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Martha's Lemon Meringue Cake

MyCookbook Recipe Database
MyCookbook Member: MarthasArchive
Recipe Category: Dessert
Recipe Preparation Level: moderate
    Simple or complex, there’s no dessert or confection that can enhance a special occasion (or make an ordinary one memorable) like a cake. It’s no coincidence that auspicious moments such as birthdays or weddings are emblematized with a cake, and the number of different recipes are staggering—literally hundreds exist, from basic pound cakes to elaborate cakes that appeal to the eye as much as the palate.

    One of Martha’s favorite cakes—a contender, as she says, for not only cake of the month, but cake of the year—is inspired by the lemon meringue pie. Instead of a crust, a cake is cut into layers, spread thickly with lemon curd, and covered with a sweet, airy meringue. The curd provides a buttery, deep lemon flavor and is extremely easy to make. It can be stored in the freezer for up to a year, to be thawed when needed. One tip to aid in constructing the cake is to use a bamboo skewer thrust straight through the cake, right in the middle. This prevents the layers from slipping or tilting. Spread the meringue around the skewer, and use a pair of kitchen shears to snip off the end.
    LEMON MERINGUE CAKE
    Makes one 8–inch round layer cake

    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
    3 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 cups sugar
    4 large eggs
    1 1/4 cups buttermilk
    1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    Zest of 2 lemons
    Lemon Curd Filling (recipe follows)
    Swiss Meringue (recipe follows)

    1. Heat oven to 350º. Butter two round 8-by-2-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper. Dust bottoms and sides of pans with flour, making sure to coat pans evenly. Tap to remove any excess. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

    2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until batter is no longer slick, about 5 minutes; scrape down sides.

    3. Reduce mixer speed to low. Slowly add sifted flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk a little at a time, starting and ending with flour. Beat in vanilla and lemon zest.

    4. Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, and return to wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.

    5. To assemble, turn cakes upside-down onto cardboard cake rounds and remove parchment paper. Using a serrated knife, slice each cake in half horizontally. You will have four layers.

    6. Spread 1/3 of the lemon curd filling over the bottom layer. Top with second cake layer, and spread with 1/3 more of the filling. Remove the cake round from second cake. Top with third cake layer. Spread with the remaining filling. Top with fourth cake layer. Chill assembled cake until set, at least 1 hour, or overnight.

    7. Heat oven to 400°. Using an offset spatula, spread the Swiss Meringue all over the cake, making decorative swirls. Place cake, still on cake round, on a Silpat (French nonstick baking mat; see sources) lined baking sheet. Transfer to oven. Bake, watching carefully, until meringue has browned around edges and begins to brown elsewhere, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer cake, on round, to a serving plate. When slicing cake, run a knife under hot water, then wipe dry, and cut. Repeat with hot water between slices.


    LEMON CURD FILLING
    Makes 1 1/2 cups

    4 large egg yolks
    2 large whole eggs
    3/4 cup sugar
    1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
    4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    Zest of 2 lemons

    1. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and whole eggs. Add sugar and lemon juice. Set over low heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and stir to cool slightly.

    2. Strain curd through a sieve set over a small bowl. Add the butter, a piece at time, stirring until smooth after each addition. Stir in the lemon zest, and let cool completely.


    SWISS MERINGUE
    Makes enough for one 8-inch cake

    6 large egg whites
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    1. Combine the egg whites, sugar, and vanilla in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and whites are hot to the touch, 5 to 7 minutes.

    2. Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, mix on low speed, gradually increasing to high speed, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Use immediately.


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