For us at the Sparrow Bakery, bakery “signatures” are not only delicious to eat and gorgeous to look at, but they need to also be unique concepts. Enter our number one selling cake: The Lemon Meringue Cake! A smash up of a traditional lemon meringue pie and rich, old-fashioned, yellow cake.
The Basics of the Cake
To double down on the uniqueness of this dessert we fashion the cake into a 6” cube, four layers of cake, three layers of filling high and wide, then frost it with textured Italian meringue to give it a modern, edgy, look. I won’t bore you with our recipe for the yellow cake, nor the recipes for the buttercream/lemon curd filling. (here’s a great yellow cake recipe!) Instead I’d like to teach you the recipe and technique for the perfect Italian meringue and give you some basic instructions for building this cake at home, thus truly delighting your dinner guests and family.
Choose your favorite cake recipe. No ones says it has to be yellow cake, and no one says the filling needs to be lemon. Perhaps your family would be fond of this cake if it was a chocolate cake with traditional buttercream filling and graham cracker crumbles? The end result will yield a delicious s’mores cake! Or perhaps carrot cake?
Sky is the limit when it comes to modifying the inside of this cake to suit your taste. The main trick to baking this cake is pouring your batter into a standard sheet pan (17.5” x 12.5” x 1”). You can find a “half sheet pan”, as they are called in the restaurant industry, at most kitchen supply stores, you may substitute a brownie pan if it has similar dimensions but don’t let the batter get too thick in a deeper pan!
Before popping the sheet pan in the oven, slam it down onto the counter a couple times to level out the batter (a great restaurant trick you can use in lots of applications!). Then bake it!
Part of what makes this cake so dramatic is the perfection of it’s geometric shape. To accomplish this we use a ruler when cutting it. We’re going for 6” squares. Because of the dimensions of the pan you will likely have to cut two 6” x 3” pieces and patch them together – I promise you your guests will not be able to tell once the cake is frosted and your secret is safe with me!
You will need four 6” square pieces of cake, each approximately 1” thick to create your cake cube.
Remember, it’s ok to choose a filling that suits your fancy, it is just important that you choose a filling you know will be firm. A firm filling (in our case we use Buttercream folded with lemon curd) will help support the weight of four layers of cake. If you go to all this effort and your filling turns out to be less than firm frost 3 layers separately, lay them on your sheet pan, and freeze them before stacking. Another handy trick is to use a large, round, pastry tip and pipe your filling onto your cake layers for consistent amounts of filling in each of the three layers of cake (the fourth layer is the top of the cake and does not need to be frosted). Again this will contribute to a professional visual effect.
Let’s Meringue that cake!
You’ve got your three layers of filled cake stacked one on top of the other and the fourth layer laying squarely on top. You will need a kitchen aide mixer and a sauce pot with simmering water for this next bit. Measure 150g of egg white and 240g of white granulated sugar into the mixer bowl of your kitchen aide. Set the bowl into a sauce pan of simmering water. Whisk this mixture regularly as you hold it above the hot water until your mixture is HOT to the touch! Then immediately place the mixing bowl on the mixer, use the whip attachment to whip until hard peaks have formed.
How you apply your meringue to your cake is up to you. We use a pastry bag and a star tip to add increased texture to our cake. You may prefer to use a cake spatula. Don’t be afraid to get a bit wild and creative while applying the meringue – remember this cake is all about drama and now’s the time to bring it!
Work fast once you’ve removed the meringue from the mixer as the meringue will begin to degrade texturally over time. The next step will stop this process.
Now comes the really fun part. You must torch the cake. Using a kitchen torch lightly go over the textured edges of the meringue until it begins to show some color. Don’t be afraid of a few burnt edges here and there. Europeans are never afraid of a little color in their food and neither should you. It will add a dimension of flavor to your cake that is very desirable!
Garnish this cake with candied lemon peel, edible flowers, chocolate chips? Or whatever your heart desires. Eh Voila! If you want to see one of our cakes firsthand just pop into the Northwest Crossing or Scott Street locations.
Some Other Options
This same meringue recipe has many uses. Try it as a base for gluten free pavlovas – simply spoon it into organic shapes on a sheet pan sprayed with non-stick spray and pop it in a 150° oven over night. Top with a dollop of whip cream and fresh fruit and serve it along side your meringue cake to keep all your friends who are avoiding gluten happy.