The strawberries are out in full force at the farmer’s markets right now; the bounty coming in from Ventura and Oxnard brings that heady, sweet perfume of fresh berries that wanders along the stalls, enticing you to stop and get a sample of one of those juicy little sugarbombs. I picked up a 3-pack of some gorgeous, small, deep-red berries that packed a real punch of flavor for their size.
Now, when I have plans for a strawberry dessert, I usually either go with a pie or strawberry shortcake, but I was ready for something new. I remembered a cake I had made years ago, with layers of meringue, strawberries and whipped cream, and I knew that’s what I wanted to make.
A dacquoise is a type of cake made with layers of nut meringue; often, it is filled with ganache, mousse, and/or buttercream–Marjolaine is the perfect example of a dacquoise. I decided to go with a deconstructed version, using freshly made lemon curd as a bright and tart replacement for ganache, sliced strawberries, lightly sweetened whipped cream, and crunchy-chewy almond meringues.
After baking, let the meringue layers cool completely. This is a dessert, once assembled, that should be served within an hour or two, as the meringue softens after being in contact with the fillings. However, the meringues can be made the night before, and left to cool in the oven overnight. The lemon curd can also be made well in advance and stored in an airtight container.
Sure, it’s a little messy, but for this dessert, the point of it is being simple and casual–capturing the essence of early summer, like strawberries in season at the market, sitting outside drinking lemonade, and having a fun dinner with friends out on the patio.
Strawberry & Lemon Dacquoise
- 1 1/4 cups whole almonds
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 6 large egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 275°. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Trace one 8″ diameter circle on to each sheet and turn paper over.
- Pulse almonds in food processor with cornstarch and 2 tablespoons sugar until finely ground.
- Beat egg whites at medium speed with an electric mixer until foamy, and add cream of tartar and a pinch of salt, then gradually beat in remaining sugar and vanilla. Increase speed to high and beat until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks.
- Fold ground almonds gently into meringue. Pipe or spread meringue evenly into the traced circles on parchment.
- Bake for approximately 1 hour until firm and golden. Slide meringues onto a cooling rack while still on parchment. When ready to assemble meringues, gently peel parchment off.
Lemon Curd (from marthastewart.com)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 8 large egg yolks
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, zest and egg yolks then whisk in lemon juice and salt.
- Add butter and place pan over medium-high heat. Cook, whisking constantly until butter has melted, mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, and small bubble form around the edge of the pan, about 5 minutes (do not boil).
- Remove pan from heat while continuing to whisk. Pour curd while still hot through a fine mesh sieve into a glass bowl. Press plastic wrap against the surface of curd and refrigerate until cool.
Note: this recipe makes approximately 2 cups; I found this to be pretty generous for the recipe, and had about 1/2 cup leftover. Then again, I really don’t see a problem with having some extra lemon curd hanging around the house.
Filling and Assembly
- 4 cups sliced fresh strawberries, plus 10-12 whole strawberries for decoration
- 2 cups cold whipping cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Whip cream with sugar and vanilla extract until it holds a soft peak.
- Place first meringue on a plate and spread about a 3/4 cup of lemon curd across the surface of meringue.
- Place half of the sliced strawberries on top of lemon curd.
- Spoon 1/3 of whipped cream on top of strawberries, and spread to cover.
- Place 2nd meringue layer atop whipped cream and repeat with lemon curd, berries, and 1/3 of the whipped cream.
- Top with final layer of meringue, spread remaining whipped cream on top, and decorate with whole berries.
- Best served within 2 hours of assembly.