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Make Meringue Layers. Melt over hot water the chocolate pieces and water. When perfectly smooth, remove from heat and cool (but don't let harden).
In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff; gradually add powdered sugar and then vanilla extract.
Slice two pints of strawberries: One is used between cake layers, the other is sliced, sugared and refrigerated to produce more juice. The sugared berries are served as a sauce. Save several whole berries for garnish.
To assemble, place a meringue layer on a serving plate, rounded side down. Spread a VERY THIN coating of chocolate over it. NOTE: GO EASY on chocolate - too much will make it impossible to cut cake!
Top chocolate with a layer (about 3/4-inch thick) of whipped cream. Top cream with a layer of sliced berries. Place a second layer of meringue on top of this, and repeat filling. Top with final meringue, rounded side up, and frost sides and top smoothly with remaining whipped cream. Additional cream may be used to pipe a design onto sides and top of cake.
Refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with several whole strawberries and chocolate curls. Top with strawberry or raspberry sauce, if desired.
Makes 8 servings.
<span style="color:green">MERINGUE LAYERS:
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup superfine sugar
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. In mixer, beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, cider vinegar, and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar and continue beating until meringue is stiff and glossy.
Line baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Trace three, eight-inch circles on paper. Spread meringue evenly and equally over circles. Bake one hour or until meringue becomes bisque colored. Then turn off oven, open oven door and let meringues "rest" in oven another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully peel off parchment or waxed paper. Put cake on racks to dry until thoroughly cool.