Chocolate Peppermint Meringue Layer Cake
Well. One over-ambitious cake recipe, two attempts at homemade corn syrup, one attempt at homemade peppermint schnapps, one buttercream adaptation substitution, and eight hours later… and I have this beauty, all ready for New Years Eve!
I won’t show you what it looks like after I tried ‘decorating’ it. I’ll just say… I could use a class in cake decoration. But let’s just keep this image in mind, because it’s much prettier here.
I won’t lie, this cake is involved and time consuming. But if you’re like me and you love a challenge, or a kitchen project, then you will like this. I made it over the course of two nights, then refrigerated overnight for at least 6 hours before takingo out to come to room temp to serve. I made the (homemade) peppermint schnapps and meringues the first night (thats 3-4 hours in the oven right there), and the frosting and cake the second night. And then I assembled everything.
The recipe is the cover recipe for the December 2009 Bon Appetit. However, I’m not a big fan of corn syrup, nor did I want to buy any specifically for this recipe, so I made some changes. Same goes for Peppermint Schnapps — didn’t have any and didn’t want to buy $30 worth for 3 drops. I also made a completely different recipe for the buttercream, which I adapted from Ina Garten. And by adapted I mean I used half as much butter. Not trying to channel Paula Deen here, people. OH, and also – I only made half a cake! I figured there would be other desserts at New Years so I didn’t need to go overboard. Besides, it turned out way cuter in miniature. So for my version of this half-a-cake from Bon Appetit, please read on!
Meringues – store in single layer in airtight containers up to 2 days ahead
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
3 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
Pinch of salt
2 small-medium Egg Whites, at room temp (reserve yolks for cake)
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/3 tsp Peppermint Extract (or a little less than 1/4 tsp)
Homemade Peppermint Syrup – store in fridge up to 2 days ahead
1/3 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Water
1 Tbsp Vodka
1/8 tsp Peppermint Extract
Buttercream Frosting – Make this before the cake so it has time to cool while the cake bakes
14 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate
3 medium Egg Whites, at room temp
3/4 cup Sugar
1/8 tsp Cream of Tartar
Pinch of Salt
2 sticks of Butter, unsalted (1 cup or 1/2 lb), at room temp!
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Peppermint Extract
Cake – Make this the day you want to assemble the cake (one night prior to serving)
1/4 cup Flour
1/3 cup Cocoa
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
2 small-medium egg yolks (or 1 1/2 large yolks)
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
Garnishes – Optional
For the Meringues (4 hours): preheat your oven to 175. Trace three 4×6 inch rectangles onto parchment paper, flip the paper over (you can see the lines through it) and place on a cooking sheet. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium (in a stand mixer if you have one, otherwise use a hand-held mixer. My $5 one worked just fine.) until soft peaks form when you lift the beaters. Increase speed to high and add the dry ingredients. Beat until peaks are stiff and glossy, then beat in the peppermint and vanilla. Using a spatula, divide the batter amongst the rectangles you drew, and try to spread evenly within the lines. The batter won’t run, so get it right on the lines. Tip #1: If you go over the lines, that’s ok. You can shave baked meringues using a carrot peeler later! Bake meringues for three hours at 175. DON’T PEEK!! After 3 hours, turn off the heat and let the meringues cool in the oven. DON’T PEEK OR OPEN THE DOOR! After 30-45 minutes of cooling, they should be ready to seal up and package away. They’ll stay up to 1 week.
For the Syrup (20 minutes): While the meringues are baking, you can get the peppermint syrup ready. Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until syrupy, 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vodka and peppermint extract. You can’t really taste the vodka anyway, but if you don’t want it or don’t have it, you can probably use more water instead (try 1/2 Tbsp). Store in a container in the fridge up to 1 week.
For the Chocolate Buttercream (1 hour): Place a small saucepan of water on the stove to simmer. Put the chocolate in a bowl over the saucepan (creating a double boiler). Watch closely and stir as the steam melts the chocolate. Just before it’s completely melted, remove from the heat and stir until completely melted. Allow to cool. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar. Place over the simmering pan of water and watch and stir. Once the egg whites are warm to the touch (about 5 min), remove from heat and continue to beat. Once stiff peaks form, add the butter one Tbsp at a time, and continue to beat on medium-high. When all butter has been incorporated, add the extracts. Then slowly stir in the chocolate! Set aside to cool while you make and bake the cake layers, ~30 mins.
For the Cake (1 hour): Preheat to 350. Line a 2-qt glass dish (approx 6.5 in x 9.5 in) with parchment paper and spritz with non-stick spray (or butter it). Beat the egg, yolks, sugar and vanilla on medium-high until light and foamy and somewhat syrupy-thick. Sift together the dry ingredients and fold into the egg mixture. Fold in until just incorporated. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove and cool for 20-30 minutes on a rack. Flip onto another piece of parchment paper (Tip #2: not a silpat!) and peel off paper from bottom. Trim cake into two 4×6 inch pieces, to match the meringues. Finish cooling completely.
Assembly! To assemble the cake, begin by lining a platter with tin foil as shown below. This will help give you a nice clean presentation; after you’ve frosted the cake you just remove the foil with all the frosting splatters! Put 1/2-1/3 cup frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a small or medium star tip. Pipe a little onto the plate, as shown, to secure the bottom layer to the plate.
Now start layering! Meringue, with the topside up, then frosting, then cake layer, with the topside down. Then spread the cake layer with 2-4 Tbsp of the peppermint syrup – should be very moist! More frosting, then repeat. Top lay should be meringue. Using a spatula, spread a thin layer of frosting around the edges, evening out the bumps and crevices, and on top. Use the reserved frosting in the pastry bag to decorate the top, along with the raspberries and mint leaves! Refrigerate for at least 6 hours so the flavers meld and the moisture saturates. Remove two hours before serving to allow to come to room temp. Tip #3: if your frosting becomes crusty or clumpy, microwave for 5 seconds, then whisk. Max. 10 seconds.
PS – Please excuse my ridiculous amount of photos in this recipe, as I’m still loving on my new camera!
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