1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g dark chocolate, very finely chopped, plus extra to sprinkle
9 egg whites
2 cups (440g) caster sugar, plus 2 teaspoons extra
1 tsp white vinegar
120g slivered almonds
2 tbsp thickened cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 pears, peeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges
4 star anise
2 cinnamon quills
5 cardamom pods
400ml ginger beer
1 cup (250ml) thickened cream
65g unsalted butter
2/3 firmly packed cup (150g) brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp amaretto liqueur (optional – see notes)
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 3 baking trays with baking paper and draw an 18cm circle on each sheet.
Sift cocoa, cornflour, cream of tartar and cinnamon into a small bowl, add the chocolate and stir to combine. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk egg whites with electric beaters until frothy. With motor running, slowly add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly and allowing each spoonful to be incorporated before adding the next, until stiff and glossy. Fold in vinegar and chocolate mixture.
Divide meringue among the trays and spread to cover the circles, smoothing the tops. Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce oven to 150°C and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes. Turn the oven off and allow meringue to cool completely in the oven.
Meanwhile, for the pears, place all the ingredients and 1 1/2 cups (375ml) water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and cook for 8-10 minutes until pear is tender when pierced with a knife. Transfer pear to a bowl, then return the poaching liquid to medium-high heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until reduced by two-thirds. Strain over the pear and set aside to cool.
For the butterscotch sauce, place all the ingredients in a pan over medium heat and bring to just below boiling point. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, for 5-7 minutes until sugar dissolves and the mixture is slightly thickened. Allow to cool.
Place almonds in a frying pan over medium heat and sprinkle over the extra 2 teaspoons caster sugar. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until golden and caramelised. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
To make the mascarpone cream, place mascarpone, cream and vanilla in a bowl and whisk until smooth and combined.
Place 1 meringue on a platter and top with one-third each of the cream, spiced pear and nuts, then drizzle with a little butterscotch sauce and pear syrup. Repeat the layers 2 more times, then sprinkle with extra chopped chocolate, to serve.