Marvellous meringues

by Fiona Rae / 18 February, 2012
Lauraine Jacobs whips up a wonderful standby – and has a suggestion for the leftover egg yolks.

We have a fine tradition of baking, and our passion for cakes, slices and biscuits shows no sign of abating. Meanwhile, the occasions when we’re asked to bring a plate keep cropping up. My mother is known for her excellent baking, and I have clear memories of childhood birthday parties where the table groaned with cakes and savoury baking treats to tempt my friends. At the tennis club, Pat’s plate of food was always the first to disappear. So she was miffed recently, when making tea and coffee for the mums who’d brought their offspring to a special playgroup morning tea, that several young women brought packets of dry crackers as their contribution. “Lack of time, imagination or skill,” we wondered.

Meringues are a wonderful standby to have in your repertoire, as they can be whipped up quickly and are always a hit. Regardless of the recipe, everybody’s meringues seem to be slightly different. Mine are crunchy on the outside with a chewy, almost marshmallow-like interior. They always turn blush-pink, because of the slight caramelisation of the sugar, in contrast to the pristine white commercial variety, which I find dry.

Meringues – a combination of egg whites, caster sugar and a drop or two of pure vanilla – are best made with a large cake mixer, although a hand-held electric beater will still produce a fine meringue. The whites must be beaten until very stiff and should be glossy and peaky. I always use baking paper on the oven tray so the meringues don’t stick. If your meringues weep, it’s because they’re undercooked. They should go into an oven that’s quite hot, so the meringue exterior is crisp, then have a prolonged period at a lower temperature. This ensures the interior is set, but not dried out. Other baking tips: if you run out of caster sugar, whizz regular white sugar in a food processor for about a minute. It will become fine-grained. When baking, always use eggs and egg whites at room temperature rather than straight from the fridge. You will get more volume.

Having used all those egg whites, you are left with a problem of what to do with the yolks. There’s béarnaise and beurre blanc sauce, or lemon honey and passionfruit curd, but anything with too much butter is not good for your health. My mother and her friends have a terrific recipe to use egg yolks. They call it the “pavlova sponge”, as it uses the four leftover egg yolks and whips them into a light-as-air sponge that’s delicious with cream, jam and fruit. It has appeared at countless tennis parties and afternoon teas.

I was asked to take a treat to the Hospice Strawberry Festival late last year, and after using a dozen egg whites, I suddenly thought: “I could use those yolks to make cupcakes to take along, too.” I’m not sure which was the bigger hit, the meringues or the cupcakes, both topped with cream and strawberries. We sold out within half an hour.


  • 4 large egg whites (at room temperature)

  • 250g caster sugar

  • ½ tsp pure vanilla essence

  • 300ml cream

  • berries to decorate

Preheat the oven to 140°C. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, and continue whisking. Beat in the vanilla essence. Line a large baking tray with baking paper, then place well-spaced dessertspoonfuls of mixture on the paper. Bake for 50 minutes. (The outside should be crisp.) Turn off the heat and allow the meringues to stand in the oven for an hour or more to help set the insides. Remove the meringues from the oven and leave on a rack to dry out and completely cool. Store in an airtight tin. Whip the cream until firm but not turning buttery. To decorate, place the meringues on a serving plate and pipe or spoon a tablespoonful of cream on top. Decorate with fresh berries or slices of kiwifruit, orange or stone fruit. To prevent stone fruit from discolouring, toss the fruit in a mixture of sugar and lemon juice. Makes 30 meringues.


  • 4 egg yolks

  • 120g caster sugar

  • 75g flour

  • ½ tsp baking powder

  • pinch of salt

  • ½ tsp pure vanilla essence

  • 50g butter, melted

  • 4 tbsp boiling water

  • zested rind of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Beat the yolks and sugar until thick and light. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt, then fold into the egg mixture with the vanilla. Melt the butter, then fold through with the boiling water and lemon rind. Spoon the mixture into paper baking cups. Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden. Cool, then decorate with cream or icing (see recipe below). Makes 7-8 large or 16 small cupcakes. Can also be made in a 20cm cake tin. Store for up to three days in an airtight tin.


  • 150ml cream, whipped

  • 1 packet jelly crystals, dissolved in water

  • and set

  • 75g butter

  • ½ cup icing sugar

  • 1 lemon, juice, and zest cut into strips

To make into butterfly cakes, cut a small circle about 3cm deep from the middle of each cake. Cut this little piece in half to form the “butterfly wings”. Whip the cream and spoon a little into the centre of each cake. Decorate with berries or cubes of jelly, then position the wings in the cream. To make the icing, melt the butter, then beat in about 6 tablespoons of icing sugar and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Continue beating until smooth. Ice the top of each cake, then decorate with lemon zest.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage


Jacinda Ardern pregnant: Politicians past and present lend their support
86105 2018-01-19 15:45:44Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern pregnant: Politicians past and pres…

by RNZ

Politicians from at home and abroad are reaching out to offer congratulations to the Prime Minister mum-to-be.

Read more
Jacinda Ardern is going to be a Prime Minister AND a mum
86091 2018-01-19 12:36:44Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern is going to be a Prime Minister AND…

by Katie Parker

New Zealand’s newly minted PM and bizarrely cool and normal lady Jacinda Ardern has announced that she and partner Clarke Gayford are expecting a baby

Read more
Jacinda Ardern announces pregnancy
86074 2018-01-19 11:11:36Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern announces pregnancy

by RNZ

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that she is pregnant, with the baby due in June.

Read more
What the media silly season taught us
85933 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Politics

What the media silly season taught us

by Graham Adams

To the eternal gratitude of media chiefs, each holiday period seems to throw up at least one minor scandal that runs in the absence of anything newsy.

Read more
Richard Prebble: Jacinda Ardern will face the tyranny of events
86009 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Politics

Richard Prebble: Jacinda Ardern will face the tyra…

by Richard Prebble

I predicted Bill English would lose the election and the winner would be Winston Peters. But no forecaster, including the PM, predicted her pregnancy.

Read more
Aokigahara: More than just the ‘suicide forest’
85966 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z World

Aokigahara: More than just the ‘suicide forest’

by Justin Bennett

It's known as a 'suicide forest', but Justin Bennett found Aokigahara's quiet beauty outweighed its infamous reputation.

Read more
Truth and Lye: New perspectives on the brilliance of Len Lye
85816 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Arts

Truth and Lye: New perspectives on the brilliance …

by Sally Blundell

New essays on New Zealand-born US artist Len Lye elevate him to the status of Australasia’s most notable 20th-century artist.

Read more
Brain activity may hold the secret to helping infertile couples
86046 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Health

Brain activity may hold the secret to helping infe…

by Nicky Pellegrino

For about a third of infertility cases in New Zealand, there is no obvious reason why seemingly fertile couples struggle to conceive.

Read more