Hello, my friends!
So there’s a series of words I never imagined using in the same sentence: chocolate, beet, cake, meringue, and Barbie! But yes. Oh yes. Now it just seems perfectly natural–necessary even–to combine them all.
As a child of the 70s, I’m no stranger to doll cakes, but I have never had the joy of making one, particularly one of this magnitude. That was until I came across the recipe in a new baking book I absolutely adore: Meringue Girls: Incredible Sweets Everybody Cake Make by Alex Hoffler and Stacey O’Gorman. What a visual delight! I’ve always been a meringue enthusiast, but I have to say that these girls have taken meringues, and all things meringue, to an entirely new level.
So if the cover doesn’t have you giddy, the recipes and images throughout the book are sure to. And while the cover of a cookbook can sometimes be a little misleading, in this case the entire book lives up to the awesome package: it’s filled to the brim with unique, vibrant, and easy to follow meringue recipes and useful techniques for foolproof meringue (we’ve all had our fair share of meringue mishaps, no?). As you probably know, I’m a meringue enthusiast, but even for those of you who haven’t ventured too far down meringue lane, I have a feeling this book will inspire you more than you might expect.
The “Meringue Girls” take us through the basics first–making the perfect batch of meringue every time, countless flavouring ideas (think Hot Cross Bun, Manuka Honey, Lavender, and more), and super-awesome colouring techniques, like “striping,” as I did here with the Barbie Cake meringue “kisses,” as they call them. They then delight us through different chapters of unexpected and irresistible meringue recipes, such as the cutest rainbow cake in the universe–the Meringue Rainbow Cake, the decadent Ferrero Rocher Meringue Tower, the unbelievably tempting Honeycomb, Chocolate, Salted Peanut Meringues (um, hello!), and so much more. Can you tell I’m totally smitten with this book?
So I went for it. I embarked upon the intriguing Chocolate and Beet Barbie Cake. I mean, how could I not? The colours, the quirkiness, the nostalgia, oh my! Sure, it did seem like a bit of an undertaking but, well, I’ve been known to frolic with such recipes before, right? And I love a challenge. But in the end, it was more joy than challenge. I had so much fun creating this cake–for obvious reasons–but I think the best part about it was that it was like nothing I’ve ever done, or seen, before. I love that. I had to give it a whirl! (And as a mom of two little girly cakelets, I’d never be forgiven if I didn’t choose this recipe to start.)
So this Barbie and meringue extravaganza is essentially two layers of a very rich chocolate and beet cake–one baked in a regular flat round cake pan, and the other “layer” baked in a rounded bowl (you could also use a contour cake pan if you have it), and then filled and frosted with a luscious whipped cream and cream cheese icing, and then decorated with a rainbow of stripy meringue kisses that literally melt in your mouth–one of the reasons I can’t get enough baked meringue of any kind. Oh, and of course we can’t forget that Barbie is perched upon this delightful “skirt” for everyone to admire. So fun!
See, even Barbie says “ta-da!” She’s impressed with the fanciful candy-coloured skirt I made her. (That was only after she forgave me for, um, cutting off her legs . . . ouch!). I was searching for more of a retro Barbie, but I was pleased with her blue and purple bodice so I went for her, even though she’s more of a circa 1999 variety. It was, however, sometime around the moment I was styling her hair for this cake that I realized that I am officially never allowed to complain about my job. Let’s just say no two days are the same.
Needless to say, the cake was so visually pleasing and incredibly decadent. I absolutely love the whipped cream and cream cheese icing–light as air, but with a rich and creamy texture and tang that only cream cheese brings. It paired nicely with the intensity of the chocolate cake and sweetness of the meringues. This is one of those cakes that pleases adults just as much as kids, I’m sure, which makes it a perfect party cake for anyone. ♥
And if that wasn’t exciting enough, I’m thrilled to giveaway 3 copies of this gorgeous and unique book, Meringue Girls: Incredible Sweets Everybody Cake Make, courtesy of the folks at Chronicle Books!
Here’s the recipe for this whimsical cake!
- For the Meringue Girls Mixture (for the meringue kisses):
- 300 g (1 1/2 cups) superfine sugar
- 150 g egg whites (from about 5 eggs)
- For the Cake:
- 1 2/3 cups vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
- 2 3/4 cups (350 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 cups (450 g) superfine sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (150 g) good-quality dark cocoa powder
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1 lb cooked and peeled beets
- 6 eggs
- For the Icing:
- 1 1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp heavy cream
- 1 3/4 cups (400 g) cream cheese
- 1/4 cup (25 g) confectioners' sugar
- 1 Barbie doll (clothes and legs removed)
- Barbie accessories
- For the meringue (for the meringue kisses):
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, pour in the sugar, and put the baking sheet in the oven for about 5 minutes, until the edges of the sugar are just beginning to melt. Heating the sugar will help it dissolve in the egg whites more quickly and help create a glossy, stable mixture.
