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Festive meringue cake

Ingredients

  • Cooking oil spray
  • 140g (1 cup) pitted dates
  • 100g (1/2 cup) red glace cherries
  • 100g (1/2 cup) soft dried figs
  • 55g (1/4 cup) crystallised ginger
  • 80g (1/2 cup) blanched whole almonds
  • 80g (1/2 cup) Brazil nuts
  • 90g (3/4 cup) pecans
  • 300g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 150g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
  • 7 egg whites
  • Icing sugar, to dust
  • Fresh cherries or mixed berries and whipped cream, to serve

Method

  • Step 1 - Preparing the pan: Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease a 24cm round cake pan, then line the side of the pan with the long piece of baking paper (see Measuring Up, below); the ends should overlap slightly, so trim using scissors if too long. Place the paper round in the base of the pan.
  • Step 2 - Cutting the fruit Spray a knife with cooking oil spray (this helps prevent the dried fruit sticking to the knife). Using the claw technique (see Cooking Techniques, below), finely chop dates, glace cherries, figs and ginger, then place in a large bowl. Alternatively, finely cut fruit using kitchen scissors.
  • Step 3 - Preparing the filling Process almonds, Brazil nuts and pecans in a food processor, pulsing in short bursts, until roughly chopped. Tip into the bowl with the dried fruit. Using your hands, break the chocolate into small pieces and add to the fruit and nut mixture. Add cinnamon, then, using your hands, toss well to combine.
  • Step 4 - Whisking the egg whites Place sugar in a small cup. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites to soft peaks (see Cooking Techniques). With the motor running, gradually 'rain in' the sugar, whisking until thick and glossy, and the sugar is dissolved (see Cooking Techniques).
  • Step 5 - Combining the ingredients Add the meringue to the filling and, using a large metal spoon, gently fold in until evenly combined. Spoon into the prepared pan. Using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, level the meringue mixture.
  • Step 6 - Baking the cake: Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 45 minutes or until firm to the touch and top is golden. Turn off the oven and cool cake completely in the oven with the oven door held ajar with a wooden spoon; this takes about 3 hours.
  • Step 7 - Serving the cake Invert cake onto a plate, lift pan away, then invert cake onto another plate so cake is sitting right-side up. Dust cake with icing sugar and top with fresh cherries. Serve with whipped cream.

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