Ten Layer Lemon Meringue Cake

Let me get something off my chest; I have a problem with layer cakes that are 3 inches of cake for every 1/4″ of icing.  My ideal is {in equal measure} cake, icing, cake, icing ..and so on and so forth until you run out of both.   I want layers upon layers that are none too dry or too sweet.  It makes it difficult to have perfect sides, and 30 second videos of the perfect spin and frost technique.  But it tastes good.  Perfect is fine, but delicious is divine.

I first put together this cake for a dear friend’s 80th birthday almost a decade ago.  It has become a family favorite.  It is perfect all year ’round, but I like to make it when lemons are at their seasonal best.

Lemon Meringue Cake

Cake Layer
{from Nick Maglieri}

3 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
18 Tbs unsalted butter–softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 Tbs vanilla extract
9 lg egg whites
1 1/8 cups milk

reheat oven to 350.  Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  In a mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until very soft and light.  Whisk together the milk, egg whites and vanilla until just combined.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternately beat in the flour and milk in 4 batches; starting and ending with flour. In order to not over-mix, do not fully incorporate each addition before adding the next one.  Scrape down the sides in between each addition.

I bake this off in thin layers, making it easier to stack when putting the cake together.  You can make 2 layers and slice into thin layers, if you prefer…but I like taking the time to bake off thin layers that make assembly a bit more fuss free.

This will make 6-7 thin cake layers.  Each layer should be less than 1/2″ thick–i use approximately 3/4 cup batter for each layer.

Spray 9″ cake tins with pan spray and place a circle of parchment in the bottom.  If you only have 2 pans, you will have to wash in  between bakins.  Bake each layer approximately 10 minutes, but carefully watch, as the layers are so thin, they will brown easily.  Once you pull the pan from the oven, wait a few minutes, then turn out onto parchment.  Wash and dry the tins, then start the process again.  Let the layers cool completely. {can be made a day ahead and stored at room temperature, or well ahead and frozen}

Lemon Curd

grated zest from 1 lemon
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/4 cup sugar
12 Tbs unsalted butter–cut into small pieces
12 large egg yolks
Whisk the yolks, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a bowl.  Place bowl over bain-marie and cook, stirring continually until the liquid thickens to a nappe {coats the back of the spoon and retains shape when you swipe your finger down the middle}.  Do not let it boil, as the eggs will scramble.  Remove from heat and pour through a sieve into a clean bowl.  Toss in the butter while the curd is still hot.  Stir until the butter is fully incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap placed directly on top of the curd.  Refrigerate until cool and set.  {Can be made a day in advance}

Lemon Italian Buttercream Icing
{if you have a favorite icing, use it and add the lemon curd and whip until creamy}

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
4 egg whites–room temperature
2 cups unsalted butter–room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
about 1/2 cup lemon curd {this is to taste, it depends on how lemony you want your buttercream}

Place egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment.  Combine 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar with water in heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Continue cooking until it reaches 235F (just before soft ball stage).

Meanwhile, while the sugar is boiling, begin whisking the egg whites.  Once, frothy, “rain” in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.  Whip to soft peak.  When syrup reaches 235F remove from heat (it will continue to get hotter and reach the desired 240F).  With the mixer on medium speed, begin immediately pouring the hot syrup into the egg whites.  Be careful not to hit the whisk directly.  Once all the syrup is incorporated, kick the speed up to high and whisk until it cools to room temperature.
Change the attachment from whisk to paddle, and begin adding butter, a few bits at a time.  Once it is all incorporated and it looks like buttercream, mix in the vanilla and curd (to desired flavor)
-can be made several days in advance


3 large egg whites–room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

Make sure the beater and bowl are extremely clean and free of any oil or fats. Beat whites on low until foamy.  Add salt and then kick up the speed to medium.  Add cream of tartar.  Beging to slowly add the sugar “raining” it into the egg whites.  Continue to beat until soft peaks form, then add vanilla.  Beat to stiff and firm peaks.
If you over-beat, you will see moisture starting to “weep” from the whites.  If this happens, start over!
-must be used day it is made

PHEW! –now that you have all the elements, you can start building your cake

To Assemble

Place 1 cake layer on a round cake board. Pipe buttercream around the edge of the cake making a dam.  Fill with lemon curd.  This curd is quite tart, so you don’t want to over-do it.  Also, your filling should not be thicker than your cake layers.  Place another cake layer on top of the curd. Pipe a layer of buttercream.  Continue with cake, buttercream dam & curd, cake, buttercream, cake….until you run out of cake layers.  the top layer should be cake.  Refrigerate until cold and firm.  You can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 house.  When ready to finish and serve, cover in meringue (i have piped swirls), and hit with a torch to brown the edges.  I do not recommend using the oven as the buttercream and curd will melt quickly.