I’m really, really proud of myself. I made a birthday cake that even my cake-hating Rory, she of the licked-off-frosting on the $3 cupcakes, loved. I’ve noticed lots of kids are like thatâ€”they’re either cake kids or frosting kids. (Me, I was and still am a cake kid, so I do sympathize.)
And I’ve noticed that our China-raised kids are often really not cake-eaters. So I’m pretty excited to share this:
It’s the perfect cake for Rory. It combines three of her favorite things in all the world: meringues, ice cream and whipped cream. Also, candy letters, just for good measure. And it was incredibly easy, if kinda sticky, to make.
I started with the meringues. 6 egg whites, a pinch of cream of tartar and one of salt, a little vanilla (1 tsp maybe) and 1 1/2 cups sugar. (Standard recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour.) Egg whites and cream of tartar whipped to stiff peaks ( a good educational moment; every child should know what that means). Sugar, poured slowly into the still-whipping mixer bowl. (Ok, the bowl is not whipping. I’m not sure how to phrase that, but surely it’s clear.) Salt and vanilla go in last.
The idea is to make three circles. You could do that with a spoon, but I decided to pipe them. Onto Parchment paper. That’s important, at least, I think it is. I have never made meringues without it.
I still had lots of meringue left over, so I got creative.
Bake at 200 degrees for 2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave over night.
Now, you need two little pints or whatever it is of vanilla ice cream. Leave them in your car over pick-up and while chatting with the new parent about winter life in NH and it will be nice and soft for spreading. Maybe too soft. Then comes the layering. Put the bottom disk on your cake plate and spread the ice cream right over it. We had a really, really humid day and the meringue was sticky, but it worked. The bottom layer stuck a bit to the parchment, but once it was covered in ice cream, you’d never know it.
Back in the freezer it goes. Be sure to clear ample space in the freezer for your creation. How long will it take the ice cream to refreeze? I don’t really know. I left it for five hours, and then it was too hard, and the next layer wouldn’t really squish onto it until I let it melt again. I’d advice putting the next layer on now, and then put it back in the freezer.
Next, whip up a pint of whipping cream (I use the serious local farm stuff that practically whips if you shake the bottle) with some confectioner’s sugar. Or not. Trust me, you don’t really need more sugar at this point, but what the hell?
Spread the whipping cream on, and then top with the next layer of meringue. Then, a final layer of whipped cream and the meringue decorations. My “Happy Birthday” letters stuck–well, the “happy” did, so I improvised with the Wilton ones. I always keep a bunch around. Given that birthdays are predictable things, it’s surprising how often I find myself unprepared to make a birthday cake. The letters make anything look good. If you’re six.
Which Rory now is!
This is not the birthday post, though. This is the birthday CAKE post.
So: the only trouble with this cake is that it obviously has to be in the freezer, and the whipped cream is better if it doesn’t freeze (although it’s ok if it does), so last minute assembly is the way to go.
Here is the glorious result, sliced and ready. It really was surprisingly delicious, even from the adult perspective. The whipped cream cuts the meringue sweetness and there’s a yummy crunch to it all. And you can probably find someone else to eat the candy. (I like the candy. Don’t tell anyone.)
Was it a hit?