Genoise Cake with Boysenberry Filling and Italian Meringue, a DIY Dessert event

by Irvin on February 7, 2011 · 16 comments

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Once a month, the amazing 18 Reasons, a nonprofit community space affiliated with BiRite Market, holds a DIY Dessert evening where they invite people from all over the San Francisco Bay Area to stop by and bring a dessert based on that month’s theme. I’ve been co-hosting the DIY Desserts for the past couple of months and the awesomeness that has occurred there is nothing sort of amazing. This past January’s theme was no different with their New Year’s “Make Something New!” theme where they challenged bakers to bring something they had never made before (good, bad, ugly). I decided it was the chance for me to test out the Professional Baking Book by Wayne Gisslen that I had talked about in on my previous posts. This, of course, was before I had officially declare my Pro Baking Project. But I knew in the back of my head that I wanted to do it. What a better opportunity to start it than for an 18 Reasons event? My resulting product: a Genoise cake with Boysenberry filling and Italian Meringue.

Genoise Cake

What was completely new to me, wasn’t just using the Professional Baking Book, but also using the baking percentages (I talked about that in my previous post about starting the Pro Baking Project) as well as trying to make a boysenberry filling out of canned boysenberries and pectin, and playing with my kitchen torch, something I’ve only done a few times. Turns out I really like torching thing! I may have to start doing more with meringue because kitchen torches are awesome. Also, have I mentioned how many egg whites I have in my freezer? It’s a little ridiculous.

Genoise Cake and torch

It's like I'm using a mini lightsaber to brown the meringue!

Speaking of ridiculous and awesome, the DIY Dessert evening definitely fit both of those descriptions. I had a chance to sample some ridiculously good desserts as well as meet some awesome people, which is really what the DIY Dessert event is all about. Meeting local bakers and dessert lovers and eating desserts! Don’t you wish you could be there? If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area you can! It’s the second Wednesday of every month at 18 Reasons.

Dessert LoversDessert LoversDessert buffet

Take for instance these gluten free crumbles (adapted from a Gluten Free Girl recipe), brought to the event as a test run. The woman was testing them for a final dessert course where the entire meal was served in jars, from appetizer to dessert. I LOVE that!

gluten free jar dessert

Jars of dessert

Caramels showed up a couple of times as well. One batch were chocolate caramels, while the other batch were a ginger palm sugar caramel that had a great depth of flavor. I totally snagged a few of both at the end of the night to munch on at home.


Barbara Koh, who I met at the last DIY event, showed up with an orange cake from Silver Palate that was citrus delicious. I personally LOVE everything I’ve made from the Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins classic cookbooks series, so I was pleased to see it and even more pleased to take a slice.

Citrus Cake

There was an apple crisp with blueberry & sweetened whipped cream on top which totally rocked my socks. I love fruit desserts and this one was a winner all the way around.

Blueberry Crisp

These gingerbread cookies with and without orange glaze made me yearn for a glass of milk (but 18 Reasons only had wine on hand). The man who brought them had just graduated from Tante Marie’s Culinary School, where he had only wonderful things to say about the pastry program. Oh if only I had the money and time to go to culinary school!

Gingerbread Cookies

Tart sweet lemon shaker bars, and tangy plum balsamic jam bars were a great treat to munch on, while  whoopies pies totally brought back childhood nostalgic memories. Well, someone’s childhood nostalgic memory, as my childhood memory was of red bean paste desserts and pineapple cakes, but you know what I mean. There’s something whimsical about whoopie pies, even if you didn’t grow up with them.

Plum balsamic jam bars


Also impressive were cranberry walnut biscotti. I’ve always wanted to make biscotti but sadly I have never gotten around to it. One of these days I guess. One of these days.


And then there’s Suzie Racho of KQED who showed up with a David Lebovitz‘ Rum Cake which she dubbed “Rum Disaster Cake” because she had a problem unmolding the cake from the pan. I LOVED that she showed up with a cake full of personality, named it the “Rum Disaster Cake” and owned up the fact that not every cake looks perfect. What matters most is how it tastes, and this cake was a winner. Moist and wonderful with tropical coconut and boozy rum flavors married together for an awesome dessert delight.

Suzie and cake

DIY Desserts is now moving to a new night, the second Wednesday of every month. The upcoming DIY Dessert will be Wednesday, February 9, from 7pm to 9pm. It’s totally a drop in event, so swing by if you can, no reservation required. February’s theme is CHOCOLATE! Bring a dessert that highlight chocolate, basic and simple or fancy schmancy deluxe! $10 for chocolate lovers who are just eating and a sliding scale of $1-$10 for those bringing desserts. Oh yeah, and wine included too! I hope to see you there. I haven’t a clue what I’m going to make yet, but most likely it’ll be decadent. Isn’t that what chocolate is all about?

