Meringue layer cake
Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes, largely unattended
Servings: 12 to 16
Note: Adapted from "The Gourmet Cookbook, Volume 1." Ice this cake immediately after you make the icing and serve soon after preparing.
1 tablespoon butter (for parchment)
2 tablespoons flour (for parchment)
8 egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with wax paper or baking parchment. Trace 2 circles on each of two baking sheets, 8 inches in diameter, with 1 inch between them. On the third sheet, trace one circle. Brush the paper with melted butter and flour generously, shaking off the excess.
2. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Fold in the flour and the ground almonds.
3. Divide the egg white mixture among the circles on the baking sheets, taking care to spread it evenly to the edges of the circles as thin spots will be fragile.
4. Place the sheets in the oven, reduce the heat to 250 degrees and bake for about 25 to 35 minutes, or until the layers are just beginning to color. Reduce the heat to 200 and bake for two more hours.
5. Remove the meringues and cool briefly so they can be handled. Peel the parchment paper from the bottom of the disks, trying not to break them but not minding if you do -- icing will conceal it.
Icing and assembly
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
3 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1. As the meringues cool, make the filling. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter together; remove from heat.
2. Beat the egg whites until foamy and soft but not until stiff peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar and cocoa and then the melted chocolate and butter.
3. Put a meringue disk on a good pastry dish. Coat it with icing. Place a disk on top of the icing. Ice. Repeat with the remaining disks, finishing with a layer of icing. Serve immediately. The Italian walnut liqueur Nocino would be the ideal accompaniment.
Each of 16 servings: 320 calories; 4 grams protein; 28 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 23 grams fat; 13 grams saturated fat; 46 mg. cholesterol; 40 mg. sodium.