Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chocolate Meringue Cake

This recipe gets its name from the crisp-chewy meringue (studded with toasted hazelnuts and pockets of gooey chocolate... mmm) that crowns the chocolate souffle cake beneath. 

When my mom requested that I make this recipe for her birthday, I was not thrilled about it.   Up to that point, my contact with meringue had been mostly limited to soggy pie topping and those stiff little cookies resembling pastel ping pong balls (and tasting no better).  In my book, meringue had a bad rap as the "light" alternative to my favorite accompaniment (luxurious mountains of sweetened whipped cream!).  Why top a delicious chocolate cake with a wispy pile of over sweetened egg-whites when you can just as easily serve it with a dollop of luscious whipped cream?

Despite my misgivings, I went along with the recipe, grumbling throughout the sticky process... but just one bite proved me wrong.  Though toothache sweet, the meringue oozed with chunks of dark chocolate and paired perfectly with the rich cake and earthy nuts. 

And so began my turbulent, love-hate relationship with meringue.  Sometimes, in my quest for the next ethereal meringue delicacy, I beat my whites into a froth only to have them collapse, wet and weeping.  Other times, my meringue whips up as soft and sweet as cotton candy, and I fall in love all over again.  Worst are the recipes resulting in those cratered wafers that shatter into shards and sugar-dust at the slightest provocation.  But this recipe is tried and true.  When I want that meringue magic, this is where I turn.   What fun to ladle those soft, shimmering layers onto my crackling cake!  How glamorous to dress my dessert in silken folds, laden with nuts and chocolate!  The voluptuous gown of meringue is quite extravagant and fanciful. 

If you want to impress your friends, show up to the party with this little lady in tow (the cake, not me! haha).  

10T. unsalted butter, plus a little extra for the pan
1c. hazelnuts
A sprinkle of flour for the pan
3/4c. light brown sugar
6 large eggs, separated
4 large egg whites
12oz. bittersweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
4oz. bittersweet chocolate bar, roughly chopped
1T. vanilla
1T rum (optional)
pinch of salt
1T. cornstarch
1/4t. cream of tartar
1c. superfine sugar (regular granulated will do just fine though)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter a 9in springform pan, and sprinkle it with flour.  Tap out the excess flour.  Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and toast them in the oven until your kitchen smells wonderful, about 10 minutes.  Remove them from the oven and rub them vigorously in a dish towel to remove the skins (don't worry if some of the skin sticks around).  Allow the nuts to cool, then roughly chop them and combine them with the 4oz chopped chocolate bar.  Set aside.

To make the cake, cream the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy.  Add the 6 egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Drizzle in the cooled, melted chocolate, the vanilla, and the rum, and beat until well-mixed.  Set the batter aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the pinch of salt with the 6 egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form (use a CLEAN whisk!  If you get even a drop of batter, or even water into your egg whites, they won't whip well).  This will take about 2 min.  Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate batter, then gently fold the remaining beaten egg whites into the batter until just combined (don't over-mix!).  Pour the batter into the springform pan, and bake 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the meringue.  Beat the remaining 4 egg whites and the cream of tartar on high speed (again, clean beaters, clean bowl = important) until frothy.  With the mixer running, add the cup of sugar in a slow stream, and then continue beating until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes.  Stir the cornstarch into the chocolate-hazelnut mixture, and then fold the chocolate and hazelnuts into the meringue. 

Remove the cake from the oven, and spread the meringue mixture over the top of the cake.  Pop it back in the oven and bake until the meringue is lightly browned, crisp, and crackling, 25-30 minutes. 

Let the cake stand at least 10 minutes before unmolding, and allow it to cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.


  1. Lily, Louise showed me your blog after I begged for your Symphony Bar Brownie recipe (I still dream about them) and I read like 20 entries in a row until it couldn't anymore because there were tears of laughter streaming down my face. You are hilarious and amazing :)

  2. Thanks!! Nothing I like more than to share recipes and hilarity!