Sunday, December 18, 2011

Healthy Holidays: Marshmallow Cake Towers

Mmm, time to bring on some dessert! We're feasting on gingerbread cutouts and chocolatey goodness in my home, but it can sometimes feel like a bit too much.

These elegant little stacks of marshmallow, fruit, preserves, and cake can be fat-free if you use angel food cake. Making marshmallows is certainly a project, but it can be a blast with kids home on holiday break. Cut up the leftovers to enjoy in hot chocolate, stirred with a candy cane.

The instructions are lengthy, but don't be intimidated: Making marshmallows is easier than it might appear, provided you have a stand mixer and a candy thermometer.

And the marshmallows alone make great holiday gifts for friends and neighbors.


Marshmallow Cake Towers

This marshmallow recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen. The marshmallows need to be made at least a few hours ahead; leftover marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.

For marshmallows:
canola oil
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, divided
3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (such as Knox)
1 cup cold water, divided in half
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cornstarch

For cakes:
9x13 yellow cake, baked and cooled (use your favorite recipe, from scratch or a box—substitute angel food cake for a fat-free version)
1/2 cup fruit preserves (any flavor -- I used cherry)
fresh fruit, chopped, for garnish (I used mango, strawberry, and kumquat)

To make marshmallows:
Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan and dust with 1/4 cup confectioners sugar, shaking out excess. In the bowl for your mixer, pour in 1/2 cup of cold water and sprinkle gelatin on top. Let it sit so the gelatin softens and blooms, about 15 minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine remaining 1/2 cup of water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Clip a candy thermometer to the side. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to medium heat and bring to a boil, without stirring, until it reaches 240°F (this can take 10-15 minutes). Take the pan off the heat. Carefully pour the sugar mixture over the gelatin in the mixer bowl and stir to dissolve the gelatin. Using the mixer, beat on high speed until the mixture is white, thick, and about tripled in volume (about 6-8 minutes).

In a separate bowl, with clean beaters, beat egg whites until they hold stiff peals. Beat whites and vanilla extract into the sugar mixture until combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Combine remaining 1/4 cup confectioners sugar and cornstarch and sift over the top. Set it in the refrigerator, uncovered, for at least three hours and up to one day. Once the marshmallow has set, you can remove it from the pan by loosening the edges with a thin knife and peeling the marshmallow block out, or inverting the pan.

To assemble cakes:
Level the cake. Use a cookie cutter (round, square, or diamond work well) to cut out cake pieces. Clean and dry the cookie cutter, dip it into confectioners sugar, and use it to cut out identical marshmallow pieces. Spread fruit preserves on top of each piece of cake. Place marshmallow cutouts on top of preserves, then top with fruit.

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