A decadent cake with layers of crispy meringue, sweet cream, and fresh strawberries. This recipe can be made kosher for Passover and is gluten-free. Not a fan of strawberries? Blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries would also work beautifully in this dessert.
Course Dessert, Cake
1cupchopped pecans (115g)
2tablespoonscorn or potato starch
2cupssugar, divided (14 oz total)
7egg whites at room temperature
½teaspooncream of tartar
1(16 oz)container of mascarpone cheeseor two 8.0 oz containers
3cupswhipping cream (681g = 710ml)
4½cupssliced fresh strawberries (750g)
10strawberriessliced in halfleave the stems on
Making the Meringue
The meringue can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. If you are in a very humid climate, less advance time is better.
Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Place the pecans in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet or shallow pan and cook for 10-15 minutes until toasted. Stir after 6 minutes. Pay close attention to them after the 10-minute mark as they can go from toasty to scorched quickly. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 250 °F.
Cover two large baking sheets with parchment paper, curly side up. Weight it down with anything handy while you draw some circles. If you are making a single large cake, draw two 8-inch circles onto each piece of paper (total of 4 circles). Turn the paper over so the marker/pencil is facing the baking sheet and secure the paper to the baking sheet with the masking tape. See note below on making individual servings.
Add the corn or potato starch, salt, toasted pecans, and ½ cup of the sugar to the bowl of a food processer Pulse for 40-45 seconds or until the pecans are finely ground.
With an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed until the mixture is nice and foamy. With the mixer running at medium-high speed, in 1 tablespoon increments, add 1 cup of sugar. Continue to mix until the mixture is glossy and stiff peaks form. This should take 2-4 minutes. You do not want to overbeat this part.
Gently fold half of the pecan mixture into the egg whites. Once blended repeat with the remaining pecan mixture.
Gently spoon the egg white mixture onto the circles that you have drawn on the parchment paper. Use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture to evenly cover the entire circle.
Bake at 250 °F for 1 hour, turning the baking sheets and swapping the shelves after 30 minutes. After an hour, turn off the oven and let the meringues sit in the closed oven with the light on for 2-2½ hours or until the surface of the meringue is dry and it can be lifted from the parchment paper without sticking to your fingers.
Making the Cream
In a large bowl, stir together the mascarpone cheese and the vanilla just until blended.
With an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream at low speed until foamy. Increase the speed to medium-high and with the mixer running gradually add in the remaining ½ cup of sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cheese mixture.
Assemble up to two hours before serving.
Place one meringue onto a cake stand or serving plate. Spread ¼ (about two cups) of the sweet cream over the top of the meringue. An offset spatula or the back of a spoon works well to help spread ou the cream. Top the cream with 1 ½ cups of sliced strawberries. Repeat the layers, topping the last (4th) layer with the halved strawberries.
Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to two hours. If it is humid, I recommend keeping the meringue in an airtight container or bag and assembling it just before serving. It works best to use a sharp thin-bladed knife to slice.
This also looks really cute to make individual servings. Mark off twenty-one 4-inch circles onto the parchment. I was able to fit 12 onto one sheet and 9 on the other. If you need to divide it between three baking sheets that is ok. Same cooking time. Use approximately 1/4 cup of the meringue for each layer. The whipped cream/mascarpone mixture will give you just about 8 cups total, so you can measure out approximately 1/3 cup per layer or just slather on what looks good to you (I usually use the estimate slather method).I found that 3 layers of 4-inch rounds made a large dessert that worked well for two people. Two layers worked better for individual servings. If you wanted to have 3 or more layers, I would recommend trying out 3-inch circles. Because the making of the meringue layer hogs up the oven for 3+ hours, you can make this up to three days ahead and store the meringue in an airtight container. If it is very humid out, limit how often you open the storage container and consider shortening the make-ahead time to 1-2 days.