Merveilleux cakes are a simple base of two things: meringue and whipped cream. You’ll see them in almost every patisserie in France. “As is often the case” says Molly J Wilkinson in her new cookery book, “the most delightful, is the most classic: a simple vanilla whipped cream with chocolate shavings on the outside.”
How to make Merveilleux cakes
The key to these treats is a very firmly whipped cream. It should be whipped to the point of being thick, like buttercream. If whipped less firmly, it will soften the meringues too much. The directions are for individual three to four-bite merveilleux, but these can be made in any size. To prepare as an 8-inch (20-cm) cake, make two 8-inch (20-cm) circles of meringue before sandwiching them together with whipped cream. The same baking times and assembly instructions remain.
4 large egg whites (not carton whites)
2/3 cup (130 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (120 g) powdered sugar
About 5 oz (150 g) chocolate of choice (white, dark, milk)—this is between 1 and 2 chocolate bars
Best-quality chocolate sprinkles
About 1 cup (100 g) of whole cookies, such as speculoos, crushed into crumbs
About 1 cup (100 g) finely chopped toasted nuts
Whipped Cream Icing
3 cups (720 ml) heavy cream, cold
¾ cup (90 g) powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp (45 ml) full-fat mascarpone
Preheat your oven to 200°F (90°C).
Makes 15 individual cakes
Prepare the Meringue
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer, start whipping the egg whites on medium speed until they completely resemble foam.
Then, increase the speed to medium-high and very slowly add the granulated sugar, about a tablespoon (15 g) at a time, waiting 15 seconds or so between each addition to allow the sugar to incorporate.
Keep whipping, then check the peak. If it’s not at stiff peak, whip for a bit longer and consider increasing the mixer speed. This can take a total of 10 to 15 minutes to do! Look for a very thick meringue. When the beater is lifted, a point should stand straight up.
Sift the powdered sugar over the whipped egg whites in two additions, gently folding in to combine: Use a spatula to go down through the middle and then scrape up the side and over the top. The consistency will become a bit more fluid after folding it. Try to keep as much air as possible in the egg whites.
Dab a little meringue in the corners of your baking sheet and press a piece of parchment paper on top.
Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (10 to 12 mm, about 3/8 inch) or cut to a large opening. Make small closed swirls to create thirty 2- to 2½-inch (5- to 6-cm) circles on the prepared baking sheet. You can also simply spoon the meringue onto parchment and smooth with the back of a spoon or knife.
To help with piping, trace circles on the parchment paper with a pencil, using the top of a cup or a round cookie cutter. Flip the paper over before starting to pipe. They don’t have to be perfect, but you do need two that are the about same size to sandwich together per merveilleux.
Bake for 2 hours. Don’t open the oven door while baking. When the timer goes off, turn off the oven, resist the urge to open the door, and leave in the oven for at least 1 hour to cool.
Prepare Your Toppings
To shave the chocolate, simply use a vegetable peeler and run it along the edge of the chocolate bar, or process it in a food processor. Place the chocolate and the other toppings in separate large bowls and set aside.
Make the Whipped Cream Icing
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer, whip together the cream, powdered sugar, vanilla and mascarpone at medium-high speed until very thick, like a buttercream. The mixture will seem overwhipped. This is beaten more than you would normally whip cream to pipe beautiful swirls on top of a cake. If adding any flavorings, add them when the whipped cream is at medium to firm peak. To make two flavors, divide the cream into two bowls at medium peak stage. Then, whip both of them separately to the right state with any flavorings added. Chill.
Assemble the Merveilleux
Before starting to ice the meringues, lay out 15 flattened regular-sized cupcake papers to place the cakes on once they’re done, or place them directly on a serving platter.
Put a nice tablespoon-sized (15-ml) amount of the cream on top of one of the disks and sandwich another disk on top. Hold between your thumb and first fingers and ice around the sides. Keep a rim of meringue exposed around the bottom so you can easily hold on to it to finish the top.
Note: If the meringues aren’t stacking nicely because of points or bumps on the cookies, trim them with a paring knife. Ice the top by mounding the whipped cream on top to make a dome shape.
Smooth with an offset metal spatula or butter knife. Then, roll or sprinkle with toppings and place on a flattened cupcake paper. Chill the bowl of whipped cream as often as you need to throughout the assembly.
Chill the finished merveilleux for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.
These are best the day they are made, but can last for 1 day in the fridge.
Molly Wilkinson is a pastry chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Originally from Texas, teaches pastry and cooking workshops in Versailles, she lives in Versailles, France. Find her on instagram.com/mollyjwilk. Her book, French Pastry Made Simple: Foolproof Recipes for Éclairs, Tarts, Macarons and More By Molly Wilkinson, . is available on Amazon, online bookshops and can be ordered in book stores everywhere!