This beautiful birthday cake by Fork to Belly inspired me to make this pink velvet cake with rainbow meringues. I’ve been somewhat obsessed with meringues lately, so this idea to use them as cake toppers tapped right into that preoccupation. Plus, rainbow. Plus, pink velvet cake. So the whole combination is like riding a unicorn.
“Pink velvet cake” is a bit of a diversion from traditional red velvet cake. Red velvet cake dates to the 18th century when bakers added cornstarch and cocoa powder to cakes to make a finer textured cake. Red velvet cake contains vinegar and buttermilk to bring out the “red” in the cocoa powder. (The reason red food coloring is added, by the way, is thanks to Texan John A. Adams, owner of the Adams Extract Company, who wanted to sell more food coloring. During the Great Depression era, his company offered recipes with their products, including a red cake.) Some believe the increased popularity of red velvet cake in the States in the last couple decades is thanks to the groom’s armadillo cake in Steel Magnolias. Admittedly, I remember that cake well, and it’s the first I ever heard of red velvet, so I’m a believer.
While cousin to red velvet, “Pink velvet cake” is more akin to “white velvet cake,” which is light and buttery. And of course, it doesn’t contain the signature cocoa powder. So here, I’m turning cake mix into a combination of all the velvets to create a smooth, rich cake.
Really, it’s pretty much cake dyed pink.
Before we make the cake, let’s take care of the rainbow meringue toppers, which can be made the day before. As beautiful as they are, they are surprisingly easy to make. Here, I halve the recipe I used for the melting snowman meringue cookies, since we don’t need that many meringues. And there will still be plenty of extra for you to enjoy.
To make the meringues, you’ll need two egg whites, half a cup of sugar, an eighth teaspoon cream of tartar, a dash of almond or peppermint extract and a half cup of sugar. Cream of tartar stabilizes the egg whites, and you can find it in the spice section of the supermarket.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Prepare a disposable decorating bag fitted with a round size 12 tip (both found at the craft store). On a piece of wax paper, place a couple drops of each color of gel paste food coloring. Have some paint brushes ready. Set all this aside.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the wire whip, or in a large bowl if you’re using an electric hand mixer. Add the cream of tartar and the almond or peppermint extract. Whip at high speed until the egg whites turn to fluffy snow. This may take a few minutes.
Gradually add the sugar while mixing on medium speed. Then whip on high speed for a bit. The mixture looks much the same as the egg white snow, but it will be shinier.
Now, here’s the fun part. Fold the top of the decorating bag over to form a cuff and place the bag in a tumbler or tall glass. With the paint brushes, paint lines of food coloring inside the bag from the tip to the top just below where the cuff starts to fold. The lines will look a little watery and beaded, and you’ll think “no way will this work.” It will. It’s like magic.
Gently scoop the meringue into the bag and twist the top closed. You can already start to see the color absorbing.
Holding at the twisted part, position the bag vertically over the baking tray. Pipe a dot and pull up to form a tip. My dollops are only about an inch across, but you can make any size you like. The first few dollops will be the most concentrated in color. Probably too concentrated, so these first few are good for practicing.
Fill the tray. For meringues an inch apart, you will have about 40. You may even need two trays and you may have to refill the decorating bag (the coloring should still work, but it will fade as you go along). Place the tray(s) in the preheated oven. Bake for one and a half to two hours, or until the meringues are firm to the touch but not browned yet. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly and let the meringues stay in the warm oven for another two hours. Let cool and keep in a sealed container until ready to use.
To make the cake, preheat the oven and follow the instructions on the box of Betty Crocker cake mix, but substitute buttermilk for the water. Choosing the White Cake mix would be closer to true white velvet and would make a prettier pink, but I prefer yellow cake, so I’m using the Betty Crocker SuperMoist Yellow Cake Mix.
Mix the cake mix, cup of buttermilk, half cup of vegetable oil and three eggs according to the directions. Stir in a few drops of pink gel paste food coloring, adding more drops as needed until you reach the desired shade. Pour into your greased and floured baking pans and bake according to the package directions. Here, I used three six-inch pans because I wanted a tall cake. But the standard pair of nine-inch pans would work beautifully. Let the cakes cool.
Frost the cakes with vanilla Betty Crocker frosting.
Top with your rainbow meringues.
Go share with unicorns.