One of the few things that kept me hopeful during what seemed the longest, coldest winter of our lives was my faithful Meyer lemon tree. I placed it near a sunny window and it rewarded me with a nice crop of beautiful, juicy lemons for months. Now that it’s spring, I plucked a few of the remaining fruits and decided to celebrate the season with something fitting for the occasion — a lemon meringue cake.
Lemon meringue pie is a favorite of mine, but I fail miserably when it comes to baking one. The pastry either crumbles or the meringue weeps, which causes me to crumble and weep at the time I spent creating a disaster. Still, I go back time and again determined to succeed and once again pull a pie from the oven that taunts my sunny disposition.
But this time I decided to thwart the pie gremlin and make a lemon meringue cake. Two layers of sponge cake topped with light meringue with a citrusy lemon curd and whipped cream filling seemed just the thing to celebrate the last of the lemons — and would spare me the pie trauma.
The recipe is from Nigella Lawson (no relation, sadly, because I would love to have those genes) and differs from other lemon meringue cake recipes in that it resembles more of a torte than a layer cake. It looks kind of squishy and squashy on the platter, but I assure you, one bite and you won’t miss lemon meringue pie ever again.
Lemon Meringue Cake
Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson
1 1/4 sticks very soft unsalted butter
4 large eggs (separated)
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar (plus 1 teaspoon)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Zest of 1 lemon
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup heavy cream (or whipping cream)
5 1/4 ounces good quality lemon curd
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line with waxed paper and butter two 8-inch cake pans.
Mix the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of the sugar, butter, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and lemon zest in a processor. Add the lemon juice and milk and process again.
Divide the mixture between the prepared tins. Spread with a rubber spatula until smooth.
Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks form and then slowly whip in 1 cup of sugar. Divide the whites between the two sponge-filled tins, spreading the meringue straight on top of the cake batter.
Smooth one flat with a metal spatula, and with the back of a spoon, peak the other and sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the peaks. Put the pans into the oven for 20-25 minutes.
With a cake-tester, pierce the cake that has the flat meringue topping to check it’s cooked all through. (It will have risen now, but will fall back later.) No sponge mixture should stick to the tester. Remove both cakes to a wire rack and let cool completely in the pans.
Unmold the flat-topped one onto a cake stand or plate, meringue side down.
Beat the heavy cream until thick, but not stiff, and set aside. Spread the flat sponge surface of the first cake with the lemon curd and then spread the cream and top with the remaining cake, bronze-peaked meringue on top.
Per serving: 479 calories; 25 g fat; (15 g saturated fat; 47 percent calories from fat); 61 g carbohydrates; 45 g sugar; 175 mg cholesterol; 178 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 1 g fiber