Monday, February 22, 2010

Strawberries & Cream Meringue Cake (aka an Eton Neat)

Summer is nearly over. And while I am looking forward to being able to snuggle up in bed on cool nights, to wearing tights and eating warm puddings, I'll still be sad to see the month draw to a close. I'll especially miss all the summery desserts, chilled or packed full of summer berries. One of my favourite summer desserts is an Eton mess. For those who don't know, an Eton mess is a English dessert of strawberries, cream & meringue , traditionally served at Eton college . It's so simple and kind of ugly but it's just happiness in a bowl, that's why I love it. The combination of the sweet, crunchy meringue and the rich cream with a slightly tangy strawberry sauce and fresh strawberries, oh it's so good.
The dessert in these photos might look familiar to you. I'm fairly certain I was one of many people who spent the last month drooling at the sight of this beautiful peaches and cream meringue cake from Gourmet Traveller. It's just a total celebration of summer, and I wanted to make it really badly. The recipe is very straightforward as well. But then I had that craving for eton mess, and I had two punnets of very ripe strawberries sitting in my fridge that were begging to be eaten. I thought, why not combine the two and see what happens? It would be like an eton mess...but not messy! And so the Eton Neat was born.
Unfortunately, while concocting this idea in my head I forgot the fact that I am not neat. I am very, very messy. I am a proud slob. That's why the eton mess is so well suited to me. So as I attempted this recipe for the first time, rushing to finish it in the dying minutes of daylight after work, I made a total mess of it. And you can't call it an Eton neat if it's not even neat! I am definitely not up to Gourmet Traveller standards :( So I stuck the meringue back in the oven to harden up a little and made an Eton mess instead. I guess that means it wasn't a total failure, just remember you can make an Eton mess if you screw up your Eton neat, haha! And it still tastes so goood.
But I rallied, determined to get this dessert to work. Now that I was more comfortable with the recipe, I tried again and this time managed to get it sort of neat. Even though it's not perfect, I think it's quite pretty anyway, and it tastes so good. The meringue is fluffy with just enough of a crunchy outer layer to make the whole dish reminiscent of an Eton mess. On my first attempt I also mixed some leftover mascarpone into the cream mixture and it added some extra decadence to the dessert, so keep that in mind as an alternative. But as long as you have some fresh, ripe strawberries, it will taste good no matter what. That strawberry sauce is lip-smackingingly good.
Strawberry & Meringue Cream Cake (Eton Neat)
(adapted from this recipe from Gourmet Traveller)
For the meringue:
4 large egg whites
200g caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp cornflour, sieved
Vegetable oil, for greasing
Pure icing sugar, sieved for dusting

For the strawberry sauce:
1 punnet strawberries (250g), stems removed
50ml lemon juice
60g (1/3 cup) pure icing sugar

1 punnet strawberries (approx 250g), stems removed and thinly sliced
300ml thickened cream (and/or mascarpone)

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Line a 28x18x3cm slice tin with baking paper and lightly grease with oil. Whisk egg whites in a large mixing bowl with an electric beater until they form stiff peaks.
Gradually add caster sugar, whisking constantly, until the mixture is glossy. Gently fold in sifted cornflour and vinegar, then pour into lined tin and smooth surface with a spatula.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until golden on the surface. Cool in tin for 5 minutes and then gently turn out onto a piece of baking paper heavily dusted with icing sugar and cool completely. Be careful when handling meringue as it is very delicate. (For a crunchier meringue, spread thinner and for much longer, until dry)
In the meantime, place strawberries, lemon juice and icing sugar in a food processor or plenty and pulse until smooth. Strain to remove seeds and refrigerate until cake is ready to assemble. Whisk cream gently in a small mixing bowl until soft peaks form and refrigerate.
Trim the edges of the meringue and the cut in half widthways. From this point you can place a layer of sliced strawberries on top of one half, spoon a little bit of strawberry sauce followed by a layer of cream on top and then sandwich with remaining meringue half. (I actually cut up my meringue into 8 equal slices so that I could assemble each portion of cake separately, but either way is fine)
Place remaining slices of strawberry over the top of the meringue and then serve with strawberry sauce. Best eaten within 20 minutes of assembly. Serves 4.
The photos might be a little misleading, I didn't pour too much sauce on this cake slice since my earlier attempt showed how easy it was to make your cake look like it was bleeding profusely. But feel free to drown your cake in as much sauce as possible, or at least serve the remaining sauce on the table. It's a very simple recipe and will take you hardly any time at all. And I'm sure you will be less of a slob compared to me, so it will turn out even nicer! If not, just make an Eton mess ;)
P.S. This post is dedicated to my most fabulous cousin YL, since it is her birthday tomorrow (23rd Feb). Happy Birthday YL! This cake is for you :)
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  1. It's so pretty and love the concept of an 'Eton Neat'!

