There are three components - the cake, the lemon curd and the meringue. The cake part to this recipe is a beautiful moist lemon cake which would be lovely on its own. But the real hero is the curd - Oh.My.God. It took every iota of will power not to stick my spoon in and eat the whole lot before it made it anywhere near the cake. So, so good! And while there are a few parts to it, it is not as daunting as you may think.
Lemon Meringue Cake
Step 1: The Cake
230g unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or use salted butter and leave this out)
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and flour two 23cm/9-inch round cake tins.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Then beat in the vanilla and the lemon zest.
Add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until just combined.
Divide cake batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the tins.
Step 2: The Lemon Curd
NB: This makes about a cup of curd, so you can up the quantities (proportionately of course) if you need/want to make more - ie if you want extra layers or to gobble spoonfuls.
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
Prepare a bath of iced/very cold water ( I filled my small sink with cold water and it worked fine). Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl. Add the lemon juice, butter and lemon zest. Place over a pot of simmering water and cook, whisking occasionally, until thick - this should take around 15 minutes. Transfer the bowl to the cold water bath and let it stand, stirring occasionally, until cool. The curd will thicken up during this time. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd (like a cartouche, but made from cling wrap). Transfer to refrigerator until completely cold, or you can make it in advance and leave it overnight.
Step 3: The Meringue
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
1.5 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Combine the sugar, egg whites, and lemon juice in the bowl of an electric mixer set over simmering water. Whisk until sugar is dissolved.
Transfer bowl to the mixer stand and beat the egg white mix on medium speed for 10 minutes. Increase to high speed and beat until stiff glossy peaks form.
A word, if I may, regarding the meringue. I cheated OK? I wanted to save a bit of time and I made a French style meringue, which is more what you'd use for pavs and baked pie toppings. The actual recipe uses a Swiss style meringue made over heat which is more stable and helps it to hold its texture longer. I found my meringue dissolved over time, a bit like bubbles in the bubble bath, which is why it doesn't look as fluffy and luscious as the picture on Martha's site.
While it still tasted great, I learnt a new lesson about the science of cooking: for meringue that won't be baked used either Swiss or Italian style for better stability and ultimately, better presentation.
Remove cakes from their tins and trim the tops so they are nice and even. Eat off-cuts for quality control purposes*. Then slice each cake in half. Alternate layers of cake with a topping of lemon curd, finishing with a cake layer. Refrigerate the cake for 1-2 hours
Once its had a chance to 'set', take it out and then smooth on a layer of meringue all over, and then slather on the rest of the meringue. To complete the cake, you will then need to brown the meringue with a blow torch.
* Optional :)
Next - Cookies and Cream Cheesecake of the non-baked variety.