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Boo-Meringue: An FAQ and a Daring Bakers Challenge


Lemon with Meringue, with a little help from a friend ;-)

Meringues: light-as air confections; a marriage made in heaven with lemon pies. But on a deeper level (and at this point we pause to look the slightly-browned puff soulfully in the eye), who are you, little meringue? We had these questions on our mind when taking on our first Daring Bakers Challenge; so, we took some time to do some research on this sweet treat. Here's Cakespy's response to some Frequently Asked Questions about the mighty meringue and its relationship with that famous pie, as well as our offering to the Daring Baker's Challenge!


Q: What is a meringue?
A: Most simply put, it's a confection made from whipped egg whites and fine (caster) sugar. The way it helps us to think of it is, kind of like whipped cream, but instead of cream, egg whites (for what it's worth).

Q: What is the difference between meringue cookies and meringue on top of a pie?
A: There are different ways to make meringues. The "soft" meringue that you will see on top of pies has only a small amount of sugar to egg white; the "hard" meringues which may be bagged or sold in boxes, are crumbly but quite solid; this is a result of a higher sugar-to-egg white ratio.

Q: Where does its funny name come from?
A: Depends on who you ask. Some insist that it got its name from the Swiss town of Meiringen where some claim the confection was invented by a pastry chef in 1720. However, the word "meringue" appeared in a French cookbook from 1692; so, there is some debate over where the name really comes from. The Dictionary of etymology cites "unknown origin". Quel mysterieuse!

Q: Why do I never see Lemon pies without meringue?
A: Good question, and while you may see a tarte citron, you'll rarely see a lemon pie sans meringue. Although we couldn't find a definitive answer, here's what we think: lemons are sour. Their taste alone doesn't really make a good sweet, so frequently they will have a sweet accompaniment; think of the lemon bar's shortbread crust, even that tarte citron's sweet pastry shell. Since the pie crust will frequently not be sweet, we think that perhaps the addition of the sugary meringue is to add a much-needed sweet complement to the sour lemony filling.

Q: Are meringues delicious?
A: Meringues are, on their own...very sweet. So, it depends on the taster. Marie-Antoinette, that queen of sugar she was, is said to have adored them; to the Cakespy crew, in general they're not entirely compelling all their lonesome. To us, the true goodness of the meringue is brought out by other flavors which accompany and complement that sweetness.

Q: What does it mean when a meringue "weeps"?
A: On a Lemon Meringue pie, a magical place exists where meringue ends and filling begins. Not so magical when a syrup forms in that layer and seeps out while you're cutting the pie in front of guests. Usually, this is because the filling is undercooked on the bottom, and moisture is held suspended. How do you keep your meringue from weeping? Act quickly upon taking your pie from the oven: meringues should always be set on piping hot pie filling to adhere properly. More suggestions can be found here.

Q: What is a marshmallow meringue?
A: A marshmallow meringue is pretty much a meringue, but with marshmallow cream added (think fluff), and is a wonderful accompaniment to sweet potato pie or sweet potato cupcakes (photo left, Marshmallow meringue topped cupcake from Trophy Cupcakes). We like this recipe for its tiny addition of salt, which seems to make the taste come alive.


Q: Is Divinity a meringue?
A: While they are similar, we'd say that they're more like cousins than immediate relatives; the ingredients and methods differ. While meringues consist of egg whites and super-fine sugar, divinity calls for a mixture of white sugar, corn syrup and vanilla; also, the method of making divinity is more consistent with candymaking techniques, calling for a syrup to be made and heated before the beaten egg whites are added. For a recipe, check out this link.

Q: Can you teach me to meringue like in Dirty Dancing?
A: Silly rabbit, you're mistaking the meringue with the merengue, which is a type of Latin dance. While doing the merengue is an excellent way to work up an appetite for meringues, they are completely different things.

Interested in finding out more? We found the following resources very helpful: whatscookingamerica.net and joyofbaking.com.

And as for the Daring Bakers Challenge?


Lemon Tart
Well, we cheated a little bit to go for the extra tartlet challenge (we got some help from a talented baker who *ahem* does it for a living--wouldn't have looked like this if made by Mrs. Cakespy alone), but ours did come out quite nicely, guess it makes a difference when you have all those tools and gadgets of a commercial kitchen. It was really fun--Head Spy Jessie had never "done" meringues before, so it was a very interesting experience. Oh, the power that a mini torch makes you feel in the kitchen.





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Reader Comments (52)

My sister-in-law is from New Zealand and she makes pavlovas that are to die for. I never I knew I liked meringue until I had her pavlova!

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterEllo

So fancy!! I remember making lemon meringue pie in fourth grade at school...
And how well timed! Hannah at bittersweet just posted a vegan version of this!

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterVegan_Noodle

Mary-Laure: When are you gonna post that recipe? Or have you??

TW: Thank you! Just our opinion...but it works, no?

Ann: Thank you!!

Bethany: I'll admit, I spell-checked. ;-)

Katia: Yours were no slouch--wonderful crust!!

Slush: Thanks! Not cupcakes, but you know. Mix it up a little bit ;-)

Amber: Thanks, we were happy with it!

Casey: Thank you so much! We all *adore* the Chocolate Note!!

Half baked: Yes, get one! Major, major fun.

