nourish: Peppermint Meringue Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

My December issue of Bon Appetit had been tempting and challenging me to a culinary throw down since it arrived a few weeks ago.

I don’t really bake complex desserts and breads that much. Reason 1: I have no self-control when it comes to carbs. Hence, I end up eating more than my fair share which equals bad news for my ass.  Reason 2:  I am not so great at following the exacting instructions that baking requires. Operating in my kitchen as more of a creative cook, I make up recipes and dishes as I go along. When it comes to precise baking measurements, I tend to make errors with disastrous results when it comes to breads and desserts. Let’s face it, I don’t understand the chemistry of baking any better than I did chemistry in high school.  

This recipe, however, offered too much temptation. I craved the challenge and sweet reward if I succeeded. After surveying my pantry and making a shopping list for all the missing ingredients, I patiently waited for some uninterrupted time to bake. Vowing to follow every instruction my happy little Bon Appetit told me, and ignoring Paul who taunted me with ‘finally you’re going to make this’, I wrestled with the recipe for five hours Sunday morning and ended up with this… 

Not quite a cover photo, but I never said I was a pastry chef.  I deviated a little from the recipe and covered mine with peppermint candy in the spirit of the holiday season and also since I wasn’t going to pipe frosting and strategically place mint candy on top. For the record, the cake was enjoyed and my ass is growing by the second. Ahhh, the sins of baking. 

We’ll welcome this plate full of sin back onto our plates Christmas Eve when we host dinner with my mom and our friends Karen and Andrew and their four girls! Bring empty tummies and room for dessert! 

For all the adventuresome bakers out there with hours to spare in the kitchen, here’s the full recipe from Bon Appetit! Enjoy, Cheers and have fun!

Peppermint Meringue Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

 

 Meringue Layers

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

Peppermint Syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon peppermint schnapps

Cake

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Buttercream

  • 1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 pounds bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Thin chocolate-covered mint wafers, cut into small triangles (for garnish)
  • Fresh raspberries (for garnish)
  • Fresh mint leaves (for garnish)

Special Equipment

  • Heavy-duty stand mixer
  • 13x9x1-inch baking sheet
  • Small offset spatula
  • Pastry bag
  • Medium star tip (for decorating)

Preparation

MERINGUE LAYERS

  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 175°F. Using pencil, trace two 12×4-inch rectangles on sheet of parchment paper; turn parchment over (rectangles will show through) and place on large rimmed baking sheet. Trace one 12×4-inch rectangle on second sheet of parchment paper; turn parchment over and place on second rimmed baking sheet.
  • Sift powdered sugar, superfine sugar, and salt into medium bowl. Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with wire whisk; beat on medium-low speed until frothy. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high; gradually add sugar mixture and beat until stiff and glossy peaks form, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla and peppermint extracts. Divide meringue equally among prepared rectangles on parchment (about 1 1/3 cups for each); spread meringue evenly within traced lines.
  • Bake meringues until dry and crisp but not browned, about 3 hours. Turn off oven and let meringues cool completely in oven.
  • Carefully remove meringue rectangles from parchment. DO AHEAD Meringues can be made 1 week ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature.

PEPPERMINT SYRUP

  • Combine 1/2 cup water and sugar in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to boil. Remove from heat; stir in peppermint schnapps. Transfer to bowl; cover and chill until cold. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.

CAKE

  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly butter bottom and sides of 13x9x1-inch baking sheet. Line bottom of baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly dust sheet sides with flour. Sift 1/2 cup flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and egg yolks in another medium bowl until pale and foamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until mixture is thick and ribbon forms when beaters are lifted, about 3 minutes. Sift flour mixture over egg mixture and gently fold in with rubber spatula just until incorporated.
  • Transfer batter to baking sheet; spread evenly to edges. Bake until top springs back when gently touched and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to rack and cool cake 20 minutes. Run small knife around sides of cake to loosen. Invert cake onto parchment-lined work surface; gently peel off parchment. Cool completely. Using serrated knife, cut cake in half lengthwise, then trim each half to 12×4-inch rectangle.

BUTTERCREAM

  • Simmer cream, butter, and corn syrup in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; whisk until smooth. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread, 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
  • Transfer 1/2 cup buttercream to pastry bag fitted with medium star tip; reserve for piping rosettes. Brush off any crumbs from meringue layers and cake layers. Place several small dabs of buttercream down center of 15-inch-long rectangular serving platter. Place 1 meringue layer, top side up, atop buttercream on platter, anchoring to platter. Place strips of foil around meringue layer to protect platter when spreading meringue with buttercream. Using small offset spatula, spread 2/3 cup buttercream over meringue. Top with 1 cake layer, top side down, pressing gently to adhere. Brush cake layer with 1/3 cup peppermint syrup (cake layer will be very moist). Spread 2/3 cup buttercream over, then top with second meringue layer, top side up. Spread 2/3 cup buttercream over. Cover with second cake layer, top side down. Brush with 1/3 cup peppermint syrup (cake layer will be very moist). Spread with 2/3 cup buttercream. Top with third meringue layer, top side up. Spread thin layer of buttercream over top and sides of cake. Chill 15 minutes.
  • Spread remaining buttercream over top and sides of cake. Pipe small rosettes of buttercream in 2 rows atop center of cake. Stand 1 or 2 mint wafer triangles in each rosette. Chill cake at least 6 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover loosely; chill. Let cake stand at room temperature 1 1/2 hours before serving.

GOOD LUCK!!!

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