- Prep time 20 minutes
- Serves 6 to 8
This gets my vote for entry into the pantheon of great frozen desserts. There are layers of chunky meringue and layers of parfait, a mixture of beaten egg whites, yolks and whipped cream, lithe, luscious and, when frozen, reminiscent of the richest ice cream you’ve ever had. The cake is built in a soufflé dish or springform and stowed in the freezer until it’s ready for its star turn. Then, just before serving—or at the table, if you want to share the drama—you pour on warm caramel sauce, allowing it to cover the top and slip over the edges before you finish the cake with a flourish of toasted almonds. It’s stunning, but not fussy to make. This recipe was given to me by my Parisian friend Thibault Lafarie, who told me it had been a favorite in his family for generations—one spoonful, and I understood why. —Dorie Greenspan
Test Kitchen Notes
Excerpted from BAKING WITH DORIE: Sweet, Salty, & Simple © 2021 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2021 by Mark Weinberg. Reproduced by permission of Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. —The Editors
1 1/4 cups
(300 milliliters) very cold heavy cream
3 large eggs, preferably organic, at room temperature
pure vanilla extract
(100 grams) broken pieces of Meringue Snackers (see below; or use store-bought meringues)—you want pieces of all sizes, from small chips to pebbles and peanuts
Caramel sauce, homemade (see below) or store-bought, warmed
(about 50 grams) sliced almonds, toasted
- Meringue Snackers & Caramel Sauce
(400 grams) sugar, divided, plus 1 tablespoon
2 1/2 tablespoons
large egg whites, at room temperature
distilled white vinegar
pure vanilla extract, divided
light corn syrup
(180 milliliters) heavy cream, warmed or at room temperature
sea salt, preferably fleur de sel
unsalted butter, at room temperature
- You need to build the vacherin in a 2-quart mold. If you have a soufflé dish, that would be very French. Alternatively, make it in an 8-inch springform pan or a 2-quart bowl.
- Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the cream until it holds medium peaks. If you’re using a stand mixer, scrape the cream into another bowl (unless you have a second mixer bowl). Cover the cream and refrigerate. Wash and dry the mixer bowl and whisk, if you used them, or the beaters.
- Working in a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 2½ tablespoons of the sugar together until slightly thickened and pale. Beat in the vanilla.
- Put the whites in the clean bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl that you can use with the hand mixer and beat until they turn opaque. Still beating, sprinkle in the remaining ½ tablespoon sugar, then continue to beat until the whites form medium-firm peaks; you don’t want the whites to be too stiff.
- Working with a large flexible spatula, carefully fold the whipped cream into the yolks. It’s okay if you have a few streaks of yolks at this point. Turn the whites into the bowl and very delicately fold them in. Try to be as light-handed but thorough as you can. The mixture will deflate—it’s unavoidable; just be quick and gentle.
- Sprinkle one-third of the meringues over the bottom of the soufflé dish (or pan or bowl) and cover with half the parfait mixture, then repeat, ending with meringue, so you have 3 layers of meringue and 2 of parfait. Press a piece of plastic against the top surface and freeze the vacherin for at least 6 hours. (The vacherin can be frozen, tightly covered, for up to 1 month.)
- Shortly before serving, unmold the vacherin by dipping the dish or bowl (not the springform) into warm water, wiping it dry and inverting it onto a platter. Or, better yet, warm the sides with a hairdryer and then turn out the vacherin. If you’ve used a springform pan, you can just run a table knife around the edges of the pan, remove the sides and leave the vacherin on the base. Pretty up the sides, if necessary, with a small offset spatula or a table knife. Pop the vacherin back into the freezer until you need it.
- When ready to serve, pour the caramel over the vacherin, letting some of it run down the sides and sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Serve immediately.
- Do Ahead: Leftover vacherin will keep for up to 1 month, well covered, in the freezer.
- Meringue Snackers & Caramel Sauce
- For the Meringues: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.
- Strain 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar and the confectioners’ sugar through a fine-mesh sieve; set aside.
- Working in the (clean, dry, grease-free) bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites and vinegar on medium-high speed until they form soft peaks, about 3 minutes. With the mixer running, add 1 cup (200 grams) of the granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting a few seconds after each addition. It will take about 5 minutes, maybe even longer, to get all the sugar into the whites, but it’s this slow process that makes pristine meringue. Once all the sugar is in, beat for 2 minutes or so, until you have stiff, glossy, beautifully white peaks. If you want to add 1½ of the vanilla, beat it in now. Switch to a flexible spatula and fold in the reserved sugar mix.
- To Shape the Meringues: Use a big spoon (I use a serving spoon) to scoop 6 heaping portions of meringue out onto the baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between them.
- Bake the meringues—undisturbed, don’t open the oven—for 1 hour and 45 minutes. The puffs will have cracked and colored lightly. Turn off the heat, open the oven door a little to let out whatever steam may have developed, then close the door and let the meringues finish baking (actually, they’re not so much baking as drying) for another 2 hours. When you take them out, you should be able to easily peel them off the paper or mat.
- Do Ahead: Kept away from humidity, meringues will be fine for days (if not weeks). Store them in a box or just put them on a plate and leave them uncovered.
- For the Caramel Sauce: Put 1 cup (200 grams) of the sugar, the water, and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, set the pan over medium-high heat and cook—don’t stir the ingredients, but once they melt and start coloring, swirl the pan—until the caramel, which will boil and may even smoke, turns a medium amber color. (You can check the color by dropping some on a white plate.) As the caramel cooks, it might spatter onto the sides of the pan—wash down the spatters with a silicone or other pastry brush dipped in cold water.
- Turn off the heat, stand back, and add the cream, salt, and butter. The mixture will sputter dramatically, but it will quickly calm down, and when it does, stir until it is smooth and creamy. If there are lumps of caramel or some not melted at the bottom of the pan, return the pan to medium heat and stir for another minute or two to smooth things out. Stir in the remaining 1½ teaspoons of the vanilla extract.
- Pour the sauce into a heatproof jar or container and leave uncovered until it reaches room temperature.
- Do Ahead: You can keep the sauce tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Warm it gently so that it’s pourable (you can do this in the microwave) and thin it with a little cream, if you’d like.