CB: thanks! Don't be jealous! :-)

Kelly: Like little rays of sunsine, how apt! Thank you!

Tempered Woman: Whew! Then we weren't cheating. But just barely. ;-)

Stickygooey: Thanks, hope you learned something new! We did!!

Deborah, thank you! Glad you liked it!

Pam: What nice words for someone with such a nice eye herself!

Culinography: Thanks!

Janice: Can't wait to see you take on those swirls!

Meryl: Thanks so much!

Emiline: Let's take merengue class together??

Lesley: next time! :-)

Rosie: Thanks! I am getting very interested in meringues now myself!

Katy, you're right! They go stale so fast it is hard to buy them someplace. How lucky to have learned to love them in Paris though!?

Anali: Please promise you will try a marshmallow meringue--they're wonderful.

Lisha: Happy to help you learn!

Michelle: Glad you liked it, wish I could share a piece!

Ello: I am obsessed with pavlova but have never tried it! Now that I have more confidence with meringue though...

Vegan Noodle: I saw Hannah's version...gosh is she talented or what??

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Congrats on a fabulous first challenge! Your LMP looks gorgeous, the hues on the meringue are captivating! Thanks for the lil Q&A too, it was really helpful =)

January 28 | Unregistered Commentercerisegourmand

I've learned that I can always count on CakeSpy to both educate and entertain. Congratulations on a most successful first challenge, and welcome! I'm really looking forward to learning more from you as we traverse the challenges set before us.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterDolores

oh! a mini torch, be still my heart. I so want one, but everyone who knows me agrees I´d burn the house down within minutes, so I´m not sure.
the tart looks delicious, you gave it a lot more colour thatn most pies I´ve seen around.

January 28 | Unregistered Commenterlobstersquad

They look very cute indeed. Well done!

so lovely done... the color is so dense and unimaginable!

January 29 | Unregistered CommenterBig Boys Oven

I love the individual lemon meringue pies in your photograph.
I'm not allowed to use a mini torch my husband doesn't trust me!

January 29 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

What a great FYI post!!! I love seeing the lemon curd peak out form under the meringue. :) Mmmm.

January 29 | Unregistered Commenterchou

Fabulous and so educational! Great blog!

January 29 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

I was never a meringue fan until I went to Australia and was introduced to the mammoth meringue that is Pavlova. Crunchy, gorgeous on the outside.... chewy and wonderful on the inside... man oh man oh man. Now if I could just figure out how to make one that didn't turn into a frisbee.

January 29 | Unregistered CommenterEB

I love the meringue! Your illustration is adorable too!

January 29 | Unregistered Commenterbbaking

Mmmm, I love the toasted edges of the meringue. Beautiful!

January 29 | Unregistered Commenterchuck

Thanks for the info and beautiful art!

January 29 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

Wow.. i love that lemony, meringuy close-up! Nice job! :-)

January 29 | Unregistered CommenterZen Chef

Mmm looks good. Very nice that you had a friend to help you out with it. :) I love the "are meringues delicious?" question!

January 29 | Unregistered Commentereatme_delicious

i have seen a lot of LMP these past few days but i must admit your post is the great (informative and entertaining)!! love the meringue story, without forgetting those sinful meringué photos!! your lmp look lovely!! would love to have a bite :-)

January 30 | Unregistered CommenterDhanggit

Thank you for the kind comment you left on my site. Very much appreciated. Your post is informative and the photos are fantastic :)

January 30 | Unregistered CommenterMaryann

Very informative! The tartlet looks exquisite.

January 30 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

Cerisegourmand: Thank you! It was fun making those meringues!

Dolores: We will bravely soldier forward, educating you on the lovely aspects of pastries and sweetness!

Lobstersquad: Oh, you need to get one! Wayyyy too much fun!

Princess: Thank you for the kind words!

Big Boys: The taste was even better.

Margaret: Mr. Cakespy looks down upon the Mini torch too. Damn the man!

Chou: My favorite part too!

Candace: Hey, we're trying to stay on top of things! Thank you for the kind words!

EB: Oh I am jealous! I wish I had some pavlova right now. I know what it is but have NEVER HAD IT!

Bbaking: Glad you like em (and the art!)

Chuck: Thank you! It was a proud moment indeed!

Annie: Glad you liked both the article and the art!!

Zen Chef: Glad you enjoyed it!!

Eat Me Delicious: Merci! Always good to get a little help from talented friends, no?

Dhanggit: Glad you liked the "story" too!

Maryann: Thank you, and thanks for visiting Cakespy!

Tracy: Oh, they were. Oh yes.

January 30 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Great FAQ and beautiful tarts!!! I'm sure yours would have been just as gorgeous without the extra help :)

January 31 | Unregistered CommenterJen Yu

Just lovely!

January 31 | Unregistered Commentercreampuff

This is a favorite diet food. Light, and fruity - perfect. Actually, I really do see it as a part of a good weight loss diet. It does not matter if you eat these yummy pies or, strictly vegetarian - the real issue is how much of it you eat. A single slice of pie is nothing compared to six extra pieces of heavily buttered garlic bread. To learn more about eating exactly what you want and lose weight read Taming Your Food Monster.

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterGracie

Wonderful meringues...and those crusts on the tarts looks just great!

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterClaire
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