Meringue icing problems

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by compassrose, Jul 19, 2002.

  1. compassrose

    compassrose

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    Since I am Miss Light Bakery, and sadly, a sugar fiend, I make a lot of cake.

    Lately, I've been playing around with Italian meringue icings, seven-minutes and White Mountains. (I gotta admit, so far they really don't satisfy my icing jones. They're too sweet, and don't have enough body. But anyway.)

    In pictures, I see layer cakes with these things. But whenever I've put them into layer cakes, they collapse in the middle, leaving nothing but a sticky syrup between the layers. Is this normal? I've no idea; I grew up with cream icings, and as far as I know have never had a meringue icing other than mine. It happens with both types: sugar syrup, or stovetop double boiler.

    I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I use my thermometer; I heat everything to the recommended temperatures; I beat until cool; I read Rose Levy Berenbaum. Are there some secret tips for this? Or do food stylists simply cut layer cakes with meringue icings twenty seconds after assembly?
     
  2. shimmer

    shimmer

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    Any cakes I have ever made with this type of icing have had a different filling inside, not the meringue.

    The last one I remember making had a pineapple orange jamish type filling with a coconut cake and the seven minute icing. Terribly sweet!!!

    I guess my question would be this- are you sure the pictures aren't of another kind of filling, like a cream or mousse?

    ~~Shimmer~~
     
  3. compassrose

    compassrose

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    :p Not unless the recipe directions are lying to me; the two I'm thinking of say quite specifically, "spread x cups of frosting on first layer; top with second layer." (I just made one of the recipes in question from an issue of Cooking Light. It wasn't a howling success overall, for non-frosting related reasons -- but yeah, the frosting goes in the middle. They have a big cover photograph of the luscious coconut cake, thick with frosting in the middle! Not only that, but they instruct one to "chill the cake" before serving! Grr...)

    I had sort of thoughts of using Shirley Corriher's meringue stabilizer (a heated cornstarch solution) but I don't know if that would work in conjunction with an Italian-type or cooked meringue. (My kitchen, my chem lab.) I just wondered if it was something I was doing wrong... but really, I don't see how a frail, delicate little meringue could hold up a whole cake layer. (Especially of that coconut cake, which was dense and moist.) MAYBE angel-food cake or genoise sponge or something... but not a regular scratch cake.
     
  4. anna w.

    anna w.

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    I am not sure why you are having this problem. Is this Italian Meringue Buttercream or just Italian Meringue? I use Italian Meringue BC as an icing and a filling and have never had this problem. It is very stable and it is certainly not over sweet. I use Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe (she calls it Mouselline BC). Does it hold up on the outside of your cake? Is it nice and creamy before you put it on your cake? Do your egg whites increase in volume when you add the sugar syrup? How thick do you usually make your fillings? I can't help you with the 7 min. frosting or the white mountain (not that I've helped you so far).
     
  5. danno

    danno

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    Hi Compassrose, A lot of times its hard to say what the cause of problems may be when only describing in words. So your meringue weather using a Swiss or an Italian meringue it collapses in the middle and becomes syrupy. Well it’s hard to say what could cause it as long as you are preparing your meringues properly. The one thing you could do to give your when using a Swiss meringue is to use 2 sheets of gelatin for about every 8 oz of whites. Soak your gelatin in cold water for about 5 minutes. Dissolve your sugar in the whites over warm water add the gelatin and continue to stir till the gelatin is dissolved, then whip as normal, this will give you some stability.
    Good luck
    Danno
     
  6. davevon

    davevon

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    I haven't made a lot of cooked frostings - mainly for Lady Baltimore cakes. They managed to support the layers pretty well (even without all the dried fruit) but I found out the hard way that it doesn't do well in transport.

    My only thought could be the issue of chilling. Are the cake layers at all warm when you assemble the cake? Granted the probability is small, but you could actually be melting the sugar in the icing. Chill the cake layers and the icing thoroughly before assembling and see if you get better results.
     
  7. compassrose

    compassrose

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    Chilling... hm, that could work. I know my layers were completely ROOM temperature cold, but really cold might be better. It always holds up really beautifully outside, yes. Swirls and peaks and all. Anna, it's not meringue buttercream (Butter! Perish the thought! ;) ) it's just a meringue, soft and cooked either by the addition of the hot syrup or by cooking over a double boiler. (White Mountain and seven-minutes are pretty much the same sort of thing. The seven-minute is the double boiler kind, so-called -- of course -- because it takes about seven minutes to get to the right temperature while whipping.) So it's a lot sweeter than the buttercream would be, because of course you can't mess too much with the sugar or it won't "meringue."

    It all works out wonderfully: whites beat up, volume increases when syrup is added, temperature is all good according to my little digital thermometer, I haven't given myself third-degree syrup burns... Then I put it together and it falls down. (Not that that's necessarily a bad thing -- I mean, I like trifle a lot, so I'm a fan of soaked cake -- but it's not so pretty when cut for company!) I'm interested to note that the Lady Baltimore frosting holds up better.

    Danno, will the gelatin thing still work when adding hot sugar syrup as for an Italian meringue? (It should, shouldn't it. Whoa. That would be pretty much a marshmallow cream I'd be making there, wouldn't it? Coooool.) How many spoonfuls of regular powdered unflavoured I-can't-get-that-fancy-stuff would be in a sheet?
     
