Buttery, cookie-like shortbread crust filled with sweet and tart cranberry and orange filling. All topped up with clouds of crisp on the outside and soft in the middle meringue drizzled with crisp buttery shortbread.
This simple cake presents really well and guarantees a beautiful feast of flavour and textures. It’s one of our regular bakes. We tend to change the filling depending on the season. This time - it’s sweet and tart combination of cranberries and oranges. A real treat!
For a good bake:
This is a simple bake. It takes a little bit of time to prepare each part. The shortbread dough and the filling can be prepared in advance so at the end, this bake comes together fairly quick with not too much effort.
Cranberry and orange filling - to get more flavour from this bake the cranberry filling is split into two parts. It would be great if you can prepare Part 1 an evening before baking. Cranberries are cooked with sugar, a little bit of butter, orange juice, bourbon and nutmeg. Then, this mixture needs to set in the fridge. Short, overnight rest will mean that you get thicker consistency and more robust flavour. You can keep that part of the filling in the fridge for up to 3 days. The rest of the filling comes together just before baking - orange marmalade is sizzled for a minute on butter and then mixed with the rest of pre-prepared filling. A portion of fresh cranberries is sprinkled on top of it, just before covering with meringue. The pre-prepared filling is sweet/tart. Fresh cranberries and orange marmalade are adding sweet, tart, slightly bitter (marmalade) notes. This combination pairs really well with buttery, crisp shortbread crust and sweet meringue.
Shortbread crust - the crust and topping are buttery, crisp, eggy, semi-sweet. To get the right texture - use cold or frozen unsalted butter. Grate butter into flour/icing sugar mixture and using palms of your hands and finger tips rub butter into flour. Try to be swift at it, not to melt the butter. This crust requires 5 egg yolks (egg whites are used for meringue). Why all 5? Egg yolks will keep the crust firm, crunchy but soft in the same time. So - there is no need to use baking powder (even though it’s called a ‘cake’). This will pair up really nicely with the rest of textures. You will use 2/3rd of the dough to line the bottom of the baking tin. Make sure to chill the form lined with the pastry for some 20-30 minutes (place in the freezer for quick chilling). Dock the pastry just before baking and blind bake until golden (all included in the recipe). The rest of the dough (1/3rd, some 215g) is used to sprinkle the top of meringue. To get the best texture - freeze the dough for a short while, grate (on a large grater scale) and place back in the freezer. You will sprinkle the top of meringue with grated dough just before baking. Frozen dough will bake into crusty, firm and buttery add-on to crisp meringue skin (rather than just melt on top of it when baking).
Meringue - use egg whites at room temperature. Place in a clean bowl - make sure it’s not greasy, even small amount of fat (for example, residue coating after creaming) will adversely affect whipping. Beat egg whites for 1 minute, until fluffy (low-medium speed, to relax proteins; the improved elasticity will allow proteins to take on air more easily and gain more volume). Add 1 Tablespoon of sugar at a time, mixing well after each addition (high speed). Take your time here to get glossy, satiny, firm texture. It will take you about 7-8 minutes to incorporate the sugar fully. Lemon juice and a pinch of cardamom are used here to break sweetness of meringue. Vanilla - for woody/sweet aroma. When ready, place meringue on top of the cake, in generous tablespoons. No need to even out, let it sit freely on top (you will loose volume flattening it out; the volume is part of the effect after baking). Baking temperature is quite high - to form crisp skin on top. As you can see on the pictures, there will be slight browning on top. If your are noticing that meringue is browning too fast - place large baking tray (upside down) on the top shelf of your oven. This will prevent excessive browning. Don’t cover with tin foil.
Baking - you know the cake is done when meringue and shortbread on top form crisp skin. The middle of meringue should still be soft and fluffy. Baking time here is 35 - 38 minutes.
Storage - this cake tastes the best on day 1 but is also very enjoyable on day 2. Store at room temperature (15-23C) very loosely covered with clean kitchen towel. You may opt to store it in closed oven. Storing in cake stand, covered with cling film or refrigerated - are good options too but the top of meringue and the shortbread will turn soft.
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Cranberry and Orange Meringue Cake Recipe
Yield: 16 servings
Time: 1 hr 30 min + 35-38 min baking
Tin: 22cmx33cm, 5cm deep
Shortbread crust and topping:
400g all-purpose (plain) flour
80g confectioners’ (icing) sugar
230g unsalted butter, cold or frozen
5 egg yolks from large eggs (100g)
Cranberry and Orange Filling:
You will need 450g fresh cranberries for the filling
Part 1 (leave to rest refrigerated for 2 hrs, up to 3 days):
15g unsalted butter
250g fresh* cranberries
juice from 1 orange (about 90ml)
20ml bourbon (or rum)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
15g unsalted butter
125g orange marmalade
+ 200g fresh* cranberries
5 egg whites from large eggs (200g), room temperature
180g sugar or caster sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla seeds from 1 pod
* you may opt to use fresh or frozen cranberries in this bake
Prepare cranberry filling (Part 1): In a medium pot melt butter, add sugar and cranberries and cook (uncovered) on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, then add orange juice, bourbon, nutmeg and cook for another 6-8 minutes. When done, transfer hot mixture to a jar or container with a lid, close tightly. Refrigerate for minimum 2 hours and up to 3 days.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan forced). Brush baking tin with butter and line with parchment paper.
Prepare shortbread crust: Mix flour with icing sugar and sift. Grate cold (or frozen) butter into the mix and using palms of your hands and finger tips rub butter into the mixture. Try to be quick at it, not to melt the butter. At the end, add all egg yolks at once, stir briefly and knead gently for few seconds to bring the dough together. Don’t knead excessively, try not to melt the butter. Use about 2/3rd of the dough to line the bottom of your baking tin - detach small patches, line the bottom of the tin and even out. Place the tin in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to chill the dough. Shape the remaining part of the dough (1/3rd - about 215g) into a small ball and place it into the freezer. When ready - take the tin out of the freezer and dock the pastry (using fork make few holes). Bake at 180C (160C fan forced) for 20 minutes, until golden. When done, cool down completely before spreading the filling. Don’t switch off the oven (the rest of the steps will take you 15-20 min). In a meantime - take the remaining part of the dough (1/3rd) and grate (on a large grater scale), then place back in the freezer until ready to use.
Finish cranberry filling (part 2): In a small pot/pan melt butter, add marmalade and bring to gentle sizzle (15 seconds). Take off the heat, add the remaining part of cranberry filling (from Step 1) and mix in until combined. Set aside until cooled down fully and ready to use.
Prepare meringue: Place egg whites in a bowl of a stand mixer (or use handheld mixer) and beat on low-medium speed for 1 minute, until fluffy. Then, start adding sugar - one Tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition. It will take you about 5-7 minutes, mixing on high speed, to incorporate the sugar fully. The meringue should look glossy, satiny and firm. At the end, add clear lemon juice, ground cardamom (if using) and vanilla bean paste, mix for few seconds.
Assemble: Place cranberry filling on top of fully cooled, blind baked shortbread crust. Sprinkle remaining fresh cranberries (200g) on top. Using tablespoon place little meringue clouds on top of the cranberry/orange filling (generous tablespoons), don’t even out, let it sit freely. Sprinkle grated frozen shortbread on top of the meringue and place back in the oven.
Bake at 180C (160C fan forced) for 35-38 minutes until meringue is crisp on the outside but looks soft in the middle. When ready, take out from the oven and cool down in the tin for 30-45 minutes before serving. This cake is best on the day it’s baked but is also very enjoyable on day 2.