The Wooden Spoon Adventures: Portland, Oregon and a Coffee Mallow Pie

Welcome to the Portland, Oregon chapter of The Wooden Spoon Adventures! Many of you probably don't know what the heck I am talking about, so allow me to recap: Kate Coldrick, of A Merrier World and Kate Flour fame, decided to celebrate the 5th anniversary of her blog by sending a spoon, engraved with the name of her blog, to fellow bloggers around the world. Kate hopes that the spoon can spend time in the kitchen of many a blogger, participating in the making of delicious recipes that reflect the local environment or culture of the host. What a great way to celebrate a blog! The joy of writing a baking blog is sharing your stories and delicious treats with an audience larger and more varied than you ever could expect, irrespective of time and place. Sometimes magic occurs and you find yourself part of a blogging community sharing a particular adventure, and sometimes something even more magical happens, and you become friends with people you meet over the blog.

 The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

So the first leg of The Wooden Spoon Adventures began with Kate in her kitchen and a recipe for a decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie Cake. Kate sent the spoon to Melinda, who baked a yummy Lemon Blueberry Buckle. The third leg in the Spoon's adventures began four days ago when it arrived on my doorstep.

Initially I wanted to feature local Oregon berries, because berries love our region (and us, them). Our most famous berry, the Marionberry, has already finished its season but the blackberries are still going strong. However Melinda beat me to the punch, a little bit, with her lovely Blueberry Buckle. So I decided to shake things up a bit.

A Visit to The Sugar Cube A Visit to The Sugar Cube

The recipe I want to share with you all, in celebration of Kate's blog and baking blogs in general, is The Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie, from Kir Jensen's book The Sugar Cube. Here is a list of all the reasons why I chose this recipe (I love a good list!):

  • Portland is batshit crazy for coffee; I think it is all the dark rainy winters. Stumptown may be our signature coffee, and the one most known outside of Portland, but I am a fan of Water Avenue Coffee. This is a great recipe for coffee lovers.
  • Kir Jensen lives in Portland.
  • She is a pastry chef who owns a food cart, The Sugar Cube, and that's where she does all her baking. In the freaking food cart.
  • I discovered The Sugar Cube about three years ago when Kir moved her cart two blocks away from my office, and that was a dangerous discovery. Then her cart disappeared (turns out she moved over to the Good Food Here pod), and just recently I noticed she popped up in her current location, which coincidentally is a few blocks from my new office! We just need to be near each other, it seems.
  • Portland's food cart culture is getting pretty well known, so it seemed the right thing to talk about in a blog post featuring Portland. Saveur recently featured a love fest to Portland's food carts, and The Sugar Cube is one of the carts featured. (Kir shares her recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Orange Financiers in the issue.)
  • Lastly, the recipe looked pretty darn good, and easy to boot.

A Visit to The Sugar Cube

August 25, 2012
Name of Pie: The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Pie
Occasion: Happy Blogaversary, Kate!
Constituents: One 9 inch pie with a dacquoise crust, coffee cream filling, and salted caramel sauce

That's right! No pastry crust! Now you know why I chose to make a pie. (And YEAH, that makes this pie gluten-free!)

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

If you love coffee desserts, gather your ingredients and make this pie. It is rich but light at the same time. The meringue and the salted caramel sauce play along perfectly with the coffee cream. I think a pastry or cookie crust would have weighed this dessert down. The saltiness in the caramel keeps everything from feeling too sugary, and adds a deep, slightly bitter touch which compliments the coffee.

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

Step one: make the dacquoise crust.

Now Kir doesn't get all fancy and call what she's got a dacquoise crust, but that is basically what it is. You whip up a meringue and fold in some chopped, toasted pecans, and spread that in your well-buttered pie plate. The nuts not only pair well with the coffee in the filling, but they dial down the sweetness of the meringue. This shell gets a pre-bake until golden.

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

The only departure I took was to paint on a layer of melted bittersweet chocolate after the meringue shell cooled. I did this to put a barrier between the shell and filling, in order to extend the shelf-life of this pie. Without a barrier, the pie needs to be consumed pretty quickly after setting so that the moisture in the filing doesn't turn the shell into a soggy mess. I needed the pie to sit tight for 12 hours in the refrigerator so I took a chance on a chocolate barrier. It worked, by the way, and I'll probably make it a permanent part of the recipe.

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

Step two: make the filling.

Kir got this recipe from her mom, who used to make it when Kir was a child. She points out the recipe is from the wonderful shag-carpet decade of the '70's, which probably explains why the filling calls for a bunch of mini marshmallows. These marshmallows are melted with some strongly brewed coffee (Portland ingredient: check!), and sugar in a pan. This takes all of a couple of minutes. The marshmallows are just a fun, kitschy (read: '70's) way to get the gelatin into your cream filling.

