This layered meringue cake is best in spring, when strawberries are juicy and plump. But blackberries, blueberries, even peaches would be great.

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Credit: Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle,Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn

Recipe Summary

active:
1 hr
total:
4 hrs 20 mins
Yield:
Makes 10 to 12 servings
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Fresh Strawberry Meringue Cake is a harbinger of summer. Light, pillowy clouds of whipped cream give a nod to the sunny skies ahead, while sweet-tart berries say, "Spring is here!" All of the above are sandwiched between layers of crunchy, just-sweet enough meringue for one showstopping meringue cake recipe that will have everyone begging for your secrets. (They will likely be asking which bakery you bought it from first, though—this strawberry meringue cake is just that stunning!)

We're not too shy to share our complete guide for how to make strawberry meringue cake. Read on for the dish.

Ingredients for Strawberry Meringue Cake

Some simple baking staples team up to make a big impact in this strawberry meringue cake recipe. Here's what you'll need: 

Chopped Pecans 
Once toasted and pulsed in a food processor, these lend just enough heft—plus a hint of nutty flavor—to the meringue layers.

Cornstarch 
Along with the pecan powder, this helps add structure to the meringue.

Salt 
We promise this dessert doesn't taste salty! Just a pinch will help accentuate the sweetness of this strawberry meringue cake.

Sugar
You'll use cane sugar in three places for this strawberry meringue cake recipe: ½ cup in the pecan mixture that joins the meringue prior to baking, one cup in the meringue itself, and ½ cup in the whipped cream.

Room Temperature Egg Whites
Separate the yolks from the whites while the eggs are still refrigerator temp to decrease the chances of any yolk slipping into the whites. Then allow the whites to come to room temp before whipping for quickest, easiest whipping. (Psst… here's what to do with the extra egg yolks.)

Cream of Tartar 
This acidic spice cabinet star assists in stabilizing the meringue. If you happen to find your cream of tartar MIA, ½ teaspoon baking powder should work as a substitute.

Mascarpone Cheese 
Delightfully rich in flavor, this ricotta-like cheese helps thicken the whipped cream so it can hold its own between the layers of meringue and berries. Whipped ricotta or food-processed cottage cheese can work in a pinch if you can't find or don't love mascarpone.

Vanilla Extract 
Just a splash is enough to add depth and flavor to the whipped cream.

Whipping Cream 
Steer clear of half-and-half, milk, or other lower-fat swaps. Heavy whipping cream will whip up beautifully, and is what we recommend for this strawberry meringue cake recipe.

Sliced Fresh Strawberries and Halved Fresh Strawberries
Seek out blemish-free berries that are near peak ripeness (in other words, not too pale or green). If blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries look better at your market, feel free to swap in one or a mix of those instead. You could also use diced fresh peach slices for a peaches and cream rendition.

How to Make Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake

Yes, we know this berry dessert recipe is a bit of a time investment. But the showy, centerpiece-worthy results of the strawberry meringue cake recipe are more than worth it, if you ask us! To make it…

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350°F. On a large sheet pan, scatter the pecans in a single layer. Once the oven is up to temp, bake the pecans for about 10 to 12 minutes (stirring halfway through). They should be lightly toasted and fragrant. Remove the toasted pecans from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Turn down the oven temperature to 250°F.

toasting pecans on a sheet tray
Credit: Will Dickey

Step 2: Cover 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a template, plate, pot lid, or other round object to help you draw two 8-inch circles on each piece of parchment. Turn each sheet over, then use masking tape to secure them to the baking sheets.

making circles on parchment paper for Fresh Strawberry Meringue Cake
Credit: Will Dickey

Step 3: In a food processor, blitz up the cornstarch, salt, toasted pecans, and ½ cup of sugar for about 40 seconds, or until the pecans are finely ground (but not turned into nut butter).

blending pecans in a food processor for fresh strawberry meringue cake
Credit: Will Dickey

Step 4: In a large, clean stainless steel or bowl use an electric mixer on "high" to beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until the whites are foamy. Gradually add 1 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on "medium-high" until this blend appears glossy, stiff peaks form and all of the sugar dissolves. (This should take between 2 to 4 minutes; be careful not to overbeat!)

making meringue in mixing bowl for Fresh Strawberry Meringue Cake
Credit: Will Dickey

Use a spatula to gently fold half of the ground pecan mixture into this egg white mixture. Repeat this step once more with the rest of the pecan mix. (Score some bonus guidance about how to fold meringue into light, airy and cloud-like desserts like this strawberry meringue cake.)

mixing pecans into meringue for fresh strawberry meringue cake
Credit: Will Dickey

Step 5: Using a spoon, gently transfer this egg white mixture inside the four circles you drew on the parchment paper. Each circle—a single layer of this strawberry meringue layer cake—should be about 1 ½ cups of the egg white mix. Spread each pile of meringue to cover each circle fully. 

making meringue layers for Fresh Strawberry Meringue Cake
Credit: Will Dickey

Step 6: Bake the meringue layers in the 250°F oven for 1 hour, turning the sheets after 30 minutes to allow for even baking. After 60 minutes, flip the oven off but don't remove the baking sheets quite yet. Let the meringues hang out in the closed oven with the oven light on for 2 to 2 ½ hours; by this time, the surface should look dry and the meringues should lift easily off the parchment paper without sticking to your fingers.

baked layers of meringue for Fresh Strawberry Meringue Cake
Credit: Will Dickey

Step 7: When you're ready to assemble the cake, pop a large, clean stainless steel or glass bowl and your mixer's whisk in the freezer. (We'll get back to this shortly!) In a large bowl, use a spatula to mix the mascarpone cheese and vanilla just until blended.

