Sep 29, 2009

The Heavenly Cake Bake-Through

As you know, I've been busily baking away since June with my own special, already-well-used copy of Heavenly Cakes.
Now that September 29--Official Publishing Date--has finally arrived, everybody else can have this beautiful book, and I'd like to invite you to bake along with me.

Here's what I have in mind:

1. You must own, or have easy access to, a copy of Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.

2. You must have a blog. (It’s easy to start one, and you don’t have to blog about anything else but heavenly cakes if you don’t want to).

3. At the beginning of each month, I will post the recipes that I’m going to bake that month. I'll bake one a week, but you only have to agree to bake at least two a month. (You can also bake every week if the spirit moves you).

4. Because I do most of my baking on the weekends, I will post within a 24-hour period on MONDAYS. You will post your version during the same 24-hour period.

5. If there is a particular recipe you’re interested in, email me and tell me you’d like to be co-host for that week. I’ll feature the first person I hear from on my blog.

6. The first ten people to sign up for this bake-through will receive a FREE, AUTOGRAPHED copy of Rose’s Heavenly Cakes from John Wiley & Sons, the book’s publisher.

7. You can have a fantastic BADGE indicating that you’re a member of the Heavenly Cake Bakers and post it on your blog.

8. If you run out of steam or feel you can’t keep baking, let me know and I’ll remove you from the list of Heavenly Cake Bakers—that way, readers will know that only active bakers are on the list of bloggers.

9. No need to post the recipes on your blogs. Since we've all got copies of the book, we're not going to need the recipes. Also, I like Rose's cookbooks, and want to encourage her to keep writing them.

10. Have fun!

And, if there's a particular cake you want to bake, please let me know, and I'll include it soon.

Sep 28, 2009

White Gold Passion Genoise

I hardly know what to say about this cake. It's a special-occasion cake, not one that you whip up at 5:00 when guests are arriving at 6:00. And it requires passion fruit, which doesn't just fall off the tree in my part of the world, or frozen passion fruit puree, which is also not readily available in Minnesota. Still, if you're looking for a cake that will impress, stun, and amaze your friends, this may be it. Be warned that you do need to set aside two days for this project--the first day to bake the cake, and the second day to make the passion fruit curd, the passion fruit syrup, the white chocolate custard, and the white chocolate buttercream. Then you have to assemble it. When I described the process to our neighbors, Fred said, "Marie--you need to go to a bank, take out a loan, and buy yourself a life." In fairness (to me), Fred loved the cake. Also, he spent Saturday afternoon at the new football stadium, watching the Minnesota Golden Gophers lose to California, so I'm not sure who really needs a life.
On Day 1, you just make the genoise. As you may remember, I've been making genoises left and right since this project started, and if you've already got clarified butter in the freezer, you can practically make this with your eyes closed. I kept my eyes wide open, but that's only because I don't trust myself.

Day 2 brings the more complicated procedures. First, you have to figure out the source of your passion fruit. As I said, it's not native to Minnesota. Not by a long shot. You can buy wonderful frozen fruit concentrate at Perfect Puree. It's not cheap, and the shipping is even less cheap. (Because it's frozen, it can't dawdle from West Coast to mid-America). You can also order the same product from for the same price. It is concentrated, so you get a lot, and there are interesting-sounding recipes on the website, but I can't get around the fact that the price may be off-putting.

The passion fruit curd is a typical curd recipe, made with egg yolks, sugar, butter and the puree, and not difficult at all, despite the recipe's continued warnings about the possibility of curdling.

The passion fruit syrup is even easier. The recipe recommends a vanilla bean, but, to my surprise, I realized that I'd finally gone through what I thought was a life-time supply of vanilla beans, courtesy of Melinda Pickworth, who came into a mammoth supply of vanilla beans herself and then generously shared the bounty. You get to let the syrup come to a rolling boil with nary a worry about curdling.