  8. momoreg

    momoreg

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    CR, What temp. are you cooking your sugar syrup to? Basically, the hotter the syrup, the firmer your meringue...to a point. I'd go for somewhere around 250 degrees, if you're not already. And no, you can't use gelatin with that technique. It's way too hot, unfortunately.
     
  9. w.debord

    w.debord

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    A couple of thoughts....but probably not any real help (sorry).

    Kind of weird but I can't remember ever reading a recipe with 7 min. frosting where the frosting was in the middle. But lately I have seen a couple cakes with meringue in the middle and they do look good. I imediately laughed (to myself) about the food styling though.....it's pretty hard to slice a soft filling so cleanly....

    When I need a meringue to hold in a situation like this I use the powdered stuff, sorry. But it holds sooo well. Even freezes like ice cream....

    Another thought is baking it to solidify it more like a pie w/meringue. I'd try baking it on each layer, then assembling it. But it could dry out your cake.

    Or make it into a chiboust.....? That would definately work (but would it add too much calories for you?) and taste great.

    Cake and dried meringue layers works...if you have a fillling (glue) that you like.
     
  10. compassrose

    compassrose

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    What's a chiboust?

    So meringue powder would work? (Duh! of course it would!) What ratio would you use? And how prepare it, to make that sort of fluffy frosting? I make a sort of low-fat "buttercream" using meringue powder, so I have it around the house...

    I cook my syrup to 248°, wheak it right off and beat it in. I've been comparing recipes, though, and there's quite a difference. Lots of books say 238° (including Joy of Cooking); Berenbaum says if you go over 250° you'll cook the whites and wreck the meringue. Spice Cookbook and a couple of oldish cookbooks I've got say 250°. Regan Daley says in Sweet Kitchen that she doesn't beat the eggs to peaks, just a foam. Then she pours in syrup at 238° -- but what she describes as her result sounds quite different: she says it gets very very thick and sticky, and if left too long, hardens up too much to spread. Might try that and see what she means.

    Yes, I looooove those cakes with hard meringue in the middle. They're a whole different thing though. There was a coffee shop round here (which just closed -- unfortunately? Fortunately?) that served a wonderful cake called Caramel Crunch: disks of nut meringue with whipped cream and really thick caramel between the layers. Oo. I went there far too often. :lips: I want to try making a slightly less devastating clone of that one of these days, but I can't figure out the caramel yet; it's thick and sort of "fudgy" in texture, not like regular caramel sauce, but piped in scribbles anyway.
     
  11. w.debord

    w.debord

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    The meringue powder straight, not mixed with fresh whites. The stuff just doesn't melt out or down. I add xxxsugar to it while whipping (since it's not sweet on it's own). It doesn't do a whole lot for me on it's own (not that tastie), I usually am mixing it into something else for a better flavor (like a mousse).

    When I play with the sugar temp.s I haven't noticed temp. effect my meringue thickness as much as ratios. So long as the whites get cooked....
    But if you get it too hot the sugar sticks to your bowl and whisk too much, which if you scrap you bowl too much you get sugar lumps in your item.

    A chiboust is a curd or pastry cream with gelatin in it, then you fold meringue and set. Similar to a mousse but no whip cream. The gelatin holds the mixture so it's light, yet fairly stable. They freeze and refriderate rather well.

    As I recall everyone agrees that a baked fresh egg meringue holds best if it's placed on a hot item, then baked. When placed on a cold item then the meringue just cooks on the outside surface and eventually wilts down from the inside which never got cooked enough....hth
     
  12. compassrose

    compassrose

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    Aha! Chiboust, then, is what Alice Medrich calls "the new mousses" in her Chocolate & the Art of Low Fat Desserts! Then I have made some already. (Plus flubbed one completely, too.)
     
  13. w.debord

    w.debord

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    How durable....I make a lemon chiboust and brulee it...yummy.

    Soooo then, do one of those "new mousses"( so she calls them) in your cakes. You can sub in meringue mix using equal weights in place of fresh. Then get really creative....maybe a carmel chiboust, apple, anise, orange curd, etc............ you could make some fab. cake and chiboust combos! Layer them in a ring, freeze to set, defrost, garnish and serve. You can make them into frozen cakes replacing the ice cream in tons of recipes.

    The hardest part in knowing how much gelatin to add to your base. But were here to help if need be.........
     
  14. compassrose

    compassrose

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    That was how I flubbed my first one: changing size of recipe AND subbing agar for gelatine. Nothing like overambition, is there? (I wonder why I can't seem to find a nice, consistent chart or something for using agar? Maybe because it is not always standard?) It was good frozen, though. Or so I'm told. My husband and a bunch of his friends ate the whole thing.

    I think I know now what the "caramel" is in that caramel cake. I bought a nifty little "real" Mexican cookbook on the weekend, and I was reading it last night — from the 'fifties, written in Spanish and English, extremely interesting. Think it's Dulce de Leche, or something similar. I didn't recognise it without all the Haagen-Dazs yogourt around it... :D
     
  15. isa

    isa

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    You can buy dulce de leche in jars in either South American grocery or in some gourmet shop.


    You can make it yourself by placing an unopened can of evaporated milk in a pot of boiling water. You let the can cook for a few hours.

    Be warn it can be dangerous, I read that the can of milk can blow up.
     
  16. annie

    annie

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    So far, it hasn't exploded OR erupted for me - but I wait until it's really really cold to open the can. Hot caramel in teh eye, oh my!:eek: :eek: