Lemon Meringue Cake

By Tiffany MacIsaac, Owner & Chef, Buttercream Bakeshop

Makes 8–10 servings

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This Lemon Meringue Cake is perfect for spring because it’s lighter, filled with flavor—but it’s not as rich as buttercream! It’s tart and sweet, which makes it really refreshing in the warmer months. You’ll love it, and while there are several steps, it is all doable for the home baker. 

 Lemon Curd
½ cup lemon juice
1½ cups sugar
27 egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound unsalted butter, softened

Combine lemon juice and sugar in a pot. Bring to a simmer.

Place egg yolks in a bowl. Slowly pour the hot lemon mixture into the bowl, while gently whisking until combined. Return the mixture to the pot.

Cool over medium heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot so there is no scorching. Do this until it reaches a simmer. Allow mixture to cook for 3–5 minutes at a low simmer.

Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract. Stir to combine. Once combined, add butter, and allow it to melt into the curd. Whisk smooth or use an immersion blender to smooth. Strain to remove any pieces of cooked egg. Refrigerate at least overnight, up to 1 week.

Prepare at least 24 hours in advance of assembly.

Cake
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2⅔ cups sugar
1½ tablespoons lemon zest
½ cup + 2 tablespoons shortening
4 whole eggs
1 egg yolk (reserve egg white for buttercream)
¾  teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1¾ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1½ teaspoons lemon extract

Place butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Alternatively, use a medium-sized bowl and hand mixer. Cream on a medium speed 1–2 minutes, or until the butter and sugar are evenly combined and smooth. Scrape the bowl.

Add the shortening to the cream mixture on medium until combined. Scrape the bowl well. On medium speed, add the eggs and yolk, 1 at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate before adding the next. Then, add vanilla. Scrape the bowl well and mix about for 5–10 seconds, until everything is evenly combined.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk and lemon extract. Add half the flour mixture to the batter and mix on low to combine. With the machine running add the buttermilk slowly. Mix on medium until fully combined.

Preheat oven to 325°F (convection) or 350°F (still oven). Divide batter between 3 (8-inch) baking pans that have been sprayed with Pam and lined with parchment paper, roughly 2¼ cups per pan. Bake for 25–35 minutes, or until golden brown and fully set in the center.

Use a toothpick to check the center. If it comes out clean, the cakes are ready. Cool at room temperature then wrap and refrigerate until ready to stack the cake, at least 2 hours.

Prepare at least 2 hours before starting the meringue.

 Buttercream
1½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2¼ cups powdered sugar, sifted
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream on medium until smooth and creamy. This should take about 1 minute on medium speed. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add the powdered sugar to the bowl and mix on medium speed for another 2–3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl well with a rubber spatula. Slowly incorporate the cream and vanilla extract. Mix to combine, scraping once or twice to make sure there are no thick chunks of butter stuck to the sides.

Use right away, or place in a covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days. This can refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or freeze up to 2 months. If using after placing in the fridge or freezer, be sure to bring to room temperature first.

 Honey-Vanilla Meringue
½ cup water
⅔ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey
⅓ cup light corn syrup
Pinch salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg whites
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar

The cake should be stacked and refrigerated for at least 2 hours before starting the Honey-Vanilla Meringue.

Combine water, sugar, honey, light corn syrup, salt and vanilla extract in a pot. Cook over medium heat to 240°F.

 In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whip attachment, combine egg whites and cream of tartar. When the syrup reaches 234–235°F, turn the mixer on to medium speed. Whip until it starts to form a meringue.

With the mixer running on medium-high, pour the syrup slowly down the side of the bowl. Once added, continue to whip until it forms very stiff peaks, but is still slightly warm. Use immediately to frost the cake. Any remaining fluff can be stored at room temperature up to 2 days or refrigerated up to 1 week.

 Assembly
If the cake layers have a dome to them, trim them flat. Plate the first layer on a cake plate or board that is 10 inches or larger.

Pipe a “well” of vanilla buttercream around the edge of the cake layer. Fill with lemon curd. Stack the next layer on top and repeat. The last layer should be turned upside down and placed on top. Cover the entire cake with a thin coat of buttercream and chill at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

Use the slightly warm meringue to decorate the outside of the cake. Use a blow torch to torch the meringue until it is perfectly golden brown. Serve within 2 days.

Holiday Cookies

Holiday Cookies by Cowbell Kitchen full story here. 

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THUMBPRINT COOKIES

This classic thumbprint cookie features jam from Quaker Valley Orchard, one of Cowbell Kitchen’s neighbors at the Dupont Circle farmers market. Make sure to make a deep impression in the dough with your thumb, and don’t overfill the hole with jam, as these cookies will flatten and spread in the oven. Also, be sure to leave plenty of room between the dough balls on the baking sheet. Use a doily as a stencil to dust the confectioners’ sugar in a festive pattern.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup jam, such as raspberry, strawberry or apricot
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Special Equipment:

2 large baking sheets; parchment paper; small pestle

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and a second rack in the lower third then preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar and beat on medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated, about 1 minute. With mixer on low, add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic and chill at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and arrange on baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between cookies. Using your thumb or the round end of a small pestle, make a well in the center of each cookie. Using a teaspoon, fill each well with jam, being careful not to overfill. Bake, switching the sheets between the upper and lower racks about halfway through baking, until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool the cookies on baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Continue baking cookies on cooled baking sheets.

DO AHEAD: The cookies can be baked ahead and stored, in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.

COWBELL OREOS

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

This is the Cowbell Kitchen version of the classic. Wait until you taste what a fresh, homemade Oreo tastes like—this will be an instant hit.

Cookie:

  • 1 pound butter
  • 3¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 ½  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups cocoa
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

Cookie Filling:

  • 1 pound butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 teaspoons milk

Melt butter and chocolate slowly over very low heat. Add the sugar, and then whisk in the eggs. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl, and whisk together. Stir into the wet, forming a dough.

Let the dough set at room temperature for about an hour to firm up, then roll the dough into logs about 2 inches wide. Wrap them and refrigerate them for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325°. Slice the logs into cookies that are about ¼ inch thick and bake them 15 minutes, until they are firm to the touch. Let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the cookie filling by slowly melting the butter over a low heat. Slowly stir in the powdered sugar, salt and vanilla. The consistency is important; use milk to make a thick icing that make a stable sandwich for the homemade Oreo. Assemble the cookies and store in an airtight container. 

 

GRANDMA BERTHA’S SUGAR COOKIES

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Strasser’s next door neighbor, Bertha, was like a grandmother to her growing up. “She was an amazing baker,” Strasser says. Bertha passed on her recipe for old-school sugar cookies, and Strasser still makes them every year.

  • 2 pounds cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pound butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°F. Sift together the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Cream softened butter in a deep mixing bowl. Add the sugar, scraping down the bowl as you go. Beat until it is well mixed. Beat the eggs and add to the butter and sugar mix. Incorporate well until the batter is light and fluffy, making sure to scrape down the bowl. Add the extracts, and then add the dry mix until it is incorporated into a smooth cookie dough.

Chill for 1 hour. You can roll out the dough and use a cutter, or make a log and slice it or make drop cookies. Bake at 325° for 6–8 minutes.

 

SOFT GLAZED GINGERBREAD

Strasser is a big fan of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, and this recipe adapted from their cookbook is a favorite. She loves how rolled-on designs give the cookie a German look.

Some notes before you begin: Sift the confectioners’ sugar before combining it with the water to ensure a smooth glaze. If you are using a rolling pin or cookie forms with carved designs, make sure to flour the top of the dough so that it doesn’t stick to the crevices. Look for patterned rolling pins and cookie plaques as springerle molds or pins at kitchen shops or online..

Yields 12–20 cookies, depending on size of cookie cutters.

Cookie Dough:

  • 3¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup blackstrap or other dark molasses
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

Stir together flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until creamy. Slowly add the sugar and mix on medium speed until the mixture is completely smooth and soft. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and mix well.

Add the molasses and corn syrup and beat until incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture slowly and beat on low speed until a dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl and all the ingredients are well incorporated. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it on a large piece of plastic wrap into a rectangle about 1 inch thick, cover the dough with the plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick liner.

Unwrap the dough and place on a floured work surface. If using a design, roll out the dough ⅓ inch thick, lightly dust the top with flour, press cookie molds over the dough and then cut out the shapes with a small knife and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Alternatively, using the mold as a guide, cut around it with a small knife, flip the mold over so the design is facing you, and place the dough over it, pressing it into the design. Unmold the shapes onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between them.

If using a patterned rolling pin, lightly dust the lined baking sheet with flour and transfer the dough to the pan. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and roll it in a rectangle about ⅓ inch thick with a plain pin. Using the patterned pin, roll over the dough with enough pressure to ensure a clear impression of the design. Even the sides by trimming with a small knife. You can cut them into smaller sizes after baking.

