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Berry Meringue Cake for Christmas

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I made this cake last year for my friend Ruth’s birthday. I’m re-blogging it here as Christmas approaches as it would make a colourful festive offering.

I  think it would be lovely to have at Christmas time – maybe on Boxing Day if not on the big day itself.  It has echoes of a Christmas trifle – fresh berries, sponge and cream.  The meringue gives another texture to the creation.

Each layer is easy to make, and the whole cake can be assembled on the day you bake it. But it does take a little more time than (my) average throw-all-the-ingredients-in-the-food-processor cake!

To make it, you construct layers of meringue and sponge cake with layers of berry mousse, rasbberry jam, more berries and cream. The mousse really softens the meringue layers and make the sponge cake almost dissolve.

You will need: meringue layers, sponge cake layers, berry mousse, raspberry jam, whipped cream and fresh berries.

Berry Mousse – I used raspberries, blackberries and a few cherries. I’ve made it before with blueberries and strawberries in the mix too.

Ingredients
400g mixed frozen berries
125g caster sugar
300ml cream
1 sheet gelatine
Method
Soften gelatine in a bowl of water for 5 minutes. Place frozen berries in a saucepan with the caster sugar. Cook over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the berries begin to break down. Remove from heat.
Squeeze excess water from the gelatine and add to the berry/sugar mixture in the saucepan. Stir gently to dissolve the gelatine. Set aside to cool. Whip the cream to soft peaks in an electric mixer. At this stage you can strain the berry mixture if you want a pure mousse, or you can leave the broken down berries in the mixture if you want a more fruity mousse.
Fold the berry mixture carefully into the whipped cream. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour until the mousse has thickened but not set completely.
Meringue Layers

Ingredients
4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
a few drops of vanilla essence
1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar

Method
Preheat oven to 120 degrees C. Roughly mark out rectangles the same size as the sponge cake tins on baking paper (about 23cm x 33 cm). Turn over the pieces of baking paper – you can see the rectangle markings – and place them on each of 2 baking trays.
Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff. Gradually beat in sugar, continue beating until very stiff. Stir in vanilla and vinegar.
Spoon meringue onto paper rectangles, smoothing out tops so there no obvious peaks.
Place baking trays in centre of oven. Cook for 10 minutes to set the meringue, then turn down oven to 100 degrees C.
Bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until the meringue is dry, but not brown.
Turn oven off, leave in oven with door ajar until meringue is cool. When meringues are completely cool, carefully remove from baking paper.

Sponge Cakes
Ingredients
50g cornflour
50g plain flour
50g self-raising flour
4 x 60g free range eggs, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
Method
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease 2 rectangular cake tins or Swiss roll tins (I used a regular cake tin and a Swiss roll tin, both 23cm x 33 cm) and line bases with baking paper. Sift flours and 1/4 teaspoon salt together three times to aerate.
Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed for 6 minutes, or until mixture is thick, pale and tripled in volume. Gradually sift flour mixture over egg mixture while simultaneously folding in with a large metal spoon until just combined.
Divide mixture between prepared tins. Gently level the batter with a spatula. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cakes have shrunk away from the sides slightly and spring back
when gently touched.
Turn out on to baking paper-lined wire racks. Carefully peel away baking paper, then leave to cool.
To assemble the cake:

Mix a couple of tablespoons of raspberry jam with a teaspoon of water and heat for 30 seconds in the microwave. Brush the jam mixture liberally over both sponge cakes.

Place one of the meringue layers on a serving platter. Spread the meringue with 1/3 mousse. Scatter a few sliced fresh berries over the mousse. Place one of the sponge layers on top of the mousse. Spoon another 1/3 of the mousse onto the cake. Dab a little whipped cream – a couple of tablespoons – onto the mousse. Scatter a few more sliced berries over the mousse and cream. Repeat with the other sponge cake layer, the remaining 1/3 mousse, a little whipped cream and more sliced berries. Place the other meringue layer on top.

Chill in the fridge for a few hours to firm the cake. Decorate with whipped cream and fresh berries in whatever way takes your fancy.

The cake cuts well once it’s chilled. Everything softens up. It keeps well in the fridge, and like trifle, the flavour improves as everything blends together with time!

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