Sunday, June 20, 2010

Torta de Merengue

"It is like eating a piece of a cloud."--Mr. Capital Chef

I have mentioned before that my parents are originally from Spain. Growing up in Memphis, they built a tight-knit community of Spanish-speaking immigrants, and we didn't consider them "like a second family"--they were family. The family gatherings revolved mostly around food, and this dessert, Torta de Merengue, was the centerpiece (well, in my mind at least). I was thrilled when I recently learned that the local paper in Memphis did a feature on our Chilean friends, and the article included some of my favorite recipes, including the Torta de Merengue. I was surprised by how simple it sounded. As a child, this cake seemed magical. Here is the article: 

The cake is essentially strawberries and whipped cream sandwiched between two meringue layers and then completely smothered in whipped cream to create a smooth texture. Once the cake is assembled, the meringue starts to absorb the cream and becomes light and fluffy. My husband couldn't have described it better: "it is like eating a piece of a cloud." As soon as I took one taste of this cake, it felt like going home. It is amazing how the texture and taste of food has the ability to transport you back in time. As I ate this last night, I remembered all of those family gatherings and even though I don't go back home as often as I would like, I felt so grateful that all of those people still remain in my life--thank God for facebook, right?

**Note: I'm not sure if it just me, but I found it kind of impossible to make the meringues into perfectly flat circles. I don't think it matters though because once you decorate it with the whipped cream, all of the imperfections are covered up.

Here is what you will need for the meringue:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. To make the meringues, whip the 6 egg whites. **It is really important not to get any egg yolks in the egg white mixture. I break each egg into a small bowl and then pour it into the larger bowl. That way, if you accidentally break the yolk, you will have only ruined one egg, and you don't have to start all over again.

Step 2: When they begin to foam, add a pinch of salt.

 Step 3:  Slowly incorporate the sugar, continuing to whip until the whites hold peaks.
Step 5: Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. I traced 2 9-inch circles using a cake pan, so I had a guide for shaping the meringues.

Step 6: Spread a meringue disk the size of a standard cake on each. Bake until very dry at 200 degrees, which might take as long as 2 hours (it took me 2 hours). Cool and peel off parchment paper.

Here is what you will need for the filling:

Step 1: Whip the cream with the sugar, to taste.

Step 2: If you have a stand mixer, you can leave the cream to mix for a few minutes while you wash and slice the strawberries. Set aside 6-10 whole strawberries (depending on how many you want) to decorate the top of the cake.

The cream should get nice and thick.

Step 3: To assemble, put one meringue disk on a cake plate and spread a generous layer of whipped cream on top.

Then place a layer of strawberries....

Another layer of cream...

Then another layer of strawberries...

Put the remaining meringue on top, then frost the top and sides of the cake with remaining whipped cream. Decorate top with the reserved strawberries. **This cake must be can start to melt if left out for too long.

List of Ingredients:
(serves 10)
6 large eggs whites at room temperature

Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Filling and topping:
1 quart heavy cream
1/2 to 1 cup sugar, to taste
1 quart strawberries

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