One of the unintended effects of being in shelter is that (much to my children's delight) I have the time to bake more than just meringues and meringue cakes. Their enthusiastic approval of my meringue confections may have fueled my passion for meringues but because they live in a veritable candy store they no longer yearn for my meringues. I'm not complaining- I really can't have them literally eating my profits :)


However, as I only typically bake meringues I rarely have more than sugar and eggs on hand in my home kitchen and I never have anything as exciting as buttermilk or cake flour. So when I have the urge to bake a "proper" cake I have to bake something simple that calls for the bare essential ingredients. This Victoria Sponge meets that criterion. Its an easy bake, uses the bare minimum ingredients and is the perfect accompaniment to tea or dessert.


I did use Délice Glacé meringues to decorate the cake. The meringues enhance the flavors of the cake and if you're not into elaborate piping they really do save a lot of time. Also, quite frankly I really can't help myself- I have a meringue problem.


Ingredients:

Cake:

2 sticks softened butter (salted or unsalted)

1 Cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

Orange- 1 small, grated zest

3-4 Tablespoons rose syrup*

1 2/3 Cup All purpose flour

3Tbs cornstarch

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

4 large room temperature eggs

1/8 tsp cardamom powder**


For the filling:

Marmalade 1/4-1/2 C***

1 Cup heavy cream

2-3 Tbs confectioners' sugar

3 tablespoons rose syrup or 2 tablespoons rose water


For the decoration:

Délice Glacé Rose Meringues - 1 packet

Délice Glacé Passion Fruit Meringues- 1 packet


2 x 8" cake pans


1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease the pans and line the bases with parchment paper.


2. Beat the butter, sugar and orange zest till light and fluffy.


3. Measure the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and cardamom powder in another bowl. I always like to pass the baking powder through a sieve and stir with a whisk to combine.


4. Beat one egg into the creamed butter and sugar, followed by one tables spoon of the flour mixture. Add all four eggs in this pattern. Once all eggs are added, scrape down the bowl and gradually beat in the remaining flour mixture.


5. Once all the flour in incorporated. Add the rose syrup one tablespoon at a time and beat until your batter falls easily off a spoon (you may not need the full quantity of the syrup). Do not over beat.


6. Divide cake batter evenly between the pans. Place side by side on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 20-25 or until a tester comes out clean.


7. Take out of the oven and leave on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.


8. Work on your filling while your cakes are baking . Thin out the marmalade with the rose syrup or rose water.


9. Whisk cold heavy whipping cream until it reaches soft peaks. Add the confectioners' sugar and whisk briefly to incorporate.


10. Once the cakes have cooled. Spread the marmalade and rose syrup mixture on one of the cakes.


11. Pipe or slather the whipped cream on top of the marmalade.


12. Put the other cake on top (flat side down).


13. Brush the remaining marmalade on top of the cake.


14. Decorate with the rose and passion fruit meringues. The flavors will give it that extra oomph and a great crunch. Plus your cake will instantaneously look amazing.


*Substitute rose syrup with orange juice if you don't have any

**If you only have cardamom pods remove seeds from 3-4 pods and crush as best as possible.

*** Marmalade is important but at these times just use any jam you can find. The flavor will be different but it will still work.




I remember that my first attempt at making meringues ended with the meringue mixture oozing out of the oven in a lazy trail; I'm not quite sure how I managed to achieve that but luckily, my subsequent attempts were a lot more successful.

Many home bakers are daunted at the prospect of making meringues because they have a reputation for being particularly temperamental. In fact, if you follow a few tips meringue behaves in an incredibly predictable fashion. Just follow these tips that we use in our meringue bakery every day.

  • Clean your equipment. This doesn't mean a cursory wipe with a paper towel! Every morning before we start working in our kitchen we thoroughly wash everything that will come into contact with our meringue with hot soapy water even if we have washed it the afternoon before. Why? Because just one molecule of fat can ruin your meringue. Remember this mantra "Egg whites hate fat."

  • Use a stand mixer. This is not the time to use that delicate hand whisk that you use to froth up some cream. Egg whites need serious muscle. Treat them right and you will be rewarded.

  • Weigh your ingredients- no cup measures please- do it right the first time.

  • The ratio of sugar to egg should be 2:1; that means if you are using 30g of egg whites you should use 60g of sugar in that recipe

  • Use bakers sugar- the superfine texture is important- if you don't have any on hand (I never keep this in stock in my home kitchen) blitz some sugar in your food processor.

  • Do spring for some cream of tartar- I know its expensive but its worth it.

