Baking for Mr Food Adventurer’s birthday calls for something special. I know he loves lemon flavoured cakes, so when I spotted this on the BBC Good Food website I knew I’d found the one! Now, please don’t let the amount of steps put you off, it’s a really fabulous cake, fit to take centre stage at any birthday party. This was my first adventure into Italian Meringue making and I have to say it went off without a hitch, just take your time adding the hot syrup and you’ll be fine.
You’re going to love the moistness of the cake, not to mention the fresh taste of lemon that runs through each mouthful, and the meringue topping makes such a light alternative to buttercream.
INGREDIENTS (serves 16)
For the Caramel Sugar Syrup
85g Caster Sugar
50ml Boiled Water
For the Cake
300g Unsalted Butter (softened)
200g Caster Sugar
75g Light Muscovado Sugar
300g Self Raising Flour
5 Medium Eggs (beaten)
1tsp Baking Powder
Zest of 4 Lemons
For the Italian Meringue
300g Caster Sugar
6 medium Egg Whites
1/2tsp Cream of Tartar
Lemon Curd you can find a fab recipe from Jammy Blog here
1. First, we’re going to make the Caramel Sugar Syrup. Heat 85g Caster Sugar in a pan over a medium heat until it melts and starts to caramelise. DO NOT STIR UNTIL THIS POINT (sorry for the shouty capital letters but I needed to get your attention!). Now stir until the syrup is smooth and a gorgeous deep golden colour. Remove from the heat and CAREFULLY pour in 50ml Boiling Water. It will get angry at you so take your time and show it who’s boss. 😉 As soon as you’ve poured the water in, stir to combine then pour immediately into a heatproof jug then top up the syrup with boiling water until you have a total of 100ml. Leave to one side to cool while you make the cake.
2. Preheat your oven to 180°C / 160° Fan / Gas Mark 3 and grease 3 x 20cm sandwich tins before lining the bases and sides with baking parchment.
3. Add 300g softened Unsalted Butter, 200g Caster Sugar and 75g Light Muscovado Sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric whisk (or stand mixer) until light and fluffy (this will take around 5 minutes). Mix in 1tbsp of the 300g Self Raising Flour then add 5 Eggs, one at a time, beating until each is combined before adding in the next.
4. In a separate bowl, place the rest of the Self Raising Flour, 25g Cornflour and 1tsp Baking Powder along with the zest of 4 Lemons and 1/2tsp Salt and give a little mix before folding into the wet mixture along with your cooled Caramel Sugar Syrup.
5. Split your cake mixture between the 3 sandwich tins, levelling the tops with the back of a wet spoon. Place into the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack and peeling off the parchment and leaving to cool completely.
6. Now we’re going to assemble the cake in preparation for the Italian Meringue topping. Place one of your sponges the right way up on a serving plate or cake board and top with a level layer of Curd, leaving around 1cm from the edge of the cake uncovered. Gently place the next sponge on top and repeat with the curd before placing the final sponge upside down on top.
7. To make the Italian Meringue, put 300g Caster Sugar and 175ml Water in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil over a high heat, continuing to boil until it reaches 115c on a sugar thermometer (you need to watch this like a hawk as the temperature will stick for what feels like forever then all of a sudden it will jump up). You can, however, get on with the other part of the meringue. If you have a stand mixer, this is the time to use it, otherwise an electric hand whisk is fine. Place 6 medium Egg Whites and 1/2tsp Cream of Tartar into a bowl and whisk until you reach a soft peak stage. Once you get to this point whack the speed up to the maximum and very slowly trickle in the hot syrup. The meringue will begin to thicken (you’ll hear it as you whisk) and go lovely and glossy after around 10 minutes. Keep the whisk going full pelt until it starts to cool, and is still just warm. That’s it! You’ve just made Italian Meringue!!
8. Use the Meringue straight away as it’s easier to spread while warm. Using a palette knife, spread a thin layer of Meringue around the side of the cake to level it up, then spread an even layer of about 3mm (the height of a £1 coin) over the top of the cake. Now place the remaining meringue into a large piping bag, fitted with a small star nozzle) and start to pipe vertical columns up the side of the cake, ensuring that you finish each line of piping level with the top of the cake. Lastly, pipe wee meringue stars on top of each column (if you have a cake turntable or cake stand then this is a bonus so you can turn the cake as you pipe).
9. Ok, I promise this is the last stage, and it’s an important one for the overall look of the cake. Brown the meringue using a kitchen blowtorch and then devour!
Hints and tips
– The cake will keep for 3 days in the fridge.
– Please ensure that you pour your hot syrup into your meringue REALLY SLOWLY. Take your time with this stage and you will have perfect Italian Meringue.
– Don’t stress over your piping work, even if you’re not confident. Once you’ve used the blowtorch, it takes the cake to a whole new dimension… definitely the wow factor!
– If your sugar hardens when making the Caramel Sugar Syrup (like mine did!!), don’t panic and think it’s a complete right off. Put the pan back onto the heat for a few minutes and it will melt again.
Melanie, Food Adventurer