Valentine's Day is a lovely concept: A day dedicated to expressing your love in all manner of small and large ways. I wish we had one every week, but we don't, and I realize it happening only once a year can raise expectations to impossible-to-meet heights. But what if we all considered it an opportunity to pause and be deliberate in performing an act of love for someone: a friend, a spouse, a new boyfriend, or even a sibling. I still send handmade cards to my sisters, and it's one of my favorite parts of Valentine's Day.
Small gestures are nice. But so are large, sweeping romantic acts. For me, I welcome any excuse to bake something elaborate. Traditional Valentine's Day desserts tend to be rich and chocolate-y or pink and heart-shaped. This year, I'm translating romantic desserts in a different way: A luscious, rumpled, sexy meringue cake with a smooth, creamy whipped passionfruit cream filling.
The cake looks complicated, but it's actually pretty simple to make. Each half consists of a thin layer of buttery yellow cake topped with a chewy-crisp meringue. You bake the two layers together in the same pan, so it doesn't require as many steps or as much assembly as it appears. First, you make the butter cake batter and divide that between two pans. Then you make a simple meringue (egg whites, cream of tartar, and sugar) and spread that on top of the cake batter. You bake the cakes while you mix up the filling, which is a simple combination of whipped cream, mascarpone, and passionfruit pulp.
Passionfruit, as it turns out, is a bit pricey! But I am infatuated with its exotic flavor. It's sweet and fruity with a slightly sour edge. I used two passionfruit in my filling, but you could easily add more if you want to dial up the flavor. I'd also recommend buying an extra and drizzling some passionfruit pulp over the top of the cake for a nice visual effect.
This is a fun project, and it's an unusual-enough result that I felt really excited about serving it to people I love. There's nothing that would make my heart beat faster than a slice of homemade cake that's creamy, sweet, sour, fruity, soft, and crunchy all at once.
And if you don't have someone this year to bake a cake for, make it for yourself. Pour a glass of wine, cook yourself a fancy pasta, and cut a large slice of this for yourself for dessert. In words of the very wise poet Yrsa Daley-Ward, "romance your own damn self!"
- 1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces or 113 grams) butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 3/4 cups (350 grams) sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup (90 grams) flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup milk
- 4 egg whites
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup (227 grams) mascarpone
- 4 tablespoons passionfruit pulp (from about 2 passionfruit)
- 2 tablespoons (about 16 grams) confectioners' sugar
What are you baking for Valentine's Day? Tell us in the comments.