- Meanwhile, make sure the bowl and whisk attachment of your stand mixer are free from grease. Pour the egg whites into the bowl. Whisk on low speed at first, allowing small bubbles to form, then increase the speed to high and continue whisking until the egg whites form stiff peaks and the bowl can be tipped upside down without the whites falling out. Stop whisking just before the whites take on a cotton-woolly appearance; if they do, they have been over whisked, and the egg protein has lost some of its elasticity.
- By now, the sugar should be ready to take out of the oven.
- With the whites stiff and while whisking again at high speed, add one big tablespoonful of hot sugar after another to the bowl ensuring that the whites come back up to stiff peaks after each addition. Don't worry about small clumps of sugar, but avoid adding large chunks of caramelized sugar from the edges of the baking sheet.
- Once you have added the sugar, continue to whisk on high speed for 5 to 7 minutes. Rub a bit of the mixture between your fingers, and if you can still feel gritty sugar, keeping whisking at high speed until the sugar has dissolved, the mixture is smooth, and the bowl is a bit cooler to the touch. The meringue will continue to thicken up during this stage. You know it is ready to use when it forms a nice smooth, shiny peak on the tip of your upturned finger.
- To make striped mini meringue kisses:
- Divide the meringue mixture into six portions. Form each portion into mini striped kisses in the color of your choice. (It's fine to pipe more than one color onto a single baking sheet.) Turn a large disposable piping bag with a 3/4 inch opening, or a reusable one, inside out. Invert the bag over a jug or bottle so that it holds itself up. Using natural food coloring and a clean paintbrush, paint wide stripes from the tip of your piping bag to halfway down (about five stripes). Roll the bag so the painted side is inside, folding the edges over to make a sturdy vessel.
- Carefully spoon your meringue mixture into the piping bag, rolling the sides up. you need to pack the meringue in tightly, ensure there are no air bubbles. Pinch the top of the bag closed, gently pushing the mixture in.
- If using a disposable piping bag, with sharp scissors, but the tip of the bag so that the opening measures 3/4 inch in diameter.
- To the get the meringue mixture flowing, twist the top of the piping bag to push the meringue to the bottom. Pipe small dollops onto the four corners of your baking sheets (if you are using a full batch of Meringue Girls Mixture, you will need a couple of baking sheets). Line the baking sheets with parchment paper; the meringue dollops with act as a glue and stick the paper to the sheets.
- Piping the mini meringue kisses:
- Hold the piping bag vertically with both hands, securing the twisted top with your dominant hand and placing your other hand halfway down the bag. Use the top hand to apply pressure and the lower hand to control the flow of the meringue. Squeeze the bag to form a kiss with a 1-inch base, and then lift the bag up while releasing some pressure so that the meringue forms a peak at the top. Space the kisses about 3/4 inch apart.
- Position racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Slide the baking sheets into the oven Bake for 20 minutes, or until they can be lifted off the parchment paper with their bases intact. Let cool completely on the baking sheets. Stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, the kisses will keep for up to 2 weeks.
- To make the cake:
- Turn up the oven temperature to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch springform pan and the line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease an 8-inch ovenproof bowl (about 10 inches deep) and line it with parchment paper.
- Sift the flour, superfine sugar, cocoa powder, and baking powder into a large bowl. Cut the beets into large chunks and add to a blender along with the eggs and oil. Puree until smooth. Pour the beet mixture into the dry ingredients and fold until combined.
- Pour one-half of the batter into the prepared springform pan and the remaining batter into the prepared bowl. Bake the cakes for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes, then invert the cakes out of the pan and bowl onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment and let cool completely.
- To make the icing:
- In a large bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks, then add the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar. Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth and stiff.
- Bling out your Barbie however you'd like--goth or glam, it's up to you.
- Set the flat cake layer (the one baked in the springform pan) on a cake platter. Spread with about 1 cup of icing in an even layer. Set the bowl-shaped cake on top, tapered-end up. Using a knife, trim the stacked cake to form a nice hoop-skirt shape.
- With a long, slender knife (such as a bread knife), cut a 2-inch deep hole in the center of the cake and insert Barbie to just below her waist. Spread the remaining icing over the cake, taking care to work around Barbie.
- Carefully place meringue kisses on the cake, arranging on color at a time in a row around Barbie, starting at her waist and working down. Press the kisses lightly into the icing so that they stick and form a beautiful, colorful meringue-kiss skirt.
- For my meringue colours, I used AmeriColor gel paste colours in Lemon Yellow, Teal, Soft Pink, Regal Purple, and Sky Blue. The recipe does call for “natural” food colouring, which I didn’t have, but you can certainly use those if you do. Because we use quite a bit to stripe the meringues, it would definitely be a great idea, but of course not crucial. You can make the meringues up to 2 weeks ahead, which is really helpful with a cake like this.
- For the 8-inch flat cake layer, I used a standard 8 x 2-inch round cake pan, and it worked well!
- Try to find a Barbie with plastic bodice, since having any article of clothing around the icing could get icky.
- Have fun with this–it is like reliving childhood, but stylish and quirky. ♥
Good luck & enjoy!