Just a Pretty Face

As my regulars know, I am a big GBBO fan. For the past couple of years I have been mesmerized by Mary Berry’s Spanische Windtorte. When asked to bring a dessert of my choice to Thanksgiving dinner, I thought, “What a perfect opportunity to try the windtorte.” (Full disclosure, Fran suggested this, it was not my original thought.) Substituting pumpkins and colored leaves for the violets satisfied my sense of holiday decorum. Well, the result is that this was a very pretty cake and I think I would have done very well in the GBBO Technical Challenge. However, it would have been easier to eat a couple of tablespoons of pure sugar as that is exactly what it tasted like. If it weren’t for the whipped cream and berry mixture filling the cake, it would have no edible redeeming value. Pretty, but also, pretty disappointing.

I made the below recipe of French meringue and piped two 8″ diameter disks and three 8″ diameter rings onto parchment paper. These were baked at 200F for an hour. With some difficulty the meringue was lifted from the paper. One disk was used as the base and the three rings were stacked, one at a time, using several thick meringue mounds to “glue” them together. The whole structure was then baked for 45 min, again at 200F.

6 small

Once cooled, the balance of the meringue was used to “frost” the side of the cake. By this time the meringue was a bit thin and even vigorous beating could not thicken it. I should have made a new batch, but struggled on (this was just a practice cake after all.) The resultant side of the cake was not as smooth I would have liked, but was ok. I simply trimmed the bottom of the cake where meringue dripped.

The cake was filled with the whipped cream and berry mixture from the recipe below and the top added. This resulted in the very pretty cake seen above.


For the French meringue shell

For the Swiss meringue decoration

For the filling


  1. Line 3 large baking trays with baking parchment. Draw 2 x 20cm/8in circles on 2 of the trays and 1 x 20cm/8in circle on 1 of the trays. (You should end up with 5 x 20cm/8in circles). Preheat the oven to 200F.
  2. For the meringue shell, tip the egg whites and cream of tartar into a large spotlessly clean bowl and whisk with an electric mixer on high speed until the whites form stiff peaks. Add the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously to make a thick, glossy meringue.
  3. Spoon two-thirds of the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm/⅝in plain nozzle. Pipe a thick ring inside one of the circles on the baking tray and continue spiraling until the entire circle is filled. Repeat with a second circle. These create the base and the top of the meringue cake.
  4. Repeat the process with the 3 remaining circles, except don’t fill in the circles, so that you have three hoops of meringue – these create the sides of the meringue shell. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  5. When the meringues are dry, gently slide 1 of the cooked, filled meringues onto a 30cm/12in heatproof (to 200F) serving plate. Spoon the remaining meringue into the piping bag and pipe 8 blobs of meringue, evenly spaced around the edge of the circle. Place 1 of the meringue hoops on top and press down very gently to stick the hoop to the base.
  6. Repeat the process with the remaining 2 hoops of meringue. Roughly pipe the remaining one-third of meringue around the sides to disguise the hoops. Using a spatula smooth out the meringue so that the sides are smooth and straight and look like a cake. Bake on the serving plate for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  7. For the Swiss meringue decoration, set a large mixing bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Tip the egg whites and sugar into the bowl and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the meringue reaches 70C on a sugar thermometer.
  8. Remove from the heat and continue whisking until cool and stiff. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle. Pipe a pretty border around the base, the middle and the top edge of the meringue shell. Pipe a border around the outside edge and the middle of the filled meringue circle that will become the lid. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  9. For the filling, whip the cream and icing sugar together in a bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl. Whisk in the orange blossom water and gently fold in the strawberries and raspberries. Spoon into the cooled meringue cake shell. Top with the decorated meringue lid.

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