Lemon Celebration Cake with Lemon Curd and Swiss Meringue


I am always looking for new recipes, both sweet and savory, and while there are thousands online, my go-to is always anything by Marlene Sorosky-Gray.

Marene worked with James Beard as well as Julia Child, and she has written 13 cookbooks, including the James Beard Award Winning Book, Entertaining on the Run. Most of all, however, I admire Marlene for creating some of the most delicious recipes ever.

One day, back in the 80s, my aunt made a delicious cheesecake so I asked her recipe; but it was Marlene's recipe! The same month I asked my friend Karin for her shrimp and chicken curry recipe. Yes, also from Marlene. That is when I discovered her Cookery for Entertaining Cookbook. I have used it SO much that the pages are all stained, and many have fallen out (I recently bought it again)! In fact, I have all 13 of her cookbooks!

I learned so much from Marlene over the years, yet I was a silent fan. Until one day a few years ago I decided to write her, and to my surprise, she wrote back! We've had such a lovely relationship since, and I often "attend" her "Cooking with Class" cooking classes via Zoom. And in May of 2023, I hope to do a culinary tour with her throughout Europe. Tonight, Marlene taught a small group of us how to make a Lemon Celebration Cake with Lemon Curd and Swiss Meringue. It's such a special cake, truly a celebration in your mouth, that I thought I would share. 

Here is the recipe for Marlene's Lemon Meringue Celebration Cake: 



Sponge Cake
3 cups cake flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

 Lemon Syrup
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

 Lemon Filling
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks (save the whites for meringue)
3/4 cup whipping cream, whipped to firm peaks

 Italian Meringue Frosting
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
6 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Dash salt

1. Adjust rack to lower third of oven, preheat to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment.

2. in a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour, 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt. Using an electric mixer, cream 2 sticks butter until very soft and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups sugar and continue creaming until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add 4 eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1/2 tsp. vanilla.

4.  On low speed, add a small amount of the dry ingredients to the batter using on-and-off bursts of the mixer. This keeps the flour from flying outside the bowl. Add 1/3 cup buttermilk.  1/3 the flour, repeat beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix to blend. Spoon batter into cake pans and spread it evenly.

5. To bake: Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until tops are golden, a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean and the sides of the cake begin to pull away. Cool in pans 10 minutes, gently go around edges of cake with a small knife and then invert cake layers onto a rack, turn right side up and cool completely.  TO MAKE AHEAD: Cake layers may be wrapped in foil and held at room temperature up to 2 days or frozen. 

In a small saucepan, heat 3/4 cup water and 1/2 sugar until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup lemon juice. TO MAKE AHEAD: Syrup may be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

1. To make lemon curd: In a medium heavy saucepan over low heat, heat 1/2 cup  lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar and 6 tablespoons butter, stirring occasionally.  In a small bowl, briefly whisk 2 eggs and 2 yolks. When butter is melted, whisk some of the warm liquid into egg mixture, then stir the warmed eggs back into the pan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the curd thickens enough to leave a definite pattern on a spatula when you run your finger along it. (170 degrees). Press the curd through a strainer into a bowl.  Place plastic wrap directly on surface and refrigerate until cold. TO MAKE AHEAD: Curd may be refrigerated up to 3 days. 

Several hours before filling the cake, stir curd well and fold into 3/4 cup whipped cream. Return to refrigerator to firm up.   

1. Cut each cake in half horizontally.
2.  Arrange bottom layer on a cardboard round slightly smaller than the cake. Brush with a quarter of the syrup. It seems like a lot, but not to worry. You might use a little less on the bottom layer and go a little heavier on the top layers. Spread with 1/3 of the filling, stopping about 1/2-inch from the edges. Top with second layer, brush with syrup and spread with 1/3 filling Top with third layer, brush with syrup, spread with remaining filling and top with cake layer. Brush with remaining syrup.
TO MAKE AHEAD:  Cake is best refrigerated overnight and can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

1. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup water in a 1 ½ quart saucepan. Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium high and boil until a candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees. 

2. While sugar is boiling, beat the egg whites with cream of tartar and salt until soft peaks form.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks form. If whites are almost ready before the syrup, reduce mixer to low and mix slowly until the syrup reaches 240 degrees. 

3. Turn the mixer to low and while it is running, very slowly pour the hot syrup into a steady stream toward the edge of the bowl onto the whites. Continue to beat on high speed until the whites are room temperature, thick and glossy like marshmallow cream, about 10 minutes. The sides of the bowl should no longer feel warm. 

 4. Frost sides and top with frosting using a spoon or a star tip to make swirls. Brown with a blow torch.

TO MAKE AHEAD: Cake may be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature several hours before serving. Serve at room temperature.
 Makes about 14 servings.