Bake the cookies until lightly golden along the sides but still soft to the touch in the centers, 7 to 15 minutes..

While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and water until smooth.

When the cookies are ready, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then, while the cookies are still warm, using even strokes, brush a light coat of glaze on the top of each cookie, evenly covering it. Let the cookies cool completely. When the glaze dries, it should leave a shiny, opaque finish. If you have used a patterned rolling pin and made a single large plaque, cut into your desired sizes with a very sharp knife. The cookies keep in an airtight container in a cool place for about 2 weeks. (Note that they do not freeze well, as glaze becomes watery when thawed.)

Summer Strawberry Tart

The Last Bite

Recipe and photography by David Santori

The sweet, heady smell of ripe strawberries waiting to be devoured on the counter in my kitchen reminds me how much I love to make fruit tarts and how much they remind me of home in France and summer.

Like the apricot tart my grandpa used to lovingly prepare for my brother and me when we came to see him for lunch or after school. Or the strawberry tart my dad always requests as a dessert for his birthday dinner. Or perhaps the cherries my grandma pitted carefully to prepare her famous clafoutis. I guess you could say summer fruits and tarts are une tradition de famille for me!

I’ve always been interested in making French desserts gluten-free ever since a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with a strong reaction to gluten and mourned the idea of having to give up French cakes and tarts. Ever since, I’ve enjoyed the process of creating new dough an crust recipes as well as cakes to put a smile back on his face and really experiment with new textures, flavors and consistency. It’s been quite fun.

So of course I wanted to share with you a tart I created a while back—updated and tweaked for this occasion. A soft, crumbly, buttery tart crust. Hints of mint and orange. Let me be very honest and already tell you that trying to resist eating a second piece is impossible. Une tarte vraiment délicieuse.

Happy summer!

David Santori, on Instagram @frenchieyankee

Summer Strawberry Tart with Grand Marnier and Mint

Makes 1 (9-inch) tart

For the gluten-free crust

  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon gluten-free oat flour
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1½ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon mint, chopped
  • 1 stick or 8 tablespoons butter, chilled and cubed
  • 4–5 tablespoons iced water

For the strawberry purée

  • 7 ounces strawberries, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons blond cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch

For the topping

  • 16 ounces sliced strawberries
  • ⅓ cup red currant jelly
  • 1½ tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1½ tablespoons chopped mint

To prepare the crust, in the bowl of a stand mixer sift the brown rice, oat and tapioca flours with the powdered sugar, xanthan gum and baking powder. Add the sea salt and mint and mix well on medium speed with the paddle blade.

Drop the butter cubes in the bowl and work until it becomes crumbly and sandy.

Drop the iced water in the bowl 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to come together and form a ball.

Flatten the ball, cover and wrap with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Using some of the tapioca flour to prevent sticking, roll out the dough to fill a 9-inch tart pan. Line the pan with the dough, pressing in the corners and sides, and trim it without any overhang.

This crust recipe does not leave much overhang. Leave the crust thick to absorb the strawberry juices as much as possible.

With a fork, make small holes over the entire surface of the bottom. Place the dough and tart pan back in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Prepare the purée in the meantime. In a small food processor, purée the strawberries, sugar and orange zest. The purée should stay chunky, not liquefied. Transfer the purée to a pot and bring to a simmer. Add the cornstarch, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Let the purée cool in a small bowl.

When the dough is ready, line the bottom of the tart with parchment paper and pie weights (or baking beads; dried beans work as well) and blind bake the dough for 10 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven, remove the parchment paper and the weights, and bake for another 10 minutes.

Pour the strawberry purée into the crust and return the pan to the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

While the tart is cooling, prepare the topping.

Melt the jelly in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn.

When it is melted, simmer for 3–4 minutes until it becomes a thicker and denser glaze and coats a spoon well.

Whisk the Grand Marnier in the glaze. Add the salt and stir again. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Slice the strawberries lengthwise and put them in a small bowl. Pour the glaze over the strawberries, add the chopped mint, stir delicately and make sure they are all coated.

Arrange the slices of strawberries neatly in a circle in the tart, starting from the outside and going in. Place the tart in the fridge until ready to be served. Keep the strawberry and glaze juice at the bottom of the bowl and drizzle a teaspoon or 2 on the plates upon serving slices.