Tartine Lemon Meringue Cake

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Lemon Meringue Cake

In case you needed another reason to buy the Tartine cookbook, here's some pictures of their Lemon Meringue Cake that I made this week. It's layers of lemon chiffon cake filled with simple lemon syrup, vanilla caramel, and lemon custard, frosted with thick meringue and torched to a golden brown.

It came out very well; the cake is delicious. It's so time-intensive, though, that I'm not about to make it again soon. I made the caramel, lemon syrup, and lemon custard on the first night, made and filled the cake on the second, and then made the meringue, frosted the cake, and torched it and served it on the on the third.

No recipe with this one: The scones were a relatively short, self-contained endeavor, but this one relies on several of Tartine's basic preparations and is very detailed; reprinting it all here would be like giving half the book away.

Vanilla Caramel
Preparing the caramel

Lemon Custard
Cooking the lemon custard over a double-boiler

Chiffon Cake Batter
Making the cake batter: gently folding in the egg white foam

Lemon Chiffon Cake
The finished cake

Filling the Cake
Filling the cake layers

Meringue Frosting
Delicious thick meringue

Frosted Cake
Frosted cake

Finished Cake
The torched, finished cake

This cake is fun to make because it's an opportunity to practice a bunch of different techniques using well-written, detailed recipes --the caramel doesn't even use a thermometer. The lemon custard is wonderfully simple and essential. The cake recipe is good enough that, surprisingly, it came out perfectly on my first attempt. As an added treat, you get to make two separate egg white foams in this one -- the one folded into the cake batter is plain, simple, room temperature egg whites whipped up. The frosting is egg whites, first whisked with sugar and heated over a double-boiler and then whipped up into a foam. It's a good opportunity to see the difference: in the frosting, adding the sugar right at the start prevents the foam from rising as high, and heating it up before whipping makes the texture velvety and extremely smooth.

Furthermore, while it's time-consuming overall, each component of the cake is relatively simple, and everything but the meringue frosting can be prepared days in advance.

It came out well. It's surprisingly heavy, given that it's an egg-heavy but dairy-light cake, and so much of it is whipped. I was expecting it to be a bit lighter. I guess when you soak that fluffy cake in chilled sugar syrup, caramel, and lemon custard, it gets a little bit more... solid.

So cut those slices thin.



At October 7, 2007 12:30 PM , Blogger Vince said...

beautiful job with the meringue... looks worthy of serving at tartine!

At October 9, 2007 12:39 PM , Blogger Lulu said...

Your frosting job looks wonderful!
It looks like your cake rose way higher than mine either time I made it. Did you use a smaller pan, maybe? Oh, maybe your pan is just taller than mine, I forgot that it started overrunning the sides quite a bit.

At October 9, 2007 12:49 PM , Blogger brian said...

Vince: Thanks! Sadly (and I conveniently left this out of the main post) it was like 1am when I was assembling the layers, and I forgot to soak the two center layers in the lemon syrup -- it's surprisingly confusing, the cake layer, then the syrup, then the caramel, then the lemon cream, etc. Especially when you are tired. I poured the syrup over and down the sides when I realized my error so some of it soaked in, anyway. But I think I'm going to go to Tartine when I visit SF soon explicitly to get a slice of their cake and see what the difference is.

Lulu: Thanks! The hardest part of it was slathering the meringue on in the first place, it's so viscous and gooey that it kept dragging cake crumbs through it and up to the surface, which looked awful. I ate several spatula-fuls of meringue just because they were contaminated with cake crumbs. As for the cake itself, I didn't get any pictures of it baking, but the pan was exactly to spec -- 10" round, 3" tall (I had to borrow it from Kate, I don't have any 10" springform pans myself) and the cake was domed well up over the pan when it finished baking. It actually sagged back down a bit, and one of the cake layers was more of an outer ring with no center as a result. Just like with souffles, I don't really have the knack for keeping things aloft after they cool. I think McGee talks about technique for that, I should check.

At November 10, 2007 5:01 PM , Anonymous Jill said...

O beautiful, sumptuous food porn...soooo yummy!

At December 14, 2007 12:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could have been a bit more "solid"/dense because you tried to "fold" it with a wooden spoon...a spatula might help you keep some air in that batter.

At December 14, 2007 12:46 PM , Blogger brian said...

That's not a wooden spoon, that's a Le Creuset spoonula. I'm pretty sure I folded it as gently as possible, all the practice with the French macarons and all that. If anything I needed to cool it more gradually or whatever it is you do to keep all the loft. Whenever I make souffle (which is very rarely) they tend to collapse a bit more than I'd like, too.

At March 27, 2008 2:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this! I'm making this cake for the first time and appreciate the tips. So far, I've made all the fillings. Tonight I'm baking the cake. We'll see what happens...


Post a Comment

<< Home