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Ligurian Lemon Cake

Renowned pastry chef Pierre Herme likes this cake well enough to serve it plain; a lightly browned layer of meringue topped with fresh berries gives it a dressier finish.

  • servings: 12


For the Lemon Cake

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more, room temperature, for pan
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 2 lemons, very finely chopped
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons milk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries

For the Meringue and Assembling the Dessert

  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
  • Mixed berries, such as raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries (optional)

Cook's Note

You can brown the meringue in just a few minutes under the broiler, though a handheld kitchen torch is an even easier option -- it allows you better control over the browning.


  1. Step 1

    Make the lemon cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Butter a 10-inch round cake or springform pan, dust with flour, and tap out any excess.

  2. Step 2

    In a large bowl, sift flour and baking powder; set aside.

  3. Step 3

    Place sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer; rub the ingredients together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and has absorbed as much of the zest as possible. Return bowl to mixer.

  4. Step 4

    Using the whisk attachment, beat in eggs on medium high until the mixture is pale and thick, about 3 minutes.

  5. Step 5

    With the mixer on lowest speed, beat in milk. Add reserved flour mixture; beat until incorporated. Add lemon juice, melted butter, and olive oil; beat until blended.

  6. Step 6

    Pour about one third of the batter into the prepared pan; there should be just enough batter to form a thin, even layer. Arrange the raspberries on top of the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the raspberries, and use a rubber spatula to gently spread batter so that it runs down between the berries and just covers them (you'll have a very thin top layer of batter).

  7. Step 7

    Bake cake until it's golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 33 minutes.

  8. Step 8

    Remove the cake from the oven, and immediately unmold it onto a wire rack. Invert cake so it is right side up, and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, the cake is ready to serve or to decorate with meringue.

  9. Step 9

    Make the meringue and assemble the dessert: Preheat oven to 475 degrees with rack in the center. Place the cooled cake on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and set aside.

  10. Step 10

    In the clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg white until it holds soft peaks. Add granulated sugar in a slow, steady stream; continue beating until firm, glossy peaks form.

  11. Step 11

    Using a metal icing spatula or a spoon, immediately spread the meringue over the top of the reserved cake. Dust the meringue with confectioners' sugar.

  12. Step 12

    Bake the cake until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Garnish the cake with the mixed berries, if desired, and serve.

Martha Stewart Living, February 1999

Reviews (3)

  • 6 Apr, 2014

    Amazing! just what I wanted - not too sweet cake

  • 19 May, 2008

    this cake is wonderful! I skimped on the butter, oil and sugar (I always try to cut corners with fat) and it was moist and delicious. I topped it with fresh whipped cream instead of meringue, lovely.

  • 12 Jan, 2008

    This cake is YUMMY! Its easy to make looks impressive and tastes divine. I made it for a dinner pary of 6 and the whole thing was demolished after a 4 course meal. Its a sensation.