cinnamon rose meringues + a tea menu

cinnamon rose meringues

It feels weird to write this Valentine’s Day post starting with a rant, but at least it’s a very silly rant, so here it goes… There are a couple food writing clichés that kind of get on my nerves. The one that most ruffles my feathers (we’ve all done it, myself included) is when someone takes a perfectly good food, invents a problem by claiming they actually don’t really like it for x, y, and z reasons, and then solves the problem with a magical recipe that changes everything.

Like, “Guys, I just hate brownies. They’re so chocolatey and chewy instead of light and fluffy, and they have that awkward crackly layer on top that crumbles apart when you slice pieces. But this recipe for brownies will make even brownie haters happy.” Like, none of these things are actual problems. This is not a food that needs to win people over, because to know brownies is to love them. And the 1% of people who don’t like brownies can console themselves with a chocolate chip cookie.

So it’s with a lot of hesitation (and probably a little irony) that I’m about to say this next sentence:
… I hate meringues.
They’re certainly beautiful, but they usually taste awful, and I don’t really understand why people continue to buy them in cute pastry shops, order them for weddings, and—presumably?—eat them. They’re so sugary that they kind of hurt my teeth. Their texture is like what I’d imagine a fine-grained pumice stone would taste like if it could melt in your mouth. Whatever you flavor them with will just end up tasting like sugar, and nothing else.

But (again, waiting for lightning to strike me down for my hypocrisy as I type this), I recently found a way to actually enjoy eating meringues as much as I love making and looking at them. The secret? Cream cheese frosting and yogurt. The idea was inspired by Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat. Meringues are in desperate need of both fat and acid, and cream cheese frosting and yogurt have plenty. Because of their acidity, the pairing is a million times more delicious than buttercream and whipped cream, two rich ingredients you’ll more commonly find paired with meringues.

You could pretty much stop reading here, and take away the idea of using cream cheese frosting and yogurt with meringues next time you bake them for a baby shower or Galentine’s Day party (by the way, did you notice that no one ever bakes meringues for themselves? It’s always for other people. Very suspicious…). But if you’re interested, I’ve also included a tea party menu, where you bake a bunch of meringues, whip up some cream cheese frosting, bake a sponge cake, and then assemble a bunch of delicious treats with a few store-bought ingredients. Feel free to make the menu for your next big get-together, or just take the individual ideas as inspiration.

My last complaint about meringues is actually just a bit of practical advice. Don’t bake meringues when it’s humid. Just don’t do it. Even if you can get them to fully dehydrate in the oven, they’ll immediately start absorbing moisture from the air like those little silica packets you find inside brand new shoeboxes, and they’ll turn to goo within hours, if not immediately. If you absolutely must make them on a rainy day, make sure you work in a climate-controlled room, allow them to fully dehydrate in the oven, and then pop the meringues in an air-tight bag about a minute after they come out of the oven, and you should be just fine. They’ll keep that way for a week or two, but if it’s humid outside, you’d better serve them just as soon as you reopen the plastic bag.

cinnamon rose meringues

a meringue tea party

download a PDF to print

your favorite tea
your favorite tea sandwiches
petit meringue-studded cakes
little meringue sandwiches
eton mess yogurt parfait

the building blocks: meringues & frosting

cinnamon rose meringues

yield: 10 to 12 dozen small meringues
active time: 25 minutes
total time: 2 hours

  • 6 large egg whites (about 210 grams)

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar (340 grams)

  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons rosewater (I use 1 1/2 teaspoons)

  • 1 teaspoon "true" cinnamon*

  • about 12 drops pink food coloring (or a couple drops of red)

  • extra cinnamon for sprinkling

  • (optional) edible dried rose petals and extra cinnamon for sprinkling

  1. Wait for a dry day.** Preheat the oven to 225° F convection (105° C).

  2. Combine the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large stainless steel bowl if you're using a hand mixer) fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-low until frothy. Increase to medium and start to slowly add the sugar in a steady stream with the mixer running. Once the sugar is incorporated, add the rosewater, and increase to medium-high or high speed. Beat to stiff peaks.*** Add the cinnamon and food coloring toward the end of beating, or fold it in at the end.

  3. Pipe and/or scoop the meringue onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (I use an oversized star tip and a cookie scoop for this recipe). Don't worry about leaving too much room between them, as they won’t expand much.

