So now it’s October (how already?!) I think it’s acceptable to start posting Halloween things. I love coming up with Halloweeny bakes, it’s a chance to let my gothic creativity run wild and I have so many ideas that there’s no way I’ll be able to make them all. I actually made this cake a couple of weeks ago but have been waiting till October to post it; I wasn’t quite sure what to call it – meringue bone garden? Pile? Graveyard? In the end I went with palace but any of the former would fit. Basically it’s a chocolate cake filled with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and raspberry jam, covered in meringue bones with berry coulis ‘blood’ on the side.
This is the perfect impressive centrepiece for a Halloween party and it doesn’t just look good but it tastes delicious too; the perfect mix of chocolate, vanilla, berries and crunchy meringue. The chocolate cakes are made with dark muscovado (or dark brown soft) sugar and condensed milk which makes them lovely and soft; the recipe is from Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard which is one of my favourite books; he recommends adding a couple of teaspoons of glycerin to the cake batter to help keep them soft, this is optional but it really does work. I baked the cakes in three 15cm/6in round tins, but you can also use two 20cm/8in ones if you prefer, though obviously the cake will not be as tall.
It is easier to make than it looks, and the bones can be baked a week in advance and kept in an airtight container; the cakes can be baked the day before assembly but once the cake it decorated it should be served straight away if you want the bones to be crisp as they will start to soften fairly quickly, they’ll keep their shape for a day or two but will get sticky and lose their crunch. My oven is awful for making meringues in (and most other things as well…), even at it’s absolute lowest temperature it doesn’t go below 150C and the heat distribution is terrible so some of my bones came out browner than I would have liked. We’ll call them aged bones; obviously if you have a better oven than I do then your bones will look fresher, I think the effect works either way though so don’t worry if your meringues don’t come out perfect.
Meringue Bone Palace Halloween Cake
- 3 large egg whites
- pinch cream of tartar
- 165 g (3/4 cup + 2tbsp) caster sugar
Berry Coulis 'Blood':
- 500 g (17.5 oz) frozen mixed berries
- 130 g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
- 120 ml (1/2 cup) water
- 30 g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
- 50 ml (3tbsp + 1tsp) cold water
- 100 ml (1/4 + 1/8 cup + 1tbsp) boiling water
- 50 g (1.75 oz) dark chocolate finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 100 g (1/3 cup + scant 2 tbsp) butter softened
- 175 g (1 cup) dark muscovado sugar
- 125 g (4.4oz) sweetened condensed milk
- 2 medium eggs
- 2 tsp glycerin optional
- 200 g (1 + 2/3 cup) plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 4 large egg whites
- 225 g (1 cup + 2tbsp) caster sugar
- 250 g (1 cup + 1tbsp) softened butter
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch salt
- raspberry jam to fill
Preheat the oven to 110C/225F/gas mark 1/4 and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large, spotlessly clean bowl and whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually whisk in the sugar a couple of spoonfuls at a time until it is all incorporated; continue to whisk until the meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks.
Spoon the meringue into a disposable piping bag and snip off the corner. Use a little of the meringue to stick the baking parchment to the tray so that it is easier to pipe.
Pipe bone shapes on the baking tray – start by piping a blob then work your way down to make the length, then finish with another blob on the opposite side. Repeat in reverse to make a crisscross, overlapping your meringue down the length of the bone to ensure there are no thin spots. It may take a few attempts to get the technique right. Pipe varying lengths of bone - some long and some little ones.
Bake for about an hour and a half or until firm. Allow to cool in the oven then transfer to an airtight container.
Berry Coulis 'Blood':
Place all the mixed berry coulis ingredients into a medium sized heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil over a gentle heat, stirring regularly. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, or until thickened. Allow to cool, then transfer the coulis to a blender or use a hand blender to purée until completely smooth, pass the puree through a sieve, pushing through as much pulp as possible and discarding any seeds. Transfer to a jug, cover and keep refrigerated.
Grease three 15cm/6in round tins and line the bases with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
Mix the cocoa powder and cold water together to make a paste then add the boiling water, immediately add the chocolate and bicarbonate of soda and stir until smooth and melted.
In another bowl beat the butter, sugar and condensed milk with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour with each one and mixing well after each addition. Beat in the glycerin (if using), then mix together the flour and baking powder and add half of it to the butter mixture, mixing it in well. Beat in the chocolate mixture then the rest of the flour.
Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for about 25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
Place the egg whites and sugar in a spotlessly clean heatproof bowl (the bowl of your stand mixer if you have one) and place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, make sure that the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Gently whisk the eggs (with a hand whisk, not an electric one) until the sugar has dissolved, if you rub the mixture between your fingers it should feel smooth with no hint of graininess. It should measure about 60C/140F on a thermometer.
Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk with an electric mixer/stand mixer on high until the egg whites have formed a stiff, glossy meringue and the mixture is completely cold, the base of the bowl should feel cool to the touch, this will take about 10 minutes.
Turn the mixer down to low and gradually add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. The mixture may curdle or begin to look soupy, just keep on whisking and it will come back together.
Once all of the butter has been incorporated and the buttercream is smooth and silky whisk in the vanilla extract and salt.
Trim the tops of the cakes to level them then place one layer on a cake stand or serving platter, using a little bit of buttercream to stick it down. Put about a quarter of the buttercream in a disposable piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm round nozzle. Spread a thin layer of buttercream over the cake then pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge. Fill the gap inside the ring with jam (about 3tbsp). Spread a thin layer of buttercream over one of the remaining cake layers and place buttercream side down on top of the first layer.
Repeat these steps, placing the final cake layer on upside-down so that you have a flat top. Spread a thin layer of buttercream over the whole cake then refrigerate until firm. Cover the cake with another layer of buttercream, it doesn't matter if it's not completely smooth and neat.
Arrange the meringue bones around the sides of the cake so that they stick over the top slightly, vary the size a little and leave some whole and some broken.
Create a pile of smaller bones on top of the cake, again some whole and some broken. Serve the cake straight away with the coulis 'blood' on the side.
I am sharing this with Saucy Saturdays hosted by The Flavour Bender, Take Two Tapas, La Petit Chef and Mid-Life Croissant, Fiesta Friday hosted by Hostess At Heart and Fabulous Fare Sisters, The Food Calendar, Foodie FriDIY, Foodie Friends Friday and Friday Features