Eton Mess Cake

Traditionally, Eton Mess is a dessert served in a dish – not in cake or slice-form.  A combination of crisp meringues, sweetened cream, and fresh berries, Eton Mess is a perfect balance of flavors and textures.  Simple, fresh, and kind of “messy,” this classic British dessert is easy to throw together and versatile.  You can event change it up by infusing the cream or swapping in any seasonal fruit you have on hand and you’re all set!
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While Eton Mess was created with “simplicity” and “ease” in mind (assuming you keep meringue cookies on hand), this Eton Mess Cake takes it up a notch.  The whipped cream, sweet fruit, and crunchy meringues pair so beautifully together, I thought why not transform the components of Eton Mess itself into a cake filling?  Similar to a strawberry shortcake, this light and fresh layer cake is perfect for spring and the warmer months ahead.
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In order to not weigh down the pillowy whipped cream and airy meringue, I created this variation of a sponge cake.  Unlike other butter or pound cakes that can be rather dense, this cake is light, airy, yet still provides structure and stability within a sky-high layer cake.  Once layered together, the crispy meringue bits nearly melt into the cream – each bite a perfect harmony of texture and sweetness.  Fresh berries always seem synonymous with spring and summer to me, but feel free to use whatever fruit you have on hand!
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To serve, carefully slice with a serrated knife.  The cake should be served within about 30 minutes of assembly or refrigerated (loosely covered in plastic to prevent the exposed cake layers from drying out).

For the Sponge Cake:
1 1/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 whole eggs
2 egg yolks (save whites for meringue)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
  2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In the bowl on an electric mixer, combine the whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla.  Using the whisk attachment, beat on high for about 5 minutes or until the batter resembles pale ribbons.
  4. Stop the mixing and remove the mixing bowl form the stand.  Sift the dry ingredients over the top of the batter.  Whisk by hand until just barely combined.
  5. Pour in the lemon juice and oil and whisk by hand until combined (taking care to not deflate the batter as much as possible).
  6. Evenly distribute the batter between the two pans and bake for about 35 to 38 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Let cool on a wire rack before removing the cakes from their pans.
For the Meringues:
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat to oven to 215 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, place the egg whites and cream of tartar.  Using the whisk attachment, begin whipping the whites on medium-low.
  3. Once the egg whites begin to foam, slowly add in the sugar and gradually increase the speed to medium-high.
  4. Continue to whip egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks.  Add in the vanilla and mix for an additional 30 seconds until combined.
  5. Spoon about 2/3 of the meringue onto the parchment paper into disks (about 3 inches in diameter – these will be broken up, so no need for them to be perfect).
  6. Fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip with the remaining meringue.  Pipe meringue “kisses” on the parchment (use two baking sheets if necessary).
  7. Bake the meringue for about 45 to 75 minutes, or until crisp on the outside and meringue can easily peel off the parchment.
For the Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. In the bowl on an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream on medium-high until it begins to thicken slightly.
  2. Gradually add in the sugar and vanilla and bump mixer up to high.
  3. Continue to whip the cream until medium-soft peaks.
For the Assembly:
about 3 to 4 cups fresh berries, washed and dry
  1. Once the cakes have cooled, carefully slice them in half (horizontally) using a long serrated knife.
  2. Beak up the meringue disks and set aside.
  3. Place a bottom layer of cake on a cake plate or serving dish. Spread on 1/4 of the whipped cream.
  4. Top the cream with mixed berried and a generous amount of meringue pieces.
  5. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat until all cake layers are used.
  6. On the very top of the cake, spread on the remaining whipped cream. Top with berries and meringues kisses.
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