There are few cakes more iconic than a lemon meringue – the zest, as they say, is history
This cake has a soft meringue icing that can be piped or simply swirled on top of the cake, as you choose.
Either make the lemon curd in advance, or use a good quality bought one in its place. Any leftover curd can be stored in the fridge and eaten on toast or served with scones in place of jam. You will need two 20cm sandwich tins.
• oil, to grease
• 1 lemon
• 225g butter, softened
• 225g caster sugar
• 4 eggs, at room temperature
• 225g self-raising flour
• 1-2 tablespoons milk
For the lemon curd:
• 2 lemons
• 120g caster sugar
• 50g unsalted butter
• 2 eggs
For the meringue:
• 2 egg whites, about 60g
• 110g caster sugar
1 To make the lemon curd, finely grate the zest of both lemons and squeeze the juice. Put the juice in a saucepan with the sugar and butter.
2 Beat the eggs in a small bowl with a fork to break them up and add them to the pan.
3 Stir the mixture over a low to medium heat, using a wooden spoon, until the butter and sugar have melted, then increase the heat until the curd just starts to bubble. Remove from the heat and strain through a sieve.
4 Stir in the lemon zest and cover with cling film, so that it touches the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. The curd will thicken as it cools.
5 Heat the oven to 180°C. Lightly oil the 2 sandwich tins, line the base of each with a disc of greaseproof paper, then lightly brush with oil again. Finely grate the lemon zest.
6 Using an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl until pale, light and fluffy.
7 Break the eggs into a separate bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Gradually add the eggs to the creamed mixture in small additions, beating well after each addition.
8 Sift the flour over the creamed mixture and add the lemon zest. Fold in the dry ingredients, using a large metal spoon or a spatula, until the mixture is just combined.
9 Add enough milk to create a reluctant dropping consistency.
10 Divide the mixture between the prepared tins, smooth the tops and bake in the middle of the oven for 20–30 minutes, or until well risen, golden and evenly set.
11 The cakes should feel spongy to the touch. Leave them in the tins on a wire rack for a few minutes, then turn out onto the wire rack, peel off the greaseproof paper and leave to cool completely.
12 To make the meringue, put the egg whites into a clean, medium bowl and whisk to stiff peaks, using an electric whisk.
13 Add 1 tbsp of the sugar and continue to whisk for 10 seconds, then add a second 1 tbsp sugar and whisk to stiff peaks again.
14 Slowly pour in the remaining sugar, whisking at the same time until it is all incorporated and the meringue is stiff again.
15 Heat the grill to its highest setting, unless you have a cook‘s blowtorch. Sandwich the 2 cooled sponges together with the cold lemon curd (you may not need to use it all).
16 Decorate the top of the cake with the meringue, either piping it or swirling it over the surface with a palette knife. Avoid creating high peaks, which may burn.
17 To finish, either use a cook‘s blowtorch (following the manufacturer’s instructions) to carefully caramelise the top of the meringue to a golden colour, or place under the hot grill until the top browns, watching carefully as it will burn quickly.
Recipe courtesy of Leiths School of Food and Wine. Extracted from How to Cook Cakes. Photography via Peter Cassidy