Vacherin is the French name for a layered Meringue cake. This Apple and Hazelnut Vacherin consists of crunchy layers of hazelnut meringue sandwiched together with a spiced apple and sultana filling and fresh cream to make a spectacular dessert.
Crispy meringue combined with fruit and cream is just about my absolute favourite dessert. From Eaton mess to Pavlova, I love it.
So while baking along to The Great British Bake Off in 2019 when they prepared a layered meringue cake for dessert week, I had no hesitation in deciding that a recipe on that line was what I wanted to share with you.
I also like to write and publish my recipes seasonally so given that it was the British apple season it made sense to me to do an apple filling. Which I have flavoured with mixed spice and some sultanas.
To take my meringue to the next level I added nuts to the meringue which gives it so much more flavour and hazelnuts team really well with apple in the filling and so make a perfect addition.
In the past for Bake Off I made a layered Chocolate Meringue Crown which I shared over on my other blog Recipes Made Easy. So this time I decided to make an oblong meringue layered cake.
I think they look a little different and it makes cutting them into even slices really easy. The only down side to this is having an oblong dish big enough to accommodate it. Somehow my wooden boards do not seem quite elegant enough for this dessert.
However, I have kept a granite effect tile that was leftover from a bathroom refurbishment just for this sort of occasion. It works a treat as a serving dish. Look out for odd tiles at your local DIY store, much cheaper than a china dish of the same size ( if you can find one).
How to make meringue
When making meringue it is essential that the bowl and whisk are scrupulously clean. Even the tiniest amount of grease from your fingers can inhibit the egg white from whisking to its maximum volume.
So unless the bowl is straight out of the dishwasher I always wash again in hot soapy water, rinse and dry the inside with kitchen paper.
Use large eggs and ideally at temperature. Older eggs whisk to a higher volume than very fresh whites, so meringues are great for using up older eggs.
Because of the fat in egg yolks, it is essential you do not get any in the egg whites when you separate them. Unless you are very well practised at separating eggs it is a good idea to break each one into a small bowl before adding to the mixing bowl. This way if you break the egg yolk you only waste one egg white and not a full bowl full.
The hazelnuts need to be very finely chopped. To do this, I buy chopped toasted hazelnuts and then blitz about 25g (1oz) at a time in a small grinder blitzing in short bursts. If you do too many at once there is a tendency for some of the nuts to get warm and realise too much oil, turning the mixture into nut butter.
Wondering what to do with your egg yolks Check out my post on Recipes for using up egg yolks
What apples are best for the apple filling?
You can use any dessert apple for the filling. They need to be cooked until just soft but still holding their shape.
Avoid using cooking apples or any variety that you know to break down when cooked. I used a Royal Gala Apple.
For the caramelised apples on the top, I have chosen a red-skinned apple and left the skin on as I think they look prettier.
Apple and Hazelnut Vacherin step by step
Apple and Hazelnut Vacherin
- 3 large egg whites
- 175 g (6oz) golden caster sugar
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 75 g (3oz) toasted hazelnuts ground/very finely chopped
- 4 dessert apples
- 25 g (1oz) butter
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 75 g (3oz) sultanas (golden raisins)
- 1 dessert apple
- 15 g (½oz) butter
- 1 tbsp light muscovado sugar
- 450 ml (¾pt) double cream (heavy cream)
- chopped toasted hazelnuts to decorate
- baking sheets
- piping bag
- 1cm (½in) plain nozzle
To make the meringues
- Draw 3 rectangles 10 x 25 cm (4 x10in) on sheets of baking parchment turn the sheets over and place on 2 baking sheets.
- Preheat the oven to 140℃ (120℃ fan)/275°F/gas mark 1.
- Whisk 3 egg whites until standing in soft peaks, then gradually whisk in 175g (6oz) sugar. Continue whisking until the mixture is stiff and glossy.
- Sift in 1tsp cornflour and sprinkle over 75g (3oz)ground toasted hazelnuts and gently fold in with a metal spoon or spatula.
- Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm (½in) plain nozzle and pipe lines across the rectangles.
- Bake for 1 ½ hrs changing the position of the baking sheets halfway through. Without opening the door turn off the oven and leave the meringues to cool
To make the filling
- Peel core and slice 4 apples and place in a pan with 25g (1oz) butter 2 tbsp water 1 tsp ground mixed spice and 75g (3oz) sultanas. Cook over a low heat stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes or until softened. Allow to cool
- Core and slice 1 apple. Melt 15g (½obutter in a small frying pan and add 1tbsp light muscovado sugar. Add the apple slices to the pan, and cook until just softened and the sugar begins to caramelise. Set aside to cool.
- Place one of the meringue layers on a serving plate and spread half the apple mixture over the top.
- Whip 450ml (¾pt) cream until standing in soft peaks and spread about one-third on top of the apple.
- Place a second meringue on top and spread with the remaining apple mixture and another third the whipped cream.
- Place the final layer of meringue on top and decorate with the remaining cream, apple slices and a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts.