Simply add candles to turn this light but gooey hazelnut meringue cake into a birthday cake. As it has a pastry cream and fresh raspberry filling, it's much lower in fat and calories than conventional celebration cakes.
Source: Cook Smart for a Healthy Heart, Reader’s Digest Canada
Preheat the broiler, then toast the hazelnuts until golden. Leave to cool. Roughly chop a few and set aside for decoration. Finely chop or grind the remaining hazelnuts.
Preheat the oven to 275ºF (140ºC). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and draw a 20 cm circle on each piece of paper.
Place the egg whites in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time, then continue to beat for 1–2 minutes or until the meringue is very thick and glossy. Fold in the hazelnuts with a large metal spoon.
Divide the meringue mixture between the baking sheets and spread evenly within the drawn circles. Bake for 40 minutes, then turn the baking sheets around in the oven so that the meringues colour evenly. Bake for another 35 minutes or until the meringues are set and can be removed easily from the paper. Loosen them from the paper, then leave to cool completely on the baking sheets.
While the hazelnut meringues are cooking, make the pastry cream. Pour 1 1/4 cups milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the vanilla pod, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Place the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl and beat with a whisk for 2–3 minutes or until pale. Sift in the flour and cornstarch and whisk to combine. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and scrape the seeds into the milk with a sharp knife; discard the pod. Bring the milk just to a boil, then gradually stir it into the egg yolk mixture.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk. When thick, simmer gently for 1 minute, still stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Cover the surface of the pastry cream with wet parchment paper and leave to cool. (Both the hazelnut meringues and pastry cream can be made a day in advance; store the meringues in an airtight container and the pastry cream in a covered bowl in the refrigerator.)
Assemble the cake no more than 1 hour before serving. Place one of the meringues on a serving plate, flat side facing upward, and spread over the pastry cream. If the cream is too thick to spread, beat in the extra milk. Sprinkle with two-thirds of the raspberries, then top with the second meringue. Decorate with the remaining raspberries, the reserved toasted hazelnuts and a light dusting of icing sugar. Cut into thick slices with a sharp knife to serve.
Hazelnut meringue cake variations: To make mini meringues, use ground hazelnuts or pistachios in the meringue mixture and shape it into ovals with 2 spoons, placing them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 50–60 minutes. Dip the base of each meringue in melted chocolate and sandwich pairs together with a mixture of 2⁄3 cup Greek-style yogurt or ricotta cheese and 2⁄3 cup whipped reduced-fat cream. • For a chocolate and chestnut meringue cake, melt 90 g good-quality dark chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of hot water. Spread it over the flat side of one meringue and leave to set. Mix 1 can (199 ml) sweetened chestnut purée with 1 cup cooking cream, and spread over the chocolate. Top with the other meringue, and decorate with chocolate curls.
Per serving: 332 calories, 9 g protein, 9 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 109 mg cholesterol, 55 g total carbohydrate, 49 g sugars, 3 g fibre, 75 mg sodium
Hazelnuts have excellent levels of copper and magnesium and also provide thiamine, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, phosphorus and zinc.