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Lemon meringue cake

I can’t believe Juliette went off to school looking so dreadful, with that horrible boy’s black suit and her beautiful hair all chopped off. I’m trying hard not to overreact, to chalk it up to normal teenage rebellion and her understandable distress at leaving Paris, but there’s a little voice in my head telling me maybe it’s something more. We used to be so close, and now I feel like she’s slipping away. I want to remind her of all the fun we used to have, especially when she helped me in the kitchen. She always loved that, as a little girl. I’ll bake her one of her favorite special treats, gateau de citron – lemon cake. It’s not so humid out today, so hopefully the meringue will work. And at least baking always makes me feel better!

Lemon Meringue Cake

1 stick plus 1 tbsp. very soft butter

4 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tsp. sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

zest of 1 lemon

4 tsp. fresh lemon juice

2 tsp. milk

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 400. Line two 8-inch cake pans (I used 9-inch) with parchment paper and butter the paper.

In a food processor, mix the butter, egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and lemon zest. Process until smooth, then add lemon juice and milk and process again to blend. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pans.

In an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and the cream of tartar until peaks form, then slowly add 1 cup sugar, beating until mixture stands in peaks when beaters are lifted. Spread meringue evenly on top of batter in pans – smooth one flat and use a spatula or the back of a spoon to create little peaks on the other one. Sprinkle the peaked meringue with the 1 tsp. sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until meringue is golden brown. Remove cakes to a wire rack and let cool completely in pans.

Up to an hour before serving, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Place layer with the flat top meringue-side down on serving plate. Spread with lemon curd, then cream. Top with second layer, cake-side down. Keep in a cool place, but do not refrigerate, before serving.

Adapted from “Feast”, by Nigella Lawson

by Susan Sherrill Axelrod
photos by Ted Axelrod

2 Responses to “Cake Therapy”

  1. [...] finished serving the lemon cake and then sat back to watch everyone eat.  The dining room glowed with candlelight just as it had [...]

  2. [...] She let him lead her through the trees, branches scratching her face, bushes slapping her legs. She willed her feet to keep moving while she let her eyes drift closed, her brain take flight to some other place, beautiful, peaceful. Her whole life seemed beautiful and peaceful compared to this: She saw herself sitting in the Cafe Pure with Hugo, holding hands as the sun dipped over the Canal St. Martin. Or sitting next to her father in a Parisian movie theater, laughing idiotically at The Nutty Professor. Or even gathered around the big dining room table in Hot Springs last Sunday, eating her mother’s lemon cake. [...]

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