Monday, March 02, 2009

30 doesn't have to be evil...

I've always felt older than what my actual age is and it is no surprise to me that turning 30 today doesn't make me feel any different either....more like it's about time! Bring it on, I say!

As I always end up doing, I made my own cake again this year - though Jeff did help this time... helped to taste test anyway! I've never been very traditional in picking out what to make, so I randomly picked out this Coffee Pecan Meringue Cake to try! What's funny is that I don't enjoy coffee much at all, however, I love desserts and treats that have that pungent brew in them - I don't get it either, but it works for me.

Rather than actual "cake", the layers are made from a flour-less sweet meringue that we spiked with finely chopped pecans. To ensure the layers were roughly the same size, we traced a 10" circle on to a couple pieces of parchment paper, flipped them over and used the outline as a guide to smear on the meringue. We found a dinner plate was just the right size for this - the edges of the meringue will probably be fairly ragged, but don't worry or try to get them perfect as they'll be trimmed off later on. After baking the meringues until they were golden, we set the two discs aside while I got working on a smashing filling.

Instead of a super-sweet buttercream made from loads of confectioners' sugar and butter, we prepared a Swiss Meringue that we infused with two types of coffee. This frosting is a little more work, but extremely worth the effort. We needed to heat egg whites and sugar over boiling water to start out - this first warms up the egg whites so they will whip to a greater volume, but this process also melts the sugar into those whites, making for a stable mixture. They are then whipped until the bowl is no longer warm to the touch on the outside. As soon as that happens, you swap out the whisk attachment and move to the paddle as you've incorporated plenty of air into the eggs at this point.

Butter is added slowly, a tablespoon at a time, until all of it has been tossed in. It may look a odd when the butter goes in - almost curdled and sloppy, but this is just how it works. As you continue mixing, the butter will emulsify into the airy whites and it will gradually transform in front of your eyes into a smooth frosting. To slip the coffee flavor in, we combined strong espresso powder into a few tablespoons of prepared coffee and added that into the frosting a tablespoon at a time. It will look messy again, but it absorbs quickly and you'll see just how shiny and spreadable the frosting becomes. Jeff did plenty of quality control checks at this point - he was surprised with just how light, yet rich, buttery and not tooth-achingly sweet this type of frosting is! The coffee is directly up front, but it was also not bitter or overwhelming.

Assembly of this cake doesn't get any easier - all we had to do was scoop the generous, silky buttercream on top of one crunchy meringue and top it off with the other! If you assemble the cake a day or so ahead of time and let it sit in the refrigerator, the meringue softens ever-so-slightly - this makes slicing this delicate treat easier, yet the meringue retains a satisfying bite. I was wondering if the flavor in the meringue would just disappear into its buttercream center, but those tiny pecan nuggets studded throughout gave the layers enough strength to hold their own. Different, I agree... but what a spectacular way to celebrate with a little decadence minus the guilt!

40 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday! =)
    -rebelyell

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  2. Happy birthday! The cake looks great!

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  3. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! and what a perfect way to celebrate :)

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  4. Happy Birthday Joe!! :-)

    Kelli

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  5. Wishing you a very happy birthday, Joe. All the best, Annie

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  6. a) Happy Birthday! Welcome to a great decade!

    b) I haven't made meringues in ages. They're so good.

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  7. Happy Birthday Joe, at 30 your still a pup! LOL!! Your birthday cake is beautiful!

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  8. Happy Birthday Joe!!

    I'm glad to hear that turning the big 3-0 isn't as scary as I've been imagining (I'm still a couple years away).

    Your cake is beautiful! Have a wonderful day.

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  9. Hope you had a great birthday. Best!

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  10. Happy Birthday Joe! May all your Birthday wishes come true.

    Cheers,
    JD

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  11. Happy Birthday, Joe!!
    Kasia

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  12. Happy Birthday! I myself crossed over at the end of January. Life begins at thirty, so they say! Looks delicious!

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  13. oh my gosh - Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!! love you and your site
    kisses and huggs

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  14. 30!!!! My youngest will be 33 this month!!! I don't think about the numbers...it is how you feel and enjoy life that counts!!!!
    Happy Birthday! I will also celebrate my bday this month AND make my own cake...haven't decided what yet....I will take a peek at your cake list.

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  15. Best Wishes on a great milestone! All the best,
    Kristin

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  16. Happy Birthday! Believe me, at 30 you've still got youth and your health going for you. Enjoy it!

    That dessert looks like something that could be served at a good restaurant. Yum!

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  17. Happy Birthday Joe! I hope you had a truly wondrous day.

    xo
    Kelly

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  18. Happy Birthday Joe!!! 30's not so bad! I turn 40 tomorrow - that one's got me cringing!

    That looks like a great non-cake. I've been contemplating a similar meringue "cake" but with lemon instead of coffee/pecans.

    And I have to say I totally agree with you. I do NOT like coffee one bit. Definitely not my thing! But give me coffee flavored ice cream, or a mocha frapaccino, or coffee flavored chocolate, and I'm in heavy!! MMM!

    Hope your birthday was great!

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  19. Happy Birthday! This gives me hope that I can accept turning 30 without freaking out too much. ;)

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  20. Jennifer in NYC3/03/2009 02:31:00 PM

    Happy Birthday Joe!
    Your cake looks great, I bet it was yummy!

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  21. Looks very tasty - Happy Birthday! Turning 30 myself next week.. strange times!

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  22. Happy Birthday Joe!!!
    I am turning 30 this year too (next month!) and am already thinking about which cake to make! (although this year I am having a little "crisis" with the turning 30 thing...)
    I always make my own cake and it always end up being a chocolate one!
    I really like the coffee aspect of your cake!
    Ana

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  23. Hope you had a great birthday!

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  24. Happy Birthday Joe!

    Your recipes keep getting better and better. Each time I think there's no way you can top your last recipe you come up with yet another winner. When are you going to publish your cookbook?

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  25. Happy (belated) birthday, Joe! I hope you had a great day :o)

    Courtney

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  26. It's all good after 30 and just gets better and better. And that cake is an awesome way to ring in your next year.

    Many happy returns. :)

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  27. Happy Birthday Joe, I hope you had a great day and the cake looks soooo good.

    30 is a great age, make the best of it, and I wish I could trade places with you.

    All the best in the next year and forever,

    Rita

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  28. Happy birthday! I turned 30 a few months ago. I looked forward to it. I'm wondering if 31 might seem ominous as a result....

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  29. What a wonderful 'cake' to celebrate your birthday. Bet it went down a storm.

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  30. Happy Birthday!

    And, I just really want to thank you for your blog. It's really a go-to source for me; I've never had a recipe that you made and liked not come out good. Which is so valuable, since I have limited time and, also, can't afford to waste money on food that doesn't taste good. Thank you so much!

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  31. Happy Birthday Joe!
    I love your blog. It's one email I read everyday!
    Jennie

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  32. Mmmm, delicious looking cake! Happy Birthday!

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  33. Thanks everyone for the Birthday wishes!

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  34. I hope you had a wonderful birthday, Joe! That cake looks fantastic. :)

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  35. Joe, as always I'm a big fan. Happy happy birthday to you! -Ari

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  36. this looks amazingly delicious!

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