    • To make meringue kisses (or star kisses, as pictured here), hold the piping tip pointed directly down, about 1/2 inch above the parchment, letting the bottom of the kiss fill out a bit before dipping in a tiny bit, and then lifting up. Use a steady stream, and don't worry about making them look uniform (have a confident hand and work somewhat quickly, gradually twisting the top of the bag to keep pressure on it).

    • To make more rustic scoops, use a leveled cookie scoop, and try to just let them drop onto the parchment from about 1/2 inch above. Don't mess with them, and don't worry if they don't all look the same. That's part of the appeal.

    • Optionally sprinkle some of the meringues with rose petals and/or a little extra cinnamon.

  4. Bake for about 1 hour for small meringues, longer for larger ones. Let them cool in the oven with the door open, to dry out completely. The meringues are done once they lift easily from the parchment and are crunchy all the way through once cool. You can store them in a tightly-sealed container or bag for about 1 to 2 weeks at room temperature.

* "True" Ceylon cinnamon has a delicate flavor, which doesn't overwhelm the rosewater. You can also use cassia cinnamon (more common in the US), which has more bite. Spice to taste, and hold back a little with cassia.
** It’s really important to bake meringues on a dry day. If you absolutely need to bake them on a humid day, make sure you do so in a climate-controlled room. You’ll probably need to bake them a while longer to dry all the way. Once they’ve baked through and are dry to their centers, let them cool for just a couple minutes, and move them straight to an air-tight bag or container. If you let them sit out too long, they’ll get sticky and turn to goo.
*** Stiff peaks means that when you lift the beaters, the peak that forms won't fall over, but will stay sticking up (it might wobble a little, but it will bounce right back to where it started). You should be able to hold the mixing bowl over your head without any risk of disaster. As soon as stiff peaks form, stop beating before it is overdone (check it periodically to make sure you don't overshoot).

cream cheese frosting

  • 2 8-ounce bricks of cream cheese, softened to room temperature *

  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 cups (330 grams) powdered sugar

  1. Mix together the cream cheese, butter, salt, and powdered sugar over low speed with a stand mixer and whisk attachment. Once the powdered sugar is all mixed in, increase speed to medium-high, and continue mixing until it lightens in color and consistency (this should take about 2 minutes). Use at room temperature.

* This makes a lot of frosting, so that you have enough to decorate both the mini cakes and fill the sandwiches. Feel free to halve the recipe if you're not baking for a crowd, and want to have a lot of plain meringues left.

cinnamon rose meringues
cinnamon rose meringues

petit meringue-studded cakes

  • 5 large eggs (260 grams)

  • 120 grams granulated sugar

  • 120 grams all purpose flour

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • cream cheese frosting

  • meringues

  • (optional) ground pistachios for sprinkling

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F convection, and line the bottom of a 12x16-inch nonstick rectangular pan with parchment paper.*

  2. Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a stainless steel bowl and hand-held mixer). Beat on medium-high with the whisk attachment until it looks like this (about 5 to 8 minutes). It should increase significantly in size and become much lighter in color. When you lift the beaters, the trail will slowly disappear back into itself after 1 full second ("one Mississippi").

  3. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Sift about 1/3 of the flour mixture evenly over the surface of the whipped eggs/sugar and carefully fold it in with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom. Repeat with the next 1/3, and then the final 1/3.

  4. Spread the batter evenly all the way to the edges of the parchment-lined pan (careful that the parchment doesn’t shift). Drop the pan from about an inch above the counter once or twice to knock out any big air bubbles (don't worry, it won't collapse).

  5. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes (in my oven it takes 13 minutes, but it can vary). To test for doneness, gently press on the surface toward the middle—it should spring back after a second. Carefully run a knife around the edges to free the cake (go around once sawing up and down, then once dragging the knife), and invert it onto a (non-onioney) cutting board. Peel off the parchment, and let it cool for about 30 minutes.

  6. Once cool, use a very large cookie cutter to stamp out as many rounds as you can. Enjoy or discard the scraps. Build the cakes by sandwiching a thin layer of frosting between layers of sponge, and building up at least 4 layers of sponge per cake (you'll probably end up with 2 5-layer cakes, depending on the size of your cookie cutter). Make sure they're straight, and then frost the tops and sides with an off-set spatula (using a rotating turntable, if you have one).

