Who says lemon meringue is just for pies? The combination of tart lemon curd and sweet, toasted meringue pairs beautifully with a simple butter cake enhanced with lemon zest. I have chosen to make this into a 6-inch cake because there are plenty of times you might want a cake for a smaller group. You can still get 8 servings out of this, but I often make this size when someone wants a birthday cake for a family of three or four. Read the recipe through so that you understand how you will be using the Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe (hint: you will make it sans butter and voila, you will have a lovely meringue topping). Below is the cake before the meringue is browned.
And here it is below while being browned with a propane torch.
Images: Sam Jackson
- 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
- ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 1 recipe of ingredients for Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC), without the butter
- For the Cake: Position the rack in the center of your oven. Preheat to 350˚F. Coat the insides of two 6-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, line bottoms with parchment rounds, then spray parchment.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl to combine and aerate; set aside.
- In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar gradually and beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Beat in lemon zest and vanilla.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down after each addition, allowing each egg to be absorbed before continuing.
- Add the flour mixture in four additions, alternating with the milk. Begin and end with the flour mixture and beat briefly until smooth. Divide batter evenly in pans.
- Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick shows a few moist crumbs. The cake will have begun to come away from the sides of the pan. Cool on rack for 10 minutes. Unmold, peel off parchment, and place directly on rack to cool completely. The cake is now ready to fill and frost. Alternatively, double wrap in plastic wrap; store at room temperature if assembling within 24 hours.
- For the Filling, Meringue and Assembly: Right before assembling, prepare the IMBC beating until the meringue is cooled; you will not be adding any butter or vanilla.
- While meringue is beating and cooling, assemble your cake. Place one cake layer on your serving plate. Place a generous amount of lemon curd on top and spread all the way to the sides, trying not to let it drip beyond that boundary. Place second cake layer on top, pressing gently to adhere. Top that cake layer with about a thinner layer of lemon curd.
- Take cooled meringue and place a very generous amount on top on the lemon curd. Use an icing spatula to spread the meringue all over the top of the cake. Make sure to glide your spatula on top of the meringue; do not let it dip down onto the lemon curd, which you want to seal in. Coat the sides of the cake generously as well. You want a thick coat of meringue all around. Use the spatula or a spoon to create peaks here and there (use image for inspiration). Cake may stand at cool room temperature for up to 6 hours.
- Right before serving, use a propane or butane torch to brown the meringue. Insert candle, if desired, and get ready to sing!