I’m really happy when someone requests for a chocolate cake. And Jane did just that for her 17th birthday this year.
I knew exactly which cake to bake for her. It was one of those…never baked before but looks extremely good from the recipe and have been bookmarked for ages…kind of cake. Not surprisingly, this cake is one of Pierre Herme’s – the Autumn Meringue Cake. This cake was described as a simple cake that “tantalises, satisfies, and delights your five senses” in Pierre Herme’s cookbook and I’ve no doubt that this cake did just that.
This cake is really simple (and don’t let the long recipe below scare you), although it does require advanced planning since the meringue needs to be in the oven for 2 hours to bake + 8 hours to rest but besides that, it is relatively simple to put together. The way I did the cake was quite different from how it was described and correct me if I’m wrong but I find it rather impossible to create the layers without using a cake ring! I read and re-read the recipe multiple times to find “cake ring” but to no avail. Hence, I’ve decided to adapt the recipe to how I did it instead, which worked very well for me.
Also, believe it or not but I’ve done a couple of glazed cakes before and have always kind of hated doing them as I find it so messy! Little did I realise, after watching a youtube video, that I should be glazing a cake on a metal rack :P I did that this time and it was a huge success. Chocolate glazes just make any chocolate cake look 10 times more exquisite. Who doesn’t like looking at themselves in chocolate? :P
One of the best parts about making the meringues is that I had quite a bit leftover and it just made the perfect excuse for me to make meringue kisses out of the leftover meringue. All I did was to pipe the remaining meringue batter using a round/ star tip and slot a bittersweet chocolate chip inside.
It’s been almost 2 weeks since I had a slice of the cake and I must say that I really miss it. With airy meringue as layers, this cake is quite light and is so perfect after a sumptuous meal. We had steak, chicken wings, tomato rice and salad for dinner and despite that, a number of my Jane’s friends came back for seconds. The next day, my mom looked through the fridge to have another slice of the cake for tea only to realise that the children had wiped the cake clean. Really made my day :)
I’m looking forward to the next time I make this cake!
Here’s a picture of how the layers look like. Pardon the bad picture. The lighting in my house at night is really bad and…I’m not a very good photographer so, ah wells!
Update on 13 May 2014
Just baked the cake again and here’s how the cake looks like just before its glazed.
Autumn Meringue Cake
Adapted from Desserts by Pierre Herme
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1. Position the oven racks by divine the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 250°F or 120°C.
2. On parchment paper, pencil the outline of a 9-inch circle. I find the easiest way to do this is to trace round a cake ring then go over it multiple times until it is dark enough on the other side. As you will need 3 meringue discs for this cake, prepare 3 sheets of parchment paper with the circle drawn.
On a side note, it is important to use good quality parchment paper for meringues since they break easily. I’ve had terrible experiences with the cheaper ones as the entire disc might stick and will definitely break the discs.
3. In an impeccably clean and dry mixing bowl, with a clean and dry whisk, whip the egg whites on high speed until they form soft peaks. Still whipping on high, gradually add half of the sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla essence.
4. Using a large rubber spatula and working delicately to prevent the egg whites from deflating, gradually fold in the remaining sugar.
5. Piping one disc at a time, start by turning over the parchment paper so that the pencil marks are facing down. Using a pastry bag and a plain tip (i used a wilton 12), starting from the middle of the circle, pipe round with light, consistent pressure. The meringue layer should be thin, not more than 1/3 inches high. If there are large gaps between, add just a little bit of meringue using a offset spatula and smooth it out. Continue piping until you have 3 discs on 3 separate parchment papers. I usually pipe until the meringues are just slightly out of the penciled mark. They can be trimmed off later.
On a side note, you can start your pastry bag by using a coupler so that you can change your piping tips. It is likely that you’ll have leftover meringue and it’ll be fun to change tips to play around.
6. If there are any leftover meringues, use a star tip to pipe rosettes or a round tip to pipe pointed mounds. I like my meringues with chocolate so in each, I pressed in a ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chip. As my oven could only fit 3 trays, I piped the meringue kisses all around the discs, wherever there was space. This did not compromise the meringue discs at all.
7. Place the trays in the oven and insert the handle of a wooden spoon into the oven to keep the door slightly ajar. Bake for 1.5 hours to 2 hours, until firm and very lightly caramel coloured. Rotate the trays front and back, and top to bottom 2 to 3 times during the baking period. Turn off the oven and continue to dry out the meringues for another 8 hours (or overnight) in the oven with the door closed.
8. Transfer the meringues to a tabletop and run an offset spatula under the discs carefully to remove them from the paper. If not using immediately, store it in an airtight container with parchment paper between each disc. When stored, the meringues will keep for at least a week.
Chocolate Sauce (used in the mousse and chocolate glaze, see below)
4.5 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup water
1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1. Place all ingredients in a heavy bottomed 2-quart saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
2. Reduce heat to simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens very lightly and coats the back of the spoon. Use the draw-a-line test to check: Dip a wooden spoon into the sauce and draw your finger down the back of the spoon. If the sauce doesn’t run into the track created by your finger, it’s done. This process can take about 10 to 15 minutes. Use the sauce immediately or allow to cool before storing in an airtight container. Chill until needed.
9 oz bittersweet chocolate (I use Guittard gourmet bittersweet)
6 oz (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons Chocolate Sauce (see above)
1 tbsp sugar
1. Melt the chocolate in a metal bowl over (and not touching) simmering water or in a microwave oven. Let the chocolate cool to 104°F, as measured on an instant-read thermometer.
2. In a mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until it is light and fluffy. Lower the speed and add the chocolate in three additions, increasing the speed and beating well after each addition, then lowering it again before the next addition. Beat as much air as possible into this mixture.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the yolks together with the chocolate sauce and add this mixture into the mixing bowl, beating it in well.
4. In a separate clean and dry mixing bowl with a clean and dry whisk attachment, whip the egg whites, then add the sugar and whip until the egg whites hold soft peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, fold a quarter of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then working delicately, fold in the rest of the whites. The mousse is now ready to be used.
1/3 cup heavy cream
3.5 oz bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
4 tsp unsalted butter, softened
7 tbsp chocolate sauce (see above), warm or at room temperature
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove the saucepan from heat and little by little, add the chocolate, stirring the mixture gently with a spatula. As you add more chocolate, continue to stir gently in a circular fashion, gradually increasing the size of the circle. The mixture should be 140°F on an instant-read thermometer. If it is too cool, as is often the case, warm it slightly in a microwave or as I’ve learnt from a recent chocolate class I attended, use a hair dryer, on the hot setting, and blow over the chocolate.
2. Stirring gently, blend in the butter and the chocolate sauce. Before using the glaze, ensure that it is about 114°F to achieve maximum coverage.
1. Using your cake ring as a guide, put the meringue on top of the cake ring and using a sharp knife and a sawing motion, shave off the excess meringue. Do this for all 3 discs.
2. On a cake board (any flat surface that can fit in the fridge will work. Line with parchment paper), place the cake ring in the middle. Place one meringue disc, flat side down in the cake ring (I found it unnecessary to “glue” the first layer down since it’ll be removed later for glazing). Spread about two-fifths of the mousse evenly over the disc using an offset spatula. If the meringue discs break, glue together with a little mousse.
3. Place a second meringue disc in the cake ring and then another two-fifths of mousse. Spread the mousse evenly using an offset spatula. Top with the remaining disc and spread the rest of the mousse over the top of the cake, until the cake ring is completely filled.
4. Refrigerate the cake until the mousse firms, about 2 hours. If you’re living in a hot country like me, refrigerate the cake for much longer, about 4 hours, to ensure that the cake is firm before glazing. At this point, the cake can be kept, covered with plastic, and refrigerated for up to 4 days.
5. Place a wire rack on parchment paper or anything else to catch the chocolate glaze drips. Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Run an offset spatula underneath the cake to loosen it from the cake board. Using 2 offset spatulas/ knives/ cake knives, lift the cake to the wire rack. Using a hair dryer on a hot setting, blow close to the cake ring all around. The cake ring should slip off the cake easily.
6. Make sure that the glaze is at the right temperature (about 140°F) before using. Start pouring the glaze in a slow, steady stream starting from the sides of the cake, ensuring that the glaze flowing down covers the sides adequately. Pour the rest of the glaze in the middle of the cake, coating everything. Using both hands, lift the wire rack and tap it gently on the table to ensure that the excess glaze drips down. Sliding a couple of metal spatulas back under the cake, lift the cake and place on a cake stand/ cake board. It helps to have another person helping. You can serve the cake now or place in the refrigerator to set. If the cake has been refrigerated for 6 hours or more, it is good to give it a 1-hour rest at room temperature before serving.