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachelino February 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Merci for putting weights in your recipes. 🙂


Irvin February 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Of course! I LOVE baking by weight. It’s not only more exact but it means I have less things to wash!


Christina February 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Thanks for sharing your lovely photos and your delicious recipe! I’m so glad we met @ the dessert swap, so that I can now follow your blog and baking adventures on a regular basis! Can’t wait for your next post! 🙂


Irvin February 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Yay! It was awesome to meet you too. I hope to see you on Wednesday. If not perhaps the next DIY dessert event. Thanks for checking out my blog!


Sabrina Modelle February 7, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Wow, this is too beautiful. It reminds me of my grandmother’s meringues. Now, this is the biggest compliment I can possibly pay to anyone ever because she and her sister made the most beautiful meringues ever. And aside from the prettiness, it just looks super yummy too.
Love it


Irvin February 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Thank you! That is a compliment! Anytime my desserts remind someone of a fond memory is a HUGE compliment!

And everyone seemed to think it was super yummy. I only had a quarter left at the end of the event…


Lil @ sweetsbysillianah February 7, 2011 at 6:38 pm

your cake looks amazing! i think i may have to move to SF just to participate in this event… and try all those yummy desserts! i already have family/friends in SF/Bay area… hmm…


Irvin February 7, 2011 at 7:25 pm

The event is open to everyone, so just coordinate a visit to see family and friends and make sure you’re here in San Francisco on the second Wednesday of the month! Or just move here. 😉


Erika February 7, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Egg whites and kitchen torch? I have two words for you: Baked Alaska!
You know you want to make one…


Irvin February 7, 2011 at 7:27 pm

I like how you think. I’m totally going to put that on my list of things to make. I’ve actually never made a Baked Alaska! Perhaps when the summertime rolls around and I’m making ice cream…

That said, I’ve been going through the egg whites a pretty good rate. I think discovering swiss meringue buttercream was a blessing. Though not for my waistline.


Faith February 7, 2011 at 8:43 pm

What a beautiful dessert! I feel like its a great alternative to something chocolatey for Valentine’s day and sexy to boot!


Irvin February 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Thank you! It was super fun thing to make! Torching meringue is always fun!

And yes, it would make a great Valentine’s Day dessert!


Allison February 8, 2011 at 1:21 am

What?!?! You’ve never made biscotti? Try Dorie Greenspan’s recipe from Baking From My Home To Yours – I’ve made it several times, and everyone for whom I’ve made it loves it. Now I always have to have an extra bottle or two of almond extract in the house for just that reason, because I was going through it so quickly for a while. It’s also great if you substitute the almonds and almond extract with different nuts and extracts – for example, I did one with pecans and orange extract (and dipped it in dark chocolate) and it was very well received. 🙂


Irvin February 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Oh, well you can’t go wrong with Dorie Greenspan! She’s amazing.

I think the reason I’ve never done biscotti is the double bake time. It just seems so fussy to me. You bake it as a loaf once, then bake it again. Of course, this is coming from someone who bakes quick batter breads like banana bread or pumpkin bread specifically to make bread pudding. Go figure.

When I get around to making biscotti though, I know what recipe I’m using! I, strangely, have two bottle of almond extract on my shelf and I rarely use almond extract. Now I know what I can use them for! Thanks for the recommendation!


Erin Johansen February 10, 2011 at 10:03 am

WOW Irvin, this is sooooo beautiful! I want to come to this event and it is a short drive from Sacramento where I live. Thanks so much for showing everyone what a versatile ingredient canned fruit is! We are on the same wavelength with the Italian Merengue and torch! I made mini blueberry lemon merengue tarts using Italian Merengue and just bought myself a torch for that project as well. SO FUN! Check it out at if you like!


Susan February 12, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Irvin, you are killing me. I adore meringue, and boysenberries are one of my favorite fruits. That Oregon Fruit stuff is really quite good. When you open the can the product usually looks ghastly, but once you have incorporated it into the recipe everything looks fine, and the flavor is great. It’s a wonderful substitute when fresh isn’t available, or the fresh available isn’t ripe. Their recipes are good too. (Full disclosure; I have not been paid to promote this line, more’s the pity.) About almond extract; try using bitter almond oil instead, just a drop or two is extremely potent, and far superior to any extract I have ever used. Bitter almond oil is a bit costly, but I’ve been using the same bottle for over 15 years, believe it or not, and it is still going strong (and I am very picky about full flavor). That torch business looks like great fun. I picked one up a few years ago but have never used it, which is puzzling, because I do enjoy playing with fire. Anyway, I am dying for a bite of your beautiful and sophisticated Boysenberry Meringue Cake. All of the local stores here carry the Oregon Fruit cans, but they don’t offer boysenberry (the Midwest is something of a hell hole as far as fruit goes). Target carries a boysenberry preserve, so I guess that could substitute. Thanks for sharing the recipe!


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