our youngest just had her first birthday and we threw her a party with a vintage circus theme.
so i got online to look for decorations. mistake #1.
you see, i envisioned in my head cake toppers of various whimsical circus animals.
cute AND yummy. so they had to be edible.
couldn't find any such thing online.
frustrated, i jumped on to pinterest (yes, i'm there too - follow me at: artcanthurt) and looked up baked goodies, candies....anything i could think of that might work.
nope. nothing that i liked.
so i decided to make something i'd NEVER made before. mistake #2.
two days before a party is NOT the time to try a new method in the kitchen.
five batches (VERY messy batches at that) of meringue later, i had tweaked the recipe & baking time so that my vision of cake toppers came to life.
i threw some photos up on instagram and apparently meringue shapes and letters are new to even my craftiest of friends!
to save you the time and trouble of wading thru recipes for meringue online and being frustrated after burning a few batches or having it come out grainy and not fluffy, here is the recipe with my notes "from experience" in green:
ingredients & supplies:
-3 large egg whites
-1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (in the spice/baking aisle at your market)
-a pinch of salt
-3/4 cup superfine sugar (i used a little less than the full 3/4 cup. some bags of sugar do not say 'superfine' - just use the smallest grained sugar you can find)
-pastry bag (disposable one are cheap and less cleanup)
-round-shapped tip with small opening
- place egg whites in a medium bowl and let stand for 30 minutes (they MUST become room temperature or they won't set up right); discard yolks.
- add cream of tartar and a pinch of salt. using an electric mixer set on medium, beat until soft peaks form. increase speed to high and add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time (take the time to add the sugar slowly, it matters! it will not puff up if you dump the sugar in all at once), beating until stiff peaks form and sugar is nearly dissolved.
- preheat oven to 300 degrees F (my ovan runs hot, so i had to bake mine at 250+ degrees and keep a close eye them so they did not brown like a marshmallow). meanwhile, pour meringue mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a small round-shaped tip. pipe shapes onto two parchment-lined baking sheets (yes, 3 eggs really does make this large a batch of meringue. do NOT try to double or triple this recipe! the batch gets TOO BIG). bake for about 10 minutes, then turn off oven. let meringues dry in oven, with door closed (and oven OFF), for 1 hour.
- carefully peel meringues from parchment and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 20 minutes.(i didn't bother with the wire rack cooling, i let them cool completely outside the oven on the cookie sheets and they were fine)
(original recipe from country living magazine)
i chose to make shapes of giraffes, lions, elephants, monkeys and sea lions.
if you feel comfortable free-handing it like i did great.
if not, find an image you want to trace and slip it under the parchment paper and trace away.
BUT REMEMBER TO TAKE THE PAPER YOU TRACED OUT before baking....that could get ugly.
here is my sea lion from start to finish:
the meringue toppers were a hit at the party and tasty too.
they will not keep for long and must be stored in an airtight container or even the moisture in the air will cause them to soften and start to weep. yuck.
you can also accent your meringue with edible dragees before baking them - have fun and i'd love to hear from you if you try making meringue too!