  • If you don't have cream of tartar and don't want to make a special trip to the store (I wouldn't) wipe down your clean mixing bowl and balloon whisk with a cut lemon or some vinegar

  • Warm your sugar in a hot oven. Yes, five minutes in a hot oven will mean your sugar will melt faster in your egg whites- this is a good thing- especially if you have a life and want to do more with your day than stand peering into a bowl of egg whites. Although, staring intently at a bowl of whisking egg whites is something I do every day (multiple times a day) and I find it rather meditative, so go right ahead!

  • Turn down said oven to 200º F as soon as you remove the sugar. Open the oven door and allow it to cool rapidly. Your oven should not be higher than 200ºF when the meringues go in.

  • Whisk your egg whites to stiff peaks before you start adding your heated sugar.

  • Add your sugar slowly- one tablespoon at a time- be patient- this is the time to catch up on your social media or text a friend.

  • When all your sugar has been added, turn your mixer on high and whisk till all the sugar has dissolved. Make yourself a cup of coffee, take a nap, start a blog; this will take a while.

  • After at least five minutes of whisking, if your mixture is showing stiff glossy peaks (see the picture) rub a tiny bit between your fingers to make sure that it is not gritty. If you can still feel grains of sugar in the mixture it means that the meringue needs to whisk longer.

  • DO NOT over whip your meringue mixture. Yes this can happen. Stop when its still glossy and pretty. If it looks like cotton wool you've over whisked it- it will still taste good but it will look ugly. This can happen to the best of us. I have occasionally had to throw away a mixture because I took an extra long tea break while the meringue was being whisked.

  • You will know when your meringues are ready to come out of the oven when they lift easily from the parchment (oh yes, line your baking sheet with parchment).

With these easy steps I can assure you that you will be able to create these feather-light, fat free, dairy free and gluten free treats at home. If you have questions or run into issues let me know. I'll be happy to walk you through.






Last summer, I was approached by the organizers at Bay Area Wedding Fairs to participate in an upcoming #weddingshow just ten days away. My initial instinct was to jump at the opportunity but I had existing baking commitments and it was mere days before the school year started. If you have children, you know exactly what that entails; espcially if at the same time, like me, you've over-extended yourself and taken on the job of organizing a fair at the school!





That, my baker friends, is tip #1. Find the right time that works for you. Don't be lured in by half-price offers from the organizers. If you don't take the time to prepare, you will not be ready to present your business or artistry in the light in which it deserves to be represented.


Tip #2: Always visit the wedding show where you are planning to have a display to determine if its the right venue for you. Its a great way to learn from other bakers and participants by just visiting the booths even if you don't necessarily speak with them.


Tip #3: Wait for the wedding show organizers to offer any special pricing deals and book at that time.


Tip #4: Start planning your booth as soon as you place your deposit! That may sound strange but you have to plan an attractive display, so make a rough sketch of what you plan to display on your table and where you are planning on placing it in the space available.


Tip #5: Order your display materials. Stands, trays, brochures, cards, etc. Make sure you highlight your brand with a prominent sign. I would not invest in table runners with printed logos because they are expensive and the sign is on the front of the table that hopefully will be obscured by potential customers crowding around your table! Order more business cards and brochures than you think you would ever need. I ran out of mine well before closing time. Also, a clipboard for interested clients to leave you their information is helpful to have on hand.


Tip #6: Plan on how you are going to transport and store your goods. Consider using insulated carriers and dry ice and request for access to a walk-in refrigerator or freezer at the venue if you need it.


Tip #7: This was my first show so I did not even consider having "dummy" #weddingcakes; which every other #baker there was smart enough to have. So my display cakes were fresh #meringuecakes which are frozen #desserts, so in hindsight it wasn't exactly the smartest decision I made the day.



We were lucky that we did not have any mishaps, but if I were you, I would take the time to create dummy cakes; you may be able to reuse them and moreover you will not have to drive 20 miles under the speed limit and have people honk and glare at you while you drive your masterpieces to the venue!


Here is car one of two cars loaded up for event!



Tip #8: If possible, preslice and portion your cake samples. If that is not possible, have a helper (or two) to do that for you while you interact with your customers.


Tip #9: Make some time to connect with the other vendors during the show. Networking with others in the industry is important.


Tip #10: Have fun. If you choose to do this, it will entail a lot of hard work and people who will willingly help you on the day either because they love you or because you are paying them. My display was only successful because my husband and daughter spent their long weekend helping me. Thank you Rezwan and Farah. I can't wait to spend President's Day weekend at the next #BayAreaWeddingFairs at the Fairmont San Francisco doing this all over again with you.