This swoon-worthy dessert is a riff on lemon meringue pie, featuring three lemony cake layers spread with lemon curd, as well as fluffy meringue frosting that’s toasted until golden brown. To create the meringue florets shown here, use a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip, but you can simply spread the meringue on the cake and swirl it with the back of a spoon instead for a simpler effect. If you don’t have three cake pans, divide the batter between two 9-inch (23-cm) cake pans and make a two-layer cake. (This batter will deflate if not baked right away.)
Lemon Genoise Cake with Meringue Frosting
For the lemon curd:
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups (6 oz./180 g) sugar
2 Tbs. grated lemon zest
3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) fresh lemon juice
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) (6 oz./180 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
For the cake:
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) cornstarch
9 eggs, separated, plus 1 egg
1 cup (8 oz./250 g) sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. grated lemon zest
3/4 cup (6 oz./185 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the meringue frosting:
1 1/3 cups (11 oz./345 g) plus 2 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
6 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1. To make the lemon curd, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the egg yolks, sugar and lemon zest and juice. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Add the butter and cook, stirring often, until melted, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until it starts to thicken, about 1 minute longer. Strain the lemon curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
2. Preheat an oven to 325°F (165°C).
3. To make the cake, in a bowl, sift together the flour and cornstarch. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the egg yolks and egg on medium speed until combined. Raise the speed to medium-high, slowly add 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) of the sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and has tripled in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the egg yolk mixture to a bowl and set aside.
5. In the clean bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Raise the speed to medium-high, slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg white mixture. (This is the opposite of the usual technique.) Add the lemon zest. Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold until the flour streaks begin to disappear. Add the melted butter and fold until just combined.
6. Divide the batter evenly among three ungreased 8-inch (20-cm) round cake pans and spread evenly. Bake until the cakes spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks, let cool for 10 minutes then invert the cakes onto the rack and let cool completely.
7. To assemble the cake, place 1 cake layer on a cake stand. Spread half of the lemon curd over the cake. Top with a second cake layer and spread the remaining lemon curd over the cake. Top with the third cake layer and refrigerate while you prepare the meringue.
8. To make the meringue frosting, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the 1 1 /3 cups (11 oz./345 g) sugar, the salt, and 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) water and cook until a candy thermometer registers 240°F (115°C).
9. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until the mixture is foamy. Slowly add the 2 Tbs. sugar, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until medium-firm peaks form. Reduce the speed to medium and slowly pour in the hot sugar mixture, then raise the speed to high and beat until a thick, glossy meringue forms, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat for 1 minute. The frosting is best used immediately, but it can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Beat again before using.
10. To frost the cake, fill a large pastry bag fitted with an open star tip with the meringue, being careful not to deflate the meringue. Starting at the bottom of the cake, pipe florets along and up the sides, finishing on the top. Using a kitchen torch, toast the meringue until nicely browned. Serves 12.
Serve up a swoon-worthy collection of cakes in our
stunning cookbook Favorite Cakes.