I did have trouble with the white chocolate custard base. The directions say to "melt the white chocolate and the butter, stirring often until smooth and creamy." I can tell you that you should stop immediately when it gets to the "smooth and creamy" point, and not continue to see if it will get smoother and creamier. It will not. It will curdle, separate, and turn into an ungodly mess that simply has to be dumped out. There is no picture of the ungodly mess because Jim backed away from the kitchen as I was swearing like a pirate. I asked him why he hadn't taken a picture of the ungodly mess so I could illustrate what not to do, but he claimed to fear for his life if he stayed in the same room. Really. Who would believe such nonsense.
It worked just fine the second time.

The white chocolate custard has to cool for a while before it can be incorporated, which gave me time to do some speed shopping with my friend Karen, who led me into temptation and convinced me that I couldn't do without a number of new purchases.
I got home, unpacked my bags and momentarily castigated myself for my spendthrift ways, and then went back down to the kitchen to complete the white chocolate deluxe buttercream, made with the custard base, cream cheese, butter, and a dollop of creme fraiche. There is no sugar at all in the frosting--it relies solely on the white chocolate for its subtle sweetness.
Putting it all together is what gave me the heebie-jeebies. Not only did I have to cut the cake in half, which is frightening, but also I had to figure out a way to plop it on a plate after I'd brushed syrup on the already fragile and thin layers of cake. Let's just say I didn't perform this in an artistic way, but the job got done.

The passion fruit curd goes between the layers as a filling.

And the buttercream on the sides and top. Some day I should take a cake decorating course. When I frost cakes, their shoulders always slope.

I would like them to stand up straight. But I was running against the clock, as I had invited neighbors over for dessert, and dessert-time was drawing near. The cake, sloped shoulders and all, had to go in the refrigerator for an hour to set. Then, just as the neighbors were about to walk in, I swirled on a few dabs of leftover curd. You could tell just by looking at it that this is no ordinary cake.

The neighbors went off on a passion-fruit tangent: what do they look like? how do you make the puree? where do they grow? do they have seeds? why are they called passion fruit? [Answers, which I looked up after I realized I knew nothing about passion fruits: round, yellowish to purple, about 3 inches wide, with a tough rind; cut the fruit in half, scoop out the pulp, and strain out the seeds; native from Brazil to Paraguay, and also grows in Hawaii and California; yes--about 250 small, hard seeds per fruit; it got its name from Catholic priests who noticed a resemblance between the passion flower and a crown of thorns, the ten apostles, and the nails on the cross; it is "passion" in the religious sense, not in the popular sense.]
But never mind these fun facts about the passion fruit. We're here to talk cake.

The genoise is nice and delicate, but the showstoppers here are the passion fruit curd, which is tangy enough to make you sit up and take notice and the white chocolate buttercream, which beautifully balances the fresh, tangy passion fruit curd. I like the dreamy, creamy white chocolate buttercream that's been used on several cakes so far, but this version is so delicious that you will want to lick off the whisk, lick out the bowl, and surreptitiously lick off any spots you see clinging to the plate. Of course, it's more complicated to make than the dreamy, creamy version, but it's dreamier and creamier. If anyone ever says to me, "Marie, just tell me what kind of birthday cake you want, and I'll make it for you," I think I might just point to page 173, and say, "I want this one."


Karen: "It was an excellent taste. All the various components work together very well. One of my favorites so far."
Betty: "It's deliciously tart. It may be the best one yet."
Jan : "Outstanding."
Fred: "It has an exciting taste. Sparkling, and robust."
Laurel: "The cake is a good vehicle for the passion fruit."
Jim: "I loved it--I think it's the best one so far, and I've liked all of them."

Sep 21, 2009

German Chocolate Cake - RECIPE

This is a German chocolate cake for people who don't like German chocolate cake--and also for those who do like it. But, beware, it doesn't contain German chocolate, which, as you may know, has nothing to do with the country, but is named for an Englishman named Samuel German, who thought it would be a good idea if people had access to baker's chocolate, which people started calling German's chocolate, which eventually just changed into German chocolate. Instead, it has cocoa, which is mixed with boiling water and left to cool. This chocolate mixture makes a much more intensely chocolate cake than any German chocolate cake I've ever tasted before.

The cake has a total of six egg whites, so it has some of the lightness of a sponge cake, but is also fudgy and moist, like a good chocolate layer cake. It also has four egg yolks, which are added separately to the cocoa mixture.

Let me just point out here that for the first time in my life, I own an egg separator. In fact, I own not only one, but two--both of which were purchased at Elizabeth's favorite dollar store in Ferndale, Michigan. It is the very best dollar store I've ever seen, with rows and rows of things that might conceivably prove useful sometime in your life, and all, or mostly all, for just one dollar. I read somewhere that dollar stores are doing very well in the recession, which has apparently now ended. After I started baking cakes, and realized that there was going to be a lot of egg separation in my future, I decided to buy a separator at Target. But Target did not have a single egg separator, and wouldn't you think that this is a very basic cooking gadget? But the Ferndale dollar store had two kinds, and I bought them both. My eggs have very thick whites, which may or may not be because they're organic, and it's much easier to separate them now.

This cake batter is extremely easy to mix up. It's very thick after the flour and sugar are added, and then turns quite thin and gruel-y looking after all the unbeaten egg whites go in.

So when you pour the chocolate gruel into the prepared cake pans, it looks like a very insignificant amount of batter, and you'll worry that you're going to end up with German chocolate pancakes.

But after 15 or 20 minutes, the cake is almost up to the top of the pan.

The layers must be immediately taken out of the pans, and put on a wire cooling rack; and then immediately upturned. This stage made Jim very nervous because he said it sounded too hectic, but it all worked out fine. The photo in the cookbook looks like the Rose-baked cake was a little taller than mine, but I was happy with the way mine turned out.

But of course a German chocolate cake is all about the filling, and the recipe for the filling is traditional--just a little better. The pecans are toasted, a step I was tempted to skip but I now believe is essential.

The frosting/filling is built on an egg-yolk, butter, and sweetened condensed milk mixture, which is no problem at all, but it must be stirred constantly for about five minutes. At several points during this five-minute period, you may be concerned that lumps are forming, but they right themselves easily, and all will be well.

When the pecans, coconut, and vanilla are mixed in, it looks delicious and tastes delicious. Actually, if you have a little taste, you may be sorely tempted to have another little taste, and then you might wonder what's the point of adding cake to this. But have a little self-control.

The filling mixture has to cool for a few hours before frosting. I baked the cake and made the filling on Sunday, and was going to keep them both refrigerated until Monday and assemble them then because my women's group was coming over for dinner on Monday. But I was a little uneasy because I was afraid the cake might be a little burned. I decided I had to just bite the bullet and taste the cake on Sunday--just to make sure it was fit to serve. It's easy to fill and frost because you don't have to worry about the sides, although there are optional directions for covering the sides with ganache.

Jim was just a little bit grumbly about this cake. He said he was willing to try it, but he didn't especially like German chocolate cake, and he didn't like coconut, although, yes, he remembered that I had made a coconut cake he was especially fond of. So it was gratifying to watch his face as he ate the first bite, as it changed from dubious bordering on hostile to surprised delight: "This is really good!" I couldn't agree more. Oh, and, by the way, it didn't taste burned at all. But the fact that I sampled it before I served it means that this is the first cake where I've broken my one-piece-only vow. But before you say I told you so, remember that I ate both pieces only to be a good hostess: the first piece to test for the possibility of over-doneness and the second piece to be sociable. My women's group loved it.

Becky: "Usually the chocolate in German chocolate cake is so light, but this is rich and chocolatey."
Margaret: German chocolate cake is my favorite, but the chocolate in this one is darker and richer tasting--more sophisticated.
Joyce: "It's very fresh and delicious. The nuts are especially tasty."
Rosemary: "It's light and rich at the same time."
Cathy: "My dad was a baker, and I ate a lot of baked things without analyzing them. Can I just say that this is very delicious?"


