An arm and a leg…

Some of the most delightfully rich desserts known to man stem from the simplest of ingredients.  That being said, it comes down to one’s technique that will warrant how good or bad the end result may be.

Brazo De Mercedes – Filipino Meringue and Custard Jelly Roll Cake

I have been cooking since I was just shy of 10 years old.  I just past my 33rd birthday (…man, I am approaching my mid-thirties… cue FRIENDS opening credits) and that means I have about 23 years of cooking knowledge under my belt.

What I mean by this is I will know exactly what a dish requires without needing any sort of finite measurement system.  I can simply taste the dish, take the condiment and toss some in and will know exactly how it will turn out.  I can stare at a recipe… stare at a few recipes of the same dish… and know what is missing from it in order to cater it to my palette.  Sadly, this is also to a disadvantage and the sole reason why I cannot accurately share my recipes with others.  I can provide the basics and the ingredients you will need and provide a basic framework, but the end result is always up to the cook’s hand.  So this method is not fool-proof by any means, but it is the instinct I have developed over years and years of cooking for myself, my family, my fiancé and my roommate.

But, I digress.  

Baking is another realm that is still very new to me.  I am not a terrible baker, I just mildly detest the level of chemistry involved and patience needed to ensure your measurements are exact.  Following the rules, that is what it is.  I never coloured in the lines in grade school… I scribbled out of them.  There is my issue with baking, it is too structured.  I am also quite an impatient and nervous personality making the waiting time required for baking a cloyingly long experience.

Why is it not done yet?!?!

I am one of those that stare and stare and open the oven door and stare and then quite often take the food out too early because, “OH IT’S BROWN, IT MUST BE READY!”

No silly boy, it had just begun to brown and cook.  You’ve just served your loved ones a slab of raw cake.  Enjoy the washroom.

I learn from my mistakes and I always try again until I perfect my technique.  I get lots of compliments from my friends and family with things I bake.  So, I truck along.

Here was today’s conquest.

Brazo de Mercedes (Yes folks, that is Arm of Mercedes in English) is one of my favourite cakes from the Philippines.  It is considered a jelly-roll cake, but it has no flour in it what-so-ever.  All it is comprised of is a baked meringue outer later with the the remaining egg yolks cooked with sweetened condensed milk and vanilla into a curd-like custard that is so rich you need the bland meringue for balance.

Growing up my mom would always buy this cake from our local Goldilocks or Red Ribbon Bakery in the Los Angeles area, we would take it home with the intent to serve it to the family.

Truthfully, I think I would eat most of it and save my two brothers and my mom about a slice each… 

Recently I had-had the urge to make this cake.  I lie, I have been wanting to make this cake for the past few years, but I had never committed myself to it.  I wanted to make it for my birthday a few weeks ago, but really, who makes their own cake for their birthday?

I decided to put it off for 4th of July weekend.  I know my roommate is a right fan of meringue and pudding so this cake will fit in just fine in our household.  But first, I had to get over my own reservations on making such a cake.

It was not the ingredients required to make it.  Eggs, Condensed Milk, Sugar, that is it.  I had to get over the fact that it is summer and terribly humid in Chicago.  While I am in a temperature controlled home with central air, that does not stop the fact that humidity will, very quickly, kill my meringue no matter how hard I try.

I had never made meringue with Creme of Tartar.  I understood that it is an acid that reinforces the air you whip into the meringue and thus improves its structural integrity et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  It is a fail-safe method at keeping your eggs fluffy.

We all like them eggs fluffy.

What this cake came down to was technique.  Follow the rules there boy, you will be just fine.  I watched a cooking video from my YouTube friend Vanjo Merano and his cooking channel Panlasang Pinoy.

Using his recipe, I was able to gain some confidence in my ability to make this wonderfully rich cake with tremendous success.

I let my confidence in my baking knowledge take the wheel (Sorry Jesus, you couldn’t take the wheel this time…) and it came out just as I wanted.  It was perfect and I will make it again and again and again.

Who knew an arm could taste this good? I wonder what Mercy’s leg would be like?


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Brazo De Mercedes – Panlasang Pinoy
  • 10 large raw eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
  • 14 ounces condensed milk
  1. Combine egg whites and cream of tartar then beat using an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
  2. Make the meringue by gradually adding the granulated sugar while mixing the ingredients. Continue mixing until the texture is semi-firm.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Place wax paper on top of a cookie sheet or large rectangular baking pan and grease the surface.
  5. Place the meringue on top of the greased wax paper then spread evenly using a spatula.
  6. Bake the meringue for 20 to 22 minutes or until the color of the top part turns light to medium brown.
  7. While the meringue is in the oven, make the filling by combining the egg yolks and condensed milk in a small cooking pot. Apply heat and cook the mixture while continuously stirring until the texture becomes thick.
  8. Add the vanilla extract to the condensed milk and egg yolk mixture, turn off the heat, and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  9. Remove the meringue from the oven and cool down for a few minutes.
  10. Sprinkle the confectioners sugar on top of the meringue then place wax paper on the top part of the meringue followed by a similar sized baking pan or tray. The meringue should now be in the middle of two baking trays.
  11. Flip the meringue: the new cookie sheet/baking tray placed on top should now be below. Remove the baking tray and the wax paper (you should now see the opposite side of the baked meringue) then spread the filling (cooked egg yolks, condensed milk, and vanilla extract mixture) over the meringue.
  12. Roll the meringue. Complete rolling side to side starting at the longest side. Make sure that the layer with filling is rolled inward.
  13. Transfer to a serving plate then serve.
  14. Share and enjoy!

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