then how dry it leaves the doily. That may sound odd, but these things do matter to me, particularly when serving a dessert at a dinner table full of guests. I find people pay some serious attention to the unveiling of the inside of a dessert. It’s a funny observation, but I really have noticed this, so how something serves is all part of the appeal for me.
“Who me? True, I do have ganache on my chin, but no, I have no idea how it got there.”
Something tells me that this is her celebratory “Woohoo! My mama’s a baking blogger!” giggle.
I mentioned in my last post that I’m cutting out the sugar for a bit, to prepare for bikini season, and of course to stay as healthy as possible, but after taking a test bite of this cake, I literally gave up dinner so I could eat the rest of the piece. A fact that I’m not sure I’m proud of, and I know I’m no role-model, but truthfully, it was completely worth it — this cake is like nothing I’ve ever eaten. Even though it’s far from German, I find it reminiscent of the cakes we used to serve at the authentic German bakery I used to work at when I was a teenager — the bakery that I hold personally responsible for my obsession with cake.
I hope you fall in love with this cake too, and what a fun change for Easter dinner, flourless Passover dessert, or even just for a unique option for anytime at all.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Mascarpone Meringue Cake
For the Meringue Layers:
- 12 egg whites 360 g, room temperature
- 2-1/2 cups 500 g granulated sugar
- pinch salt
For the Ganache:
- 18 oz 510 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 cups 480 ml heavy cream
For the Mascarpone Cream Filling
- 1 cup 240 ml whipping cream (35%)
- 2 tablespoons 30 g granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup 120 ml Creme de Cacao (or other chocolate flavoured clear liqueur)
- 2 cups 500 g softened mascarpone cheese
For the Meringue Layers:
Preheat oven to 250°F and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using an 8-inch round cake pan, trace three circles onto the parchment.
Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and some vinegar or lemon juice, to eliminate grease. Using whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt until foamy. Add sugar, slowly, and continue beating until it reaches glossy, stiff peaks.
Using a small offset palette knife, spread an even layer (apprx 1.5" thick) of meringue over your each of the circle outlines. Bake for approximately 2.5 hours, or until dry and crisp, rotating pans every 20 minutes. Then leave in turned-off oven for another 60 minutes. *Depending on humidity in your kitchen and variance in ovens, this may take quite a bit longer to bake the meringue. You want to ensure that they are dry all the way through, so as long as they are not browning, you can keep baking them. Remove from oven and leave on tray in cool, dry area, until you are ready to use. Layers will likely have expanded slightly when baked. If you can only fit 2 baking sheets in your oven at once, you can bake the third one afterwards.
For the Ganache:
Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat and bring just to a boil (watching very carefully).When the cream has come to a boil, swiftly remove from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute and then whisk until smooth.
Allow it to cool until thick enough to spread, but loose enough that it will spread easily. To thicken, cover and place in refrigerator. To loosen chilled ganache, you can microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring after each one, or place in double boiler for a few moments.
For the Mascarpone Cream Filling:
In cold stainless steel mixing bowl and using the whisk attachment, whip the whipping cream with the sugar until thick. Add Creme de Cacao and whip again until it holds its shape. Place mascarpone cheese in a medium bowl, and fold in the whipped cream mixture.
Assembly of Mascarpone Meringue Cake:
Place first meringue layer on doily or cake round. With a small offset palette knife, spread 1/3 of mascarpone cream filling over layer. With a clean small offset palette knife, spread 1/3 of your ganache over cream.
Repeat using remaining layers, finishing with ganache.
Store cake in refrigerator. Cut using a sharp, non-serrated knife in a gentle sliding motion.
This cake is best eaten within 1-2 days of being made.
[Recipe adapted from Milliennium LCBO Food & Drink Magazine Holiday 1999, by Lucy Waverman]
Good luck & enjoy!