The second try was better. The cake came together well. Everything baked just as I intended and assembled beautifully. My coffee cream cheese frosting was delicious and seemed to hold the layers together well, but since about half of it ended up in the bin along with the first cake, I quickly ran out of frosting and did not have enough to cover the outside of the cake. There was no way I was going to trash this one, nor leave it unfinished. It was time to test Paula Deen’s very famous 7-minute meringue frosting recipe. (Of course it was.) Everyone knows meringue takes time and patience to make. You just cannot cut corners, but Paula sure had and I wanted to see if I could, too.
The recipe called for continuously whipping egg whites over a hot water bath. This is not an unfair demand. Normal people have simple handheld mixers and can easily accomplish this. I don’t have a handheld mixer. I have a fancy stand mixer and immersion blender. An immersion blender is not a good substitute for a handheld mixer, but time was quickly running out and I figured a deep pot would minimize the mess. The lower setting on the immersion blender was so powerful that it splattered teeny dots of sticky white sap all over the walls of the pot, onto my hands, the stove, my t-shirt, neck, hair, eyelashes, all over the microwave overhead, as far as the chalkboard and knife stand near the kitchen light switch. There were sticky white dots everywhere, but I was determined to make this frosting work. I had a big mess to clean up, anyway. There really was no point in stopping. So I kept bzz bzz bzz splatter splatter splatter ALL OVER THE PLACE.
After all this effort (and mess), what I got was a white liquid. That’s when I lost it, pushed the hot water bath out of the way and put the pot directly over the fire. I tossed the immersion blender into the sink and grabbed a whisk. If technology couldn’t do this, good old fashioned elbow grease would. The frosting looked like it was doubling in size, but my arms were aching and my patience wore thin. I just turned the pot over the cake and let the meringue flow, hoping it would set like luscious ganache. (Ganache. Why didn’t that occur to me?)
Perfect Meringue Frosting + US Flag Cake
Reserve the yolks for another recipe. (The hen worked very hard to make it.)
Whip egg whites with cream of tartar.
Use 2 red cakes with 1 white or vice versa. As long as you alternate the red and white properly, it really doesn’t matter.
Place one whole white cake onto a cake plate. Apply a thin layer of frosting on top.
Slice 1 white cake in half and place over the red cake.
Slice the remaining red cake into 2 half-thick cakes.
Spread a thin amount of frosting over the white cake and place a layer of red cake over the frosting.
Apply another thin layer of frosting on top.
This past July 4th fell on a Saturday which gave me plenty of time to get that flag cake done. The blue cake ring seemed to collapse, which I’m told is happens because of the moist cake. So, I’m willing to turn a blind eye to it if you are. All in all, the weekend was a success. I learned a big lesson (an immersion blender doesn’t take the place of a proper hand mixer), amp’d up my beauty routine (egg whites make a great conditioning mask treatment for dry hair) and found the perfect meringue frosting. Who likes slaving over a hot stove? Time is precious, especially if you have little ones. So, I’ve ordered a sexy new hand mixer with a foreign-sounding name (probably made in China) and burned that frosting recipe into my memory forever.