  7. Move the cakes to their plate or display (carefully lift each with a spatula), and decorate with the meringues however you'd like (optionally, sprinkle with pistachios after the meringues go on). Save the rest of the frosting for making little meringue sandwiches. The cakes can be made hours ahead of time, but don’t decorate with meringues until the hour before serving, or they will soften too much.

* If you don't have convection, it'll just take a little longer.

cinnamon rose meringues
cinnamon rose meringues

little meringue sandwiches

  • meringues

  • cream cheese frosting

  • ground pistachios or sprinkles

  1. Use the rest of the cream cheese frosting to sandwich more meringues together. Pipe (or spoon) a generous tablespoon of frosting in the center of one meringue, and then squeeze another meringue on top, letting the frosting balloon out of the sides a little.

  2. Immediately roll the sides in ground pistachios or sprinkles. These should be made within an hour of serving.

cinnamon rose meringues
cinnamon rose meringues

Eton mess yogurt parfait

  • plain yogurt (either whole milk or 0% fat)

  • strawberry or raspberry preserves or jam

  • strawberries or raspberries

  • meringues

  1. You can serve a family-style bowl, which people can scoop from, or you can serve them individually (which is much more of a tea party thing, but either will totally work). Clear bowls, glasses, etc., work best, but tea cups or little bowls work great too (just try to keep them on the small side if you're serving individual portions). Don't use tall champagne flutes, even though they look festive, because they're difficult to eat from (and also a pain to plate).

  2. Swirl several spoonfuls of the jam/preserves into the yogurt (sweeten it to taste, and only fold it a couple times to keep it swirled). Scoop spoonfuls of the yogurt into the serving bowl/bowls, top with berries and meringues, and serve immediately. Or make and plate everything ahead, and add just add the meringues at the last minute.

cinnamon rose meringues

persian love pop tarts

Persian love pop tarts

Persian love cake is the most charming almond rose cake, with cardamom, citrus, and sometimes saffron. Last year, I fell for Yasmin Khan’s, which is flavored with lemon zest, cardamom, and rosewater, and topped with a lemon glaze and edible petals and pistachios.

It’s a perfect occasion cake, but I recently wanted to make a shareable version, so I took inspiration from its flavors and ingredients, and made one of my childhood favorites: the pop tart! I guess I could’ve made these in the shape of half-moons or circles, and then called them hand pies instead, but I’m a sucker for childhood nostalgia this time of year. Whatever you want to call them, they’re delicious, and perfect for sharing with all your loved ones this Valentine’s Day.

The filling is made with strawberry rose jam, and the crust is a lemon and cardamom-scented almond meal pie dough. The almond meal soaks for a few minutes in one beaten egg, which hydrates it and makes it less gritty, just like in a perfect Persian love cake. And it’s topped just like Yasmin’s love cake, with a lemon rosewater glaze, ground pistachios, and rose petals.

Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts

A couple practical notes on the recipe, before I leave you to it:

the big question: should you cut before or after filling them?

Most pop tart recipes have you cut little rectangles out, and then fill and paste them together, but I prefer filling them in one big sheet and then cutting them apart, kind of like ravioli. This gives them a much neater look, because the halves are cut together instead of fitting together later.

I’ve included instructions in the recipe, but it’s a little more technically difficult than making them individually, so if you’re not used to working with pastry, you could just make them individually instead, and they’ll still turn out wonderfully.

how to crimp them

The crimping style I chose reminds me of Rabel Betshmuel’s series of Assyrian patterns, but you can totally crimp them however you’d like. But if you want to recreate this look, here’s how: after sealing the edges with a little bit of water, take a fork and press it into the four corners on a diagonal. Then go back and crimp the sides, without overlapping with the corners too much (just a little).

making these pop tarts gluten free

This recipe can be easily made to be gluten free. I tinkered with it, replacing all purpose flour with a gluten free one-to-one flour, but if you go this route, it’s important to add just a little less butter and a little tiny bit more water to the dough. Gluten free flours (even all purpose ones) are a bit more crumbly than wheat flour, and this adjustment gives the dough a better texture.

