Meringue, in its toasty glory, is the star of this delicious coconut Meyer lemon cake. The balance of flavors and textures between moist cake, creamy lemon curd, and toasted Swiss meringue makes your taste buds sing!
My grandfather was a colorful man. He lost a leg in World War II, and like many of the men in his generation, he was a proud man that could be rather stoic at times. One leg or not, Grandpa was a man you didn’t want to cross. As a young child, my grandfathers stern nature was rather lost on me. It seemed a perfectly normal thing to steal his wheelchair, taking it for a joyride while he was napping in his chair. Later to abandon it for other pursuits, leaving him stranded on the other side of the house. The whole neighborhood would know it when he woke up because he’d bellow, “Kirsten Lizard! Get back here with my chair!!”
When he called me Kirsten Lizard, I knew I was in big trouble.
On one such napping occasion, I’d taken Grandpa’s wheelchair for a ride to the bathroom when I was in need of a shower. Mid-shampoo, I heard him yelling for me to bring him his wheelchair. Hurrying out of the shower, I threw on a bathrobe before flying–soaking wet–down the hall, pushing his chair in front of me. I had no sooner rounded the corner when I slipped on a fresh pile o’ poo that their puppy, Peanuts, had deposited on the floor. I ended up “a$% over applecart” on the shag carpeting, the wheelchair on top of me.
Righting both myself and the wheelchair, I steeled myself to make eye contact with Grandpa. Surely, I thought, I was really in trouble this time. When I finally looked up, he let out a whoop of a laugh and said, “LIZARD! C’mere kid!” I crossed the room to sit on his lap while he continued,“Sometimes ya gotta slip in some sh*t to come out smellin’ like a rose!”
All was forgiven.
I remember that moment whenever I’m faced with a challenge, no matter the size, that I’m trying to overcome. In fact, even though he died when I was still in elementary school, Grandpa’s colorful sayings come back to send me into a fit of giggles at the most opportune times.
The recipe development process for this coconut Meyer lemon cake was definitely one of those challenges.
I wanted to come up with something a little different than an old family recipe, yet still as comforting.
My first thought was a lemon cake with a fabulous coconut curd filling, coated in meringue. Lime and coconut are totally BFF, so why not lemon and coconut? I’ll tell you why not–because the whole thing was just weird. Individually, every component of the cake was delicious. But meshed together? Well, it was just…odd. Then I tried a coconut cake with coconut curd–which was awesome until I added the meringue and it got weird again. Mind you, I’m not talking about a meringue buttercream, but an egg white meringue that goes on top of a pie.
I was intrigued about the whole meringue-over-cake idea, so naturally I was super bummed that the flavors weren’t playing nice with each other. I wasn’t ready to give up on the meringue, but I didn’t want to cop-out with a straight up lemon/lemon combination. Lemon meringue–although delicious–was just so…ordinary. Would now be a good time to mention that I’m not a huge fan of meringue to begin with?
“Let’s top a cake with something you really don’t like. Oh! And try not to get frustrated when your first few attempts are gross and fail.” Welcome to the inner workings of my mind.
Still I forged on, only this time, making coconut cake with a lemon curd filling, then adding Swiss meringue.
And it was good. Really good.
So I guess this time I slipped in meringue and came out smelling like…a cake.
Since I’ve already shared a slightly different version of this coconut cake, as well as my favorite lemon curd, I’m going to focus on the Swiss Meringue portion of the show. Don’t worry! A complete recipe will follow at the end of the post! (Including an all lemon variation, if you are so inclined.)
For illustration purposes, just assume that cakes are baked, curd is cooling, and we’re getting ready for cake assembly.
Traditional meringue kind of skeeves me out because while it’s fluffy, it has a strange texture/mouth feel as melts. Traditional meringue looks creamy, but in reality it’s not so creamy as it’s…bubbly. And there’s uncooked eggs in there. And it’s weird.
As I continued to research the intricacies of meringue for this recipe, I searched “creamy meringue” to see what I could find. What I found were several opinions that insisted that Swiss meringue was beloved by both Meringue Lovers and Haters alike because of it’s creamy texture.
What makes a meringue a Swiss meringue? The application of heat. For starters, granulated sugar is whisked into the egg whites to soften the protein bonds in the whites.
When set over a pot of simmering water,
the hot steam from the water breaks down the sugar while the the egg whites are being brought to a “safe” temperature for consumption. (160°F)
To be sure, rub a bit of the egg foam between your fingers. If it feels gritty, the sugar hasn’t completely melted, so it should be simmered longer. If the foam feels smooth, your ready to whip up the meringue.
When the meringue has been whipped to stiff peak stage, it will take on a glossy, marshmallow-like appearance.
When a whisk-full of meringue is inverted, the meringue peak will remain upright for several seconds before gently falling back onto itself. Perfect!
Level the cakes, sandwich the lemon curd between them, and apply the Swiss meringue as you would frosting. Only this is straight up meringue…no buttercream involved. 😉
Meringue must be toasted, so if you don’t own a kitchen torch, assemble the cake on an oven-proof plate.
If you’re a kitchen-gadget-geek like me, you’ll think of uses for said kitchen torch. Then you’ll have one when you need it. Evenly apply the flame of the torch to the meringue until the exterior appears dry, with parts of it being nicely browned. OR pop the assembled cake into a preheated 400°F oven until achieving similar results.
The result is fluffy, coconut flavored cake, filled with tangy lemon curd, with gorgeous Swiss meringue.
This is one cake in which it’s more than the adversity that makes it memorable.
Do hear your relatives speaking in your mind during certain situations?
Did you have a colorful relative, too?