Discover more from Style Sweet Bake Club
Filipino Sans Rival Cake
A cashew meringue and French buttercream cake like no other.
It’s been a rich and buttery week in the Huff kitchen. After nailing the Tiramisu Pie just in time for Father’s Day, I was stoked to make this equally delicious and decadent Sans Rival Cake. With layers of chewy cashew meringue and luscious French buttercream, this cake definitely stands up to its name.
Sans Rival, meaning “without rival” is a dessert truly in a class of its own. While the pastry techniques and name are French, the cake is decidedly Filipino. The recipe traces back to the Philippines during the 1920-30’s, but the origins have been disputed.
Some say that the Sans Rival was created after many Filipinos traveled to Europe to work and study around that time. The cake is undoubtedly similar to the French dacquoise. Instead of hazelnuts, the Sans Rival is made with cashews native to the Philippines.
It makes sense that these French cooking techniques would be employed using local ingredients after returning back to the Philippines. However, another journalist claims the dessert took inspiration from the Spanish Tarta Imperial Rusa that has Russian roots - also made with French meringue and ground nuts.
Bake Club is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
While my grandfather’s family is from the Philippines, this is not a recipe we grew up eating. In fact, I only found out about this cake a few weeks ago and just had to recreate one as immediately as possible.
Whether you’ve been enjoying this cake for years or just discovered it like me - oh my goodness it is so dang good! Yes, I’ve made my share of meringue and layer cakes, but I am not kidding when I say that this cake truly is unbeatable and unique.
First, I’d hardly call the layers “cake” in the traditional butter, eggs, sugar, and flour kind of way. And that’s okay! I love the addition of toasted cashews to the meringue layers. They’re chewy! They’re crunchy! They’re delightful! (they’re also gluten free!)
French buttercream is heaven on a spoon. Made with egg yolks and loads of butter, it is luxurious and decadent with a custard-like, vanilla flavor. After whipping, it is still somehow light and silky. Vanilla bean paste is definitely welcomed here as is a heavy pinch of salt.
Altogether, this cake is one that I could not stop eating. You know how I love to play with unique flavors (see this Mango Matcha Cake or Lychee Rose Raspberry), but the vanilla, salt, and cashews were more than enough to keep me coming back for more, cutting the thinnest slices and picking off crunchy bits every time I passed through the kitchen. It’s not a cake I’d make every week, but it’s definitely worth repeating for a special event or holiday.
Variations of Sans Rival Cake
Pistachio Sans Rival - swap pistachios for the cashews for a stunning green variation.
Silvanas - these meringue pastries are like mini sandwich cookie versions of a Sans Rival Cake rolled in graham cracker crumbs.
If you and/or your family make Sans Rival Cake, please let me know in the comments below!
500g (about 4 ⅓ cups) cashews, divided
8 large egg whites
1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place cashews on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. You will know when they are done when they smell nutty and roasted. Remove from the oven.
In the meantime, make a template for the meringue disks. Make five, 8-inch round circles by tracing an 8-inch cake pan on a piece of parchment paper. Flip the parchment so that the ink/pencil is on the bottom and line 3 baking sheets. You should be able to fit two 8-inch rounds on one half sheet. Set aside.
Divide the nuts in half, placing 250g in a food processor. Pulse to grind. The ground nuts should be smaller than gravel but larger than almond meal or nut flour. It’s okay if there are some larger pieces, like a pea, and some sandy bits. Set aside to cool completely.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin whipping on low speed until small bubbles form and the mix turns opaque. Over the next minute or two, slowly add in the sugar and cream of tartar while gradually increasing the speed to medium-high.
Continue to whip on medium-high speed until the meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks.
Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add about a third of the ground cashews along with a pinch of salt. Use a large rubber spatula to fold the nuts into the meringue. Add another third and keep folding, taking care not to deflate the meringue. Add the last third, and fold until combined.
Grab a large piping bag with a large-ish opening (½ to 1-inch) and fill with the cashew meringue. Starting in the center, pipe the meringue in large spirals to fill the traced circles on the parchment paper. It’s okay if they aren’t perfect at first and better to err on the smaller/thinner side, as to not run out by the time you get to the 5th circle.
After the meringue is mostly piped out, go back and evenly spread the meringue circles with an offset spatula, evenly distributing any of the remaining meringue.
Bake the meringue disks for 40 to 50 minutes, quickly rotating halfway through. When done, the meringues will be slightly browned and dry to the touch.
Remove the baking sheets from the oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Gently flip the meringues over and peel the parchment paper off their backs. Set aside until ready to assemble.
1 ¼ (250g) cups granulated sugar
¼ cup (60ml) water
8 egg yolks
1 ½ cups (340g) unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or extract
Place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Swirl to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until it reaches 238°F on a candy thermometer.
Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the egg yolks on high until pale in color and doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes.
When the sugar mixture is ready, turn the mixer to low speed and carefully stream in the boiling sugar into the mixing egg yolks. Once added, turn the mixer back up to high speed. Continue mixing the egg mixture until the outside of the bowl cools to room temperature and no heat is escaping out of the top of the bowl. The mixture will not hold stiff peaks like a meringue made with egg whites.
With the mixer running on medium-low speed, begin adding in the butter, a couple tablespoons at a time. When done, stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
Add the vanilla and salt. Mix the buttercream on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy.
Chop the remaining toasted cashews and set aside.
Stack the cooled meringue disks and gently trim the edges with a serrated knife so that they are all relatively round and the same size/shape.
Dab a bit of buttercream on a cake board or serving dish. Place one meringue disk on top and gently press down to secure. Dollop ½ cup buttercream on top and spread to the edges with an offset spatula. It will be a rather thin layer of buttercream.
Top with the next meringue disk and repeat. Add the last meringue disk on top, flipped upside down so that the flat bottom is the very top of the cake. Frost the cake with the remaining buttercream, giving the top a swirl, if desired.
It is okay if there is not enough buttercream to completely cover the sides of the cake. Press the chopped cashews all around the sides of the cake.
Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve, preferably a couple hours later or the next day.
Serving and Storage:
Chilling the cake before serving allows all the textures to meld together. The buttercream softens the meringue layers just slightly. Don’t worry, they will be pleasantly chewy with some crunch even a few days later.
Unlike Swiss meringue buttercream, I am okay with serving French buttercream with a little chill from the fridge. It helps make for a cleaner slice, too.
Store the Sans Rival cake in the refrigerator and enjoy within about 3 days of assembling.
I read that it can also be stored in the freezer for a crunchier bite. Let me know if you’d tried it this way!
Review my tips for making French meringue before getting started.