Wednesday, 9 January 2013

My birthday hazelnut meringue cake!

If you saw my birthday post, you'll know I made my own birthday cake. I promised a few people I would blog the recipe.

Part of the reason I wanted to make my own cake was that my joint Christmas and birthday present, which I got very early, was a stand mixer. A red K-Mix. I love it. I've made a few things in it in the meantime but so far, not meringue. I therefore developed the idea of making a meringue cake - especially as we had tons of eggs in the house, as we didn't seem to get through many over Christmas. I also had some hazelnuts in the cupboard so I looked around for hazelnut meringue cake recipes. I have one that is years old in my folder but that used blackberries. I decided I would add some soft fruit and cream to the cake filling and then also add some chocolate ganache.  The final cake is a mix of recipes from different sources so I think I can claim it as my own!

I popped to the shop and found that not only was there some cream reduced, there were also some milk chocolate santas reduced to 19p each! The ganache is good made with dark or milk chocolate but obviously, the darker the chocolate, the darker and less sweet the ganache. I decided to give my ganache a hazelnut flavouring which you could do by adding ground hazelnuts or praline paste. I however, had some hazelnut coffee syrup so used that instead. The ganache was a little firm so I have added more cream here to soften the ganache. If it's too runny, you can whip slightly until it firms up. Don't be scared by the term ganache - it's deceptively easy to make!

We chose strawberries as we decided that they travelled the least distance (Monkey was shocked that the blackberries had come from Mexico, but the strawberries had come from Egypt); it would be good with other soft fruit, like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries etc.

You can make the meringue layers in advance but store them in an airtight container to keep them crisp. This is best assembled on the day you're going to eat it, but if you have to assemble the night before, it will not be the end of the world. It might just be a little softer around the edges.

The one thing to remember when making meringues is that fat is not your friend. Ensure the beaters or whisk and the bowl in which you mix the egg whites is very clean or the whites will not whisk properly.

This is NOT a low calorie cake, but it was my birthday, right?!

Kate's birthday hazelnut meringue cake with strawberries, ganache and cream
Cuts into about 10 pieces


For the cake layers:
50g/2oz roasted chopped hazelnuts (Waitrose do them or roast your own)
5 large eggs
280g / 10oz caster sugar
1 tbsp white vinegar
 A little flavourless oil

For the hazelnut ganache:
200-250g / 7-9oz dark or milk chocolate
125ml  / 4.5 fl oz double cream
2 - 3 tbsp hazelnut syrup (don't fret if you can't get it)

For the filling:
375ml / 13 fl oz double cream
400g strawberries, hulled and halved (or 300g smaller soft fruits, like raspberries)

1. First, prepare two 18-20cm springform or loose bottomed tins. Line them both with foil, and brush the foil with a little oil. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Whizz the hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground.

2. Separate your eggs. I do them one at a time into a small bowl, ensure no egg yolk has got into the bowl, and then tip it into my mixing bowl. Better that than the fifth egg yolk breaking and you having to start all over again!

3. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, dry peaks form. Add the sugar one spoonful at a time whilst continuing to whisk until you get a shiny but stiff meringue. Stir the remaining sugar into the nuts then fold them into the meringue carefully with the vinegar. Use a metal spoon to do the folding and do it slowly and carefully.

4. Divide the mixture between the two tins and level out the tops. Bake for about 35 mins then turn the oven off and leave the meringues to cool in the oven. Once cool, remove from the tins, peel off the foil and store in an airtight tin until you need the cake.

5. Make the ganache at least a few hours before you assemble the cake as it will need to cool. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl. Place the cream in a pan and heat until nearly boiling. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Leave to stand for a few minutes, then whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and the texture is smooth and uniform. Add the hazelnut syrup and stir until fully combined. Leave to cool - refrigerate if you like. If the ganache is too firm when you need it for the cake, heat it in 10-20 second blasts until it reaches the desired consistency. If it's too runny, whisk it gently with a hand whisk until it firms up.

6. When you are ready to assemble your cake, whip the remaining cream until it reaches soft peaks (don't overwhip, so do keep an eye on it). Place one of the meringues on a plate and spread with the ganache. Top  with some of the strawberries and about a third of the whipped cream. Place the other cake layer on top, spread the rest of the cream on top and finish with the rest of the strawberries, which are best placed neatly cut side down so they form a pattern.

Enjoy - although beware, once you start cutting into the cake, it may not be particularly structurally sound!
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