Last weekend was my birthday, so I made myself a cake. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you might know that every year, I make this Marble Cheesecake. It’s delicious, but since it’s Filipino Food Month over here, I decided to make something different: Sans Rival.
I remembered this cake that my mom used to get now and again when I was little. I hadn’t had it in ages– my younger sister doesn’t remember ever having it at all– but I looked up some recipes and decided to give it a go.
Sans Rival is a Filipino dessert that is decidedly French in origin. Layers of daquoise (a meringue made with nuts) are sandwiched together with French buttercream. While French daquoise is traditionally made with almonds, this is made with cashews. Once all the layers are assembled, buttercream is used to frost the entire thing, and then it is adorned with more cashews. Since I had never made this before, I consulted a lot of recipes but followed this one by To Food With Love most closely.
This recipe is a bit putzy, but isn’t terribly difficult. You can make the meringue layers a day ahead to break up the time it takes. I think the buttercream would sit fine in the fridge for a day as well, and then you’d only have to assemble it the day of. The final product also freezes very well.
Preheat your oven to 225˚F.
To start, make the meringue. In the bowl of a high-powered mixer, beat 6 egg whites until foamy (save the yolks for later), then sprinkle 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar over it and beat until stiff, but not dry.
Tips for beating egg whites: make sure the bowl and beaters are completely free from oil. Make sure eggs are separated cleanly, as in no yolks broken in the process. If any fat (from the yolks or residue on the bowl/beaters) gets into the whites, they won’t whip. Egg whites will also whip better at room temperature, but if you have a high-powered mixer, you probably won’t have trouble with cold ones.
Slowly beat in 3/4 cup of sugar and beat until stiff and glossy, and add 1 tsp. vanilla.
Add 1 1/2 cups chopped cashews. Chop them relatively fine, or if you want you could even grind them. I used a nut chopper set to “fine” for mine.
Fold the nuts in gently until just incorporated. A rubber spatula works well here, and is safe to use once the whites have been beaten stiff. However, avoid using one before that, since it’s nearly impossible to clean all traces of grease out of them– something to do with the molecular structure of the plastic & oil being easily bonded or something.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. I used a 6″ cake pan to trace circles on the parchment with a pencil. You can use whatever you have, but shoot for around 6″ or plan to make fewer layers if you want to make it bigger. Flip the parchment over before putting the meringue on it so you don’t end up with pencil in your cake. You should still be able to see the outline. I used 2 cookie sheets with 3 circles on each.
I had read in some places that people had difficulty peeling the parchment off after baking (which seemed strange to me) so just for good measure, I added the smallest amount of grease possible to the parchment.
I used a pastry bag fitted with the biggest round tip known to man, and then used an offset spatula to make the tops a bit more even. If you don’t have a pastry bag & tip, you can use a ziplock bag. Just cut off one of the bottom corners to pipe through.
Bake for 1.5 hours, rotating the pans halfway through, then turn the oven off and allow the meringues to cool in the oven without opening it. I left mine overnight and they were perfectly dry. They also lifted right off the parchment with no coaxing needed.
To make the buttercream, start by beating 6 egg yolks. If you make the meringue the night before, you can keep your yolks in a jar in the fridge until you need them, but let them come to room temperature before using them. Beat them until they’re pale and thick (several minutes.)
In a saucepan, place 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water. Clip a candy thermometer to the side, and heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture reaches 235˚- 240˚ F. I accidentally let mine get a few degrees above that, and while it ended up alright, it wasn’t ideal. Immediately when the temperature reaches that stage, start the mixer and pour the hot sugar in a steady stream into the egg yolks, beating until it’s completely incorporated.
The mixture will thicken. Mine ended up a little stringy, I think because the sugar got cooked longer than it should have. I was expecting it to become a bit fluffier, and was afraid I might have to start over, but once I added the butter it was alright.
You’ll need 2 sticks of butter at room temperature, cut into 1″ cubes. THIS IS IMPORTANT: Do not add any butter until the egg/sugar mixture has cooled to room temperature! As you beat the sugar into the yolks, it will first get very hot, and then start to cool as you beat it more. If, after you’ve beaten it well and it’s nice and thick, the mixture is still warm, place it in the refrigerator to cool before adding the butter.
Add the butter a few cubes at a time, beating well until they’re all incorporated. It should look like a light and fluffy, pale yellow frosting. At this point, you can optionally add about 1 1/2 Tbsp. dark rum. I’d definitely recommend it.
Stash it in the fridge to cool a bit. You can leave it in the fridge for a day, covered, but if it’s gotten really firm you’ll need to beat it again before using it so you can spread it easily.
Assembling the Cake:
Start with one layer of meringue, and add enough frosting to cover it, but don’t use too much or you won’t have enough for all of it. I had just enough frosting to do all the layers and cover the outside.
Repeat, alternating meringue and buttercream until you use all the meringue disks. Place the final meringue layer upside down so the top is flat.
Ice the top and the sides of the cake. As you can see, my cake icing skills are seriously lacking. Lucky for me (and you, if you struggle with this, too) the whole thing is getting covered in cashews so you won’t even be able to tell.
Use 1 cup of chopped cashews to cover the top and sides. You’ll need to press them gently against the sides to get them to adhere well.
Transfer to a serving place and chill for 2 hours or more, then slice. For best results, use a serrated knife and push down straight through the layers. It’s a pretty fragile cake, so be careful!
I also suggest cutting the pieces fairly small– as you might have guessed, this is a very rich dessert!
Happy Birthday to me!
For the meringue layers
6 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups roasted unsalted cashews, chopped finely
Preheat your oven to 225˚F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Trace 6 6-inch circles on the parchment in pencil, then flip parchment over and grease very lightly. In the bowl of a high-powered mixer, beat 6 egg whites until foamy (save the yolks for later), then sprinkle 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar over it and beat until stiff, but not dry. Slowly beat in 3/4 cup of sugar and beat until stiff and glossy, and add 1 tsp. vanilla. Fold the nuts in gently until just incorporated. Pipe meringues onto the circles evenly, spreading the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 1.5 hours, rotating sheets halfway through. Turn off oven and allow to cool completely in the oven.
For the buttercream:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
6 egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
1.5 tbsp dark rum (optional)
Beat egg yolks until pale and thick. Meanwhile, place sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until it reaches 235˚-240˚F. Immediately pour the sugar mixture in a thin, steady stream into the yolks, with the mixer on medium. Beat until thick. Allow mixture to cool (if it hasn’t already) and beat in butter, a few cubes at a time until fully incorporated and light and fluffy. Add rum. Chill for at least 30 minutes. If chilled longer, beat again until easily spreadable before assembling cake.
Layer, alternating meringues and buttercream, then spread buttercream over top and sides of the cake. Top with additional 1 cup finely chopped cashews all over top and sides of cake. Chill for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving.
Hi Amber! I’m going to try your french butter cream recipe today. How many cups of buttercream does the recipe yield? Also, does it hold up well in warm environments?
Hi Franchesca! I’m so sorry I didn’t see this right away. I hope it worked out for you alright. I didn’t measure exactly how much it makes, but I think it’s in the 2 to 2 1/2 cup range.
As with any buttercream, it is susceptible to warm temperatures. If you live somewhere warm, you’ll want to keep it in the fridge as long as possible before serving.
Hi amber – great recipe! I’m having a little trouble getting the icing fluffy. How long to you beat it and at what setting? Mine is creamy and heavy – not light and fluffy at all. I imagine its supposed to increase in volume as well? Not happening to mine.
You’ll need to beat it on high. As you’re adding the butter, you want to beat each addition in until it’s completely incorporated. If you do this for each cube of butter, it should be fluffy by the end. If you didn’t beat on high right away, you could probably beat on high now for several minutes and see if that works. It should look like the picture. It should be creamy and buttery and fluffy..
If you didn’t let your egg yolk/sugar mixture cool down enough, though, and your butter melted when you added it, it won’t come together.
I hope that helps! Let me know if you’re still having problems.
This looks great! How sweet would you say this recipe is?
It’s fairly sweet. I tend to not like my desserts terribly sweet, and this is right on the edge for me! That being said, I do enjoy it quite a bit as long as I don’t eat a huge piece! haha.
This was my mom’s favorite cake in the Philippines. It was always her birthday treat. 😀
I love that!
Hey Amber. I am making this as we speak and I have a ton of egg white mix left. Can I put the rest in the freezer covered with wrap and be able to make more tomorrow? Did not realize it takes an hour and a half to make the base as I was so excited to make it lol and it’s midnight here and I’m making it. Thank you!!
I’m a little unclear as to what point in the process you’re in. Have you mixed all the ingredients for the meringue layers already?
I’ve never tried freezing the mixture. I’m not entirely sure what it would do to it. If you do decide to try it, let me know how it goes! Sorry, I know it’s a little bit of a slow cake to make! It’s totally worth it, though. 🙂
Amber, this is one of my favorite cakes of all time! It’s definitely worth staying awake to make, even my mom requested some that’s why I ask if I can freeze the remainder of the whites. The cashews are in and I’m currently 40 mins away from finishing the baking the process. I’m mixing the butter in as we speak, it smells so delicious already but I will try freezing the rest and see what happens and will let you know. Thank you for sharing this recipe. 😁
Wanted to let you know, I froze the meringue & buttercream leftovers. The meringue was a lot less fluffy than it’s supposed to be so I beat it a little bit more and it worked just as well as making a new batch. I brought the finished product to my mom and she could not stop eating it lol I had to stop her because she has high sugar.
Andrea, thanks so much for updating about this! I’m sure there are others who will like to know it worked for you!
Hi Amber! Thanks for the recipe! I will try to make it this weekend. May I ask where can I buy dark rum?
Hi Jen! You should be able to find dark rum at any liquor store.
Thank you very much!
Is this buttercream suitable for piping?
Hi Carol! This buttercream should pipe just fine. 🙂
Hi! I wanna try your sanz rival recipe, ive had one before but the wafer just turned out to be chewy and i want it crunchy instead. You didnt mention if yours is either of both but you might have the idea how to make one crunchy. Should i keep it in the freezer? Thank you❤️
My recipe is pretty crisp. You’ll want to make sure that your daquoise layers get very dry in the oven, so leaving them overnight in the oven to dry out is your best bet. If your oven doesn’t seal well, you may need to crisp them up more in the morning by turning your oven to 200F until preheated and then turning it off and leaving them in for another hour or so.
Sans Rival will be crispiest if served right away. If you live in a humid climate, you’ll always be fighting to keep the meringue from getting chewy. Storing in the freezer might help, but the buttercream will get very firm in the freezer. So you might prefer keeping it in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Hi Amber 🙋 I used your recipe to make my very first sansrival cake and it turned out (as my husband said, “perfect!”. I made it for my husband’s birthday last weekend and he loved it 😊. Thank you for the recipe. 😊
Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know! It makes me so happy to hear!