Most people erroneously believe that it was Marie Antoinette, the wife of King Louis XVI and queen of France who uttered on the eve of the French Revolution the words “Let them eat cake!” She supposedly spoke these words upon hearing that the peasantry had no bread to eat. Historians have found, however, that there is no evidence that Marie Antoinette uttered these words. The quotation was first written by the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau when he wrote “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” which literally means let them eat a type of egg-based bread, words that were written in 1766 when Marie Antoinette was just 10 years of age, still living in her native Austria and not yet married to King Louis XVI. It seems unlikely, therefore, that she had uttered this infamously callous and ignorant phrase which may have been spoken by Marie-Theresa, wife of France’s King Louis XIV 100 years before Marie Antoinette.
One must also consider that the words “Let them eat brioche” may not be as cold and callous as they appear to be. French bakers were required by law at the time to sell fancy breads at the same price as plain bread if they ran out of the latter, the objective being to prevent bakers from making a limited supply of cheap bread in order to profit from the fancier, more expensive breads. Whoever really said “Let them eat brioche” may perhaps have meant that the bakery laws be enforced in order to allow the peasantry to eat fancy bread if there wasn’t a large enough supply of plain bread.
All things being said, cake as we know and define it is truly a magnificent dessert! It is not something that we bake often in our kitchen but when we do it has to be moist, delicious and, especially when guests will be present, genuinely spectacular! This cake meets all of those criteria. It is unquestionably a presentation cake filled with layers of golden sponge infused with sweet marsala and a fresh mango fruit curd, enveloped in a snowy white cloud of meringue flavored with a hint of mango syrup and garnished with delicate white chocolate leaves and a spectacular rose created from dried mango slices. It couldn’t be a more regal way to crown an evening of fine food and celebration around the table!
Mango and Marsala Sponge Cake with Mango 7-Minute Meringue
– Sponge Cake –
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter 2 9-inch X 2-inch deep cake pans with removable bottoms. Line each with a disk of parchment cut to fit and then butter the parchment disks. For the sponge, place in the stainless steel bowl of an electric mixer:
8 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 C baker’s sugar
Whisk until well-blended:
Place the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water and whisk until warm, 110 degrees, approximately 2 – 3 minutes, using an instant read thermometer to check the temperature. Place the bowl back on the mixer fitted with a whip attachment and whip on high speed until the mixture has lightened in color, the bowl has cooled to the touch and the egg mixture has quadrupled its volume:
Place in a sifter:
2 C all-purpose flour
In 3 or 4 additions sift the flour over the egg foam, incorporating thoroughly but gently after each addition with a rubber spatula so as not to lose volume:
Divide the batter between the two pans:
Bake for 40 minutes. Test doneness at the center with a cake tester or a toothpick, which should come out clean. Do not overbake! The cakes will be well risen and have a light golden color. Place on wire cooling racks and run the tip of a sharp paring knife around the top edge of each:
Allow cakes to cool for 10 – 15 minutes then cover with a piece of parchment or waxed paper, followed by a wire rack:
Firmly gripping both wire racks, flip the cake over and quickly remove the rim and bottom of the pans, leaving the parchment in place:
Place a wire rack on top of the parchment and flip the cake back over:
Allow the cakes to cool completely. The cakes can then be covered with film and left at room temp overnight or refrigerated for several days should you choose. Prepare the mango filling.
– Mango Marsala Fruit Curd Filling –
Peel, remove the seeds and puree in a food processor:
2 fresh ripe mangoes
Transfer the puree to a bain marie and add:
3/4 C mango syrup (we suggest Torani)
6 large egg yolks
the seeds of 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Heat in microwave for 20 – 30 seconds:
1/2 C sweet marsala (we recommend Florio)
To the warmed marsala add:
1 envelope Knox unflavored gelatin
Stir until gelatin is dissolved then add to the mixture in the bain marie. Whisk until thick, approximately 6 – 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add, one tablespoon at a time:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
When the butter is incorporated transfer the filling to a glass bowl, cover the surface of the curd with film and refrigerate until cold, 2 hours or overnight. Prior to constructing the cake transfer the filling to a mixing bowl and whip briefly. The gelatin will have firmed the curd and whipping will loosen it for ease in spreading.
Remove the parchment from the bottom of each cake and split them in two, placing the first of the 4 layers on a serving plate.
Baker’s Note: I recommend the use of an electric knife to split the cakes… it makes this step a snap!
In a one-cup measure or small bowl pour:
3/4 C sweet marsala
With a pastry brush lightly coat the first layer with 1/4 of the marsala:
With an angled spat spread 1/3 of the whipped mango filling:
Repeat the process with the next two layers. The top layer will be brushed with the remaining marsala:
Prepare the white chocolate leaves and dried mango rose. In a bain marie over shimmering water melt:
4-oz white chocolate
Stir and, when melted, use a small brush to generously coat the backside of clean lemon leaves with the chocolate:
Place the coated leaves on a plate and place in the freezer for several minutes to allow the chocolate to set. When firm, carefully remove each leaf from the chocolate beginning at the stem of the leaf and gently peeling downward:
Set leaves aside or place in refrigerator briefly should they need to set further.
For the mango rose place between two pieces of film:
4-oz dried mango slices
Carefully roll and flatten each piece with a rolling pin without breaking the edges of each slice:
Begin shaping the rose by first tightly rolling a long and slender slice at one end to form the center petal of the rose:
Wrap addition mango petals in an overlapping fashion and, when finished, secure the base of the flower with toothpicks, trimming the protruding ends of the toothpicks with a sharp scissors:
Set the mango rose to the side, prepare the Mango 7-Minute Meringue and frost immediately.
– Mango 7-Minute Meringue –
Place in a medium-sized saucepan over moderate heat:
2 1/4 C baker’s sugar
1/2 C water
2 T light corn syrup
Quickly stir to combine then, without stirring, heat syrup to 230 degrees on a candy thermometer:
When syrup reaches 230 degrees turn off heat and cover saucepan for maintenance of syrup temperature. In the stainless steel bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whip attachment place:
7 large egg whites (1 cup), room temperature
Whisk on medium speed until soft peaks begin to form, approximately 2 – 3 minutes. Slowly add over the course of a minute:
1/4 C baker’s sugar
1 T mango syrup
While the whites continue to whisk re-ignite flame under the sugar syrup and quickly heat to 245 degrees. Increase the mixer speed to high and slowly and carefully pour the hot syrup into the meringue near the edge of the bowl to prevent splashing. Beat until the bowl of the mixer is barely warm to the touch and the frosting is thick and glossy. Immediately frost the cake before the meringue begins to set:
Decorate with the mango rose and white chocolate leaves… and dazzle your guests with a visually spectacular and wonderfully delicious dessert creation… Bon Appetit!
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