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie
Please disregard the dirty stovetop and lack of white balancing

Next, heavy cream is whipped with some more sugar and vanilla to medium-stiff peaks, and the two components are folded together and scraped into the meringue shell. The pie chills for one to three hours before you can serve it, but if you added the chocolate barrier it can hang on for a day or two in the refrigerator before serving.

Step three: salted caramel sauce!

Even though the pie calls for only half the recipe in the book, I needed only half of that. However that is no excuse to skip the caramel, or try to cook just a quarter recipe. You will want more salty caramel; for your ice cream, your yogurt, your fruit, and who knows what else. Don't skimp on the caramel. It is salty and sweet. It is excellent.

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

The Wooden Spoon is moving on to Colorado and Jenn of Knitty Baker fame! Jenn was a fellow Heavenly Baker who took on the helm of group moderator after Marie finished baking all of the cakes and retired her cake pans. After Jenn finished the book she put down her cake pans and picked up her knitting needles. So far she's knitted 10 sweaters, 11 shawls, and various accessories. This lady is crafty!

A note about the recipe: I was disappointed, to say the least, that The Sugar Cube keeps everything in volume measurements. I am too much of a Rose Levy Beranbaum girl to have much patience for volume measurements, and it makes it damn near impossible for the rest of the world to use this recipe. Not to mention it sent me on a wild goose chase trying to find out the weight of an extra large egg white, so that I could dip into my frozen egg white stash. Grr.

Mom's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie, adapted from The Sugar Cube: 50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet by Kir Jensen

Note: the caramel sauce needs a couple of hours to set, so depending on your schedule you might want to make it first.

Makes 8 servings.

  • Meringue Shell
    2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
      (Note from ECL: My wild goose chase finally led me to Gourmet Sleuth which says one extra large egg white yields 2 2/3 tablespoons whites, so this recipe needs 5 tablespoons and one teaspoon egg white. I weighed out that measurement and it came out to 60 grams, which is the weight of two LARGE egg yolks!! I used my 60g egg white despite probably not being enough, didn't modify the proportions of any of the other ingredients, and had plenty of meringue that didn't taste too sweet or too nutty so go ahead and use that amount too.)
    1/4 tsp cream of tartar
    1/2 cup sugar (Kir recommends baking or castor sugar)
    1/4 cup finely chopped toasted peacans
  • 1 1/2 ounces (75g) bittersweet chocolate, about 64%, melted (optional)

  • Coffee Mallow Filling
    1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
    3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
    2 tsp unsalted butter
    1/8 tsp salt
    1 3/4 cups heavy cream
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 tbsp sugar

  • 1/2 cup salted caramel sauce, recipe below, at room temperature
  • one 3 to 4 ounce bar of high quality milk chocolate for garnish (Kir recommends Lindt Swiss Milk Chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Generously butter a 9x1 1/2 inch glass pie plate.

Step one: the meringue shell

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium-high and slowly beat in the sugar by the tablespoon. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks. If your meringue looks dry or lumpy, the eggs have been over beaten and it is time to start over again with fresh egg whites.

Gently fold the pecans into the meringue; I recommend using the whisk attachment to do so. Spoon the mixture into the pie shell and spread the meringue evenly around the bottom and up the sides of the plate.

Bake until light golden brown, about 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the meringue in the oven with the door closed for another 45 minutes; the shell should have a nice golden color. Remove from the oven and, if using the chocolate barrier, lightly coat the meringue shell with the melted bittersweet chocolate. I used a silicone brush and painted the chocolate on, but use very light pressure or you could puncture the delicate meringue. Another option is to finely grate the chocolate bar directly into the warm pie shell, and as it melts gently spread it over the meringue. Either way, you want a thin but thorough coat of chocolate, at least over the bottom but preferably up the sides as well. Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Step two: the coffee mallow filling

Combine the marshmallows, coffee, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the marshmallows have completely melted. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Beat the heavy cream, vanilla and sugar in a large bowl until medium-stiff peaks form. Whisk about a 1/4 of the whipped cream into the coffee mix (Kir calls it "coffee goo") to lighten it up and break up any lumps. (I needed to take the extra step of pureeing the coffee goo-whipped cream lumpy stuff with an immersion blender to really break up the lumps.) Fold the lightened and smoothed coffee mix into the whipped cream until no streaks show, being sure to reach down to the bottom of the bowl in the last few passes. Scrape the coffee mallow cream into the cooled meringue shell, and smooth out the top. Let the pie set in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours before serving.

