Lemon Meringue Cake

You can say this for ready-mixes – the next generation isn’t going to have any trouble making pies exactly like mother used to make. ~Earl Wilson
I never thought I’d get into the dessert thing… Seriously – it takes way too much precision for my taste (cooking, not eating :P). At the end of the day it is one of the biggest pleasures to cook for someone’s special occasion. After all, as the Greeks say – “Food is love”. In this particular case I was preparing the “present of love” to myself – my birthday.
I still need to work on the presentation and decoration techniques, but overall was happy with the result – the taste was really good. Not very easy to make and if you are in for something less time consuming – go with the Flourless chocolate cake.
This seemed a bit more fancy at least in the making process. So I stocked up on eggs and decided to give it a go. 

The cake:
* 3 cups  flour

* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 250 grams softened butter (at room temperature)
* 2 cups sugar
* 4 large eggs at room temperature
* 4 large egg yolks at room temperature
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I didn’t have the pure extract, so this time substituted it with the essence)
* 1 cup of milk at room temperature
The curd for layers:
* 9 large eggs yolks
* 1 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 120 grams butter, cut in dice
* 2 1/4 cups of sugar
* 1 1/2 cups egg whites (takes about 10 -12 large eggs)
* 3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Preparing batter for the cake:
Line a round pan with parchment paper, butter it and dust with a bit of flour. My pan is around 27 cm. The original recipe suggested doing it in 2 separate pans, but since I didn’t have 2, it worked out fine. 
In a bowl sift the flour, baking powder and the salt. In a mixer beat the butter with sugar at high speed until fluffy, about 7 minutes. Add in the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each one, followed by vanilla and adding the flour mixture in separate batches, pouring a bit of milk in between to keep the batter moist. Beat the batter with the mixer until smooth.
Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the surface. Bake it in the preheated oven at 180 degrees for 35-45 minutes, until the inserted toothpick in the center comes out clean. Once done, take it out, let it cool completely.
The curd:
Now this was an interesting part – quite time consuming since it takes constant stirring. My advice – prepare everything you may need before starting. 
Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a pot or saucepan whisk the egg yolks with sugar, add the lemon juice and salt, add the butter and cook over moderate heat till the curd is thick, just about the begin simmering. Don’t forget to whisk all the time so you don’t get any lumps from the yolks. Once done, set the pan into the water bath and chill the curd whisking occasionally.
The good part is that you can prepare the curd a day ahead and chill it in the fridge overnight.
The meringue:
Take another saucepan and bring a few centimeters of water to a boil. In a bowl of a mixer, whisk the sugar with egg whites and lemon juice. Then set it over the the boiling water and whisk constantly until the sugar dissolves. May take up to 8-10 minutes. Once the sugar is dissolves, take it off the boiling water bath and beat it with the mixer at first at moderate speed until it cools to room temperature and then at high speed until the meringue is thick and shiny. Took me about 15 minutes till I got there. After all I think I could have done it a few minutes longer.
Putting the cake together:
The best part :). Cut the cake horizontally into 4 pieces. At this point it would have been easier to have 2 separate cakes, but it is manageable. Spread one third of the curd on each cut, until you top with the last piece of cake. Then spread some meringue with a knife over the sides and top it with the remaining batch – swirling, making flowers, making peaks or however you wish – there should be plenty of meringue for that. As you see in the photos below I had a bit too much of it probably.

Et voila! This is how my cake looked like:

This is the photo from the original recipe (from http://www.foodandwine.com) – how it’s supposed to look like inside. Mine was a bit messier, but no less tasty!
Bon appetit!

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