Step 8: After the bowl and whisk have chilled in the freezer for 15 minutes, use them to whip cream at a low speed until the cream is foamy. Crank up the speed to medium-high, gradually adding ½ cup sugar. Use a spatula to gently fold this fresh whipped cream into the vanilla-laced mascarpone.

Step 9: Gingerly remove one of the strawberry meringue layers from the parchment paper, and transfer it to a serving plate or cake stand.

layer of meringue cake on a pink stand
Credit: Will Dickey

Use a spatula to spread one-fourth of the mascarpone mix (about 2 cups) over this first layer. Top with 1 ½ cups of sliced strawberries. Repeat these layers three more times—and on the final layer, use halved instead of sliced berries. Serve immediately, or for easier slicing, allow the strawberry meringue cake to chill for 2 hours. When you are ready to cut, opt for a sharp, thin-bladed knife.

meringue layers with whipped topping and strawberries for Fresh Strawberry Meringue Cake
Credit: Will Dickey

How to Serve This Strawberry Meringue Cake Recipe

We prefer to share this Fresh Strawberry Meringue Cake chilled. It's beautiful and elegant as-is, but you have our full permission to up the ante with one or several of these optional garnishes:

*Fresh blueberries
*Fresh blackberries
*Fresh raspberries
*Fresh mint
*Edible flowers
*A drizzle of chocolate sauce or syrup

How to Store Strawberry Meringue Cake

This strawberry meringue cake recipe is best enjoyed—and most beautiful—the day it's made. After that, the berries can begin to "weep" a bit, the meringue will soften and the cream might begin to slide around. 

If you'd like to get a headstart on prep, bake the meringue layers the day before and store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place until you're ready to assemble. You can also slice the berries and mix up the cream filling a few hours early if you like. About 2 hours before party time, stack it all together, allow the cake to chill, then carefully slice and serve.

We do not recommend freezing Fresh Strawberry Meringue Cake.

FAQs

How do foamy egg whites compare to soft peaks and stiff peaks?

They're very similar, but different in key ways. There's a reason why baking recipes call these out specifically. Here, we're looking for foamy whites first when whipped with just the cream of tartar, before adding the sugar. Then, you're looking for stiff peaks.

Foamy: Whip room temperature egg whites in a clean bowl until big bubbles appear. This should look similar to a sudsy bath, and the egg whites won't really hold their shape.

Soft peaks: Watch for a slight sheen and fine bubbles. The whipped peaks will slide around the bowl a bit still, and if you dry to lift your beater or whisk, the peak will droop over.

Stiff peaks: Lift the beater or whisk out of the egg whites and you should see a defined tip on the peak. It might still fall over a bit, but should stay fairly pointy.  

Help, I overwhipped my cream! How can I salvage cream that's turned to butter?

Whipped that cream straight into butter? No sweat! Just whisk in a little more heavy whipping cream and the mixture should smooth and whip back to pillowy perfection.

Community Tips 

Taking this to share at a gathering outside of your home? "I prepped the meringue layers, cream filling, and sliced strawberries in advance, then transported and assembled on-site in about 5 minutes," says Dec408. 

For the cleanest slices, DonnaBetteridge recommends a "really SHARP, THIN knife" to pass through the delicate layers of this strawberry meringue layer cake.

Editorial contributions by Karla Walsh.

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist
Materials Needed

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 10 to 12 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven, and cool completely (about 10 minutes). Reduce oven temperature to 250°F.

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  • Cover 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Draw 2 (8-inch) circles on each piece of paper. Turn paper over; secure with masking tape.

  • Process cornstarch, salt, toasted pecans, and 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor 40 to 45 seconds or until pecans are finely ground.

  • Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, beating at medium-high speed until mixture is glossy, stiff peaks form, and sugar dissolves (2 to 4 minutes; do not overbeat). Add half of pecan mixture to egg white mixture, gently folding just until blended. Repeat procedure with remaining pecan mixture.

  • Gently spoon egg white mixture onto circles drawn on parchment paper (about 1 1/2 cups mixture per circle), spreading to cover each circle completely.

  • Bake at 250°F for 1 hour, turning baking sheets after 30 minutes. Turn oven off; let meringues stand in closed oven with light on 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until surface is dry and meringues can be lifted from paper without sticking to fingers.

  • Just before assembling cake, stir together mascarpone cheese and vanilla in a large bowl just until blended.

  • Beat whipping cream at low speed until foamy; increase speed to medium-high, and gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. (Do not overbeat or cream will be grainy.) Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture.

  • Carefully remove 1 meringue from parchment paper; place on a serving plate. Spread one-fourth mascarpone mixture (about 2 cups) over meringue; top with 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries. Repeat layers 2 times; top with remaining meringue, mascarpone mixture, and halved strawberries. Serve immediately, or chill up to 2 hours. Cut with a sharp, thin-bladed knife.

Tips

This recipe originally appeared in our April 2012 issue.

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