Lemon Meringue Cake

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Two weekends ago, I was in the Bay Area for a very short trip and as usual, I made sure to include some foodie adventures in the short amount of time I was there. I was able to spend a whole day in San Francisco since I was staying there with a good friend of mine. One of the places we went to was Tartine, the famous bakery in the Mission District. I have tried only a handful of items from their menu and I went this time intent on purchasing just one or two morning buns. Unfortunately, they were sold out of morning buns by the time we got there so I had to quickly decide what other sweet treat I wanted to get. I quickly opted for the Lemon Meringue Cake (pictured above) because I love cake and lemon flavored desserts. One bite…and I was MADLY in love with this cake. I sat on a bench outside, slowly chewing, tasting and trying to identify the flavors that were in the cake. I tasted sweetness, tartness from the lemon, a slight bitterness, vanilla and a myriad of other more subtle flavors. I was mind blown at how much I enjoyed that cake that I really could not think of anything but trying to recreate that cake once I got home, especially since I own the cookbook AND have seen the recipe for it before!

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Well I went ahead and recreated that delicious cake! I’ll go ahead and say what you’re probably thinking: this is not a pretty cake. It could’ve been much more eye appealing if I didn’t let my meringue sit in the fridge for a while, deflate, and then frosted it flat onto the cake. The cake is definitely missing the pointy swoops and fluffiness of medium stiff peaks consistency.

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I also had to: ask everyone I know if they had a kitchen torch, end up purchasing one myself, run all over Culver City like a maniac looking for butane and overcome my fear of fire and small flames. I never found butane (until yesterday -___-) and ended up using a gardening torch, which was a bit larger but worked just fine.

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Let me tell you though, even after all the trouble I went through to procure all the necessary ingredients (my first time purchasing a vanilla bean!) and kitchen tools (pastry brush, 10 in. pan, cake box), I’d have to say that it was absolutely worth it. This cake is probably the most delicious cake I have ever made! That’s just personal opinion though since I know not everyone likes lemon.

This cake has several components, all of which are delicious and are some of my favorite flavors! All in all there were 5 recipes within this one recipe including:
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lemon cream (which is not the same as lemon curd! the difference is in how the butter is incorporated)

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A more sophisticated caramel (that includes vanilla bean — look closely and you can see it!)

The other three components were the layers of chiffon cake, lemon syrup and Italian meringue. It would’ve been much better if I had made some of the components beforehand, but nope. I was feeling extra ambitious and decided to tackle the entire cake recipe, my hummingbird cupcakes from the previous post AND mac & cheese cupcakes all in one day. Let’s just say I spent 12 hours in the kitchen and 5 hours running around trying to find all the ingredients and tools for all three items. But even after all the hard work and effort, I can’t say that I regret any of it! I am proud of this cake (and have eaten it for breakfast) and know that next time I’ll just make some of the components beforehand and improve upon my meringue-making!

* If you would like a copy of the recipe, feel free to contact me! It’s way too lengthy for me to post it all here, though I’m sure it’s out there on the web somewhere.

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When Friends Hand You Lemons

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From 4th grade (April 2000, which was when I first moved to America) to my senior year of high school, I lived in Venice, California in a small house with a huge front yard. Our front yard was easily twice the size of our actual house (albeit it was a tiny house), thus it allowed my grandma to grow numerous plants from seeds that she snuck into America illegally. Some of the plants on that yard included a guava tree, a mango tree that never quite grew past three feet tall or bore any fruit, a pomelo tree, an apple tree and of course the quintessential American home plant, the lemon tree. Because our trees produced bountiful fruits, I have never had to buy a single lemon (or guava) in my life. Thankfully lemons are not that expensive, which eased the pain of losing a lemon tree when I came to college.

Like many things in life, I took that lemon tree for granted. I am only able to appreciate it now when I actually utilize lemons almost daily and frequently use it in baking and cooking. Not once did I make lemon curd or use lemons in my baking (aside from the occasional lemon zest) when that lemon tree was just outside my house. So I told myself that if I ever had such an abundance of lemons ever again, that I would make sure to use them creatively. Well, it didn’t take long for the plethora of lemons to arrive! During this winter season, I received so many lemons from friends with lemon trees (some that I still haven’t used!). I didn’t realize how eager people are to give away their lemons because if you have a tree, it’s not likely for you to use all of the fruit it bears! I promised myself that I would finally try making lemon curd and that I would somehow use that lemon curd for something pretty darn cool. And that’s when I remembered this Lemon Meringue Cookie recipe from Joy the Baker that I remember starring on my Google reader a long time ago. I believe that the lemon curd recipe she used is actually from David Leibovitz (whose blog I also admire and follow) and it was delicious!

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I made sure to bust out my bright yellow, lemon-colored bowl for my egg whites to be mixed in.
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I always love the way egg whites + air = this fluffy white substance called meringue.
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I took out my piping bag and some of my piping tips and tried to find one that was closest to a star tip. Unfortunately my only star tip was rather small and so my meringue cookies really didn’t look like stars, but whatever because they were still cute and delicious. I do confess that I had a bit of trouble piping the meringue batter onto my baking pan because it seemed kind of wet.
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They did bake just fine though! Note that this was my first time baking meringue cookies (I’ve only incorporated it into a batter for cake) so it was an exciting experience!
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And that lemon curd was just seriously plain delicious. I may have had spoonfuls of it before I was able to get them on the cookies. But don’t worry, I washed the spoon!
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Aren’t they just the cutest things ever?! I followed Joy’s suggestion to freeze them before serving, except I actually just stored them in the freezer in an airtight container. It was like eating a light ice cream sandwich…but homemade and obviously better. They kept in the freezer for about a few days until I noticed a decline in the quality of the cookies. Easy, fun and delicious! Oh and there was plenty of lemon curd leftover to my stomach’s delight :)