With Fallen Meringue and Lemon Curd
“Adam started. He sighed deeply. Isn’t it too simple? he asked. I’m always afraid of simple things. It isn’t simple at all, sad Lee. It’s desperately complicated. But at the end there’s light.”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
The first strawberries of spring have arrived. I always say I’ll wait until later in the season to buy them. They will be much sweeter then. But then I cave, and buy them anyway. I’m glad I brought home two baskets. As soon as I was home, I ate almost an entire basket standing at the sink. I was too greedy to wait. The berries were much better than I imagined. But then, my winter tastebuds are hungry for spring.
I found the recipe for New Berry Basket Cake in my mom’s Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook. It looked so easy, make the cake batter, pile on the meringue and bake. Top with lemon curd and berries, done. I get cavalier about baking, hurry too. Photos to take, other things to do. The meringue was doing fine, and then it fell. Crashed, folded into itself like a cardboard box broken down for recycling. I was crushed, tempted to throw it away and start again. I took a break and let the cake cool. Even with the fallen meringue, the cake still looked fabulous. I took a chance, spreading a swirl of lemon curd across the meringue and piling on the sweet strawberries. When I cut a slice of cake the faint aroma of lemon and berries reminded me it was spring. The cake was light and airy, like a classic sponge cake. And the meringue? It was more like a toasted marshmallow topping than a meringue. Which actually was pretty good, as the cake disappeared in record time.
I was more concerned about getting the meringue topped cake out of the pan, and onto the cake stand, than making the meringue. But it was easy. After loosening the edges of the cake, cover your non dominant hand with a clean tea towel. Then invert the cake onto the tea towel, from there place on the cake stand. And to make the meringue correctly… scrupulously clean, everything that touches the egg whites must be grease free, not a hint of egg yolk anywhere, start the mixer on low speed and increase to high, gradually add the sugar. I used the Miette Bakery lemon curd recipe and added chamomile flowers. Neither one are part of the original recipe, just a spring fling thing.
|Yellow Cake, from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook|
|1/2t||fine grain sea salt|
|1/2C||soft shortening, I use this brand|
|1/4t||cream of tartar|
- Heat the oven to 350°. Generously grease an 8” cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment and grease again. Dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out any extra flour.
- Into the bowl of a stand mixer, sift or shake through a sieve the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the soft shortening to the bowl along with half the milk, the extracts and lemon zest. Beat for two minutes, stopping to scrape down the bottom and side of the bowl as needed. Add the rest of the milk and the egg yolks and beat again for two minutes, stopping to scrape down the bottom and side of the bowl as needed. Pour into the prepared pan and set aside while making the meringue.
- Thoroughly clean and dry the bowl of the stand mixer. Any grease will be the demise of the meringue. Add the egg whites and cream of tartar to the clean bowl and attached the whisk attachment to the stand mixer. Using medium speed, beat the egg whites until foamy. Reduce the mixer speed to low speed and gradually add the sugar. Gradually increase the mixer speed to high, beating until stiff peaks are formed. Gently cover the top of the cake with the meringue.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes. A cake tester will come out cleanly when the cake is finished. The meringue will be a toasty brown. Let the cake cool in the pan for ten minutes and then loosen the edges with an offset spatula or knife. Invert the cake on the palm of your hand that is covered with a clean tea towel and then place on a cake stand or serving plate. Cool completely before serving. Just before slicing, add the lemon curd and strawberries to the meringue topped cake. Serve with more berries.
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