  2. awesome yumminess. oh god, why did i just read this before bedtime. damn! sweet dreams i guess now :-)

  3. That looks amazing! I love Eton Mess - this is a great concept.

  4. oh man that is brilliant i love the idea of adding the mascarpone too!

  5. I love the name! It's indeed very neat :) I used up all my egg whites from DBC on my fried rice.

  6. It's very neat indeed! Gorgeous work Steph and it reminds me of a pavlova vanilla slice! :)

  7. Beautiful photos Steph! I think your Eaten Neat looks mouthwateringly good and so pretty! :) Summer fruits is the only thing I will miss about summer!

  8. Bwhaha Eton Neat!! That is awesome and looks delicious. Plus it is totally you.

  9. I need a slice of this! And love the name too. Hehe

  10. Your meringue layers look so... neat! This is a great take on GT's version, I love it!

  11. I'm so messy as well and proud of it but I would go neat any day if I could have dessert like this. I definitely think strawberries are far better than peaches for this dessert - well done! Oh and yeah, am looking forward to wearing tights too! :)

  12. this is indeed rather neat! good work!

  13. I feel like I keep repeating myself when commenting on your posts, but I just can't help it - you're too clever!

    Love the name, and this truly looks super professional. Just gorgeous!

    (also, stop saying that summer is almost over... I think if we all wish hard enough it might stay?)

  14. I love this cute adaptation of the Eton Mess - it makes this delicious dish perfect for dinner parties! Truly impossible to resist, I love the sweet flavours here :)

  15. OMG this looks delicious. Every layer sounds awesome. I'm so inspired to make this for a dinner party. Great job Steph!

  16. Ooh wooww this looks great mmm!! I must try it sometime heh and awesome photos too :)

  17. mademoiselle délicieuse - Hehe thank you! It was hard to make it neat!

    Simon Food Favourites - Haha yes I regularly dream about dessert :) Thanks!

    Poires au Chocolat - I love Eton Mess too! Thanks!

    chocolatesuze - Mmm mascarpone and strawberry is such a winner combination!

    Kristy Sayer - Thanks so much!

    Ellie - Hehe thank you! Good way to use it up...I used mine up with unhealthy desserts instead!

    Lorraine - Haha ooh I've never heard of a pavlova vanilla slice but I get what you mean! Thanks!

    Yas - HAHA! Thank you!!

    Betty - Thanks Betty!! Same here!

    lili - :D Yay I'm so glad you think so! Thank you!

    missklicious - Hehe I'm a sucker for gimmicky names :)

    Belle - Haha thank you! It took a lot of cleaning up to make it neat!

    Trissa - Your plates always look so neat, you can't be as messy as me! Tights rule!!

    panda - Thanks so much!

    Conor - Haha aww thank you :) Haha yes maybe if we all wish just hard enough :D

    Lucy - Thank you so much! There's just something great about strawberries and cream :)

    linda - :D It was tasty. Ooh let me know if you make it! Thanks Linda!

    FFichiban - Heehee thanks! Try it!

  18. I love all merigue cakes!!! Your is gourgeus!!!

  19. just saw this post again and *sniff* I miss summer. will definitely be making this next summer!

  20. Heehee you make me giggle :) <3 make it make it!


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