I’ve come to the conclusion that women are pretty insane. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how much life experience you have, or how mature you may appear to be, if you are of the fairer sex you are 100% certifiably mental. I realise this is quite a bold statement to make for my sex but it’s a statement I’m sticking by, because well… girls are weird.
There really is no getting around it: we obsess over every little thing; we talk ourselves in and out of situations a million times; we get mad over stuff that really shouldn’t be a big deal; we’re friends with people we don’t actually like all because we feel that we “have to”; we’re superficial (we are, the amount of make-up we wear is really pretty ridiculous); and we definitely read too much into, well, everything. I know that I do all of those things and more, there simply is no other way to put it: girls are mental.
I find myself going around in circles constantly. I have conversations with myself in my head and forget that I haven’t had them outloud, so when I come to my inevitable conclusion and make a comment to a friend they have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about. I cry/giggle/get mad by myself in public because of something I’m thinking about. My brain literally never switches off. Folks, I’m about as cuckoo as they come, and in the past week I’ve just been driving myself even more insane, all because I simply could not forget about a tiny little thing. Tiny. Miniscule. Insignificant. Invisible.
I think one of the reasons why I like to cook and write is because I can focus all of my energy down into one thing, I can throw myself into a project, no matter how laborious and time consuming, and for five, six hours, that can be all I do. I can spend an hour writing an article or a blog post; plan a photography session according to the light that will be hitting my kitchen at a precise time; touch-up my images for a half hour in Lightroom; think about what I want to cook next. When I do that I don’t have to think about anything else, I can just concentrate on my routines. Well you know where this type of behaviour also exists? In those with obsessive compulsive disorder.
In the past six months I’ve had at least five people say to me, ‘wow. You really love food, don’t you?’ And yes, yes I do. But I also love the process, the meticulous nature of it all, the creativity constricted by flavour, I love the control. I am obsessive, yes, a little bit bonkers too (well, maybe more than a little), but this is all what makes me who I am and able to do what I do. So I fully embrace it, screws loose and all!
Whilst I was driving myself crazy this week I needed something to distract, something new. I started thinking about how you could make lemon meringue pie into a cake and whether or not it would work. A quick Google search and it was not only possible, it had already been done. Rose Levy Beranbaum, of The Cake Bible, had a recipe for lemon meringue cake in her book Rose’s Heavenly Cakes. I knew I had to make it.
I kid you not when I say that this took me five hours to make: it was the perfect distraction for my crazy mind. It was also the lightest most delicious lemon cake I’ve tried – I’ll definitely be making it again the next time I find my mind tying itself in knots again. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s probably the longest recipe ever; the results are far too good and totally worth the effort. Besides, we all need to get away from our crazy from time to time – let it be this cake.
Lemon Meringue Cake
From Rose’s Heavenly Cakes
For the lemon curd:
2 tsps lemon zest, finely grated
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 oz unsalted butter, melted
Juice of 2 lemons, freshly squeezed & strained
For the batter:
6 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tsps lemon zest, finely grated
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 tsps warm water
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
For the lemon syrup:
1/2 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup water
Juice of 2 lemons, freshly squeezed
For the Italian Meringue topping:
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup + 5 tbsps caster sugar
1/3 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
x2 9×2″ round cake pans, oiled, floured & with baking paper circles in the base
Pyrex measuring jug
1. Make the lemon curd (do this about 3 hrs ahead of time): place a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl containing the lemon zest.
2. In a heavy saucepan whisk together the yolks, sugar and butter until well blended. Whisk in the lemon juice & salt.
3. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula until thickened and resembling hollandaise sauce which thickly coats the spatula but is still liquid enough to pour. Do not allow to come to the boil or curdle.
4. When thickened, pour through the strainer into the lemon zest and stir gently to combine. Allow to cool for 30 mins then cover tightly and refrigerate until no longer warm, about 3 hrs. Keeps in an airtight jar/container for 3 weeks refrigerated.
5. Make the cake: Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C.
6. Using electric beaters, beat together the yolks, 1/2 cup of the sugar and the lemon zest until thick and fluffy, or when the mixture falls in ribbons.
7. Beat in the vanilla and water on low, then increase the speed and beat until the mixture thickens again. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and set aside.
8. Sift together the plain flour and cornflour, then sift over the yolk mixture without mixing in and set aside.
9. In a clean, dry medium bowl and clean, dry beaters, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar with the beaters off. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are raised.
10. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff peaks form when the beaters are raised.
11. Add 1/3 of the meringue to the yolk mixture and, with a spatula, fold it together until the flour is incorporated. Gently fold in the rest of the meringue.
12. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 mins, or until a wire cake tester comes out clean. Ready three wire cooling wracks and a palette knife, lightly coated with oil.
13. When the cakes are baked, run the palette knife between the sides of the pas and the cakes, and unmold at once onto the prepared racks. Leave the parchment in place. Reinvert the cakes onto the racks and cool completely. Wrap airtight with plastic wrap until ready to compose the cake.
14. Make the lemon syrup: in a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, bring the sugar and water to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.
15. Cover immediately, remove the pan from the heat and cool completely.
16. Transfer the syrup to a pyrex measuring jug and stir in the lemon juice. If the syrup has evaporated slightly, add enough water to equal 1 1/4 cups of syrup. Cover tightly with plastic wrap until ready to use.
17. Compose the cake: using a long serrated knife and your fingertips, remove the top crusts from the cake. Remove the parchment and scrape off any remaining bottom crust.
18. Brush the syrup evenly on the tops and bottoms of the biscuit layers. Use a cardboard round or the cooled bases of the cake tins to support them.
19. Make the Italian meringue topping: Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees C and have ready a pyrex measuring jug.
20. Pour the egg whites into a medium sized bowl.
21. In a small heavy saucepan stir together 1 cup plus 2 tbsps of the sugar, the water and 1 tbsp of the lemon juice, until the sugar is moistened.
22. Heat on medium, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling. Reduce to low.
23. Beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. With the beaters off, add the cream of tartar. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are raised.
24. Gradually beat in the remaining 3 tbsps of sugar until stiff peaks form when the beaters are raised slowly.
25. Increase the heat under the sugar syrup and continue to boil until a candy thermometer registers 120 degrees C (firm-ball stage). Immediately transfer the syrup to the pyrex measuring jug to stop the cooking.
26. Beat the syrup into the egg whites in a soft stream. Don’t allow the syrup to fall on the beaters.
27. Lower the speed to medium and add the remaining 2 tbsps of lemon juice. Continue beating for 2 mins.
28. Compose the cake: spread a little meringue on a 9″ cardboard round or the cooled removable base of the cake tin, and place a cake layer on top.
29. Sandwich the cake layers with lemon curd. Frost the top and sides with the meringue, piling it high on top and creating peaks by pressing down lightly and then lifting up from the meringue with a spatula.
30. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 3-5 mins, turning and watching to avoid burning, or until the meringue is golden brown. Alternatively use a kitchen blowtorch to brown the meringue.
31. Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled and enjoy. You deserve it – I won’t tell anybody if you eat it all.
And so, one lemon meringue cake to keep the crazies at bay. Until next time, from one crazy girl to all of you, peace and love.