Serves: 14 to 16

unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch processed (alkalized) 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (sifted before measuring) 2.3 ounce 66 grams
boiling water 1/2 cup
(4 fluid ounces) 4.2 ounces 118 grams
canola or safflower oil, room temperature 1/2 cup
(4 fluid ounces) 4 ounce 108 grams
about 4 large eggs, separated, plus 2 additional whites, room temperature


1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces)
3/4 cups (6 fluid ounces)

2.6 ounces
6.3 ounces

74 grams
180 grams
pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon . .
cake flour (see note) 3/4 cup
(sifted into the cup and leveled off) 2.6 ounces 75 grams
bleached all-purpose flour 2/3 cup
(sifted into the cup and leveled off) 2.6 ounces 75 grams
superfine sugar 1 1/2 cups 10.5 ounces 300 grams
salt 1/4 teaspoon . .
baking powder 2 teaspoons . .
baking soda 1 teaspoon . .
Prepare the Pans
Two 9 by 2-inch cake pans, encircled with cake strips, bottoms coated with shortening, and topped with parchment rounds. (Leave the sides uncoated to prevent the tops of the cakes from shrinking inward.)
Preheat the Oven
20 minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175ºC.
Mix the Cocoa And Liquid Ingredients
In the bowl of a stand mixer, by hand, whisk the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation and cool to room temperature (about 1 hour). To speed cooling, place it in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before proceeding.
Add the oil and yolks to the mixer bowl. Attach the whisk beater, and starting on low speed gradually raise the speed to medium. Beat about 1 minute or until it is smooth and shiny, and resembles a buttercream. Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla for a few seconds.
Mix in the Dry Ingredients
In a medium bowl, whisk the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, and then sift them. Add half of this mixture to the chocolate mixture. Start beating on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape the sides of the bowl and repeat with the remaining flour mixture. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for one minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. The mixture will be very thick. On low speed, add the egg whites. Gradually raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes. The batter will now be like a thick soup.
Bake the Cakes
Scrape the batter into the prepared pans. They will be about one-quarter full. During baking the batter will rise almost to the top of the pans and a little higher in the middle. They will start to lower just before the end of baking.
To prevent collapse of the delicate foam structure while still hot the cakes must be unmolded as soon as they have baked. Have ready a small metal spatula and wire cooling racks coated with cooking spray.
Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until the cakes spring back when pressed light in the center and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool and Unmold the Cakes
Remove the cakes from the oven but leave the oven on to toast the pecans.
Immediately run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pans and the cakes, pressing firmly against the pans, and invert the cakes onto the wire racks. Remove the parchment and immediately reinvert them onto racks to cool top-sides-up.
Classic German Chocolate Cake Filling
Makes: almost 3 cups/27 ounces/670 grams
pecan pieces (medium-coarse) 1 cup 4 ounces 114 grams
sweetened condensed milk, 1 can 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons
(9.5 fluid ounces) 14 ounces 400 grams
about 3 large egg yolks 3 1/2 tablespoons
(1.7 fluid ounces) 2 ounces 56 grams
unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened 8 tablespoons
(1 stick) 4 ounces 113 grams
pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon . .
Baker's Angel Flake Coconut or Mounds 1 3/4 cups 4.6 ounces 130 grams
Toast the Pecans
Spread the pecans evenly on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about 7 minutes to bring out the flavor.
In a medium, heavy saucepan, whisk together the condensed milk, and yolks. Add the butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula, reaching well to the edges and bottom. As soon as it starts to simmer, lower the heat or remove the pan from the heat occasionally to keep it from cooking too fast or burning. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until thickened enough to pool slightly on the surface before disappearing (about 175ºF/79ºC). It still will be pourable.
Stir in the vanilla, coconut, and pecans, and continue cooking on medium heat for one minute. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl (it will become tan and slightly translucent). Cover it with a towel, and allow it to cool to room temperature or just barely warm, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming. (It will take about 3 hours at room temperature but will reach spreading consistency faster if refrigerated or stirred over ice water for 5 minutes.) The filling thickens as it cools and if refrigerated for more than 2 hours will need to be softened over hot water or for a few seconds in the microwave.
Compose the Cake
Set the cake on a cardboard round or serving plate and slide a few wide strips of wax paper or parchment under the cake to keep the rim of the plate clean if using the optional ganache frosting and the plate.
Top the first layer with half of the filling (it will be about 1/4 inch thick). Place the second layer on top and press down on it, allowing a little of the filling to ooze out the sides. Frost the top layer with the remaining filling, spreading right up to the edge so that a little oozes luxuriously over the side but leave the rest of the sides bare.
If using the paper strips, slowly slide them out from under the cake.
Cover the cake with a cake dome to keep the sides from drying or frost the sides with a half recipe of dark ganache (page 00) before putting the filling on top. For an extra glossy and smooth appearance, refrigerate the cake to set the ganache and then run a metal spatula, first rinsed with hot water around the sides.
This cake has essentially the same ratio of ingredients as a layer cake but about double the egg and less baking powder. Cake flour results in more tenderness and the all-purpose flour offers more moist fudginess so I like to use a combination of the two. Alternatively, use a total of 1 1/2 cups/5.3 ounces/150 grams of all-purpose flour.
If you only have evaporated milk, use one 12 fluid ounce can (13.2 ounces/372 grams) and add 3/4 cup (5.3 ounces/150 grams) sugar. It will take about 25 minutes to reach the proper consistency. This will result in slightly more caramelization.

