My ugly duckling: the 2011 Brazo de Mercedes Experiment

Happy Easter, folks! I’m still stuffed from a huge Easter brunch / dinner party, and I hope you ate just as well today. Contrary to my most recent posts, I *do* still love writing about and cooking food, and have joined up with the Kulinarya Cooking Club as an extra motivation to push myself to try new-to-me Filipino food experiments.

This month’s theme, courtesy of Lala, was “decadence” and I immediately knew what I had to try my hand at making: Brazo de Mercedes (translated from Spanish as “Mercedes’s arm”). Don’t worry, there were no body parts involved in the preparation of this decadent dessert, though trying to cook and bake all day on a sprained ankle really was a painful bodily experience.

I didn’t have Brazo de Mercedes very often as a kid– this rich cake, basically a meringue sheet wrapped around yema or an egg custard, was pretty hard to find in the very puti neighborhoods of my youth. When I did come across it, though, I would always have to order it– the fluffy, sticky sweet meringue and the filling which was like a leche flan on steroids was simply too good to resist.

When a friend threw her annual birthday dinner party, and asked us all to bring a food item featuring some kind of citrus, I knew what I had to do: make a Brazo de Mercedes with a twist, adding Meyer lemons to make a filling akin to lemon curd.

Unfortunately, finding Meyer lemons proved to be impossible, but lemons from our home lemon tree and some extra sugar came to the rescue. Everything at first went really well. Our meringue sheet, which dear hubs mixed up in our Kitchenaid, came out beautifully:

And baked up perfectly brown and lovely. Basic meringue recipe (8 egg whites, 1 tsp. cream of tartar, 3/4 cup Caster sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla) on a slightly too-big 12×17 jelly roll plan:

When it came to filling, though, I began to run into some trouble. The “Filipino-American” cookbook I used diverged from the typical Brazo filling, asking for gelatin and whipping cream to be folded into the egg yolk/condensed milk mixture. That, plus the juice from the lemons I added, made this filling soooo runny. Even after cooling down in fridge and waiting for gelatin to set more, it wasn’t doing the trick. My poor Brazo had to be subjected to some plastic surgery to make it to the birthday party intact:

Even if it was a little whole lot uglier than the beautiful Brazos I remember, people still loved it, and I must admit the filling was delish, with the lemon lightening up the yema nicely.

I was going to just brush this sad experiment under the bridge, but then remembered we would have a second chance to make it again– for the Easter brunch we were invited to today. This time around, I turned to the queen of Filipino home cooking: Nora Daza. I followed her instructions to a T, and was feeling much better about this experiment. Sadly, this time too I was destined to have an ugly Brazo de Mercedes. The hubs got a little too over-zealous with the Kitchenaid mixer, and the meringue sheet didn’t rise, and my filling was still too runny, though not as much as before. My poor Brazo was the ugliest desert in the house, but at least she was delicious!

I’m not sure I’ll be trying this recipe again soon– it is a decadent recipe, after all– but if any of you are Brazo de Mercedes pros, please send along your tips! Now that I have these jelly roll plans, I think I want to bring back the old-school Filipino roll cakes of my youth– the mocha roll, buko pandan roll, and DEFINITELY the ube roll. Anyone want to be a taste tester for these upcoming experiments?

Posted on April 24, 2011, in adventures in home cooking, Kulinarya Cooking Club and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. yay congrats on your very first KCC post!!! i don’t remember what Brazo De Mercedes looks like, it’s been that long, so to me, it looks just like a dessert. no preconceived notions LOL!

    welcome, welcome!

    Happy Easter!

  2. I’m not even sure if there is a standard on Brazo de Mercedes as far as shape is concern like what looks good or if it has to be cylindrically perfect. I don’t know about other people but for as long as it tastes good, and all the self-indulging ingredients are there. :) It works for me! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Ray and Lala- you’re both right that there is no “right” way a Brazo should look, but I think I am now so used to seeing the mass-produced fluffy rolls from places like Red Ribbon and Goldilocks that it is hard not to compare. I definitely still need to work on the filling, I don’t know what I am doing wrong that makes it so runny! I swear it is thick when I cook it, but then after it’s cooled and fills the meringue it just oozes everywhere (yuck!)

  4. among the foods i’m afraid of preparing, this is one….congrats on your first attempt…. I don’t have the courage yet… :)

  5. it took me several tries to make brazo too. It is the most challenging of all desserts that I’ve made. But sometimes humidity has something to do with the fluffy-ness, Also make the filling thicker and let it cool. Cook it longer. I don’t use double broiler like I used to before but it yields a better filling. I have a post in my blog that you might want to check… also don’t get discouraged. Once you get the hang of it, you could duplicate making a nice brazo. Also I make mine shorter to have a better control in rolling it.
    I hope the tips I shared will help you. but then again as Ray and Lala said, for as long as it’s delish, who cares about its appearance…
    happy easter!
    malou

  6. Congratulations on your first post!

  7. Lovely classic dessert and one of my favourites. I think we really love custard and meringue concoctions. Never mind the shape, it actually looks delicious.

  8. i’ve tried different recipes for brazo and i always end up with a runny centre! good first try though… and even if she’s not pretty, i’m sure she settled well in the tummy! =)

  9. I must say, A for effort on the Brazo. Not an easy thing to make. Bet it tasted good though!

  10. I used a recipe and it worked (i guess i got super luckY!) .it’s not a brazo de mercedes, but it was called something else…i don’t mind sharing it and just drop me email to remind me.

  11. Welcome! Don’t feel sorry w/ your brazo de mercedes;) your braza looks delish.
    I see some brazo made like neopolitan style..layered. It’s sort of a combination between brazo and sans rival.
    Wonder how long you cooked your fillings? maybe you can cook it a bit longer until it gets to a paste consistency.
    How about naming it your brazo de mercedes ( Brazo de mercedes my version).
    Thanks for sharing.

  12. Yes, I think I’m going to try making this as a layer cake next time! I saw Trissa had a yummy recipe for that kind of brazo with a graham cracker crust on her blog.

    When I cooked the filling the second time, it was very thick. I may not have cooled it down enough when I put inside meringue, so it may have gotten melted then.

  13. No worries – I’ve never been able to pull off brazo de mercedes. Kudos for trying it out!

  14. You are so brave trying BDM! I bet it was still yummy!

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