Don’t say it! I know what you’re thinking. Double cream? Dulce de Leche? MERINGUE?!?!?! What is this unhealthy monstrosity! Well I’ll tell you what it is. It is my friend Sammy’s birthday cake. And if you had heard that hopeful little voice requesting something with chocolate and caramel involved, you would have cracked too! Sometimes I just have to accept that no matter how excited I get about vegan avocado mousse tarts and chocolate fudge orange cupcakes made out of chia and almonds, not everyone feels the same. In the words of one wise friend, not everyone wants that mangy vegan shit. True words. Amen sister.
So this cake was born! Did it fill the criteria? Caramel? Check. In the blessed form of Argentinian boiled condensed milk- Dulce de Leche. (Mmm who is remembering those evil caramel chocolate cookies?) Chocolate? Holy mama. And the chocolate was vegan! So please, I tried. I had so much fun shaving shards off my 2.5 kilogram block! Now that’s a lot of chocolate. I had lots of egg whites languishing in the freezer leftover from a recent vanilla ice cream episode, so meringue was the obvious way to go. The strawberries were a really yummy and colourful addition to what turned out as quite a light and creamy dessert. I made it in just over an hour, including the whole time the meringue was baking and I was dancing aggressively to Celtic rock music. (I have no shame).
I don’t actually recommend making it in such a short amount of time because as you can see from the equally delicious and equally horrendous photograph below, cream spreads when warm. It seriously knows no bounds. I was running late for the birthday lunch so I whipped the underdone meringue out of the oven, comforting myself that it would be perfectly chewy and marshmellow-centred because of my lack of baking time. I practically threw it on the floor and poured on a pile of cream and caramel. I like to think it was Jackson Pollock inspired. “Controlled chaos”. Once in the car, it started to ooze and meld together into a pool of creamy caramel and melted chocolate. For some reason, no one eating it complained at all!
Meringues and pavlovas were seriously one of my favourite desserts ever when I was growing up. Number one, they were always served with a practical mountain of fresh berries on top. I was OBSESSED with berries from a very young age. Number two, it looks like a marshmellow cloud, and is covered in cream. Number three, for some reason when people serve meringue, the slices are seriously enormous. And there’s nothing better than a plate of dessert that’s bigger than your plate of dinner was.
You can do lots of things with this super simple meringue base! I used the same ratio that Jamie Oliver uses. You can cover it in cream and whatever you really want. Fresh fruit, chocolate mousse and toffee shards, crush it up with ice cream, berries, yogurt and honey, anything! Go insane. And please forgive me for any mishaps in getting this post up or if I’m slow replying to comments, questions etc. I’m away! And sending lots of love from overseas.
Caramel, Strawberry and Chocolate Meringue: Adapted from here
1 400ml can (13.5 fluid ounces) condensed milk
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
220g caster sugar
Put your can of condensed milk in a saucepan and fill half-way with water. Boil gently for 2-3 hours, constantly making sure the water is covering the bottom third of the can. Alternatively, pour it into a baking dish and bake for half an hour until golden and thick.
Preheat the oven to 150C (302F). Lay a sheet of baking paper on a tray. In a stand mixer with a very clean bowl, start whisking your egg whites. Speed up to fast and whisk until the egg whites form stiff peaks (not so stiff they are lumpy! You whisk more later). At this point, slow it down and start pouring in your sugar. Whisk on low to combine and then put it back on fast. Whisk for 5-8 minutes, until the meringue is glossy and thick, and when you rub some in between your fingers there are no sugar granules. Spoon the meringue on to the tray and flatten down with a spatula, leaving room on the edges for expansion. Bake for about an hour, until white but still spongy in the centre.
When the meringue is done, leave it to cool. Whip the cream with a teaspoon of vanilla, if you want. Just until slightly thicker and fluffed. Wash and cut your strawberries, and cut your chocolate in shards. Spoon the cream over the meringue, then smooth over a layer of caramel. Dulce de Leche is thick but try and smooth it by using a knife and spoon to create long strands. Just before serving throw on the berries and chocolate and dig in! Serves 8. Once the toppings are on, try and eat it within the hour.