Lemon Meringue Sunshine Cake

Lemon Meringue Sunshine Cake
It’s another Earth Day and another 30 Pounds of Apples birthday! Four years ago today, I launched this little corner of the internet to archive tales and recipes from my kitchen, my garden, and my farmers markets forays. And despite some near-death experiences, the blog still continues to give me a creative outlet and an opportunity to share my successes and my failures with friends, family, and those of you I’ve never met. Thank you to all of you who read and cook with me, here’s to another four years!

And as any celebration should, this one features cake. A continuation of my citrus-y love affair, this is one of the most delightful cakes I’ve made in quite some time. Fluffy chiffon cake filled with bright lemon curd and Swiss meringue and iced with clouds of lemony whipped cream? Let’s just say I highly recommend it for your spring and summer soirées.

Lots of yellow and white ingredients
The cake part of this cake is a chiffon cake, lightly lemony in flavor. It’s spongy and light, so it provides a nice base for the bold lemon curd and the meringue.

Eggs separated
Dry ingredients
Lemon juicing
Mixing wet and dry
Plus, chiffon cake batter is, well, fun. There’s really no other word for it. After combining dry ingredients and wet ones, a HUGE amount of whipped egg whites are folded into the batter, making a springy, foamy fluff that hardly resembles cake batter.

Folding in egg whites
Into the oven the pans go
And can one really talk about cake without a delightful icing? This one is simple, just whipped cream with a bit of lemon mixed in. Because this lemon sunshine cake has lemon everywhere!

Lemon Whipped Icing
Finally, the meringue: originally, this recipe called for lemon curd alone as a filling. But since the delightful lemon curd recipe leaves a whole bunch of leftover egg whites unused, I couldn’t resist the temptation to add some Swiss meringue as a second layer of filling. I like using Swiss meringue because the egg whites are cooked, so it reduces weird food poisoning issues that can arise from eating eggs raw.

Meringue filling
Between each layer of soft cake lies a generous mound of meringue and a smooth coating of lemon curd.

Beautiful Lemon Curd
Once constructed, the whipped cream icing and a drizzle of extra lemon curd makes this presentation-ready!

Lemon Meringue Chiffon Cake
Don’t be freaked out by all the components – the lemon curd can be made in advance, and the extra egg whites you’ll have from that can be used for the meringue, and the icing takes no time at all. This cake is the pinnacle of sunshine, and it’s worth the effort. It’s a nice break from the chocolate and vanilla cakes that I normally concoct – I look forward to the next time I find myself in the company of several lemons that are hoping for a promotion to lemon curd.

Lemon Meringue Cake

Lemon Meringue Sunshine Cake
Adapted from Cake Journal and Sweetapolita (and Sweetapolita again!)

Makes one 8-inch, three-layer cake

For the Lemon Filling
about 3/4 c lemon curd

If you’re preparing this from scratch (using the recipe linked to above), you can prepare this a day or two in advance. If you prepare it a day in advance, you can use the leftover egg whites from the curd recipe to make the meringue filling you’ll need for the cake.

For the Icing
1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
3 T granulated sugar
1/4 c lemon curd

In a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment to whip the heavy cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Add the lemon curd and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare the cake.

For the Cake
6 eggs, separated
1/2 c vegetable oil
zest and juice of one lemon
3/4 c cold water
1 3/4 c cake flour
1 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 c granulated sugar, divided
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper, or grease the bottoms of the pans with pan coating.

Whisk together the egg yolks, oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and 1 cup of sugar. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, use the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until light and foamy. With the mixer still on, slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.

Add about a third of the whipped egg whites to the batter and mix. Fold in the remaining egg whites. The batter will be very light and fluffy. Divide the batter between the three prepared pans. Bake on a center rack for 18-20 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched with your finger. The tops of the cakes will be very lightly golden brown.

Remove the pans from the oven and place them on a cooling rack. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pan, then run a knife around the edges of the cake and remove them from the pans. Peel away the parchment paper and discard. Set the cakes aside while you prepare the filling.

For the Meringue Filling
2 egg whites
1/2 c sugar

Note: If you’re using leftover egg whites from the lemon curd recipe, you’ll have four egg whites. I went ahead and used all four egg whites and a full cup of sugar. I baked the leftover meringue into little cookies by piping them onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and baking at 200°F for 60 minutes, then reducing the temperature to 175°F  and baking for an additional 40 minutes.

Combine egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add an inch of water in a small pot. Place the mixer bowl in the pot to ensure the water doesn’t touch the water. Heat the pot over medium-high heat with the bowl on top of it and a candy thermometer in the bowl. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 140°F. Remove the thermometer and use the whisk attachment on the standing mixer to beat until stiff peaks form. Cover and set aside.

Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or plate. If the cake has caved at all, place the flat side down. Spread a generous layer of meringue on top of the cake, then spread a layer of lemon curd over the meringue (about half of what you have left). Add the second layer of cake, then spread with meringue and lemon curd as you did with the first layer. Place the final layer on top with the flat side up.

Spread the whipped cream icing over the entire cake in whatever pattern you desire. If you have any leftover lemon curd, add it to a piping bag and drizzle it over the cake edges or over the entire cake.

Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving to allow the cake to firm up. It will be much easier to cut when it is cold.