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Nigella Lawson’s Magical, No-Churn Gelato Cake (+ a Genius Desserts Cookbook Sneak Peek!)

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Every Wednesday this August, we’re giving you sneak peeks of some of the most gloriously summery recipes in our almost-born cookbook Genius Desserts. (You can order your signed copy now to get your mitts on the rest when the book drops September 4th!)

Nigella Lawson’s Meringue Gelato Cake with Chocolate Sauce
Nigella Lawson’s Meringue Gelato Cake with Chocolate Sauce

For the next few weeks, we’re going to be doing something a little different around these parts.

You see, Genius Desserts—the sweet sequel to the Genius Recipes cookbook—will finally be ours to have and hold and smear with chocolate on September 4th.

PRESALE Signed Copy: Genius Desserts, by Kristen Miglore
PRESALE Signed Copy: Genius Desserts, by Kristen Miglore

But that’s 34 whole days from now! And there are so many miraculous summery desserts tucked away in the book that you could be making and eating that whole time.

So every week till the book comes out for real, I’ll be sharing a sneak peek at a favorite summertime recipe from the book (official James Ransom photo and all), plus a little behind-the-scenes story or tip.

Michelle Polzine’s Slow-Roasted Strawberries
Michelle Polzine’s Slow-Roasted Strawberries

Like this: Remember those amazingly deep-red, candy-like, slow-roasted strawberries I shared back in April? Michelle Polzine, the pastry chef behind 20th Century Cafe in San Francisco, wrote up and emailed me the recipe from her phone while she was locked out of her apartment—that’s how simple it is.

OK, that’s enough nostalgia till next week—now, onto the recipe, ripped straight from the pages of Genius Desserts: a frozen concoction from the great Nigella Lawson that sounds (and looks) (and tastes) a whole lot fancier than the low-tech whipping, folding, and freezing it asks of you. I recommend making it any time you see the weather forecast going to a dark, hot place, to swiftly correct the situation.

genius desserts sneak peek!

Nigella Lawson’s Meringue Gelato Cake with Chocolate Sauce

Much of the wonder of this dessert may lie in its semihomemade ease—you’re doing little more than bashing up store-bought meringues and folding them into whipped cream. But this gelato cake comes from quite literary roots, reminding us that we should be open to finding cooking inspiration in all sorts of places: dusty books at estate sales, our elders’ recipe boxes, or the yellowed clippings that flutter out of an old birthday card. In this case, it did help that Nigella Lawson could read Italian.

Lawson is a self-proclaimed lover of languages (you can sense this as you read her lyrical recipe writing and occasional invented words). She found the basic notion of this recipe in an Italian book from 1986 by chef and culinary philosopher Gioacchino Scognamiglio. It called for an obscure liqueur, which she tracked down and studied; her version is modified for boozes we can more easily find. The frozen cake is downy, like a more weightless icebox cake, with gentle crackles of meringue and chocolate that melt away quickly on your tongue.

Nigella Lawson’s Meringue Gelato Cake with Chocolate Sauce

Nigella Lawson’s Meringue Gelato Cake with Chocolate Sauce

Genius Recipes Genius Recipes
Serves 6 to 8

Gelato Cake

  • 1 1/4 cups (295g) heavy cream
  • 1 ounce (30g) bittersweet chocolate (62% cacao or higher)
  • 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur or rum, or better yet, a mix of the two
  • 4 ounces (110g) crumbled store-bought or homemade meringue cookies (about 2 cups)

Chocolate Sauce

  • 1 cup (235g) heavy cream
  • 5 ounces (125g) dark chocolate (62% cacao or higher), finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur or rum, or better yet, a mix of the two
Go to Recipe

p.s. Here's a video of my friend (and Food52's Director of Brand Activation) Eunice Choi and me making the recipe, so you can see just how casual that can be. Grab a friend and get to it!

Photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]—thank you to stylist-friend Ali Slagle for this one!


Tags: Ice Cream/Frozen Desserts, Tips & Techniques, Genius Recipes, Cookbooks