La Cuisine (in beautiful Old Town Alexandria, Virginia) is the sort of kitchen and cookware store that people like me dream about – copper pots and carbon steel knives and esoteric tools (spaetzle maker!) and Valrhona chocolate and terrines. Nancy is the very knowledgable shopkeeper and, in the good to know department, she can mail all these wonderful kitchen necessities right to you.
While I loved Nancy’s recipe, I wanted to make a smaller cake for my small household. One that would use just a pint of berries because my enthusiasm at the market often results in an extra pint of berries. So, I ratio’ed down, adding a little cornmeal to the batter for texture, and, reducing the sugar just a titch.
For the cake:
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup fine cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
generous pinch of kosher salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
Scant 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice and zest from one lemon
For the meringue:
3 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 pint blackberries (or raspberries, blueberries, any berry ….)
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
Heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9-inch by 9-inch baking pan by lining with parchment, then butter and flour the parchment. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of the stand mixer (or use a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating the first entirely before adding the second. Add the vanilla, zest and juice.
Add the flour and beat on low until just combined. Turn out the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and increase the heat to 450°F.
Beat the egg whites until fluffy and white and the beater makes soft peaks if lifted out of the bowl. With the mixer running at a high speed, spoon the sugar in one tablespoon at a time, beating between each addition, until the meringue is shiny and bright white.
Toss the berries with the confectioners sugar and then place across the cake, letting the confectioners sugar fall from the bowl, too. With a light hand, spoon the meringue over the berries, covering completely and spreading the meringue all the way out to the edges of the pan. Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the peaks are toasted like marshmallows.
Let the cake cool completely before slicing. Nancy suggests using a sharp knife dipped in hot water. Oops. If I had remembered, I bet the slices would be prettier, but purple smudges or not, this was a memorable, delicious, light, not too sweet ending to a summer meal.