March 23, 2011

Tiramisù Meringue Cake

Last week, we continued the accidental tradition of inventing a new dessert in honor of Brian’s birthday. He began brainstorming weeks in advance, starting out somewhere around chocolate mint whoopie pies and ending up at dacquoise. Brian said he wanted something like a cake but with more texture, remembering the layered Doberge; cake we had at a Mardi Gras party. From there, we got around to dacquoise because I thought the meringue would provide the consistency he was looking for. The decision finally came down to the fact that we had some mascarpone we needed to use. He was glad to relinquish control over his birthday dessert to give me a chance to experiment. Happily, it turned out to be just what Brian wanted – a nice combination of creamy and firm and some of his favorite flavors. I was surprised by how much it resembled tiramisù – the flavors, though rearranged, had a similar effect. The major difference was that, unlike soaked ladyfingers, the meringue retained most of its original texture, softening just enough from the moisture in the filling to be perfectly fork-friendly.

A note about the name: The resulting recipe is technically not dacquoise, since I ended up not using any nuts in the meringue, so we decided “meringue cake” would be more appropriate.

Tiramisù Meringue Cake

Note: Because the meringue needs time to dry and the final cake needs time to set in the freezer, it’s best to make the meringue a day or two in advance.

for the meringue (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
¾ cup sugar
4 egg whites
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 ounces dark chocolate (preferably 60% cacao)

for the filling 8 ounces mascarpone
3 egg yolks
⅓ cup sugar + 2 tablespoons sugar
1¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons (1½ ounce) espresso (or strong coffee), chilled

for the glaze
2 ounces dark chocolate (preferably 60% cacao)
1 teaspoon butter
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

for the meringue
With racks in upper- and lower-middle positions, heat oven to 225°F. Line 2 half-sheet baking pans with parchment paper. Draw two 8-inch circles on each sheet of parchment paper and turn over.

Break chocolate into pieces and chop very finely, or pulse in a food processor until finely chopped. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together sugar and cornstarch.

In stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites, vanilla, and salt on high speed until soft peaks just begin to form (about 30-45 seconds). Reduce to medium speed and add sugar mixture in a slow, steady stream. Scrape down bowl and return mixer to high speed.

Beat until stiff, glossy peaks are formed (30-45 seconds).

Gently fold in chocolate.
Drop ¼ of meringue in the center of each of the 4 circles. Use an offset spatula in a circular motion to evenly spread meringue to the edges of the circles. Smooth the tops.
Bake for 1 to 1½ hours until meringues are dry, rotating the sheet pans (top to bottom and front to back) after 30 minutes. Turn off oven and, keeping oven door closed, allow meringues to continue drying until cool, another 2 to 3 hours or as long as overnight. If not using immediately, store meringues in two gallon zipper backs, separated by parchment paper. (You can use the same paper used to bake them.)

for the filling
Combine 3 egg yolks and ⅓ cup sugar in the top bowl of a double boiler (or other heatproof bowl). Whisk until yolks are thick and pale yellow. Set over a pot with 1-2 inches of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly until egg mixture is warm and very thick, 5-6 minutes. Set aside to cool, stirring frequently.

Using a handheld mixer (or my personal favorite, an immersion blender with whisk attachment), whip cream. When it begins to thicken, add remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

Stir egg yolk mixture and mascarpone together in a medium bowl. Fold in about ⅓ of whipped cream. Set aside.

Into remaining whipped cream, fold chilled espresso.

to assemble
On a serving plate, spread ⅓ of mascarpone mixture onto 1 round of meringue.
Then spread ⅓ of espresso cream. Top with second meringue round and repeat: ⅓ of mascarpone, ⅓ of espresso cream. Top with third meringue round and remaining ⅓ of mascarpone and espresso cream. Top with fourth meringue round.
for the glaze
Melt chocolate and butter over a double boiler (or in the microwave). Remove from heat and add a small amount of cream until the chocolate reaches desired consistency (depending on whether you prefer to spread or drizzle the chocolate over the cake).

Spread or drizzle the chocolate over the top of the cake.

Allow cake to freeze for at least 2 hours before serving (for easier slicing/serving). If the cake has been in the freezer for more than 8 hours, allow to thaw at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before serving.

If you want to put candles on it, melt some extra chocolate when you remove the cake from the freezer to serve. Drop a small dollop of chocolate for each candle, allow to harden for 20-30 seconds and press candles into chocolate.


domenicacooks said...

Elizabeth, what an incredible dessert. I love the flavors of tiramisu, but don't love ladyfingers (even the fancy expensive ones). However, I DO love meringue. I think this is ingenious and I look forward to trying it. Thanks for posting this recipe. Cheers, Domenica

Elizabeth said...

Thank you so much, Domenica! I'm flattered. When you get a chance to make it, let me know how it turns out!

CiaoFlorentina said...

What a brilliant idea! Tiramisu is my favorite dessert in the world but I've never tried it with meringue. Brilliant!

Lacey said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I was so excited to find yours... my husband will cry tears of joy when I make him this cake. Tiramisu is his hands-down favorite dessert (that, and creme brulee) and I love experimenting with cakes... too good to be true!

Francesca said...

O mamma Liz questa torta sembra proprio spettacolare!!! ti stai dando agli esperimenti sempre più arditi!!! appena ho una giornata di tempo la provo e poi ti faccio sapere....sembra la fine del mondo!

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