Back in early July, I attempted to bake a New York cheesecake in celebration of The Astronomer’s 26th birthday. Everything was going swimmingly until I peeked into the oven and discovered that I had scorched the poor thing. Instead of a smooth and creamy surface with a golden graham crust, mine ballooned like a souffle and was caramelized in all the wrong places. Needless to say, my creation was chucked into the trash and my ego was bruised for some time. To add insult to injury, The Astronomer was left cake-less on his birthday.
It wasn’t until I encountered this Blackberry Cloud Cake recipe in last month’s Martha Stewart Living that I was finally inspired to bake a replacement. Scanning the list of ingredients and directions, I imagined a pastry similar to Jin Patiserrie’s “Spring Bouquet.” In actuality, this one was a completely different (and lighter) beast. Martha and company were right on the money when they compared its texture to that of clouds. The combination of fluffy whipped cream and soft meringue was truly lighter than air.
For birthday boys with a penchant for non-traditional cakes and a great love for berries, this recipe is just about perfect.
- 3 containers (6 ounces each) blackberries (about 4 1/3 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Vegetable oil cooking spray, for parchment
- 8 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups cold heavy cream
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
Toss 2 containers blackberries (about 3 cups) with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar; let stand for at least 2 hours, tossing occasionally, until berries release juices. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 10-by-15-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment; coat with cooking spray. Whisk egg whites with a mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar. Raise speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Whisk in cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla. Spread meringue evenly into sheet pan.
Bake, rotating halfway through, until puffed and top is pale gold, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool in sheet pan on a wire rack.
Puree remaining container blackberries (about 1 1/3 cups) in a food processor, and strain through a fine sieve; discard solids.
Whisk cream and confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form. Add 1/3 cup puree, and whisk until stiff peaks form.
Run a knife along edge of cake to release. Generously dust top with confectioners’ sugar, and top with another piece of parchment. Flip cake, and peel off original parchment. Working with shorter end of cake facing you, spread cream on cake, leaving a 1-inch border at bottom and a 2-inch border at top.
Tightly roll cake into a 10-inch log, starting with bottom edge and using parchment as a guide. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Trim edges of cake, and slice.
Serve topped with reserved berries.