I've always loved meringues - obviously I love the eating of them but I love making them too. Maybe it's something to do with being brought up in Australia, where baking reputations are made (or can fall) upon the quality of one's pavlova and an appreciate of our national dish is practically law. It's amazing that the humble egg white can be transformed into so many different meringue variations with the simple addition of sugar (and a few other ingredients for something fancy). Once you've got the knack of making meringues it becomes easy peasy - it took me about 10 minutes to make the meringue mix for this cake, from cracking the eggs to putting the tins in the oven. I know baking is all about science but it's still magical to me that a tasty cake is the result.
My top meringue tips are similar to most of the others you'll read. Make sure there's not a trace of yolk with the whites, clean and dry your bowl and whisks thoroughly and add the sugar gradually and continuously after soft peaks form. My other top tip is to add a teaspoon of cream of tartar to the egg whites before you start whisking - just sprinkle it on and it'll add stability and volume. Adding vinegar also helps to stabilise them but these additional ingredients are by no means essential. It'll just help things along by altering the pH of the egg whites to prevent them from deflating.
This is kind of a summery cake that's not too sweet and a good standby recipe when you have leftover egg whites or just fancy making a light dessert cake. I'd really recommend using coconut flakes instead of desiccated coconut as it gives a better crunch (I got mine from Real Foods). The original recipe called for chopped hazelnuts, so you could use these or flaked almonds instead if you don't like coconut with a vanilla essence however it would be lovely as just a plain meringue cake too. I added cherries as we had a punnet of them in (it is summer somewhere, believe it or not) but any berry would be delicious in this. My Tealicious co-conspirator Michelle is always saying that she has too many leftover egg whites from making creme patisserie and curds so maybe she'll appreciate this cake as a way to use up leftover egg whites.
Coconut Cherry Meringue Cake
(adapted from Supper with Rosie)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
250g caster sugar
1 teaspoon coconut essence (if available)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
100g flaked / desiccated coconut
275g double cream
200g cherries, pitted and quartered
icing sugar, for dusting
flaked coconut for decoration
1. Line two 20cm round cake tins with foil and grease with vegetable oil. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
2. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl and whisk until stiff. Gradually fold in the caster sugar, whisking continually, then add coconut essence (if using) and vinegar. The meringue should have stiff peaks and should hold its shape (you can do the old "hold bowl of meringue over head" test at this point if you so desire). Gently fold in the coconut, making sure to do this carefully so as not to lose any air.
3. Divide the mixture evenly between the cake tins and smooth down. Bake for 10 mins at 200 degrees and then turn the temperature down to 170 degrees Celsius and cook for a further 20 minutes.
4. Remove the meringues from the oven and leave to cool. Only remove them from their tins when they are completely cold (which won't take as long as a cake - about 30 mins). They will be very delicate so do take care.
5. Whip the double cream until it forms firm peaks, then fold in the cherries. Put one of the meringue cakes on a serving plate and spread the cream mixture over. Seal with the second meringue cake on top and then dust with icing sugar and sprinkle some coconut flakes on to serve. Keep cake refrigerated.