Lemon-Olive Oil Cake with Toasted Meringue

This simple Ligurian lemon cake with a light olive taste and a soft texture is a favorite of mine. I love it even more topped with a toasted Swiss meringue which I changed from the original Pierre Hermé recipe because it’s more stable than a regular meringue (in case you want to leave the cake out longer) and has more of a ‘marshmallow’ quality to it. And who doesn’t like a fluffy cloud of meringue on top of anything. Oh, and the cake has raspberries in the middle which you could substitute with blueberries or even rhubarb.

Two things to remember about this recipe. You’ll need to use an extra virgin olive oil that’s mild and fruity but not too assertive. It’s cake. It shouldn’t be like biting into a green olive. Pierre, the magnifique wouldn’t be happy. Also you might be tempted to use a microplane grater to grate the lemons. You won’t hear me say that too often but… don’t. I know it’s much easier than peeling the zest with a vegetable peeler or pairing knife and removing and discarding the white pith, and julienning the zest and dicing it finely, but it’s the best way to do it since you want to extract as much lemon oil as possible by rubbing it into the sugar with your fingertips. That results in an extremely fragrant lemon sugar which, along with the olive oil, gives this cake a nice dose of brightness.

To give the meringue its “Hershey kisses” look whip the Swiss meringue to soft peaks and fit a 1/2- inch pastry tip into a pastry bag. Fill the bag with the meringue and starting in the middle of the cooled cake (cake bottom side up so it’s flat), pipe a spiral of meringue that covers the whole surface of the cake. Then pipe little “Hershey kisses” over the disc of meringue to cover completely. Toast the meringue with a torch, et voilà! C’est fini!

  • Ligurian Lemon Cake (w/ olive oil & toasted meringue)

    • Adapted from Desserts by Pierre Herme
    • Serves 6
    • For the Ligurian lemon cake:
    • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 cup sugar
    • Zest of 2 lemons (removed with a zester and finely chopped)
    • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
    • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 7 tablespoons (31/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
    • 2/3 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil
    • about 1 pint fresh raspberries
    • For the Swiss meringue:
    • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 pinch cream of tartar
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the Ligurian lemon cake:
    • Preheat the oven to 350′F. Butter a 9-inch round cake or springform pan, dust the interior with flour, and tap out the excess. Sift the flour and baking powder together and reserve.
    • Place the sugar and chopped zest in the bowl of a mixer and rub the ingredients together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Fit the bowl into the mixer with the whisk attachment in place, add the eggs, and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale and thick, about 3 minutes.
    • Set the mixer to its lowest speed and beat in the milk. Add the sifted dry ingredients, beating only until they are incorporated, and then add the lemon juice, warm melted butter, and olive oil, again beating only until blended.
    • Pour about one third of the batter into the prepared pan – it should be just enough to form a thin, even layer. Top with enough raspberries to cover the batter, then pour on the rest of the batter, using a rubber spatula to gently spread the batter to that it runs down between the berries and just cover them.
    • Bake the cake for 35 minutes, or until it is golden and pulls away from the sides of the pan. A knife inserted in the middle should come out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes and unmold it onto a cooling rack; keep the cake bottom side up. Cool to room temperature.
    • Fill the bag with the meringue and starting in the middle of the cooled cake (cake bottom side up so it’s flat), pipe a spiral of meringue that covers the whole surface of the cake. Then pipe little “Hershey kisses” over the disc of meringue to cover completely. Toast the meringue with a torch.
    • For the Swiss meringue:
    • Fill a medium saucepan one quarter full with water. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a simmer.
    • Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of electric mixer, and place over saucepan. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes.
    • Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use meringue immediately.

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  • http://twitter.com/mykitchenandI Renee

    Looks wonderful, I’ll take two! Cakes that is. What, did you think I could settle for only two pieces of this amazing cake? hehe :)

  • http://twitter.com/piesandplots Laura Dembowski

    What a stunning cake! You should also give Italian meringue a try. It is my go to, is amazingly delicious, and very stable.

  • Yue Cheong

    Wo, looks absolutely delicious!

  • kitchenriffs

    I really need to get a torch. 😉 The topping is so gorgeous. I love the tip about the lemon zest. I’m a microplane type of zester, but you make a really good case for why I shouldn’t be. Good stuff – thanks.

  • http://profiles.google.com/gnocchiaifunghi Frank Fariello

    Simple, perhaps, but it looks and sounds wonderful!

  • http://www.ouichefnetwork.com Oui, Chef

    WOW….you’re my hero. Pierre would be proud.

  • Pattouche

    This cake was delicious and creative. I served it part of my Christmas desert. Merci chef, vous m’inspirez. Mwaaa

  • Tank

    nice !i want to eat