FAQ: Meringue

Spiky Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon-Honey Meringue Pie

Thank you to everyone to sent me baking questions on Instagram this week. There were hundreds of questions, so I’m compiling a few posts to answer as much of them as I can. This one focuses on questions about meringue and there are also posts about Baking Homemade Bread, Cake Baking and Decorating and Pies and Pie Crust, Vegan Desserts, Equipment, and more.

Find my answers and related recipes below:

If you have additional questions, please leave me a comment and I’ll get to as many of them as I can!

Your Questions About Meringue

  • Best tips for making meringue? This is one of my favorite subjects. You’ll find way more information in my book, Zoë Bakes Cakes and here on my website. There are three different types:
    • Italian – a cooked sugar syrup poured into whipping raw egg whites. I use this style to top my Purple Sweet Potato Pie.
    • French – raw sugar sprinkled into whipping raw egg whites. This is the type used for the base of Pavlova.
    • Swiss – sugar and egg whites gently cooked over a double boiler, then whipped. This is the type used when you want a meringue topper to torch!
Lime Meringue Tart
Mile-High Lime Meringue Tart
  • I can’t get my meringue to pile high. It flattens out. What’s the trick? The answer will depend on the type of meringue you are making (see above). Here are things to avoid, no matter the type:
    • Don’t use pasteurized egg whites – their protein is not strong enough.
    • Avoid hand mixers, they are not always strong enough to beat enough air into the meringue.
    • Don’t decrease the sugar, it is essential for the texture.
    • Don’t use plastic bowls to whip the eggs in.
    • More info: Meringue Primer | Zoë Bakes Cakes
  • How can I keep French meringue stable after stiff peaks when making a large quantity of pavlovas? There is no good answer to this, you just have to move fast. French is the weakest type of egg foam, so it loses its elasticity faster than Swiss or Italian and will look almost curdled if you let it sit too long. 
  • Why did my pavlova collapse during the bake? The center is meant to collapse once it cools, but the shell should remain standing. If not, either the meringue wan’t whipped stiff enough or it is under baked. See recipe or my IGTV Live for more tips!
  • Have you ever tried a meringue buttercream with cooled brown butter? Yes, brown butter buttercream is fantastic!
Honeycomb Cake
Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake
  • Should leftover cake with buttercream or Italian meringue frosting be refrigerated? You can, but they can sit out covered for days, as long as there is no whipped cream or the like to go limp. Be sure to bring the cake back to room temperature before serving or the buttercream will taste hard and greasy.
  • When whipping egg whites for meringue or souffle, is it best to use room temperature eggs? Yes, warm egg whites have more elasticity, so they will whip up with more volume. 
Mini Cherry Pavlova | ZoeBakes
Mini Pavlovas
  • How long can egg whites stay in the fridge before using them for macarons, pavlovas, etc.? The fresher the egg, the stronger the protein, which gives your meringue more strength. So, you can technically store egg whites for several days, but they are best used right away.
  • Can meringue powder (King Arthur) be substituted for egg whites to make a pavlova? In my experience, it can’t be used in place of fresh egg whites for this recipe, because the powdered whites don’t have nearly the same strength. Having said this, I haven’t ever tried King Arthur’s Meringue and they may have unlocked the secret to a stronger product. You can give it a try, knowing it is a bit of a gamble, or contact them and ask if they’ve ever used it in this way.
  • How do you prevent a meringue pie from weeping? I typically start with a Swiss meringue to make sure the meringue is already cooked and safe to eat. You can’t rely on it baking long enough to heat throughout if you are baking the pie with the meringue on it. A trick I learned from Shirley O. Corriher, a food scientist, is to sprinkle the filling with a thin layer of cake crumbs the second it comes out of the oven. The cake crumbs will absorb any moisture caused by the interaction between the filling and the meringue. Then immediately cover it with the meringue, while the filling is still hot, making sure you touch the meringue to the crust to secure it on the pie and bake until toasted. I usually cover the pie with meringue and then use my blow torch.

