Between my normal frantic baking, plus testing for various sources and the holidays, I wasn’t sure I was going to get to the latest BakeTogether challenge. Plus, I’m kind of done with peppermint… and anything that takes much more effort that throwing some things in a bowl and pouring it into a baking pan (see: Stump de Noel). But I just couldn’t resist – I haven’t missed a challenge yet and it would have been a letdown to skip one.
I had a couple ideas for the cake and jotted them down late one night, only to have them disappear off of my computer the next day. I know there was something with Meyer lemon and white chocolate (I love white chocolate in a cake). Another idea was to replicate a favorite cocktail from Barbados, a Corn n’ Oil, using falernum and rum.
I resorted to something fairly simple – a black forest cake, adding almond extract to the meringue, soaking the cake in a Kirsch syrup, and layering cherries in there, too. I boiled down the juice from the strained cherries and added it to the buttercream in place of corn syrup, but the chocolate flavor was too strong. Cherry extract would have been nicer.
The primary component we loved about this cake is the meringue. When it was all done and we had a slice, it was good – but I commented that I should have just made layers of meringue with buttercream sandwiched in between. We had an extra chunk of meringue to snack on since I forgot to add the third one in to the cake (whoops!). If you make this – do the meringues first, because they need to sit in the oven for a few hours and then cool down before they can be used in the cake.
Black Forest Meringue Cake
Adapted from: Abby Dodge
Makes 12-14 servings
For the meringue layers:
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup superfine sugar
Pinch table salt
3 whites from large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
For the chocolate cake:
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) all purpose flour
1/4 cup (3/4 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch table salt
2 large eggs
Yolks from 2 large eggs (these can be saved from the meringue whites)
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 14.5-oz. can sweet cherries, drained (save the drained juice)
For the chocolate buttercream:
24 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Kirsch
Pinch table salt
For the syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Kirsch
To make the meringue layers:
1. Position oven rack in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 175°F. Using a pencil, trace three 12 x 4 inch rectangles on a parchment sheet leaving about 1 inch between. Invert the parchment, pencil side down, and line a baking sheet. At this low temp, the meringue takes a long time to cook but it’s the only way to ensure white layers (which I feel is important for the finished visual). On the upside, it’s completely hands-free time and the meringue is easy to make and spread.
2. Sift together the confectioners’ sugar, superfine sugar, and salt. In a stand mixer fitted with wire whip, mix on medium low until frothy and well blended. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the whites form soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Continue beating while gradually adding the sifted sugars. When all the sugar is added, increase speed to high and whip until firm, glossy peaks form, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and add the vanilla and almond extracts. Beat until blended, about 10 seconds.
3. Divide the meringue evenly between the rectangles (about 1 cup each). Using a small offset spatula, spread the meringue in a even layer within the lines (about 1/2 inch thick). Don’t worry if the edges aren’t perfect – they will be trimmed after baking.
4. Bake the meringues until dried and crisp but not browned, about 3 hours. Turn off the oven and let the meringues cool completely.
5. Carefully lift the meringues off the parchment. Using a small, sharp knife and a sawing motion, carefully trim each rectangle to measure 12 x4 inches. Assemble the cake or store the meringue layers in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
To make the chocolate cake:
1. Position oven rack in the middle of the oven. Heat oven to 350. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 8 1/2 x 12 inch jelly roll pan (this is a quarter sheet pan) with 1-inch sides and line the bottom with parchment. Lightly dust the sides with flour, tapping out any excess.
2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and yolks until pale and foamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until thick enough to form a ribbon, about 3 minutes. Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture and using a rubber spatula, gently fold until just blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and, using an offset spatula, spread evenly.
3. Bake until the top springs back when gently touched, about 15 minutes. Let cool on rack about 15 to 20 minutes. Run a small knife around the pan to loosen the cake. Invert onto a wire rack and carefully peel off the paper. Let the cake cool completely.
4. Using a serrated knife, cut the cake into two 12 x4 inch rectangles. (the layers can be used immediately or wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days before assembling.)
To make the chocolate buttercream:
1. Cook the reserved cherry juice in a small pan over medium heat until reduced to about 2 tablespoons syrup. Melt the chocolate, cream, butter and cherry syrup in a large bowl. (I use the microwave but an improvised double boiler works fine too.) Add the vanilla, Kirsch and salt and whisk until well blended and smooth. Set aside, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to spread. For faster cooling, set the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice, stirring and scraping the sides frequently until room temperature (it will be thick enough to spread). Buttercream can be made up to 1 day ahead and stowed at room temperature or up to 4 days ahead and stowed in the refrigerator. Bring back to room temperature before assembling cake.
To make the syrup:
1. In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved and it comes to a boil. Slide the pan from the heat and stir in the Kirsch. Set aside to cool completely. (Can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days before assembling the cake).
To assemble the cake:
1. Using your hands, brush away excess crumbs from the trimmed meringue and cake layers. Put a few small daps of buttercream down the center of a rectangular, flat serving plate or board and carefully arrange one meringue layer, topside up, on plate. To protect the plate from frosting smears, slip small strips of foil or parchment paper between the bottom layer and the plate. Using a small, offset metal spatula, spread about 3/4 cups of buttercream evenly over the layer. Layer half the cherries on top of the buttercream, pressing down to keep in place. Place a cake layer, top side down, on the buttercream. Be sure the sides are aligned and then gently press down on the top layer. Brush generously with the syrup. Spread with 3/4 cup of the buttercream and top with a meringue layer, top side up. Spread with another 3/4 cups of buttercream and then the other half of the cherries. Place the final cake layer, top side down and press down gently. Brush generously with the syrup. Spread with 3/4 cup of the buttercream and top with a meringue layer, top side down (for a nice flat finish).
2. Scoop out and reserve about 3/4 cup of the remaining buttercream and set aside. Spread a thin layer of the remaining frosting over the entire cake to seal in any crumbs and fill in any gaps between layers with frosting. Wait about 5 minutes (chill, if possible) and coat the top and sides evenly with the remaining frosting leaving a smooth finish.
To Garnish: Garnish the top with piped small dollops of remaining buttercream down the center, shaved white chocolate, or white chocolate shards (use 3 oz. melted white chocolate and this method to make shards).
Refrigerate the cake at least 6 hours or up to 2 days. The cake is best when served slightly chilled but not cold.
- Black Forest Meringue Cake (adapted from Abby Dodge)