It's been over a dozen years since I first had this perfect summer dessert while researching my KAFFEEHAUS book in VIenna. At Hans Diglas's cafe, one of the most venerable spots in the center of the city near St. Stephen's, I saw a big tray of layered cake in an old-fashioned metal baking pan, topped with red currants and meringue. Hans shared the recipe for the book, and I adapted it for more readily available blueberries. Is this the perfect Fourth of July dessert? I think so!
Berry Meringue Slices
Makes 12 servings
Austrian baking has an entire family of Schnitten topped with seasonal berries crowned with fluffy meringue. Red currant meringue slices are a favorite, but their season is fleeting--when you can find them (usually at a farmer’s market). You’re better off with raspberries or blueberries…or a combination for a fantastic Fourth of July dessert.
Softened butter and flour, for the pan
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 pints fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour a 13- X 9-inch baking pan, tapping out the excess flour.
2. To make the cake: Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt to combine; set aside. Beat the butter in a medium bowl with a hand-held electric mixer on high speed until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. One at a time, beat in the eggs, then the vanilla. On low speed, in two additions, beat in the flour mixture. Beat in the lemon juice and zest.
3. Spread evenly in the pan. Bake until golden and the top springs back when pressed in the center, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a wire cake rack while making the meringue. Increase the oven temperature to 450°F.
4. To make the topping: Beat the egg whites in a large bowl until the form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the sugar until the whites are stiff and shiny. Toss the blueberries and confectioner’s sugar in a medium bowl. Spread the berries in a single layer over the cake, then spread with the meringue.
5. Bake until the meringue is lightly tipped with brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool completely on a wire cake rack. To serve, cut into 12 rectangles with a sharp knife dipped in hot water and serve from the pan.
Raspberry Slices Substitute 4 cups fresh raspberries for the blueberries. Increase the confectioner’s sugar to 4 tablespoons. Or use 2 cups each raspberries and blueberries with 4 tablespoons of confectioners' sugar.
Red Currant Slices Substitute 4 cups stemmed fresh red currants for the blueberries (to stem currants, strip them from their tiny stems with the tines of a fork) . Increase the confectioner’s sugar to 1/2 cup.
Make-Ahead: The cake can be prepared up to 1 day ahead, covered loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerated. Serve at room temperature.