Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake

It was my grandma’s birthday and my family had requested I make a cake for her. Something light. Something ‘healthy’.

I didn’t think there was such thing as a healthy cake but I spent my time poring over cookbooks to find one that didn’t have too much fat and wasn’t too dense and heavy. I came across this beautiful cake in Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer and since my grandma’s favourite colour is red, I thought it was quite appropriate to have plump, rosy red strawberries standing out against a white cream surface.

It all seemed to be going well except when I took my cakes out of the oven, the meringue hadn’t puffed up as I expected it to but instead had flattened down into a sugary, slightly chewy layer. I read and reread the recipe and I’m quite sure I did everything right, so anyone have any suggestions as to why my meringue didn’t puff up?

In any case, the cake was still ethereally light and sweet and sandwiched a delicious combination of lightly whipped cream and strawberry halves in the centre. It was well received even by my grandma who even ate a whole piece to herself! She usually insists she can’t eat that much and tries to offload some cake to other family members or gives it to my grandpa. I took it as a compliment that she managed to polish off her own slice of cake this time :)

Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake

adapted from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson

1 cup plain flour
3 tbsp corn flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
100g very soft unsalted butter
1 cup caster sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
1 punnet strawberries

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line, butter and flour two 22cm springform pans.

2. Combine the flour, cornstarch and baking powder into a bowl. Cream the butter and 1/3 cup of the sugar in another bowl until light and fluffy. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the butter and sugar, saving the whites to whisk later. Gently fold in the measured-out dry ingredients, add the vanilla, then stir in the milk to thin the batter. Divide the mixture between the two prepared springform pans.

3. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually add the remaining sugar. Spread a layer of meringue on top of the sponge batter in each pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the meringue begins to turn a dark gold on top. Let the cakes cool in their tins, then spring them open at the last minute when you are ready to assemble the cake.

4. Whip the cream, and hull and slice the strawberries; that’s to say, the bigger ones can be sliced lengthwise and the smaller ones halved. Invert one of the cakes on to a plate or cake stand so that the cake crumb is uppermost. Pile on the cream and stud with the strawberries, letting some of the berries subside into the whipped whiteness. Place the second cake on top, meringue upwards, and press down gently, just to secure it. Serves 8.

17 thoughts on “Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake”

  1. Aww it's too bad your meringue was a little flat, but it still looks delish! And very summery :) Not sure why it might happen, perhaps you underbeat the egg whites?

  2. As it is a meringue layer cake and not a sponge, I think you get away with it being a bit flat.

    It still looks lovely and delicious and obviously your grandma thought so too.

  3. Looks lovely! And the combination of meringue, berries and cream is always a great one. Not sure why it was flat though…overbeating/underbeating?

  4. Hi Penguin, if it's Nigella's Lemon Meringue recipe you followed, the cream of tartar is probably your answer to the flat meringue. I wouldn't worry though, your cake looks sensational anyway and it's the taste that counts in the end!

  5. Underbeat? Overbeat? cream of tartar? whatever it was – it was a happy mistake! Looks good! Happy Birthday to your grandmother!

  6. Hi Jacqueline,

    We've been following your food blog for a while now and have been inspired to start one of our own!
    Here is the link to our blog
    Please pop by when you have time!

    Love, L & J xx
    PS : Your Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake looks delicious ! Glad that your grandma enjoyed it :)

  7. Yummo, looks delish and honestly I prefer my meringues more chewy than hard and crispy. And omg, strawberries and cream! Drool! As for the flat meringue… there could be a number of reasons:

    * did you use your eggs straight out of the fridge? Egg whites should always be at room temperature before whipping.

    * sometimes old egg whites tend to collapse more than fresh or maybe you needed more cream of tartare to stabilise the foam more?

    * if you beat egg whites too fast and hard in the beginning, the egg whites will not beat as volumous. Start off on a lower speed then increase it slowly. Similarly never use plastic bowls for beating whites.

    * Could've been the humidity that Sydney has been suffering under lately. Humidity tends to make meringues more chewy.

    Hope that helps! That's just what I could think of at the top of my head :) Either way, I could def do with a slice of your meringue cake now!

  8. Hi Stephcookie – Thanks! You can't really go wrong with strawberries and cream ;)

    Hi Sara – Hehe you're right, although I was a bit disappointed it didn't look as glorious as the one in the book! It still had the meringue texture though which was good

    Hi mademoiselle délicieuse – Thank you! The combination of ingredients meant that taste-wise it was a winner hehe.

    Hi joey – Not sure if I could pass it off as a CNY recipe hehe but the auspicious red colour is definitely there!

    Hi chocolatesuze – Thanks Suze! I love meringue too hehe

    Hi Gummi Baby – I actually followed the recipe for the strawberry meringue layer cake but perhaps next time adding cream of tartar will help to stabilise the meringue. Something to try next time I make it! Thanks for the tip!

    Hi Trissa – Thanks! I like the idea of a happy mistake hehe at least it tasted alright :)

    Hi L & J – Thanks for stopping by! Your blog looks great :)

    Hi Karen – Wow thanks for the multitude of tips! I could do with some of your baking expertise ;) Do you know why you don't use plastic bowls for beating egg whites?

    Hi Ellie – Yep, especially with the weather warming up again (although I'm still hating the humidity!)

  9. despite the flatness of the meringue, this cake looks lovely and sounds like everyone enjoyed it. my only suggestion re. the flatness is, did you have residue oil or detergent in the bowl that you were whipping the egg whites?

  10. Hi Grace – Yeah, I don't think healthy cake exists haha

    Hi panda – Thanks :) I'm pretty sure that the bowl and the beaters were clean but it could have been the cause of my flat meringue! Thanks for the tip

  11. Hey Jacq, I think it's because plastic bowls can still have traces of water, oil, smells and stuff in it that can affect egg whites. :D

  12. I made this cake and it was so gooey that it was a single blob when I tranferred it to the cake pans and it was incredibly hard to smooth it out to the edges. Has this happened to others? Any suggestions?

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