This week’s recipe is a variation on a meringue cake, where sponge and meringue are baked at the same time, on top of one another, and then sandwiched together with any of a range of fillings.
I discovered this German version in a rather roundabout way, on a Croatian cooking site. Loving both the name (Himmel und Hölle Kuchen) and the striking appearance, I decided to try my hand at it, since there was suitable fruit in the freezer and I needed some space for this year’s harvest. It’s a cake of contrasts – my favourite kind of cake: sharp, red fruit in jelly, smooth sweetened cream, crunchy meringue and moist sponge. Delightful!
I didn’t actually get as far as the fruit, initially, because the sponge and the meringue required a bit of work: the original sponge was too dry and the meringue went soggy within an hour. So I opted for recipes that I have more faith in, viz: the cream cake recipe of a few weeks ago, and a French meringue recipe from a professional French patisserie site. One of these days I shall compile a chart of how various sugar and egg-white ratios perform with the different meringue methods but, as a famous Braavosi once said, not today.
With the cake and meringue sorted, I could turn my attention to the fillings. The name Heaven and Hell comes (I’m assuming) from the contrast between the red ‘hell’ of the fruit and the white ‘heaven’ of the cream. The red fruit is a mixture of raspberries and redcurrants and is set with gelatine. The white cream was originally a sweet Chantilly, but for the above cake design, I felt it needed something a little more robust, so I’ve substituted a variation I used to fill my mille feuilles in the GBBO.
Which reminds me – the above cake design – don’t. I decided to make the cake/meringue as a tray bake and then cut and constructed it in a rectangular, spring-form tin. It makes for an elegant slice, but, on reflection, it would have been much less complicated to use two sandwich tins and then construct in a regular spring-form tin. Additionally, you’d only have to pipe one layer of meringue ‘kisses’ for the top layer, and make the second layer just smooth meringue, thus allowing the cakes to get into the oven more quickly. So I highly recommend that course of action.
Although the red and the white form a great contrast, I think an equally great combination would be blackberries and blackcurrants – one which I shall be trying shortly – and this time in round tins!
Heaven and Hell Cake
There are four elements to this cake: sponge, meringue, fruit filling, cream filling. Once all four elements are ready, the cake can be constructed. The slightly tricky part is the meringue mixture and the cake mixture need to be ready at the same time. Whilst practicing, I made the cake first, then the meringue, but I think for future reference, making the meringue first might be the better way to go, hence the following recipe order.
150g egg whites
20 g caster sugar
125 g caster sugar
125 g icing sugar
- Put the egg whites into a bowl and whisk until soft peaks.
- Add the 20g caster sugar and whisk until firm.
- Mix the remaining sugars together and gradually add to the egg-whites.
- Whisk until firm, at least 5 minutes.
- Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain tip.
- Set aside while you mix the cake.
Vanilla Cream Cake
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
125ml cream – double or clotted
150g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.
- Grease and line 2 sandwich tins with baking parchment – the size can be small – 20cm – for an impressively tall final cake, or up to 24cm for a lower-level affair.
- Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the sugar. Beat with a balloon whisk (or by hand or stand mixer) until the eggs are frothy and the sugar dissolved – about 5 minutes.
- Add the cream and vanilla and whisk in.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir into the rest of the ingredients
- Divide the mixture evenly between the baking tins. Smooth over.
- Pipe meringue ‘kisses’ onto the top of the cake mixture in one tin, and pipe an even layer of meringue over the cake mixture in the other tin.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cake is risen and cooked and the meringue lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
Red Fruit Filling
150ml redcurrant juice 
450g fresh raspberries
sugar to taste
1 sachet powdered or 4 leaves gelatine
- Put the juice and 300g of the raspberries into a pan and warm gently over a medium-low heat, mashing the raspberries into the juice.
- Taste and add enough sugar to take the edge from the sharpness.
- Soak the leaves of gelatine and then add to the pan, or sprinkle over the powdered gelatine and stir until dissolved. NB The quantities given normally set a whole pint of liquid, and you might therefore think it a bit excessive. The reason behind this is that gelatine isn’t overly fond of acidic mixtures, so a little extra concentration is helpful in encouraging it to set up properly.
- Set aside to cool.
200ml double cream
200g cream cheese
200g low-fat creme fraiche
1 tsp vanilla extract
icing sugar to taste
- Put the creams, cheese and extract into a bowl and whisk together until firm.
- Add icing sugar to sweeten. It won’t need much – 2-3 tablespoons is about right.
- Set aside.
To assemble the cake
- If available, line the spring-form tin you’re using to construct the cake with food-grade acetate around the edge. This will allow the fillings to form clearly defined layers and not smudge when you remove the cake from the tin for serving. Alternatively, use clingfilm, and cover the whole of the bottom/sides.
- Lay the cake with the flattened meringue into the bottom. There are two options available: meringue up or meringue down. Meringue up makes it easier to move/serve, meringue down might be more aesthetically pleasing, being a mirror of the top meringue/cake layer. You also need to bear in mind the effect the fruit layer will have on either the meringue or the sponge.
- Once the fruit mixture has cooled a little, it will start to thicken. Fold in the remaining raspberries, trying to keep them as whole as possible, then spread in an even layer over the bottom sponge/meringue layer.
- Put the cream mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle and pipe a thick line of cream all around the edge of the cake tin, then fill in the middle. Strictly speaking, the piping bag isn’t compulsory, but I find it’s the best way of getting the filling nice and even around the edge.
- Place the top layer of sponge and meringue on top of the cream and press gently.
- Chill in the fridge until the gelatine has completely set.
- When set, remove the cake from the tin and place onto your serving dish. Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then dust with icing sugar and serve.
 I thawed 400g of redcurrants and then sieved the softened berries. It doesn’t need to be all juice – a mixture of pulp and juice is fine, just so the gelatine has something to dissolve into.