Drizzle the top of the pie with caramel sauce and grate the milk chocolate over the top. Cut into slices and serve. I liked the pie best straight from the refrigerator; the texture was most creamy and I found that the meringue/pie held together very nicely when straight from the refrigerator; too long at room temperature and the meringue would crumble when cut and the filling would stick to your knife and flop over onto the plate. Pass around any extra caramel, because there will most likely be takers.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Kir is a crazy badass when it comes to making caramel. She doesn't use a thermometer and doesn't think you need to, either. She likes to take her caramel to what she calls "the razor's edge," that is she takes it as dark as she can get it before it burns. It does result in a deeply flavored caramel that can stand up to the saltiness of this recipe. If you get nervous and take it off the heat too soon the flavor will be very light and the salt will overpower it. Be brave! Caramel can be intimidating but it is also a lot of fun. This is baking alchemy at it's most delicious.

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
  • 2 cups heavy cream, warmed (keep it near the sink)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Makes about 2 1/2 cups. Don't cut the recipe in half; you will find uses for all of it.

First off, clean out your sink; you are going to put the hot pot of caramel in there when you add the cream. Secondly, keep a pot holder in your hand at all times. Thirdly, if there ever was a time for getting all your ducks in a row before you begin, making caramel is that time. You won't have time to look for a spatula before your caramel is a stinky smoky mess. Fourthly, remove all distractions from the kitchen (phone off, kids in bed, animals outside).

In a deep heavy-bottomed pot, combine the sugar, water, and salt and stir until well mixed. Cook over high heat until the sugar starts to color around the edges of the pot, swirling to promote even caramelization. Continue cooking, swirling occasionally, until the sugar turns the color of dark maple syrup (dark amber).

Bring the pan over to the sink, swirling, and wait until the caramel turns a dark mahogany color and just starts to smoke (it won't take much time at all). Place the pan in the sink and add the warm heavy cream in a steady stream, stirring constantly. It is going to steam and bubble like crazy; Kir suggests wearing an oven mitt on the hand that is stirring. If the caramel hardens up, place back on the stove on low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom until smooth.

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for one hour. Refrigerate, uncovered, for several hours to thicken.

Store any extra in an airtight jar in the refrigerator and use within one week.

The Sugar Cube's Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie

Follow The Wooden Spoon Adventures! Kate is keeping track of The Spoon's travels back at A Merrier World, her blog and Spoon headquarters.


  1. I love your recipe choice! You always make me laugh so, too! I like the sound of badass caramel and the shag carpet 70's! hehehe
    It looks delicious! I have never had anything like this but will have to try making it. (maybe a wee bit like the Jancsi Torta?)
    I have heard about the American fad for the food carts. What a good idea!
    I wish a good one like The Sugar Cube was near me!
    I am so glad I passed the spoon to you and look forward to the next adveture at Jenn's blog.
    I have had flu this week and this post has cheered me up oodles! xx

  2. Melinda, the Jancsi Torta is more cake-like; this is really just a coffee cream pie with some fun tweaks. Tthe Sugar Cube is in the the parking lot of a delicious fancy sandwich shop (Lardo); we could check out both in Sept...and then we can do an ice cream tour of Portland! How much time will we have? Get well soon, my friend. xoxox

  3. Oh Wow! It's kind of like an upside-down meringue pie (thinking of upside-down pineapple cakes ... weren't they 70's shag pile too?). Thank you for taking my spoon on such a temptingly delicious adventure :-)

  4. Hillarious post! Bad-ass caramel - love it!

    This looks awesome ECL. I love the shots of the meringue and the last shot of the yummy pie with the spoon and the book.

    I'm looking forward to being the next spoonee.

  5. Kate, yeah, I guess it is like an upside down meringue pie! The 70's did like their desserts upside down :) I had loads of fun with your spoon; thank you for sharing it!

    Jenn, thanks! I'm also looking forward to you being the next spoonee.

  6. What an awesome pie - I don't think I've ever heard of it before. Hard to believe anyone can bake in that tiny food cart - kinda cool! Jenn picked me to be the latest spoonee - hope you'll stop by to see my post.

    Take care,

  7. Patricia, ah that's where the spoon has traveled to! I will run over and read your blog post now. I've gotten attached to that little spoon.

  8. ב''ה

    Wow. Thank looks fantastic!

  9. I love the traveling spoon; what a great idea! And I love this recipe. Is there a difference between a daquoise and a succes? I've seen both names used at a bakery kiosk near our usual hotel in Warsaw that I drool over whenever I'm there. Sadly for me, lucky for my waistline, they don't sell them by the slice.

    1. Lois, great question. All I know is a dacquoise is a meringue with ground nuts. You should buy both and do a taste comparison, for research purposes only.


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