What I’m Cooking: Meringue Dream Cake

I love to cook. If you know me at all, you definitely know this about me. What you may not know about me is that I have a very large collection of cookbooks (I dream about the day I will have somewhere to store them all in the same place). And you may also not know that I have a mildly out of control obsession with Pinterest. Put all of that together, and I constantly have a unbelievably long list of recipes I want to cook. I like to come up with my own version of classic recipes, like pumpkin pie or boeuf bourguignon, but I also really enjoy making others recipes as they were meant to be made. So with all of that said, I thought it would be nice to start a new series called What I’m Cooking, where I will write about a recipe I found somewhere and my experiences with it (successes, failures, challenges, etc).

The first recipe was roasted potato & bacon salad, but I didn’t really talk much about the series… so I’m going to pretend that this is the real first official post in the series and hopefully you can all pretend along with me! So, the first feature is the Meringue Dream Cake by Sweetapolita. I actually first saw this cake pop up on Sweetapolita’s instagram feed – the next minute I was on Pinterest adding it to my own board. I usually just add cakes to my Pinterest because they are baking porn to me. And I’m often delusional thinking I’m going to actually bake them. But this cake was somehow different – the timing on that post couldn’t have been better because earlier that day my brother had asked me if I would be willing to bake a cake for his girlfriend’s birthday in a few weeks. I guess he caught me at a moment of weakness because I agreed. Normally when it comes to making something in the kitchen, I’m all over it. But baking a cake, or just baking in general, is another story. I am not much of a baker. It’s not that I’m bad at it, it’s that I prefer to cook. Regardless, I couldn’t back out of making a cake. When my brother proposed the idea, I actually had a different cake in mind that I have been wanting to try out for awhile – it’s a dark chocolate salted caramel cake from The Duchess Bakeshop cookbook (don’t worry, I will still make it, just another time). But as soon as I saw the Dream Cake, I knew that was the cake I needed to make. I sent the recipe to my brother and he immediately replied “YES!”.

Meringue Dream Cake

I made the cake over a few days – the baked meringues two days early, the cake and chocolate glaze the day before, then on the day of serving I made the meringue frosting and assembled the cake. All of the steps were really simple and I’m very glad I spread the process out over a few days.

Meringue Dream Cake

Here are my overall thoughts on this recipe:
– You might be put off when you first look at the recipe and see all the different steps, but almost everything except the frosting can be done a few days ahead like what I did. It is a time consuming cake, but it was worth it for a special occasion.
– I did use food coloring powder as recommended and found it online at Golda’s Kitchen (based out of Canada but they ship to the US as well). I had a bit of trouble with the coloring because since I am not much of a baker, I haven’t had to color anything since the time my sister and I made green pancakes for our Dad when we were younger. The blue was actually perfect, but the green turned out much more pastel than I wanted (I was going for emerald). I don’t blame the coloring, I’m blaming my lack of experience.
– If you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, it can be a pricey cake. I purchased food coloring powder, edible glitter, lots of eggs (the recipe uses 16 in total!), buttermilk, a round cake pan (I did not own one prior to this – tells you how much I bake), and frosting tips. You don’t need to purchase all of these things to make the cake (specifically the coloring and glitter), but since it was for a birthday, and for a person who loves color, I wanted to make sure it was extra special.
– I don’t know much about cake baking. I know that there is this whole big world of cake baking that exists that I am totally ignorant to. So when I discovered that lining the bottom of your cake pan with parchment paper to prevent the cake from sticking is a thing, I slapped my hand to my forehead. Of course, how brilliant!
– I was mostly worried about piping the meringues and them looking like hell, but it was surprisingly easy. My only issue was that I don’t think my mixture was firm enough because the meringues quickly lost their shape. They didn’t look horrible, but they could have been much better. I’ll take it as a baking lesson I suppose.
– Almost half of my larger meringues cracked while baking. I read up on this afterwards and it looks like I wasn’t using the freshest eggs, which is what can cause cracking. Also, I could have baked my meringues too long and I should have turned off the oven and let them gradually cool before taking them out. Apparently meringues are very finicky. It’s not a big deal, I used the good meringues for decorating and the cracked ones got crushed up for the cake layers or eaten on their own – they still tasted amazing.
– You’ll have a lot of egg yolks left over so you’ll want to make Martha Stewart’s Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse (it is really easy & quick to make. And also so good).

So would I recommend this recipe to others? Yes, especially if it is a special occasion. It doesn’t require a lot of decorating skill, which is good, and all of the steps are very easy and straight forward. Not to mention, this cake tastes amazing.

What I’m Cooking: Roasted Potato & Bacon Salad

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people that cringes every time I see a cold potato salad drowning in mayo. I get dry heaves just thinking about the smell and the texture and biting down on to one of those barely cooked crunchy onions. Just nasty. I’ve hated potato salad ever since I was a kid. I used to be a picky eater, and I ended up getting rid of most of my food qualms as an adult, but it just never happened with potato salad. That is until a few years ago when I came across a recipe for roasted potato salad, sans mayo. And then everything changed. No longer was I a hater of potato salad, but a true advocate for it. More specifically, this potato salad.

I still hate the cold mayo-based potato salad, so don’t think I’ve completely changed. But the roasted potato salad is something I can really get behind – it is truly delicious. I pull it out for most potlucks and every single time I get excited responses “What is this? It’s so good! Can I have the recipe?”. How can you possibly go wrong with roasted potatoes, bacon, and capers?

Roasted Potato and Bacon Salad

This recipe is from Michael Smith, a Canadian chef who has authored various cookbooks and who has had a few cooking programs on television (I first discovered him through watching his old show Chef At Home back when we still had cable in our house). All of his recipes are always very simple and he also encourages home cooks to put their own spin on the recipes, often times leaving measurements open to interpretation (in a good way!). The thing I love most about this potato salad recipe is that it is a very simple recipe and requires very few ingredients. I’ve included the recipe below written in my own words, but it is almost identical to the original recipe, so don’t give me any credit here, except credit for introducing this wonderful recipe in to your life (you’re welcome).

Roasted Potato & Bacon Salad (original recipe via Chef Michael Smith)

Ingredients:
– 1 bag of new potatoes, washed and sliced in half
– 6-8 slices of bacon, cut in to bits
– Black pepper
– Italian parsley (it is fine to use curly parsley as well – whatever is available to you) – washed, dried, and stems removed
– Capers (a few heaping tablespoons – I love these salty little gems so I usually dump a lot in)
– Heaping tablespoon of grainy mustard, but dijon also works.
– A splash of red wine vinegar

Directions:
– Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
– Fry the bacon until it is barely cooked.
– Throw the potatoes in a roasting pan and toss with the bacon bits, some of the bacon grease, and pepper (the original Michael Smith recipe calls for salt as well, but I find there is enough between the bacon and capers, so I omit this – but I love cracked black pepper, so I add lots of that). Roast the potatoes and bacon for about 25-30 minutes, tossing half way through.
– In the meantime, throw your prepared parsley and capers in a large salad bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and vinegar, tasting it to ensure you like the ratio. I like more mustard than vinegar, but it is up to you. The dressing will be really tart but the flavors will be balanced once everything else is added in.
– When your potatoes are ready, allow them to cool a bit (I like them still warm on my salad so I don’t wait very long. Plus I have no patience and this salad is delicious so I don’t want to wait for it). When the potatoes are cooled enough for you, throw them in the salad bowl with the parsley and capers, add the dressing, and toss until everything is evenly coated. Enjoy!

What I’m Cooking is a new series where I will feature recipes that are not my original recipes, but that are my experiments with other people’s recipes.