Recipes

A twist on basic pumpkin cake, this pumpkin spice cake is covered in beautifully torched balsamic cinnamon meringue with bittersweet ganache between the layers. This cake is made of several recipes from my book, Zoë Bakes Cakes.
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This tart is the more sophisticated cousin to the Lemon Meringue Pie. It has all the tartness of lemon, but with lime, which I just find a touch more interesting. Don't get me wrong, I am in LOVE with the lemon version, but this one just sings to me. I used a lime curd as the base of my tart, then topped it with so much meringue that it touches the sky.
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Aran Goyoaga's new book Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple includes this amazing recipe for meringue cake with roasted apples. I made it as written, except I did mine with pears. Aran has graciously allowed me to share her recipe with you.
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The tartness of the curd in these lemon-lavender meringue tarts is a perfect match for the sweet meringue. The lavender is a great touch.
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This is one easy recipe, served three different ways. It can be made by children of all ages, maybe with a little help from dad. By adding flavors to the meringue, you can personalize the dessert.
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A dacquoise is a French dessert made of meringue disks assembled into a cake. This version with curd and berries is perfect for spring and summer.
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This Swiss meringue buttercream is elegant, smooth and has a wonderfully rich flavor, but isn’t overly sweet. It can be left pure vanilla or you can easily add flavors to compliment your cake. This buttercream is wonderful for piping roses or doing basket weave as well. This makes enough to cover one 8-inch cake, plus more for piping decorations. Be sure to read the notes before you begin!
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When it's hot and muggy, but you want a dessert to impress this S'mores Icebox Cake is the exact answer. All the best things about the classic summer camping dessert without the fire (okay, just a bit of blowtorching, but that's too fun to resist). Please note: this recipe makes A LOT of meringue for the dramatic effect shown in the photos.
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Purple Sweet Potato Pie with a mound of an Italian meringue inspired by Esther Williams (anyone younger than me will have to google her).
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This Honeycomb Banana Layer Cake is inspired by Cadbury Crunchie Bar candy my husband ate as a child growing up in Montreal. He’s been asking me to recreate the chocolate covered honeycomb (sponge toffee) candy and now that I’ve had it, I regret not making it decades ago. I made this banana cake with a coffee flavored honey meringue buttercream, the honeycomb candy seemed just the right garnish for the top.
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This Blackberry Opera Torte, which I have dubbed Diva Cake, is super tall with lots of layers of almond sponge, blackberry buttercream, chocolate ganache and meringue. Find it in my cookbook, Zoe Bakes Cakes.
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I think a pavlova is the perfect holiday dessert. It is beautiful enough to be a centerpiece on your table, so light that it can follow a big holiday meal and its flavors can change with your every whim.
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These peanut butter cup meringue cookies are a delight and hit the flavor and texture profiles just right. They are just the right balance of sweet and salty, like a peanut butter cup candy, but with the ethereal quality I love about meringue. This recipe was graciously shared by Rebecca Firth from her book The Cookie Book!
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This Lemon Honey-Meringue Pie is very easy to make, but there are some steps that will take your pie from a weepy mess to a magnificent mile-high showpiece.
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This is a delight on a cake stand, with all the party presence of Phyllis Diller. If this cake could laugh, it would cackle. This tropical taste of whimsy is a blast to make.
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7 thoughts to “FAQ: Meringue”

  1. This is a great guide. Meringue is one of the most fabulous treats on earth! My question relates to weeping pie topping–namely, on my key lime pie! I’ve tried French and Swiss, sealing the edge to the crust, adding to hot filling/cold filling, baking, torching, adding cornstarch. Everything! And still, it weeps. Any advice?

    1. Zoë has some tips! “I typically start with a Swiss meringue to make sure the meringue is already cooked and safe to eat. You can’t rely on it baking long enough to heat throughout if you are baking the pie with the meringue on it. A trick I learned from Shirley O. Corriher, a food scientist, is to sprinkle the filling with a thin layer of cake crumbs the second it comes out of the oven. The cake crumbs will absorb any moisture caused by the interaction between the filling and the meringue. Then immediately cover it with the meringue, while the filling is still hot, making sure you touch the meringue to the crust to secure it on the pie and bake until toasted. I usually cover the pie with meringue and then use my blow torch.”

    2. Hi! I’m so glad you posted this. I am in the same boat with you. No matter what I try, mine weeps. I’ve tried it all! So frustrating.

  2. I’m looking for the recipe for the lemon pie w/ meringue crust from season 2, episode 3, but I can’t seem to locate it. Can you help? LOVE your show!!! Thank you.

    1. Hi Sharon! That recipe is a family secret from Rachel Swan, the guest on the meringue episode. But you could recreate something similar by using a meringue crust like this one, and filling it with lemon curd and whipped cream or whatever filling strikes your fancy!

  3. Wondering if you could use a Swiss Buttercream w/an American Buttercream (for the sweetness) or is the American Buttercream heavier & would weigh down the Swiss?

    1. Hi Candace, you could certainly try it, but we suggest mixing together 1/2 cup of each first to make sure it’s the texture you’re looking for.

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