August 1, 2010
Name of Cake: Lemony POW!
Constituents: two layers biscuit soaked with a lemon syrup, filled with lemon curd, frosted with lemon italian meringue
This reminds me of the Triple Lemon Threat (the lemon luxury layer cake), which had lemon in all three components. That cake was good eatin. I have high hopes for this one too, except that I flaked on making the lemon curd and bought a jar at the store today. I thought I bought a good brand, but when I came home and opened the jar, it was only meh. A little too buttery for my tastes. Oh well. I am hoping that the rest of the cake will overpower the curd a bit.
This is the second cake I baked this weekend so I decided to just half the recipe. I know--first I only make a half recipe then I cheat and buy curd. So lazy.
There are several components to this cake but they are all pretty easy to do, especially if you cut corners and skip the making of the curd. Not that curd is hard to make, it is just a lot of standing and stirring and staring at the pot. It is well worth the standing and staring as homemade curd is delicious, and then you don't regret buying a mediocre jar of curd.
The cake component is a biscuit that is baked in two rounds. The original recipe calls for two 9 inch rounds but since I halved it I got to use my cute little 6 in cake pans. Interestingly, the pans get greased and floured then parchmented, which I suppose is to let the parchment get a good grip on the bottom of the cake. By its nature biscuit is tough and fairly flavorless and needs a liberal soak to make it worth eating--in order for the soaking liquid to easily penetrate, the top and bottom crusts are removed. Usually the bottom crust comes off with the parchment so long story long the pans are greased and floured but the parchment is not.
A biscuit is a sponge-type cake, which means the cake's rise comes mainly from very whipped eggs instead of baking powder or soda like in a butter cake. To this end, the egg yolks are whipped up with the sugar and in this case lemon zest until it falls from the beater in a thick ribbon. I like the ribbon stage of egg beating, so pretty.
The egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks separately and folded into the ribbon. All that's left is to scrape the thick batter into the pans and get them into the oven for 30 minutes. Biscuit need to be unmolded as soon as they are pulled from the oven, and left to cool upright.
While the cakes bake and cool, the lemon-sugar syrup is made. Sugar and water are brought to a boil and immediately covered and removed from heat. Once this cools the lemon juice is added. And, we're done.
Next up: the italian meringue. What makes this meringue all Italian and chic is the presence of a sugar syrup. This stabilizes the meringue and keeps it from watering out, which is gross. Nobody likes that.
The sugar, water, and lemon juice are brought to the hard ball stage and then poured into the already stiffly beaten egg whites. Rose advises pouring the syrup into a glass measuring cup to stop the cooking, and then pouring from the cup into the mixer. This way, if the syrup cools down too much before it gets mixed into the egg whites, you could simply nuke the cup and remelt the syrup. I don't have a nuker anymore so I left the syrup in the pan--I felt very rebellious--with the plan of reheating it on the stovetop if need be. Well there was no problem as the syrup is incorporated into the whites pretty quickly, and I was happy to put the clean measuring cup back into the cupboard.
Italian meringue is fascinating. The egg whites are already stiffly beaten and looking really good, but something happens to them when the hot sugar syrup is added. It doesn't necessarily get bigger and fluffier, but more glossier and fabulous. Kind of like a drag queen.
It looks like too much meringue for the cake, but just like the pie, all that fluff gets piled on top. I decided to try to copy the photo in the book and go for a flat top instead of a dome; I thought I could fool people into eating it if they didn't know just how thick a layer of meringue is on top. Most meringue is so damn sweet that people are afraid of it now.
I love billowy marshmallowy frosting. Not necessarily because of the taste, but because it is so much fun to frost. It is forgiving, fluffy, and willing to do whatever you want without melting, picking up crumbs, or giving you the finger and refusing. So I had fun frosting the cake with the chic meringue.
Lastly, Rose instructs you to stick your billowy frosted cake into a 500°F oven for a bit until the meringue looks nicely toasted. I had other things hogging up the oven so I busted out the tiny little butane torch and got to toasting. I burnt the frosting in places but I think I did ok.
By the time the cake was cooled, assembled, frosted and torched, it was past midnight and I needed to to go sleep. Curiously, usually anytime we syrup a cake we wait 24 hours before eating, so as to give the moisture and flavor time to evenly distribute. With this cake there's no mention of waiting, but I'm doing it anyway. We'll see how it tastes when I have it for breakfast tomorrow.
WOW, so lemony! It is delicious! The meringue isn't too sweet at all, and the tartness of the lemon keeps the cake from being too sweet. The biscuit is really moist, bordering on really wet. The curd has been bullied into tasting good by the rest of the components. The combination of the light biscuit and the italian meringue makes this dessert feel lighter than air.
This would be a great dessert for a summer party. I shared a few slices with my friends Coleen and Cookie. Coleen agreed that the cake was moist bordering on wet and thought it would have been better if she didn't feel like she needed to wring out the cake. Cookie enjoyed the cake but felt it was too lemony for her tastes. I think if you are a lemon lover this cake is a dream come true.
the high-top meringue reminds me of Kid. remember the early 90's?
Here's more photos....I couldn't decide which ones to post so I just dumped them all here :P