Easter comes early this year and I’m just hoping it doesn’t snow, like it is currently doing out my window. Send warm thoughts. Yesterday we poked about in the garden and saw signs of life, which is hopeful… violets, lilies, and herbs were all pushing up through the dormant winter earth. The rich dark soil laden with the promise of life that awakens to warmer days. Can you tell I’m soooo ready for spring?! So let’s celebrate the season of rebirth and emergence with a show-stopping cake, shall we?
I’ve been in awe of how the cooking liquid from beans can be turned into meringue. This discovery as been around for a few years and has been coined “aquafaba”, which literally means “water-bean”. The most common type used is from chickpeas, which is what I used in this recipe, but other legumes work too. You can save the liquid from canned chickpeas or, if you’re like me, make your own by saving and reducing the liquid from cooking dried beans. If you make your own, you want to reduce the liquid enough so that is is very viscous and gelatinous at room temperature or when chilled. If I’m cooking a pot of chickpeas, I will cover them with about 2″ of water. After they are cooked, I strain the liquid off into a bowl and then reduce it by about half to get the right consistency needed to make a stable meringue. I like to freeze aquafaba in ice cube trays then store the cubes in freezer bags for later use. One cube is about 2 tablespoons. Just thaw the amount you need before making a recipe.
It’s really quite amazing to see bean water turn into glossy stiff peaks of meringue after about 15 minutes of whipping in a stand mixer. A stand mixer is really helpful here. You can use a hand-held mixer but it will take even longer. This recipe uses a tiny bit of tapioca starch to help the meringue keep it’s structure for piping and while it bakes. In testing I found it helped immensely! Oven temperature is super important and it is good to have an oven thermometer to make sure it is set correctly. You basically want to dry out or dehydrate the meringue, not cook it. It should stay white and not deflate. This means you need a long chunk of time for baking, so plan day when you will be home or do it at night.
Can we talk about this rhubarb curd for a minute tho? It’s bomb. It’s lip puckering but sweet, like a good curd should be. You really taste the rhubarb flavor and can use this in other preparations like tarts, bars or sandwiched between cake layers. It so good! If you don’t make the meringue, still make the curd. It keeps in the fridge for a few days and would be also excellent in a yogurt parfait for breakfast, just saying.
The finished cake is layers of sweet airy meringue clouds, zingy rhubarb curd, whipped coconut cream topped with baked rhubarb and fresh strawberries. The crispy meringue will start to “melt” as soon as anything wet touches it so you need to assemble the cake right before you serve it. Bring it to the table immediately and scoop into bowls to eat it like Eaton Mess. It’s a thing of beauty that turns into a beautiful delicious mess.
Dab the corners of baking sheets with aquafaba meringue to keep parchment paper in place. Trace circles on the underside of parchment to make a template for meringue nests.
Vegan Rhubarb Curd
- Add chopped rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice to a sauce pan and heat to a rolling simmering, stirring to dissolve sugar. Then cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Return mixture to saucepan and heat on medium stirring constantly until it thickens to the point where it sticks to the back of a spoon, about 3-5 minutes.
- Pour curd into a heat safe jar and let it cool to room temperature then store covered in the refrigerator. Curd will continue to set as is cools. Keep refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Vegan Aquafaba Meringue and Rhubarb Curd Cake
- Aquafaba Meringue
- 1 cup of reduced aquafaba chickpea cooking liquid*
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 teaspoons tapioca starch
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla bean/paste or seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
- 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt if aquafaba is salted, omit
- 1 tablespoon freeze-dried strawberry powder optional
- Cake Assembly
- 2 cups rhubarb curd
- 2 cups whipped coconut cream or cocowhip
- 2 stalks rhubarb
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup strawberries halved
- Preheat oven to 200˚F. Oven temperature is important. Use an oven thermometer to confirm the temperature and adjust the oven setting accordingly. You want to basically dehydrate the meringue, not cook it. It should stay white and hold its structure, not turn brown or deflate. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Raise speed to high and continue to whip until stiff peaks form, about 5 more minutes. The aquafaba will be airy, white and form stiff peaks. At this point add the vanilla and sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, whipping after each addition for a total of 4-5 minutes of whipping at high speed. The aquafaba will be glossy, white and stiff, just like traditional meringue. Note: You can’t over-whip aquafaba. The more you whip it the more stable is becomes.
