Aug 2, 2010

Lemon Meringue Cake

The last time I made something with lemon curd, I used store-bought curd. (My grandmother always said "boughten" instead of store-bought. Did anyone else grow up thinking that "boughten" was a word?) The boughten lemon curd was good, but there's no substitute for the real stuff, made with fresh eggs, butter, and lemons. Especially lemons.
The first time I made lemon curd, many years ago, I couldn't see how it would possibly work out. But it does. There are just those few breathtaking moments when you think you should take it off the heat because it's going to curdle any second, but you want it just a wee bit thicker. Non-bakers have no idea how thrilling this is.
After taking pictures of the lemon curd, my (usually) trusty photographer skipped town, leaving me, with my little point-and-shoot, to be the meringue photographer. Too bad for Real Photographer that he didn't get to taste any of this lemon meringue cake, because it was spectacular--one of my favorite cakes so far.
So much lemon! Grated lemon rind in the cake, along with egg yolks and sugar.
The egg-yolk part of the batter after it's been beaten for five minutes.
And then after the Wondra flour is laid to rest on top of the batter, waiting for the meringue mixture to be mixed in.
When you're baker and photographer both, you keep forgetting to take pictures. At least I do. The rest of you take amazing pictures all by yourselves. The good part of taking your own pictures is that you don't take shots of your own hands. "Jim!" I always say. "Don't take pictures of my gnarly hands!" He ignores me. I delete many, many photos of said hands each week. No age-spotted hands on display this week, however, as it is not easy to hold the camera with both hands and photograph those same hands.
No meringue photo, but here's one of the thick, rich batter as it's ready to be put into the baking pans.

And as the cakes come out of the oven.
More lemon--lemon juice for the syrup.
I tried sawing the crust off the top of the cake with a serrated bread knife, but I found that what worked best was just to roll it off the top.
And the lemon curd on top of the bottom layer. As Rose recommends, I saved a bit for myself to have on toast.
Then I forgot to take any pictures of the Italian meringue process, which was scary, but not hard. First, because of the warnings I've been receiving about the tricky nature of meringue, especially when made on a humid day in July. But, to my amazement, there were no problems at all. Beginners' luck, probably. Frosting the cake with meringue didn't work out so well, and no matter how I tried to even it out, it had a distinctly lopsided look.
Here it is before going into the 500-degree oven, which, frankly, I did not believe would work. This made me wonder about meringue. Meringue may (or may not) have been discovered by a Swiss chief named Gasparini in the town of Meringen. Before that, there was something called "snow," which was popular in Medieval Europe. There is no definitive answer about who first thought about putting a delicate meringue in a hot oven and browning it.
I've never been a huge fan of meringue, but Rose's Italian Meringue has changed all that. You probably already know it's "Italian" because it's made with a sugar syrup, which makes it more stable.
The browning worked perfectly and beautifully, and I'm now in love with Italian meringue, especially when it's made with lemon. More lemon! I had a lot of fun taking pictures of the meringue because it was so photogenic.
Now here's the sad part. As you can see from the pictures, I placed my cake on the bottom of a springform pan instead of the bottom of a tart pan. I figured that because it was bigger and taller, I'd be able to transfer the cake better, as I was taking it to a party and I wanted to move it to a cake carrier. What I didn't think of is that as soon as I started moving the cake carrier, the springform pan bottom would slide into the sides of the carrier and swoop-swoop! completely eradicate the nicely browned sides of the cake.
But when I showed the denuded cake to my friend Betty, who was hosting the party, she just cut it into slices, and soon you couldn't tell (much) that the sides of the meringue had been deposited on the sides of the cake carrier.
My TASTING PANEL consisted of all the neighbors who came to Betty's TGIF party. First, they reminded me that the TGIF rules forbid homemade treats and allow only things that come in a bag or a can. After scolding me, they started eating.  Then they started oohing and aahing about the cake. Some of the comments: "How did you get the cake so moist--it's not a mix, is it?" "The sweetness of the meringue is so perfect with the tartness of the filling." "This meringue has lemon in it! Usually meringue is so blah, but this is really good!" "I love the way that all the flavors just kind of explode in your mouth." "This is so much better than lemon meringue pie!"

If you want to be the star of your neighborhood, or any other gathering you go to, just take this cake, sit back, and wait for the accolades.


faithy said...

Marie, your cake looks wonderful! My family all had different opinions about this cake.

Boughten sounds fun!

gartblue said...

boughten sounds funky, marie and I too had issues with the Leaning Meringue or Lemon.

hahah ..

missing Jim, don't you?

Melinda said...

I would love to make this cake. Because you know I love lemon anything. I will have to ask my sisters to send me some Wondra. Wondra isn't on our shelves here...not like the ubiquitous Lyle's Golden Syrup!
Your pictures turned out very good but I do miss Jim when he isn't involved!
Boughten oughten be in the dictionary!

Katya said...

Melinda, Wondra isn't necessary--just follow Rose's substitution for AP Flour w/ cornstarch. Worked perfectly.

Marie, I also took this to a large gathering, and it made a splashy splash, despite the damage done by the omnipresent NYC humidity.

Lois B said...

It sounds like they forgave you for not bringing a boughten cake.

Jenn said...

Boughten sounds fancy like a European word.
Beautiful cake and funny write up! I feel bad for Jim for missing this cake.

Katya - I thought Rose's substitution is cake flour plus cornstarch. Did you use AP and it worked? What's the ratio?

Matthew said...

