Lemon Fluff for Miles
Disclaimer: These photos blow. The recipe however, quite spectacular. After weeks of thinking the photos too ugly for the blog, I relented, after requests were made for the recipe. Because seriously, this cake is worth sharing, ugly photos and all.
The cake I speak of is the Lemon Icebox Cake. In some circles (like my grandmother’s) it’s a classic that makes people get all misty-eyed. In my circle, it’s more of a novelty, as in “What’s an icebox?”, “Is the cake made of ice?”, that sort of thing.
Meredith, my friend of many months in Seattle, was leaving us. After a year of lawyering it up in the soggy Pacific Northwest, she had a job back in San Francisco waiting for her. I was sad, as she got me through many a rainy day while we were still learning our way around. It’s the rare person that is up for anything (hike? bike ride? lake swimming? bike ride to a hike that ends in lake swimming?). But mostly I just fed her. So for her last meal I wanted something special.
She’s mildly obsessed with lemons, so I considered recreating one of my first desserts at Delancey: Meyer lemon budino with anise caramel syrup, candied pistachios and shortbread. It made sense to end an era with the dessert that started it. But then I remembered this article in Fine Cooking magazine. It was one of those articles where two chefs classically recreate or reinvent a recipe. This had Rose Levy Beranbaum recreating a classic lemon icebox cake. It literally had me drooling. And it looked long and complex, two words that occasionally make my ears perk up in a recipe. So it was decided. Meredith’s last meal (with me) in Seattle would end with a lemon icebox cake.
There were a lot of eggs involved.
First I made an angel food cake, another food item I’ve been hoping to scratch off my list. I’ve heard stories that they were difficult, that the cakes sunk into nothing. I do love a good cake challenge. I started with a fluffy white meringue.
Into that I folded the tiniest amount of flour possible. I spread the batter into an angel food pan (courtesy of Molly, because I have limits to my cake pan collection).
It baked until it was golden and splitting. I pulled it from the oven and hung it upside down to cool. I know. Upside down. I suspect this is what keeps it from sinking, since it’s pretty well adhered to the pan.
Then I made some lemon “fluff”. That involved making a lemon curd that I then folded with whipped cream, that I then folded with gelatin laced meringue.
By the time that was ready my cake had cooled and was ready to be de-panned. I trimmed off the top and sliced it into four discs.
Then back into the angel food cake pan they went, layered with the lemon fluff. From there it was 12 hours of chilling in the fridge while I nervously fretted about how the hell I was going to get it out.
Somehow, it came out. That somehow involved propping it on a wine bottle and flipping everything onto a serving tray. It was a bit theatrical. But it was worth it for sure. Walking out to the table in the backyard carrying this gigantic jiggling mound of yellow fluff I felt like some kind of cake goddess. And it only took me about 16 hours.
LEMON ICEBOX CAKE RECIPE:
The only change I made was to not grease the pan before baking the angel food cake. Multiple sources confirmed that greasing the pan was a no-no.
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