Lemon meringue pie has always been my favorite dessert. I'm not a huge fan of cake. Because I lack a sense of smell, I can't taste the subtleties of spices or chocolate. But tart lemony custard contrasted with the sweetness of the meringue - that's something I can taste. And I love the soft, pillowy texture of the meringue (and as I got older, the almost guilt free feeling you get from eating the sugar egg mixture). So when I found this recipe in Food & Wine a few years ago, I thought maybe it could make a cake lover out of me. Or at least allow me to make a cake for my husband (who is not a fan of pie) that I'd actually enjoy. It had been stashed away in my recipe box with plans to make it last year for my birthday. When I mentioned it to my assistant, she was aghast that I planned to bake my own cake and offered to do it for me. The result was truly delicious, and I think it's a cake I would not be loathe to eat in the future. It had a light and airy texture, perfect for a summer day. No feelings of cake heaviness to be found after eating it, just a delightful sweet-tart taste in the mouth that left you feeling refreshed. Although I can't attest to whether it was difficult to make (supposedly it wasn't), this is definitely a 4 whisk effort.
Cake: 3 cups cake flour; 1 tablespoon baking powder; 1/2 tsp. salt; 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened; 2 cups sugar; 4 large eggs, room temperature; 4 large egg yooks, room temperature; 1 tsp. vanilla extract; 1 cup milk, room temperature. Curd: 9 large egg yolks; 1 cup sugar; 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice; 1/4 tsp. salt; 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 tablespoons. Meringue: 2 1/4 cups sugar; 1 1/2 cups egg whites (from about 1 dozen extra-large eggs); 3/4 tsp. fresh lemon juice.
Make the Cake. Preheat oven to 350. 1. Butter 2 9-inch round cake pans and line bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust pans lightly with flour, tapping out any excess. In medium bowl sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt. Beat butter with sugar at high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture at low speed in 3 batches, alternating with the milk, until just smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surfaces. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cakes in pan on rack for 10 minutes; remove and let cool completely on rack. Make the Curd. Fill large bowl with ice water. In heavy, medium saucepan whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, lemon juice and salt. Add butter and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until curd is thick and beginning to simmer, about 5 minutes. Set the saucepan in the water bath and chill the curd, whisking constantly. Make the Meringue. Whisk sugar, egg whites and lemon juice in bowl of a standing mixer. Set bowl over double boiler with approximately 1-inch of water, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves, about 6 minutes. Return bowl to the mixer and beat meringue at medium speed for 10 minutes, or until room temperature. Continue beating at high speed until meringue is thick, shiny and billowy, about 15 minutes. Assemble the Cake. Using a serrated knife, level the cake tops, then halk each cake horizontally. Set 1 layer on cake plate and spread with 1/3 of lemon curd. Top with second cake layer and spread with 1/3 of lemon curd. Repeat once more and top with final layer. Using a large offset spatula, frost the side of the cake with a thin layer of meringue. Top the cake with the remaining meringue and swirl decoratively, then serve. Garnish with curled lemon slices, if desired. Note: Cake layers can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 2 days or frozen 1 month. Curd can be refrigerated for 3 days. The assembled cake can be refrigerated up to 2 days. Tips/Comments. Since I didn't make this cake, the only comment I have is that apparently 1 cup of milk seems like too much when you're making the cake. They ended up using 1/2 cup, and although the cake wasn't horribly dry, you could tell that using the full cup would have made a difference.