Vacherin is a definite crowd-pleaser with layers of French meringue that are topped with ice cream and sorbet then covered in whipped cream. If you’re looking for a fancy dessert that can be made ahead of time, is really easy to make and is absolutely delicious, then you’re going to want to try the Vacherin!
If you are making the meringue from scratch as I am, you will need egg whites, sugar (granulated and powdered) and a little bit of lemon juice. We’ll pipe two disks of meringue that will serve as the base of the cake. You can make them as large or as small as you like. The amounts mentioned in the recipe are enough to pipe two large disks of 18 cm (7.1 inch). I like to make them slightly smaller (about 16 cm/6.3 inch) so I can have some leftover meringue for the decorations.
For larger disks, you’ll have to make more meringue. Just note that if you use 4 egg whites, you’ll have quite a bit of meringue. You’ll probably need to use two baking sheets and bake both batches at the same time so you don’t leave the meringue out. I usually prefer to have just enough for one baking sheet as my oven doesn’t do so well with two batches!
If you don’t want to make the meringue yourself, use store-bought meringue kisses if available. Place them next to each other to form the base of the cake.
Ice cream and sorbet
Pick whatever flavor you like! I’m using the more traditional flavors: vanilla ice cream and strawberry sorbet. You can also experiment with the quantities used depending on how tall you’d like your dessert to be. I find that the sorbet flavor can be a little overpowering so I use a little bit less than the vanilla ice cream. My husband likes it when I replace the sorbet with chocolate ice cream. Not as refreshing but definitely delicious!
I like to decorate the sides of the cake with lightly sweetened whipped cream. You could also use it for the top but I chose to show off the color of the sorbet for a little bit of contrast.
When decorating the cake with cream, I’d say don’t get too ambitious! Keep it simple so the ice cream doesn’t start to melt! I spread the whipped cream on the sides of the cake with a spatula then used a decorating comb to create a pattern (quite badly!). I’d recommend using a serving dish that is flat if you plan on using the comb (and ideally a turntable). Mine was slightly deep making it hard to run the comb across the sides of the cake.
This recipe lends itself extremely well to variations. You can just use it as a building block and then have fun with the flavors and proportions so you get your ideal dessert!
Making the meringue
- Preheat the oven to 130°C (266°F, conventional setting). Optional: Fit a piping bag with a large, round tip and set aside.
- Using a plate or cake pan as a guide, draw two 16 cm (6.3 inch) circles (or desired size) slightly spaced apart on a piece of parchment paper. Flip the parchment paper (so the ink is down) and place on a baking sheet. Note: The meringue will puff up and slightly spread during baking so you can draw circles a little bit smaller than desired size.
- Optional (but recommended): If you don’t have superfine sugar, grind granulated sugar in a blender or food processor until fine. Tip: You can grind a larger batch so you don’t have to do this every time you make meringues.
- In a clean bowl, free of any fat residues, whip the egg whites and lemon juice on low speed until foamy and soft peaks are just starting to form. Tip: Wipe off the bowl with vinegar before using it to get rid of any fat.
- Add the granulated sugar in 5 additions (about 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons each time), whipping for about 20 seconds before adding more.
- Once you have added all the sugar, increase the speed to medium and keep beating until stiff peaks form and the sugar has fully dissolved. You can test this by rubbing meringue between your fingers. If it feels gritty, keep whipping.
- Sift half of the powdered sugar over the meringue and very briefly mix on low speed to combine, just a few seconds. Repeat with the remaining half. Note: Only mix as much as needed so you don’t deflate the meringue. If you prefer, you can fold the powdered sugar into the meringue using a spatula instead.
Baking the meringue
- Fill the piping bag (or simply use two spoons) and pipe a few dots of meringue onto the baking sheet to hold the parchment paper in place. Using the circles as a guide, pipe two meringue layers about 13 mm (1/2 inch thick) in a circular motion, starting from the center moving outwards, as if you were drawing a snail. Hold the piping bag about 2.5 cm (1 inch) over the paper and let the meringue gently fall down in a circular log. Use the remaining meringue to pipe decorations, ideally not too small so they finish baking at the same time.
- Bake in the lower third of the oven for about 50 minutes. The baking time will vary depending on your oven and the size of the meringues. The meringues are ready when you can easily peel them off the parchment paper. Optional: Open the oven halfway through baking to release some steam. This will ensure the meringues dry out properly.
- Once the meringues are fully baked, turn off the oven and open it slightly. You can use a wooden spoon to hold the oven door. Let the meringues cool down slowly in the oven for about an hour to avoid getting cracks. Remove from the oven and cool down completely before assembling the cake.
Assembling the vacherin
- Carefully peel off the meringue from the parchment paper. Tip: Remove the small decorations first then gently flip the paper and start peeling it off to release the disks. Don’t worry too much though if you break them. This dessert is very forgiving so you can just piece them back up together in the mold.
- Trim the meringue disk to desired size if needed using a cake ring (or cake pan and a knife). Repeat with the other disk.
- Line the sides of a 17 cm (6.7 inch) springform pan/cake ring with a strip of parchment paper and place a meringue disk. Tip: You can place the cake ring or a springform pan without the bottom straight onto the serving dish or a cake board. Alternatively, line the bottom of the springform pan with parchment paper. If your meringue is properly baked, you should have no trouble transferring it to a serving dish once frozen.
- Cover and freeze while you soften the vanilla ice cream.
- Transfer the ice cream to a large bowl and spread it out with a spoon to soften it slightly, just a few minutes. Using two large spoons, place over the meringue in several spots then carefully (and quickly) spread it out to an even thickness. If it’s starting to melt, freeze before moving on to the next step.
- Top with the second meringue disk and lightly press it down. Freeze while you soften the sorbet or for as long as needed to avoid melting the ice cream.
- Spread the sorbet over the meringue disk then cover and freeze for at least 1 hour or until frozen.
- If decorating with sweetened whipped cream, prepare it just before serving: Whip the cold heavy cream to soft peaks (that fall back) then add the powdered sugar. Keep whipping until stiff peaks form. Fill a piping bag fitted with desired tip (if using) or keep in the bowl. Chill while you unmold the cake.
- Carefully unmold the cake and peel off the parchment paper. If your springform pan won’t open, let it warm up slightly before trying again. Decorate with whipped cream and meringues if desired and enjoy!
More Meringue Recipes
LOVE THIS RECIPE? I’d be so grateful if you could leave a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating in the recipe card below!