recipe

Credit: EARL CARTER

Strawberry meringue cake

I am not sure whether it is the mousse or the meringue that is the hero of this dish. They are delicious together but also wonderful apart.

This type of meringue is known as a Swiss meringue, which is made when the egg whites and the sugar are combined and heated gently over a bain-marie. The mixture is then whipped until it is cool and cooked in an oven. This method of making meringue is also the start of a variant known as Swiss buttercream, where butter and flavourings are whipped in to create a filling and icing for cakes. But that is a variety for another day.

If you don’t fancy making the entire cake here, the meringue mixture can simply be spooned onto greaseproof paper in dollops and baked. The addition of brown sugar gives a lovely complex caramel note to the meringues. They can be sprinkled with flaked almonds, chopped hazelnuts or dusted with cocoa before being baked, and can be kept for weeks in an airtight container.

As a standalone, simple summer dessert, the mousse can be set in ramekins, glasses or bowls and served with fresh strawberries and cream.

But to make a really impressive dessert statement, bring the two parts together. Be warned, though – this cake needs to be assembled and eaten on the same day as, if left too long, the meringue will start to break down. Luckily, any soggy leftovers are just as delicious when snuck from the fridge the next day.

Strawberry meringue cake

Serves 8

For the meringue

6 large egg whites

140g brown sugar

250g castor sugar

Preheat the oven to 110ºC.

Place a medium saucepan of water over gentle heat and bring to a simmer. Put the egg whites, brown sugar and castor sugar in a bowl over the saucepan, making sure the bowl doesn’t come into contact with the water. With a whisk break up the egg whites and incorporate the sugars. Heat for about five minutes, until a digital thermometer reaches 40ºC. Remove from the heat.

Put the mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high for about eight minutes, or until it has cooled. Fill a piping bag with the mixture and pipe four circles, about 20 centimetres in diameter, onto lined baking trays, allowing room for the meringues to expand.

Place in an oven and bake for one-and-a-quarter hours. When they are ready, they will be dry underneath but still soft in the centre.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

For the mousse

700g strawberries

200g granulated sugar (regular table sugar)

500ml whipping cream

4 leaves gold-strength gelatine

extra strawberries for topping

Clean and slice the strawberries. In a blender or food processor puree the sliced strawberries with the sugar. Remove half a cup of the puree and set aside.

In a cold bowl add the cream and beat until stiff peaks form.

Soak the gelatine in cold water for five minutes.

Heat the half-cup of puree on the stove and, when just boiling, add the gelatine sheets that have been squeezed out. Whisk to dissolve. Remove from the heat and whisk into the rest of the strawberry puree.

Fold the strawberry puree carefully into the cream. Place in a bowl and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.

To assemble

Place a meringue disc on a suitable-size serving platter. Spread with a thin layer of mousse.

Add another disc and repeat.

When you get to the fourth disc, invert it so the flat side is facing up. Spread the top and the sides with mousse.

Chill for a couple of hours, then serve with extra strawberries.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jan 30, 2021 as "Mousse that roared".

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Annie Smithers is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.