BE SURE TO WATCH HERE for news about how you too can bake your way through Rose's Heavenly Cakes!

Sep 14, 2009

Marble Velvet Cake

I have an oral argument before the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday. Whenever I have one of these arguments, I get obsessive about going over the record and trying to fine-tune my argument and think of any possible question that I might get asked. So I had to make something that didn't take a lot of time. On the other hand, Jim was hosting a little pre-high-school-reunion party at our house Saturday afternoon, so I wanted something a little festive for his old friends. The marble velvet cake looked like it fit the bill. Or filled the bill. According to Google sources, "fill the bill" is the correct idiom, and it originates as an expression from theater, as in, adding lesser-known entertainers to the "bill," so it looks more impressive.
But on to the cake.
Well, not quite. First, I have to talk about my nifty new appliance attachment--the Beater Blade. I got an e-mail from Gary Fallowes, the president of Beater Blade, who said that Rose had asked him to send me a Beater Blade, and he was just checking my address. I had never heard of a Beater Blade, but I was more than willing to accept a free gift. Here's a picture of it:

And here's what it does:

It wipes the side and the bottom of the bowl while it's mixing the ingredients. This isn't a big deal when you're making bread dough, but when you're baking cake, it is a big deal. Perhaps every fifth sentence in any given recipe is "Scrape down the sides of the bowl." It's a nuisance. I mean, it's not like global warming, but it is a nuisance. If you have this Beater Blade, you can ignore all sentences beginning with "scrape down."
Honestly, it's inventions like this that make me think there's hope for this country yet. I know, I know, it's just a mixer attachment; it's not a cure for cancer. But I love it when someone sees a need for a product and starts tinkering around and then starts manufacturing it. It's the American happily ever after story (until some big conglomerate buys up the little company and sucks the soul out of it, but that's another story).
And now, really, on to the cake.
If you make this cake with the optional ganache glaze, which I highly recommend, you'll melt chocolate in two different ways. The first chocolate, for the chocolate part of the marble, is melted either in the microwave, in 15-second bursts, or over hot water. I like the microwave method.

Put the chocolate aside to cool, and quickly whisk together a mixture of egg yolks, sour cream, and vanilla.

