I had the honor of preparing the food for an engagement party this week for some very good friends here in New York City. After sharing in such a special evening and witnessing friends and family celebrating the lovely couple that night, I came home and a friend had posted the picture below of our engaged friends. I mean, come on! I immediately saved it to my computer so I could study it. (Dear Universe, I want what those two people are sharing and creating. Please and thank you. Love, Lisa.)
I then went to my phone to see the photos that I had captured from the evening. I saw image after image of beauty: sunsets, laughter, lip-sync battles, dancing, and some of the prettiest people I’ve ever seen. After flipping through the pictures from the party, I got to the ones of my food I had taken as I was preparing for the event. I was so struck by the picture above. I kept going back and forth between these awe-inspiring photos of my engaged friends and this balloon whisk of meringue. Both images are magical and mystical, so simple and pure. I still can’t really wrap my head around them. They might as well be the same thing!
Meringue = Love. You know why? Because they are both fragile, and sensitive, and they need stability.
Love is not a casual thing. Yes, it can just happen, but I believe it is more the product of paying attention to your partner, fierce determination to nurture your relationship and giving it a lot of space to expand and breathe. It also takes patience, and just plain sweetness. But even with all of those ingredients, you’re taking a huge risk; it may not work and end up being short lived. There are many reasons why relationships fail, but I’m more interested in what DOES work. I have had a fair share of opportunities to try out this formula, but it still seems like some magic trick. I continue to search for the potion, the key, the golden ticket, the password ---Abracadabra! (This is an Aramaic word that means “I create as I speak.’) Indeed!
Meringue follows a very similar formula. It starts with the sweetness. Pay attention so your sugar syrup doesn’t burn. Beat it into the egg whites with fierce determination, which actually is puffing a zillion air bubbles into the egg whites so they can expand and breathe. A zillion is a lot. Be patient, it takes a long time, (unless you have a high powered electric mixer.) Like love, there is no guarantee with this recipe either. Sometimes the meringue comes out too stiff, too dry, too sweet, too weepy, too chewy, they might not set, and on and on. Meringues are kitchen mysteries. They need their own magic word too!
Two people create a loving relationship and two main ingredients create meringue. So simple and yet so complicated. Here’s what I know: I have no guarantee in the results with either of these endeavors or in anything, really. I can only rejoice in my efforts. No matter the task, no matter the outcome, no matter the path, no matter the obstacles. Keep going. Rejoice in your efforts.
Coconut Cupcakes with Meringue Frosting
Inspired by Magnolia Bakery Coconut Layer Cake
For the cake
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the frosting
3 large egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the garnish
Sweetened shredded coconut, for sprinkling
Make the coconut cup cake batter
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line mini cupcake tins with papers.
2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flours and add them to the batter in 4 parts, alternating with the milk and the vanilla extract, beating well after each addition. Spoon batter into prepared tins. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into center of one cake comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in their pans for 5 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.
Make the frosting
1. In an electric mixer bowl, combine the egg whites and the vanilla extract and set aside. In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine the water with the sugar and the cream of tartar. As the mixture begins to bubble at the edges, stir once to make sure the sugar is dissolved completely, then let it come to a rolling boll, which will take 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat.
2. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites and the vanilla extract with the whisk attachment until foamy, about 1 minute.
3. Without turning off the mixer, pour the sugar syrup into the beaten egg whites in a thin, steady stream. Continue beating constantly on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form but the frosting is still creamy. Fill a piping bag with the frosting and decorate the little cakes. Generously sprinkle the top of the cakes with shredded coconut. I used my torch to toast the tops of some but it kind of burned the coconut instead of toasting. They were tasty anyway. Rejoice!