If you go gluten free, the dough will be a bit harder to work with, and they might turn out just a little more rustic, but that’s okay. There’s something very wabi-sabi about homemade pop tarts anyway, and no one wants to feel like they came from a foil packet in a cardboard box.

decorating with (or without) rose petals

You can find edible rose petals online, and you can find them in tea shops, spice shops, and other specialty stores. But if you can’t get your hands on rose petals, these are also super pretty with just pistachios. If you want to incorporate some pink without petals, you can mix a teeny tiny bit of pink food coloring with the glaze, and then sprinkle it with the pistachios. They look really lovely against a very light pastel shade.

Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts

persian love pop tarts

yield: 8 pop tarts
active time: 40 minutes
total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
download a
PDF to print

  • 1 large egg (55g)

  • 1/2 cup almond meal (60g) *

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (200g) **

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 stick cold butter (113g), cut into 8 pieces

  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

  • 2 tablespoons sugar (25g)

  • 2 tablespoons cold water (or more, if needed)

  • 1/2 cup strawberry preserves (160g)

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons rosewater (divided in half) ***

  • 1 cup powdered sugar (110g)

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • edible rose petals ****

  • finely chopped green pistachios

  1. Combine the egg with the almond meal, and let it soak for about 10 minutes while you prep everything.

  2. Place the flour, salt, butter, cardamom, lemon zest, and sugar in a food processor with the blade attachment. Process until the butter is evenly distributed and there are a few tic-tac sized lumps left.

  3. Add the egg/almond meal mixture, and pulse a few times to distribute.

  4. Slowly drizzle in the cold water with the machine running, just until the dough starts to clump together. Squeeze some dough together in your hand to see if it will hold together. If it is still dry and crumbly, drizzle in a little more water at a time until it’s pie dough consistency.

  5. Divide in half, and shape each half into a flat square. Cover each with plastic, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

  6. While the dough is chilling, combine the strawberry preserves with between 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of rosewater.

  7. Once the dough is chilled, flour a work surface and roll the squares into 2 rectangles (about 9x12 inches, a little less than 1/8-inch thick). Use your rolling pin (gently roll it up onto the rolling pin) to carefully transfer one of the rectangles to a parchment-lined sheet pan.

  8. Use a knife to score the surface of the dough without cutting all the way through: First, trace a border to block off the rough edges, outlining one big rectangle. Next, trace a grid to outline 8 smaller rectangles. Here’s a visual for how to score and fill the first sheet.

  9. In the center of each little traced rectangle, spoon about 1 tablespoon of strawberry-rosewater preserves. Spread the preserves out a little, leaving plenty of room for a border. Wet your finger and dab the borders to make sure the top will seal well.

  10. Carefully place the second rolled out rectangle over the first, and try to make sure there aren’t trapped air bubbles, and that you don’t squish down the preserves. Press down around the edges of each rectangle.

  11. Cut away the rough edges to give yourself a neat rectangle. Using the humps as guides, cut the dough into 8 equal rectangles. Separate them so they’re about an inch apart on the sheet pan. Crimp the edges with a fork.

  12. Preheat the oven to 425° F (218° C). While you’re waiting on it, chill the pop tarts in the refrigerator (this helps them hold their shape). Once the oven is heated, bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

  13. Let them cool on the parchment, and make the glaze while you’re waiting. Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon rosewater (again to taste, and use a little extra lemon juice or water if you only use 1/2 teaspoon). Mix until totally smooth. Feel free to thin with a couple drops of lemon juice, or thicken it with a couple spoonfuls of icing sugar.

  14. Spoon some glaze over each pop tart, topping them with rose petals and pistachios as you go. It will take a couple hours to fully set and harden, and then they can be stored together and stacked, or served right away.

* You can make your own almond meal if you have blanched almonds. Simply grind them in a food processor until they are finely ground (but stop processing before they start clumping together and turn into almond butter).
** See the note above the recipe if you want to make this gluten free.
*** I’ve made a few different batches for friends, and everyone seems to prefer a different amount of rosewater. E.g., I prefer them will the full amount, and my husband prefers them with the smaller amount. It’s up to your taste, and also the strength of your bottle of rosewater. Taste and adjust as you go.
**** See the note above the recipe about decorating these without rose petals.

Persian love pop tarts
Persian love pop tarts

see more: