Why pie when you can cake?

I’m not the biggest fan of tarts and pies. Unless the pastry is exceptionally good, it’s just never as tasty as the filling, and always strikes me as a bit of a waste of space.  I’m more of a cake girl, and that’s why this lemon meringue cake is one of my all-time favourite things to make and eat.

Layers of sponge cake, filled with lemon cream, the whole thing covered with swirling meringue that’s gently toasted on the outside, and perfectly gooey on the inside – it’s a stunner.

While this looks extremely impressive and makes a fantastic celebration cake, it isn’t really terribly complicated to make.  If you can make a very simple sponge, and if you can make the lemon cream, and if you can make meringue – all of which aren’t too hard in themselves – then you can make this.  The only slightly odd requirement is a blowtorch, and you should definitely buy one of those anyway, because they’re an awful lot of fun.

The Cake

I tend to make a genoise cake for this recipe as it’s less rich than other recipes. When you’re going to add all that lemon cream and meringue, I don’t think you need to add extra butter. You may disagree.

40g (3 tbsp) melted butter
4 medium (large, if you’re in the US) eggs
100g (1/2 cup minus 2 tbsp) sugar
60g (1/2 cup) flour
60g cornflour (1/2 cup minus 1 tbsp) cornflour (cornstarch in the US)

1) Prepare an 8″/20cm round cake tin: butter the base, place a circle of baking parchment on it, then butter that and dust with flour. Don’t grease, line or flour the sides of the tin. Heat the oven to 180*C / 350*F. Keep the melted butter warm, put to one side. Sift together the flour and cornflour/starch.
2) In a double boiler, or a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water, whisk the eggs and sugar constantly until hot to the touch.
3) Transfer immediately to a stand mixer with the whisk attachment fitted and whisk for 5 minutes on medium-high speed until tripled in volume. Do not stop earlier than 5 minutes even if it looks ready or disaster may ensue.
4) Sift in the dry ingredients in two batches, using a metal spoon to very, very gently fold them into the eggs/sugar, without deflating the mixture.
5) Once combined, take a big dollop of this mixture and whisk it into the warm melted butter. Fold this carefully back into the rest of the mixture.
6) Pour gently into the prepared cake tin and bake for around 25 minutes, until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the tin. Do not open the oven while the cake is baking, at least not until very nearly ready, or it may collapse.
7) Leave to cool in the tin, then loosen the sides and turn out. Cut into three layers when ready to assemble the cake.

If you have the time, soaking the génoise with sugar syrup helps keep it moist, and adding lemon to this enhances the lemon flavour in the cake overall.

Simply bring 100 ml (1/2 cup) water to the boil with 100g (1/2 cup)  sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat, cool, then chill for 30 minutes. Once cold, stir in 75 ml (1/3 cup) lemon juice. Brush over the top side of each of the three génoise layers.

I won’t post the lemon cream recipe again because it is pretty darn long, but you can find detailed instructions for it in this blog post from a little while back.

Swiss Meringue

8 egg whites
1 cup plus 1 tbsp [250g] sugar

In a double boiler, heat the egg whites and sugar until hot to the touch, whisking all the while. Transfer to a stand mixer and whisk on medium-high speed until very glossy and stiff.

Build your cake!

Spread half the lemon cream mixture onto the bottom layer, and top with a second cake layer. Spread this with lemon cream, and top with remaining cake layer.

Refridgerate for an hour, ideally

Spread the entire top and sides of the cake with a thick layer of meringue, making sure it is nicely textured and swirled.

Wield your blowtorch and gently torch the meringue until nicely toasted.

The inspiration for this cake comes from the beautiful Tartine book, which I can’t recommend highly enough.