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.
Martha Stewart Living, February 1999
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)
- 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.
- In a large bowl, sift flour and baking powder; set aside.
- 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.
- Using the whisk attachment, beat in eggs on medium high until the mixture is pale and thick, about 3 minutes.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake the cake until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Garnish the cake with the mixed berries, if desired, and serve.
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.
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