Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Meringue

I’ve been on a meringue kick recently and I especially love the old fashioned look of a meringue topped cake.

There’s just something beguiling about a meringue’s fluffy, cloudlike appearance. Wouldn't you agree?

Lemon Buttermilk Cake #2
adapted from Maida Heatter's Cakes

Maida’s recipe specified using a 9 x 3.5” tube pan but I don’t own one. I halved the ingredient quantities and used a 9’’ springform pan. She called for a lemon glaze but I skipped it since I was going with a meringue. More notes regarding baking with organic sugars: I made this cake with both organic cane sugar and regular cane sugar and didn’t notice any appreciable differences in baking time or cake crumb. However, when I made the meringue with organic cane sugar, it was a deflated, gritty mess. It seems that you just can’t achieve the light, airy, homogenous consistency that you want in a meringue with less refined organic cane sugar (or at least not with the organic cane sugar I find in stores here in Austin). 

1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 sticks (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar+ 1 tablespoon for sprinkling on cake pan
2 medium sized eggs (or 1 ½ large eggs)
1/2 cup buttermilk
finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

1. Pre-heat oven to 350° Fahrenheit with a rack in the lower one-third of the oven. Butter a 9” springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and pan sides and sprinkle with sugar. Tap to shake out excess sugar. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
2. Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, add the sifted ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, and beat until smooth. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula between additions.
3. Remove bowl from the mixer and stir in lemon zest and juice. Pour into the springform pan and smooth the top of the batter. Bake until a tooth pick or tester gently inserted into the middle comes out clean and dry, 50-60 minutes.
4. While the cake is baking, make the meringue. Place the egg whites in the cleaned bowl of your electric mixer. Begin to beat the egg whites while slowly pouring the sugar in. It should take at least one minute to add the sugar to the egg whites. Beat until the meringue is stiff and glossy and forms arching peaks.
5. When the cake is done, remove from the oven and use a spatula to spread the meringue over the top of the cake. Use a teaspoon to create swirls in the meringue, if desired. Return the cake to the oven to bake the meringue for 10 minutes, keeping an eye out as it bakes. The meringue should toast to a light brown color but watch closely to ensure it doesn’t burn. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack for an hour before serving.


  1. The old fashioned meringue looks especially good in these old fashioned-looking pictures :D

  2. What pretty meringue! I'd like to cozy up with a slice of that and a cup of tea (it's getting colder here!).

  3. I do love a fluffy meringue--and lemon! Looks like a perfect cake. I still need to try pulverizing organic sugar in a food processor and then attempting a meringue with it.

  4. I so agree, Shelley. It just make you want to dive right into that fluffy cloud of sweetness. Lemon buttermilk just sounds so good.

  5. once again! great work shelley...so happy that you can read my blog now. by the way what can I use instead of buttermilk you think? we don't have it here...thanks and bon courage...

  6. I agree. Just to make meringue, I am planning to buy a standing mixer.How long does it take you to reach that soft peaks?

  7. I m a huge huge buttermilk fan..this looks srcumptious..your meringue topping looks so fluffy & perfect. Looks classic!

  8. Wow, Shelley! Stunning cake...so classic!! Your meringue is *perfect*. I love your photos---so retro looking! Very interesting about the cane sugar--good to know. Wish I had a piece of this cake wight now w/ coffee! Happy Sunday from a Rainy (yay!) H-town! xo

  9. Your blog is looking fantastic! I LOVE both lemon and meringue. In fact, I ask for either lemon meringue pie or carrot cake every year for my birthday. You did it again. Fab!

    BTW, I am SO sorry I was so late in responding to your sweet email. Happy travels! xo

  10. @Esra- You can make buttermilk at home by adding 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of milk.

    @Ilke After adding the sugar, I'd say 1-2 more minutes with the mixer set on high. Mixers vary in power and speed, though, so I would watch closely and test it as you go.

    @RedMenace- No problem- I know the little red fox keeps you busy. Thanks for the grat recs!

  11. My goodness, that is one stunner of a cake! I'm not normally a big fan of meringue, but I am totally feeling this. Looks divine!
    *kisses* HH

  12. Shelley, your cake looks awesome, love all of it, from the lemon cake to the meringue frosting...I am due for meringue...
    Hope you are having a fantastic week and thank you so much for this wonderful cake recipe :-)