This Lemon Meringue Cake is bright, fresh and sure to impress! Lemon poppy seed cake with lemon curd and toasted meringue frosting. A new layer cake recipe by our contributor, Tessa Huff.
While some of us are enjoying an early spring, others may still be in the middle of one of the worst winters in decades. Either way, we can all find happiness in this sunny cake. Fortunately for everyone, winter citrus are in abundance this time of year, with bright, lively lemons everywhere. I especially love finding and baking with Meyer Lemons. They tend to be much sweeter and juicier than other types, bringing great, vibrant flavor to delicious, lemony desserts. So whether you are aiming to match the spring sunshine or need to beat your still-winter blues, this Lemon Meringue Cake is your answer.
I have not-so-fond memories of eating store-bought lemon meringue pie as a kid. The lemon flavor always tasted artificial while the spongy texture of the commercially-made meringue left much to be desired. As a result, I was turned off by lemon desserts for years. Not until I started baking from scratch did I realize how much a bit of fresh lemon could change an entire recipe. To make up for the years of imitation lemon and and poorly-produced meringue, I decided to recreate the elements of lemon meringue – but in a cake.
This Lemon Meringue Cake is extremely light, refreshing, and bursting with lemony flavor. Where some butter-based cakes can be dense and velvety, the use of a neutral oil leaves these layers of cake feeling extra tender and airy. The tangy buttermilk, cardamom, and lemon zest in the poppy seed cake add an extra punch of flavor and texture that pair perfectly with the fresh, zesty lemon curd. The cake has been smothered with a light, not-so-sweet meringue icing. For some extra flair and toasty flavor, the meringue has been lightly torched.
LEMON MERINGUE CAKE
a recipe by Tessa Huff
For the Lemon Poppy Seed Cake:
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seed
1/2 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup grapeseed or canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 6″ round cake pans and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, poppy seeds and cardamom.
- In a large measuring cup or mixing bowl, stir together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and lemon zest.
- Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
- Add the boiling water and stir to incorporate.
- Evenly distribute the batter between the three prepared pans. Bake for about 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
For the Lemon Curd:
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter, diced
Place the juice, zest, yolks, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine. While stirring, heat over medium. Continue to stir until mixture begins to thicken, about 6-8 minutes. Curd should coat the back of a spoon when done cooking. Once thickened, remove from the heat and add in the butter. Stir to combine. Strain curd into a heat-safe container. Discard the zest. Cover curd by placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the surface of the curd. Refrigerate until cool and thick.
For the Meringue Icing:
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Kitchen Torch (for toasting)
Place the whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk to combine. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place over medium heat. Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler. Whisking constantly, heat the egg white mixture until the sugar dissolves and it is warm to the touch. Once warm, transfer the bowl back to the mixer. With the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high until medium-stiff glossy peaks. Add in the salt and vanilla and mix until combined. Use immediately.
Use plain vanilla buttercream to create a dam to hold in the lemon curd filling when assembling, if desired.
If you want a higher lemon curd to cake ratio, plan to double the lemon curd recipe for extra filling.
Use an off-set spatula to create a rustic finish with the meringue icing.
Use a kitchen torchto toast the meringue icing. Hold flame about 6-8 inches away from the surface of the cake and do not keep the flame in the same place for longer than a couple seconds.