“Devil’s Food Cake with Coffee Meringue Buttercream” from “Cooking for Jeffrey”

Ordinarily I wouldn’t include the title of the icing of this cake, but given the time and the effort involved to make what was probably the best cake icing I’ve ever made*, it would be remiss of me to leave it out.


But the distinction of having been the best icing I’ve ever made– and I’ve made A LOT, believe me– comes with this caveat: it also took the longest amount of time and the most equipment.

For this is no ordinary buttercream, but MERINGUE buttercream. This involved me using my candy thermometer to create sugar syrup, beating said syrup into the egg white meringues for ONE HOUR (again, not a typo) and then beating in the butter and the flavourings. For the “Great British Bake Off” fans among you, this is the Italian meringue buttercream that some bakers have made in the past. If I ever try out for the show again**, I will make this.

**A story for another time.

So sure, it was a total pain to make. But honestly I can’t overstate how good and delicious this was. It also was super-easy to pipe with, because it was so light.

Barefoot Contessa advises you in the introduction of the icing that it’s a bit complicated to make and you may want to do a test run first before doing it for real. I didn’t follow this advice. Life is too short. If my skills were lacking in making this for the first time and it proved to be a disaster, I would have just made one of my tried-and-true buttercreams instead. To be fair, this does require some skill (not to mention a candy thermometer), but if you follow the directions, you should be fine.

This cake, which is the big stonking slice of cake that the Barefoot Contessa holds on the cover of the cookbook, is also good. It’s a good basic Devil’s Food Cake. The recipe was straightforward and it’s delicious.

Would I make this again? I would. I doubt very much that I would make Italian meringue buttercream for every cake I make in the future, as I’m pretty sure I’m going to reserve it for special occasion cakes only. But honestly, it was worth the time and the effort.

To reiterate: It was the best icing I’ve ever made in my life. Yum. Yum. Yum.

If you’d like to make this yourself, click through this paragraph to find the recipe on Food52.

“Devil’s Food Cake with Coffee Meringue Buttercream” from “Cooking for Jeffrey”

7 thoughts on ““Devil’s Food Cake with Coffee Meringue Buttercream” from “Cooking for Jeffrey”

  1. Coffee meringue buttercream DEFINITELY has my heart – though the one I make (Martha Stewart) is much simpler. If I had a freestanding mixer I would make this one, though – it sounds impossibly airy and silky and has that ‘expensive satin underwear’ colour Nigella talks about…mmm

    1. Maureen Stapleton says:

      I just looked up the Martha Stewart recipe, as I was curious (and also, her recipes always work, so I trust her implicitly). That version might be shorter time wise, but I don’t think I’d want to be standing over simmering water for 10 minutes to make the meringue. Though this version takes forever– and now having done some other reading, I’m not sure you need to beat it for an hour– you don’t have to stand over it while you’re making it. For me, I had a chance to go to the shop and get more butter and come back and read a bit while the icing was beating away.

      1. Yes, it’s swings and roundabouts.Since I don’t have a stand mixer the Martha recipe works with what I have. Also I tend to listen to the radio or watch TV or similar while cooking so a bit of mindless stirring can be okay – no more bothersome than a risotto – but I am very envious of being able to go out and read during the making! I’m looking forward to trying Ina’s recipe, though…one day…

        Also, having made meringue icing for years, a tip for free (ha!): those pasteurised cartons of egg whites never yield good results for me…YMMV though

  2. Maureen Stapleton says:

    I’ve never seen the cartons of egg whites, though I’ve never looked, to be honest. This time, I used all the egg yolks for an extra-yummy scrambled egg (with feta and roasted peppers) for breakfast the next day.

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