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This Showstopper Holiday Dessert Is Also Gluten-Free

By Andrea Geary Published

Layers of nutty meringue, rich buttercream, and dark, satiny ganache, dacquoise is an elegant, make-ahead masterpiece—that also happens to be gluten-free.

There’s no more stunning finale to a holiday celebration than a chocolate dacquoise. Named for Dax, a town in southwestern France where the dessert was first made, the confection is all sleek planes and clean right angles, elegantly enrobed in glossy dark chocolate studded with toasted nuts. Slicing it reveals a layered interior of light, nutty meringue sandwiched with silky buttercream.

You rarely see dacquoise anywhere but fancy patisseries or high-end restaurants because making one is a project. But it’s eminently doable with a solid strategy and formula, and naturally make-ahead; in fact, this dessert improves when it’s assembled a day or two before serving, as the flavors meld and the buttercream softens the meringue. The fact that gluten-free guests can enjoy it, too, is just one more plus. Here are some of my key discoveries.

For the Meringue

  • I whipped together egg whites, cream of tartar, and sugar, withholding some of the sugar until the whites were thoroughly aerated, which helped the foam bake up lighter, then folded in ground nuts.
  • Instead of piping the meringue onto a baking sheet, I spread it in a single flat rectangle, which was easier.
  • To speed the baking time, I increased the oven temperature and spritzed the surface of the meringue with water so it didn’t form a skin and cause the foam to trap air and balloon as it baked.
  • Wrapped tightly in plastic, the cooled meringue kept well at room temperature for a week.

For the Buttercream

  • I opted to make a German buttercream—soft butter that’s whipped with pastry cream—which is only moderately sweet and doesn’t require fussing over a hot sugar syrup.
  • Instant espresso powder gave the buttercream a classic coffee-flavored profile, while a splash of amaretto complemented the nutty meringue. 
  • In addition to spreading a generous layer of buttercream between the dacquoise layers, I lightly coated the exterior with buttercream to “spackle” over the rough bits and so that its richness and flavor would cover every surface. 

For the Ganache

  • Stirred into the melted chocolate-cream mixture, a couple teaspoons of corn syrup gave the satiny mixture extra shine.  
  • For substantial chocolate presence in every bite, I layered the ganache with the buttercream and meringue in addition to pouring it over the exterior of the dacquoise.

Assembling the dessert takes some precision and care (and the right tools—be sure to have an offset spatula and serrated knife on hand), but the results will look and taste patisserie-caliber. In fact, the first time I served it, my guests were practically speechless.

More holiday showstoppers:

Recipe Gingerbread Layer Cake

Leave gingerbread people to the kids. The best vehicle for seriously sophisticated flavor is a tender, moist showstopper cake.

Recipe Caramel-Espresso Yule Log with Meringue Bracket-Style Mushrooms and Chocolate Crumbles

A fluffy, tender cake that rolls effortlessly around a plush, stay-put filling, and most of the work can be completed days in advance? It's a Christmas miracle.

Recipe French Apple Tart

Classic form and good looks are compulsory for a holiday centerpiece, but they don’t matter if the dessert falls apart when you serve it. We wanted integrity with the beauty.

Recipe Orange, Cranberry, and Mint Pavlova with Whipped Cream

Pavlova is a drop-dead gorgeous dessert of marshmallowy, crisp-shelled meringue piled with lightly whipped cream and fresh fruit. Ours is as foolproof as it is beautiful.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.