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Postre Chajá - Peach Meringue Cake from Uruguay

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Postre Chajá - Peach Meringue Cake from Uruguay

Postre Chajá - Uruguayan Peach Meringue Cake

Marian Blazes
El postre chajá is an interesting Uruguayan dessert. The cake itself is not so unusual - just delicious layers of sponge cake, meringue, whipped cream and peaches. It was invented by Orlando Castellano in the late 1920's at the Confitería Las Familias in Paysandú (see Un poco de historia sobre el Postre Chajá). The unusual part is that it's named for a large, odd-looking local bird, el chajá (also known as a "crested screamer"), which has pockets of air under its skin (?) that apparently reminded Mr. Castellano of the airy meringue in the cake. Check out a picture of this bird and you'll wonder how it inspired a cake!

Prep Time: 1†hour

Cook Time: 2†hours

Total Time: 3†hours

Yield: Serves 8-10.

Ingredients:

  • For the Meringue:
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • For the Cake:
  • 1 sponge cake recipe, baked in two 9-inch cake pans (or use an angel food cake mix)
  • For the Peaches and Peach Syrup:
  • 6 or 7 peaches
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons rum or peach-flavored vodka (optional)
  • Pinch salt
  • For the Whipped Cream Frosting:
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Prepare the meringue: Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks start to form. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until peaks are very stiff and sugar is dissolved. Beat in the vanilla and a pinch of salt.

  2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a pastry bag (or a ziplock bag with one corner cut off) to pipe small dollops of meringue onto the parchment, a little bit smaller than Hershey's kisses. Or pipe the meringue in strips which can be crumbled once they are cooked and used to decorate the outside of the cake.

  3. Bake meringue pieces for at least and hour and a half, until they are dry and completely crispy. Keep meringues in an airtight container or closed oven until ready to use.

  4. Prepare sponge cake recipe or angel food cake in two 9 inch cake pans and bake. Cool completely in pans, then remove carefully.

  5. Peel and slice peaches, and place sliced peaches in a stainer over a bowl. Toss peach slices with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar. Let peaches rest for about 20 minutes, reserving the peach juice that drains into the bowl.

  6. Bring 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and reserved peach juice to a boil, and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in vanilla, pinch of salt, and optional rum or vodka, if desired.

  7. Stir 2 tablespoons sugar into the whipping cream and whip until medium stiff peaks form. Stir vanilla into the whipped cream, and refrigerate until ready to assemble cake.

  8. To assemble cake: Flip sponge cakes upside down and brush each cake generously with the peach syrup, soaking the cakes.

  9. Place one cake layer right side up on a serving platter. Spread some whipped cream over the cake, then crumble some of the meringue pieces and sprinkle the crumbled meringue (about 1/2 cup) over the whipped cream. Add a generous layer of peach slices (reserving some to decorate the top of the cake), then top with the second cake layer.

  10. Spread whipped cream around the sides and top of cake. Press meringue "kisses" or meringue crumbs into side of cake, and decorate top of cake with peach slices, more whipped cream, and/or more pieces of meringue.

  11. Chill cake thoroughly before serving.

Note: Some people like to add a layer of dulce de leche to this cake. One option is to split the sponge cake layers in half and fill them with dulce de leche before moistening them with the syrup. Or simply spread a layer of dulce de leche over the first cake layer, under the whipped cream, to add an extra layer of richness!

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