Four layers of crisp, gooey centred meringue, stacked high and layered with vanilla whipped cream and piles of berry red fruit. An indulgent, decadent and romantic dessert.
The decision last year to leave Hong Kong was incredibly hard. Actually leaving my friends was even harder. Before I left, two of my girls gave me the most beautiful leaving present. A leather book filled with hand written words and pictures.
Hannah had written beautiful words, Becca had perfectly selected pictures from our lives together to go with them. Our beaming faces smiling out from the roof of a junk boat in the golden setting sun, holiday shots with arms wrapped around baby elephants, stood in bikinis, sand between our toes. Years worth of memories, times I had almost forgotten, pictures from when we didn’t know each other so well, when we hadn’t become each others Hong Kong family, a closer than close group so far away from home.
The book was themed, perfectly fittingly, around food. Hannah, the most talented, beautiful, evocative writer had shaped our lives around food, each one representing a different part of our Asian home, each one a different set of memories.
Coconuts for holidays, tea for making a home, strawberries for girlfriends.
“Let the crimson, heart-shaped, decidedly feminine fruit slanting in a flute of prosecco bubbles be an ingredient for friendship. Not just for friendship, but for girlfriends. For the shared bond that boys with their pizza slices and downed beers, belly laughs and bigger frames simply can’t be relied upon for. No, let the strawberry be for the girls who met, as strangers in an Eastern metropolis, and became friends.
Strawberries are for the friends that you made and the sweetness of our memories. A red heart in a frosted glass to celebrate being girls”.
Valentine’s Day is a chance to celebrate love in all its many forms, so this strawberry, berry red meringue is for my girls. For all the Friday night gins, and Sunday brunches we’ve shared, for the blissful days by sparkling waters and for the nights in the little house with the green front door. I imagine us sitting up on the balcony on the 15th floor above the crazy lights and bustle of Causeway Bay below. A bottle (or 8) of pink bubbles chilling in the fridge, another cracked open on the table, streams of bubbles glinting in the glass. Sharing stories of the week, comparing notes on boys and work, talking through teaching horror stories, excitedly discussing our next adventures, or reliving the cruel and unnecessary horror of a Hong Kong gym trip. Plans to go out will be moved back and back as time speeds away with us. We’d feast on nibbles, the plump juicy olives Becca is trying to love, and crisps dipped in hummus. We’d bring this out for pudding, digging into big bowl-fulls, for once not caring about the calories, and just enjoying being together, enjoying being girls.
This recipe stands somewhere between a dessert and a cake. Four layers of towering white meringue, crispy on the outside, delicious gooey inside. Layered up with indulgent vanilla whipped cream, fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, and a little drizzle of coulis. A big heap of glistening fruit, shiny, ripe and inviting.
Sliced in the bowl it becomes like an eton mess. Stir it around a little, let the cream sink its way around all the meringue layers. The perfect accompaniment to a glass of prosecco and a night with the girls you love.
– once the meringues have been cooking for an hour, turn the oven off and allow them to completely cool inside the oven. This will dry them out perfectly without sinking or sagging.
– i used this raspberry coulis from Sainsbury’s, but you can use whichever is available to you, or make your own.
- for the meringues
- 5 egg whites
- 285g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- for the filling
- 500g whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 400g fresh strawberries
- 150g raspberries
- 150g blueberries
- 3 tablespoons raspberry coulis
- To make the meringue.
- Preheat the oven to 120C/ 100C fan/ 250F.
- Draw 20cm circles onto two large sheets of baking parchment/ greaseproof paper, two on each sheet, and use them to line two baking sheets.
- In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
- Gradually add the caster sugar, a little at a time, whipping as you go, until the egg whites form glossy stiff peaks. Add the vanilla extract and continue whipping for another minute.
- Spread the meringue evenly into the circles you have drawn. Reserve about a fifth of the meringue and put into a piping bag. Pipe around the edge of one of the circles, creating a little crown effect. This will be the top layer of your meringue layer cake.
- Put into your pre-heated oven and bake for about an hour.
- Turn the heat off and leave in the oven for another hour to cool.
- Remove from the oven and place onto a wire rack to ensure they are fully cooled.
- To assemble.
- Whip your whipping cream and vanilla until the cream forms stiff peaks.
- Hull and slice about half of your strawberries.
- Now you can assemble the layers.
- Place one disc of meringue onto the plate or stand you intend to serve it on. Spread over a quarter of the cream and top with some of the sliced strawberries, some raspberries and blueberries. Drizzle with a little raspberry coulis.
- Repeat with the remaining layers.
- Top the final disc with cream, then decorate with your whole strawberries and remaining fruit.
- Serve as soon as possible.