The most fun part about making this cake involved--in case you couldn't tell--watching the Beater Blade turn flour, sugar, butter, and sour cream into a smooth batter in seconds. (Watch out that you don't turn it on too high--especially when you're mixing the dry ingredients, if you have the mixer on at anything above the lowest speed, you'll be sprayed with flour.)

And adding the egg mixture turns the white batter into a lovely creamy color.

It is a bit harder to scrape off the batter sticking to this new-fangled blade than it is from the older one--that was the only disadvantage I could see, and it's not a big one.
The now-cooled chocolate get mixed in about a third of the batter.

The next step--layering--is also fun. (You might think that I don't get out much or that I have a very loose definition of the word "fun," and both of these things might easily be true. But I make up for it with all the things I don't think are fun: watching American Idol, for example, or going to Twins games. So it all averages out).

Start with one-third of the plain batter, then top with half the chocolate batter.

Plain, chocolate, and end with plain.

Then, yet another fun thing to do--creating the marble pattern. (Also remember that when I wasn't baking cake, I was working on my oral argument, trying to figure out what question they were going to try to stump me with, so baking the cake seemed a lot more fun than if I were comparing it to, say, a gondola ride in Venice).

You just take a regular tablespoon and gently fold it through the batter, maybe six or eight times. Then smooth the top again--this time you'll see the marbling.

The cake takes nearly an hour to bake at 350. I baked it at 315 in my convection oven, and it was done after 50 minutes. I always worry that these long-baking cakes will get too brown, but there was no problem.

At this point, you can either serve the cake as is or you can add the ganache glaze if you want to "dress it up for special occasions." I say, don't save the ganache glaze for special occasions, or, in the alternative, tell yourself that eating the ganache glaze is a special occasion in itself. Although the cake is very rich and flavorful by itself, the ganache isn't gilding the lily. Its burst of pure chocolate enhances both cakes and lends a note of sophistication to the homey marble.
Besides, it's fun to make. This time the chocolate gets pulverized in the food processor

and slowly melts when boiling cream is poured over it.

After it's melted and gently stirred, it's poured through a small strainer. You could probably skip this step, although it does make the ganache completely smooth.

I never do that well with things that are supposed to look artlessly casual.

When it was cut, the cake showed pretty marble patterns. It was dense, but very moist and tender. To me, marble cake often seems like a compromise, designed to please everyone but making no one really happy. But this cake was more like a happy marriage--a joinder of equals who don't fight, but make each other better. And the ganache--it makes a good marriage blissful.

I will be gone next weekend, so there will be no Labor Day cake.


Bill: "Can I just say that I really, really, like it, or isn't that clever enough? And are you going to say that the entire tasting panel was drunk old codgers?"
Tom: "I like the texture and the moistness--there's a nice balance. When you have this firm texture, you often have a dry cake, and this definitely isn't."
Jim: "I especially like the ganache."
Bob: "I really like the crunchy crust part. This is a cake you want to savor."

Sep 7, 2009

No-Bake Whipped Cream Cheesecake

The first thing I should tell you about this cheesecake is that I vociferously rejected it the first time I thought about making it. When I got my copy of Heavenly Cakes, I told Jim he could choose the maiden recipe. He took this assignment seriously, and carefully paged through the book, coming up with this recipe. I looked at it and asked him if he was out of his mind. "Jim, did you look at the instructions? First I have to make a crust, which isn't so bad, but then I have to make a custard, which entails splitting a vanilla bean and straining the custard with a fine-mesh strainer and being very careful that the gelatin doesn't set. And then I have to make an Italian meringue, whatever that is, and then I have to make a cherry coulis." I believe that he asked me something like why I bothered to ask him if I wasn't going to listen to him, and the conversation deteriorated from there.
But my point is that when I looked at the recipe this time, it didn't seem so crazy-complicated. And then I decided that the benefit of going through a cookbook like this one is that it's a lot like taking a personal cooking class from a great baker, only the great baker isn't evaluating your knife skills so you don't get all nervous while you're cooking.
Case in point: graham cracker crust.