Beautiful Marie. I learned a trick recently for cake carriers. Someone gave me a little silicone jar opener (about the size of a coaster). If you put it underneath the cake in the carrier, the silicone grips the plate and keeps it from sliding.

evil cake lady said...

i feel you on the cake carrier woes--that happened to me with brain's birthday cake! my roating cake stand came with a non-slip grippy thing (like the shelf liner stuff) the exact diameter of my cake carrier, so i use that to keep the plate stable. it works really really well (as in, cake carrier is held at a 30 degree angle, and cake plate is not moving).

it is hard to bake and photograph--i pretty much forget to these days. poor jim--he did miss out on a good one.

Monica said...

Marie.. You did pretty good after looking your photographer.. But I totally understand about cooking and taking pictures.

I do a photo shoot outline/schedule (I know, how compulsive am I? VERY!) in order to know what I want to take a picture of and I usually space it between the cake baking or after or before... because the in-between never works, I concentrate too much on doing the cake, that I forget to take the picture. :)

I love how the oven turned your cake perfectly brown all around!

Marie said...

Back in the day, "boughten" was a treat, since my mother and grandmother only did homemade. We thought that was so boring, and yearned for TV dinners, like other kids had!

I do miss Jim, but don't tell him.

I remember your lemon birthday cake that wasn't lemony enough. But this is the perfect amount of lemon. Definitely birthday-cake-worthy.

What a good idea! I happen to have one of those jar openers, but it never occurred to me to use it to keep a cake in place. I hope I'll remember it next time.

The hardest thing about taking pictures when baking (aside from remembering to do it in the first place) is that you have to wash and dry your hands every ten seconds!

The joys of a convection oven--I was amazed that it got brown all over instead of just brown on top. I also learned, when researching meringue, that the little amber beads on top of meringue are a flaw, and I always thought they were so pretty.

lola said...

Marie, Your cake is beautiful and I am sure delicious. I had to pass this week, so I will make this in the future when I have some tasters in residence. Yes, it is magic making lemon curd and it is sooo good.

Marie said...

Yes, after all the razzing, they were very impressed, and appreciative.

Jim was feeling a bit sorry for himself, but not so much that he was prevented from having a good time on his own.

Yes, do make it in the future--it's definitely worth it!

Jenn said...

Matthew, Marie,
You can also use those cheap non-slip matts (the one you put under the rug). That works just as well :).

Mendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

Good pictures, Marie. I'd feel superfluous except there's no action shots. And you might have noted that I'm on a business trip, not a vacation. I miss you, too.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

i'm having SO much fun seeing everyone's version of this cake and they are all so magnificent. sweet bites--i loved your posting which also is hilarious. when is the wedding date?

Mendy said...


Your lemon curd looks so yellow and lemony. Definitely a cake to get cheers for.

Alpha Baker Joan said...

Beautiful cake Marie! I had already posted my lemon meringue cake months ago, early by mistake, and will include it in this post that will be a catch-up with Woody's Lemon Luxury cake. Loove the curd. Have tried Tiptree, but still Rose's is thee best for me, even though a little gamey at curdling point.
Great idea Matthew. Just happen to have a couple of those round jar openers. Now they will have happy dual life.

Jenn said...

I see that I'm not the only one halving recipes this time. NancyB, Monica, and Jennifer all halved the recipes. Is it contagious? That makes me happy :)

Monica said...

Rose…Thanks so much for the shout out. No wedding yet... The MARRY ME! Shout out was due to a Lemon-induce coma on his part, not a serious one... he KNOWS that he needs to propose to me without his mouth full of cake and with a sparkling thing-y on his hand.

But, I see a lemon on the wedding cake in my future.

Hanaâ said...

Beautiful cake, Marie. I like the swirls on top; they make the cake look very elegant. I also love the even browning of the meringue. I never would have thought a convection oven could do that (making a mental note to try this soon!). The best part is that everybody loved the cake’s taste. I guess the meringue doesn’t freeze very well, otherwise you could have saved Jim a slice :o)

Marie said...

Hope you'll be back for the plum-blueberry torte.

You must love seeing all these different versions of your cakes! I know I do.

How can there be anything more romantic than a "marry me" induced by lemon curd?

Thanks. I remember the color of the "boughten" lemon curd didn't measure up to the real thing.

I remember your lemon meringue cake! It was your first post, wasn't it?

You are such a trend-setter. But I'm glad I didn't cut this recipe in half.

I did think about saving him a slice, but I'd rather just make the cake again. I want to try it with the the mini-torch next time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie

Another gorgeous cake for me to try! I have a question about the Italian Meringue...I love Lemon Meringue Pie except for, you know, the meringue. Maybe I just love lemon. Anyway, I read some of the other Heavenly Baker's blogs and fellow meringue-dislikers liked this version of meringue. Do you think I could top a lemon meringue pie with Italian Meringue? Do you think it would work? Anyone else have experience with this? I would love to be able to eat a piece of that pie without looking like a picky toddler.
Chris in RI

Marie said...

Yes, you could use the Italian meringue for lemon meringue pie. I'm like Vicki--I'd take whipped cream over meringue any day of the week, but I did like this meringue. Here's to not looking like a picky toddler!

Monica said...

Marie.. how about Marry Me with a nice shinny ring on his hand?

Who am I kidding? I will marry that man with or without anything on his hand!

Rose Beranbaum said...

marie--what a terrific summary!

in answer to why i prefer oven to torch, it browns much more evenly and also much less risk of burnt edges.

Anonymous said...

Ha! I've caught myself saying "boughten" a few times when I'm really tired. At first I thought I was insane, but then realized that I had heard it growing up. Are you from the Midwest too?

Also, I have decided this is going to be the Alpha Cake for my birthday party. My friend always bakes me multiple cakes, but this is going to be the leader. ;-)

Marie said...

Yes, born and bred in the Midwest. From Illinois to Indiana to Minnesota. This is such a great cake--and perfect for a birthday cake.