- Dab aquafaba meringue into the four corners of each baking sheet and place parchment down over it. This will keep the parchment in place so it doesn’t shift around when piping out the meringue.
- Using about 2/3 of the meringue, create four 6” diameter discs of meringue on two of the baking sheets using a rubber spatula to help spread and shape them.
- Check oven temperature first then place sheets into the oven and let meringue discs dry out for 3.5-4 hours. They should sound hollow when tapped and not stick to the the parchment. Turn off oven and crack open the door and leave meringues in until the oven cools down.
- After you put the larger discs into the oven, check the remaining aquafaba to make sure it still forms stiff peaks. If it looks like it’s loosened up then whip in the mixer for another few minutes until it’s the right consistency.
- To pipe meringue nests and kisses fill a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip with the meringue. Tip: Put pastry bag into a quart sized mason jar and fold down opening over the rim of the jar to hold the bag up while you fill it. Pipe 2 inch discs and then continue piping up the sides in a circular motion to make nests. Pipe kisses by pressing pastry tip straight down and lifting up in a quick motion.
- To make blush colored, strawberry flavored meringues, add freeze-dried strawberry powder to the remaining meringue and whip in the mixer to incorporate. (To make freeze-dried strawberry powder, pulverized freeze-dried strawberries into a fine powder with a mortar and pestle.) Fill the pastry bag in the same manner as before and continue piping nests or kisses or any shape you want.
- By this time the larger discs would have been in the oven for about 1 hour, unless you're super fast at piping, in which case you may want to time this accordingly to your speed. The smaller meringues need to dry out for 2-2.5 hours at 200˚F, and then cool in the oven with the door cracked to continue drying. If you have a double oven you can just bake them separately from the larger pieces.
- Once oven has cooled down and meringues are completely dry, and crunchy, they need to be stored in air tight containers and kept completely dry. Make the meringues a day ahead and store them accordingly until you are ready to assemble the cake. Enjoy!
To make baked “stewed” rhubarb:
- preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Trim ends of rhubarb stalks and cut into 2-3” long pieces. Lay them onto a small baking sheet or oven safe dish. Cover with sugar, lemon juice and water. B
- ake until softened and syrupy, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cook to room temperature. Note: Baking the rhubarb instead of stewing it on the stove, helps keep its bright color and shape.
To make whipped coconut cream:
- Scoop out the cream from 2 refrigerated cans of coconut milk and add to the bowl of a mixer. Or use 2 refrigerated containers of SoDelicious culinary coconut milk straight from the containers. (Not sponsored, just what I prefer) Add powdered sugar to taste, 2 tablespoons or so and a dash of vanilla extract.
- Whip until cream is airy and soft peaks form. Or you can use cocowhip from the freezer section of your grocery store for an easy swap. Just make sure its been thawed out in the refrigerator ahead of time.
Assemble the Cake:
- Assemble the cake right before it will be served as once the moisture from the curd, coconut cream and fruit touch the meringue it will start to soften immediately.
- Put a dab of the whipped coconut cream onto the cake stand or plate. Layer a meringue disc, then rhubarb curd, then whipped coconut cream. Repeat 4 times.
- Top cake with rhubarb, halved strawberries and meringue kisses. Decorate cake with mint leaves and/or edible spring flowers like violets, pansies or chamomile if you can find them.
- To finish the meringue nests, fill them with leftover rhubarb curd and top with a cut strawberry.
- Serve immediately! This cake needs to be eaten right away and will not keep as the meringue will soften and fall apart as it gets wet. Enjoy!
Prop Love: Cake server by Facture Goods. Naturally dyed gauze by Nade Studio. Knife by Four Leaf Wood Shop. Cheese Board by Sweet Gum Co. Backdrops by Erickson Woodworks.