A 12-year old girls’ birthday party is an event to behold. Nine girls ranging in age from 11 to 13 yrs, arrived in fits and start on a warm Saturday. Fiona, the birthday girl, had been thinking of her party for months. Hand-written invitations had gone out, each with a poem about friendship written on the envelope. Party favors had been carefully chosen and put in pretty little bags tied with even prettier ribbon. The birthday tablecloth, covered with a cherry pattern, had been put on the table, the garland of paper cherries hung over the chimney in the kitchen. A little glass ball with snow inside that we bring out for each family birthday was set firmly in the center of the table, and all the glasses, silky paper napkins, and carefully chosen plates were at the ready.

Fiona had a friend with her to help and as they worked and played I decided to make marshmallows. Egg whites were in the bowl of the mixer, the sugar, water and sugar syrup were in the pan, bubbling. Vanilla extract was standing by, the gelatin was softening in a bowl and the marble was covered with confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch which would keep the marshmallow mixture from sticking.

The best part

Marshmallows Cooling

I was also making brownies – Fiona’s birthday cake request – and cutting up vegetables and fruit for snack. It was a slumber party and dinner was to be hand-made pizzas, so I had bowls of sliced cheese and salami, tomato sauce and olives here and there, and dough rising on the counter.

I made the marshmallows and spread them evenly out on the sugar-dusted marble, then turned to the sink, the bowl in my hand. Oh no. The leaves of gelatin were still there, sitting in water. I’d forgotten to add them to the marshmallows, so that sticky mixture I’d spread on the counter wasn’t marshmallows at all.

Working as fast as I could I put the bowl back on the kitchen aid, scooped up the white, frothy mixture thinking I’d add the gelatin now. But I realized it was doomed; the mixture was already cooled down. I put it in a big bowl, wondering what on earth I’d do with it, and proceeded to make another batch of marshmallows which, this time, had my undivided attention.

That white mass sat in a bowl until one of the moms came to help out and said “Why don’t you just make meringues?” I wasn’t sure it would work but it was a great idea, and I shaped the mixture into quenelles and popped them into the already warm oven.

Then, the party began in earnest and I supervised three-legged races and “carry the egg in the spoon” races, find the treasure, bob for apples, pop the balloon games. The girls decided to do a fashion show, which released me and I checked on the meringues. To my delight, they were just slightly golden, crisp through, and perfect!

Bobbing for Apples

I cut up the marshmallows, dusted some with sweetened cocoa, and others with cinnamon sugar. I cut up the brownies and piled them abundantly on a plate. I surrounded them with my home-made meringues. When Fiona came in to ask for cake, all was ready.

Who was happiest when all was said and done? I’m not sure. But one thing I do know – I now can make meringues, and I’m going to do so with gusto, for every future birthday party, and many times in between.



If you’d like to follow my lead and make meringues, omit the gelatin from the following recipe. You’ll end up with something called Italian Meringue. Bake it at about 250F for a couple of hours, or until the meringues are crisp through. Yum.


½ cup (60 g) confectioner=s sugar

2cup (60 g) cornstarch

2-1/2 cups (500g) plus 2 tablespoons granulated vanilla sugar

2/3 cup (150ml) water

1/3 cup (80g) glucose, or inverted sugar such as Karo syrup

12 sheets gelatin leaves (one scant ounce; 24g)

The whites from 6 large eggs (9 oz; 240g)

Pinch fine sea salt

3 teaspoons of vanilla, orange flower water, raspberry puree, mint extract, rose water,

or flavoring of your (you will need to taste the hot mixture to adjust the flavoring)

1. Mix the confectioner=s sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl until combined. Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper, and sprinkle it with half the cornstarch mixture. Alternatively, sprinkle half the cornstarch mixture directly onto a marble, granite, or other even, flat work surface in a 17 x 9-inch (42.5×22.5cm) rectangle.

2. Place the 2-1/2 cups sugar, glucose or inverted sugar, and water in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir, using a stainless steel spoon, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cook the sugar until it reaches a temperature of 2651F (1301C), which will take about 15 minutes.

3. While the sugar is cooking, place the gelatin leaves, one by one, into a bowl of cold water. Reserve.

4. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. When the sugar has reached 2651F (1301C), remove it from the heat immediately. Add the pinch of salt to the whites, and begin whisking on medium high speed. When the whites turn frothy, after about 30 seconds, add the 2 tablespoons sugar, and continue to whisk until the whites are smooth and very creamy, and form stiff peaks.

5. Using a sturdy kitchen towel or a hot pad to hold the saucepan handle, pour the cooked sugar mixture very slowly into the whites while the whisk attachment is still running, being very careful to avoid pouring onto the whisk itself, as the extremely hot sugar could splatter. Once all of the sugar and syrup are incorporated, keep the mixer whisking the egg whites and squeeze the water from the gelatin leaves one by one, adding them once you’ve removed as much of the water as possible. Once all of the gelatin is added to the egg white mixture, continue whisking it until the egg white mixture is elastic and has cooled to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

6. With the whisk still running, add any chosen flavoring or extract, if using, to the marshmallow mixture. Pour out the mixture onto the prepared pan or surface, then using a long spatula or offset spatula, evenly spread it over the prepared surface. The marshmallow mixture should be about 2-inches thick. Sift the remaining sugar-cornstarch mixture over the top and sides to completely cover the surface. Let the marshmallow mixture sit at room temperature for 4 to 5 hours so it has a chance to set.

7. Using a pastry brush, dust the cornstarch mixture off the marshmallow. Reserve the cornstarch mixture. Cut the marshmallow into long strips, and roll the strips into the reserved cornstarch mixture, then roll the strips into a spiral, to serve or store. Alternatively, cut the marshmallow into the shape of your choice. Dust the shapes in the cornstarch mixture to keep the pieces from sticking together, dusting off any excess. The marshmallows keep well for one two weeks in an airtight container, stored in a cool, dry place. Reserve the cornstarch mixture. Store any excess cornstarch mixture in an air-tight container for a future use.

About 80 (1 2 x 1 2 inch; 4 x 4 cm) guimauve


  1. daumel says:

    bon anniversaire Fiona

  2. Susan says:


    Such a delightful post! Your Fiona is gorgeous. Congratulations to all! xoxox Susan

  3. tony says:

    Wow thnx fr tht,thts jst wat I needed to pln my 12th brthdy party

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