When I originally read the recipe, I wasn't cowed by the thought of the graham cracker crust--I've made hundreds of them. They're kind of boring, but not at all hard. When I served this cake, though, several of the tasters remarked about how good the crust was. And I realized that even in this simple step, Rose takes great painsto make it perfect, including explicit directions about how to press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the springform pan.

Like pressing the crumbs through a piece of plastic wrap, for example.
Cutting a vanilla bean? A breeze.

Custard? Well, custard always presents the possibility of going awry, but it helps when the instructions are explicit about how to tell when to remove it from the heat.

This custard is made with creme fraiche, by the way, which is scalded before it's added to the sugar-gelatin-egg yolk mixture.
Then comes the straining that so unnerved me when I looked at this recipe way back in May. I can't remember why it seemed so traumatic.

And once I had the custard finished, and covered with plastic wrap so it wouldn't develop a skin, I felt like I was almost home free.

While I was waiting for the custard to cool, I tackled the Italian meringue. If you know what Italian meringue is and why it's different than American meringue, you're a lot smarter than I was. But I know now that it's made with a sugar syrup rather than with plain sugar, and that it's not just a fancy-pants, foreign-sounding creation--there's a reason for revving up the complication level. The sugar syrup makes the meringue much more stable, and it won't deflate like non-Italian meringue.
Again, this is not really hard, although it is a good idea to have a candy thermometer around, especially if you don't intuitively know when you hit the "firm-ball stage."

This method makes a lovely meringue--not all weepy and unreliable, like our native meringue.

Almost done now--just have to add sour cream, whipped cream cheese, and fresh lemon juice to the custard, fold in the meringue, and then pour it in the graham cracker crust.

Smooth it out, cover it with plastic and refrigerate it for at least four hours.
You would be done--except for the cherry coulis that you still have to make.
This cherry coulis almost sent me round the bend. Or at least, looking for cherries did. I spent most of Saturday looking for fresh tart cherries. If anyone would have them, it would be the Minneapolis Farmer's Market, the largest open-air market in the Midwest, so we headed there, making a single-minded foray up and down the aisles, and ignoring the heirloom tomatoes, bok choy, cantaloupe, and patty pan squash. Finally, after a dispirited pass through the last building, I bought some nice-looking sweet cherries. (After I got home, I Googled sour cherries and discovered that they have a very short season, which is about two weeks in June or July). I could have used frozen cherries, but it seemed sinful to even think about it in the season of bounteous produce.

I used half the sugar and a bit of lemon juice left over from the cheesecake make up for the difference in tartness.

I don't know what the sour cherry coulis would taste like, but this one was quite delicious. In fact, people liked it so much that I ran out after eight slices.

Now I really was done, so it was time to round up a tasting panel. I called our neighbors to the south, and summoned them for dessert. Good sports all, they ambled over.

Perfect--except that the plastic wrap that had been on top of the cheesecake marred the top. And my photographer, busy pouring glasses of wine and making a pot of coffee, forgot to take a picture of the sliced cheesecake served with the coulis alongside. This is a fabulous dessert--both rich and light. The flavors and textures vie for your mouth's attention, as you taste creaminess, tartness, smoothness, and lush sweetness at the same time. I would definitely make this one again. Although it does take a while to put together--it's not something you can whip up just before the guests arrive--but it's all perfectly doable. And your guests will love it. In fact, your guests will have seconds. And will leave your house feeling generally pleased with life.

Betty: "It's very light for a cheesecake. The cherries are wonderful, and the graham cracker crust is perfect. Why do my graham cracker crusts never taste this good?"
Fred: "You can eat two pieces without guilt."
Laurel: "I wouldn't have known it was cheesecake--it's un-cream cheesy. It's very, very good!"
Jan: "Damn good!"
Mary: "I've never had a cheesecake this light."
Doug: "It's worth a second helping."