This is a cake I recently baked at the Cherry Bombe Cooks & Books event in Brooklyn. All of the recipes are from Zoë Bakes Cakes, but I rearranged them into this sassy layer cake with a toasted meringue top. The pumpkin bundt cake from the book, can be baked as rounds, then separated by chocolate ganache and topped with the Swiss Meringue Topping. I decided for the sake of fall flavors and wanting to temper the sweetness of the meringue, I added an aged balsamic vinegar and ground cinnamon to the whipped peaks, before spiking it onto the cake and setting it ablaze with a blow torch. The recipes and directions to recreate the cake are below.
The cake layers were baked the day before, wrapped, and refrigerated. The chocolate ganache was also made ahead and just set at room temperature so it would be easy to spread. The day of the event I made the meringue and assembled the cake in front of an in-person crowd, while talking (it had been a while since I’d seen humans, so I had a lot to say) and got the cake finished in about 20 minutes. All of this is to say, that if you work ahead, a cake like this doesn’t take long to create. It absolutely can be made in one go, but you can decide how it best fits your schedule.
The show-stopping element of the cake is the torched meringue. Not only does the toasted meringue taste incredible, but there is almost no greater joy than setting a cake ablaze in front of your family, friends, or a room filled with strangers. When I made this cake in NY, half the room said they already had a blow torch and the other rest said they were on their way to get one directly after my demo. If you don’t have a blow torch, this is the time. There are all sizes and types, so you don’t have to start with anything too big and powerful (you’ve all seen my flamethrower video on Instagram).
Many, if not all the recipes in my book can be mixed and matched to suit your needs or whims. When you create a new cake, please share it with me on Instagram by tagging and mentioning @zoebakes and #zoebakescakes, so I can see what you’ve created.
Bittersweet Ganache, at room temperature (see note)
- 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy whipping cream
- 4 oz (113g) bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
Pumpkin Cake Layers
- 1 recipe pumpkin bundt cake baked in three 8" round cake pans recipe linked below
Fluffy Swiss Meringue Topping
- 1 1/2 cups (360ml) egg whites (from about 7 eggs) at room temperature
- 3 cups (600g) granulated sugar
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1 1/2 Tbsp aged balsamic vinegar Go with an aged balsamic that is nice and syrupy.
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Note: The ganache needs to be set to room temperature. This takes several hours, so you can do this the day before assembling the cake.
- In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm the cream until just simmering. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Swirl the pan to make sure all of the chocolate is submerged in the hot cream. Let sit for 3 minutes and then gently stir until smooth.
- Transfer the ganache to a container, cover, loosely (you don't want condensation to form), and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Pumpkin Cake (Baked in three 8-inch rounds)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and line three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
- Prepare the pumpkin batter as directed in the recipe linked above, Pour 3/4 of the batter evenly into the prepared pans and smooth it out with an offset spatula. Tap the pans gently on the counter to remove any air pockets.
- Mix the remaining batter with the cocoa and spices. Spoon the cocoa/pumpkin mixture into evenly spaced, this stripes over the pumpkin batter in the pans (you can also use a pastry bag for this task).
- Use a thin knife or skewer to draw zig-zag lines through the batter to create a marble pattern in the batter.
- Bake for about 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool and remove from pans.
- Place one layer of the cake on a serving plate. Cover with 1/2 cup spreadable ganache. Top ganache with another layer of cake. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup ganache and top with last layer of cake. Set aside while you make the meringue.
Fluffy Swiss Meringue Topping
- In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring 1 inch / 2.5cm of water to a simmer.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt; place over the simmering water; and stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture is hot and all of the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and place onto the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, then beat on high speed until very thick and glossy and stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Once it is done whipping to its full glory and stands tall when lifted from the bowl, mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. These flavor additions are optional, but super tasty.
- Reserve 1 cup / 60g of the meringue topping. Use a metal spatula to spread a thick layer of the remaining meringue evenly over the cake.
- Take a blob—yes, a blob—of the reserved meringue between your fingers and press it against the meringue on the cake. Pull the blob away from the cake, it will break off in a wispy curl. The thicker the blob you lay down as a foundation on the cake, the bigger the curls will be. It may take a few times to get the hang of it, but then you'll be off and running. Plus, it's fun.
- Once you have the cake fully set with the curls, hold a kitchen blowtorch about 3 inches / 7.5cm from the cake, so just the tip of the flame is hovering over the cake. Keep the torch moving so it doesn't burn the meringue. The tip of the curls will set fire, blow them out as you go. The burnt tips are a lovely contrast and add a wonderful flavor.
- Serve the cake immediately or store in the refrigerator, uncovered, for up to 24 hours. Once the cake is cut, cover the cut surface with plastic, but don't cover the meringue spikes.