I feel like this is as much a recipe for a delicious simple treat as it is for embracing the magnificent mess that is cooking with and for children. We make this cake ever so often during the spring and summer months, it's straightforward, refreshingly light, and simply luxurious, in many ways, other than ice cream, an ideal warm weather treat.
That being said, I include the pictures here because they are not perfect. You see the parts of the meringue that our 4 yr old son nibbled on, rendering the sheet cake more lace like than a complete wrap. The day we made this I only had raw sugar on hand, not refined white, so the meringue is in fact light beige/tan color because the sugar was too. This doesn't impact the taste one bit.
This cake was delightful, just not for show, it was for love. We don't need to only share the show-off worthy recipes and parts of ourselves, in a sense that can be a bit boring and intimidating. There are countless picture perfect dessert images we can find and then when in reality ours don't match, we can think less somehow. The food we enjoy making is the food that tastes the best, because we serve it with love and joy, these aren't trivial ingredients, they may be the most important ones.
This is a sheet "cake" only of meringue, filled with whipped cream that is sweetened with lemon curd, and scattered with fresh berries. You can roll it up into a roulade as pictured here, or just make the meringue, slather with the lemon curd whipped cream, and serve with berries.
To start, make the lemon curd as it needs to cool completely before you can fold it into the cream. You can also buy store-bought if that makes this more accessible.
4-5 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)
6 Tablespoons salted butter, if you use unsalted, simply add a scant pinch of salt.
Almost every recipe you'll look up tells you to do this in a double boiler, I do not. I simply don't have a double boiler. I use a small pot, on direct heat, and pay close attention. So, if you don't have a double boiler know you too can dothis, it only requires attentiveness. That being said, if you do have a double boiler, and want a bit of peace of mind, use it here. If using one, just fill the bottom pot of your double boiler with about 2 inches of water, place on high heat, once the water begins to boil, reduce to low heat to keep the water at a simmer.
In either just a small pot over medium to medium low heat, or the top section of your double boiler, add in your egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Whisk until completely blended, then continue to whisk as the curd cooks. Constant whisking prevents the egg yolks from curdling, and if doing this on direct heat is extra important. Whisk over heat until the mixture becomes thick, resembling the texture of a hollandaise sauce, or for about 10 minutes. If your curd isn’t thickening, you can turn up the heat just pay dear attention.
Remove your pan from heat, cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces, and then whisk into the curd. The butter will melt from the heat of the curd. Pour curd into a jar or bowl, you can place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top so it is touching the top of the curd to prevent a skin from forming on top, yet it is not required for this either. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools. This will keep in the fridge for up to a week if wanting to make ahead.
Meringue Sheet "Cake"
6 egg whites
1 1/3 cups sugar
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9x13in baking tin with greased parchment paper.
Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl using an electric mixer on full speed until glossy yet stiff. Gradually add the sugar, a teaspoon at a time, and still on high speed, whisking well between each addition. Whisk until stiff and glossy and all the sugar has been added.
Spread the meringue mixture into the prepared tin, bake for about 8 minutes, then lower the oven to 325F and bake for 15 minutes more until firm to the touch. Remove and turn upside down on a piece of non-stick baking paper. Carefully peel the paper from the base of the meringue and leave it to cool for about 10 minutes.
To assemble: Whip 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream until stiff peaks. Fold in the chilled lemon curd, this is plenty sweet enough to flavor and sweeten the cream. I usually use about 3/4 of the curd recipe above, reserving a bit for decorating later. Slather about 3/4 of the lemon cream on the meringue, note the holes are only there because our son made them sneaking pieces of meringue away, your's likely will look more polished, maybe? Then sprinkle some fresh fruit on top, here we used chopped strawberries and raspberries. You can leave this as is, and just cut squares to serve, you using the parchment paper to guide you, you can roll it up into a roulade, I then usually frost this with a thin layer of the remaining lemon cream (to cover any cracks or childhood nibbles), and then dot it with tart lemon curd, and a few extra berries.
You can make this with orange curd and blackberries, or key lime curd and raspberries with a touch of white chocolate melted and ribboned into the cream, or rhubarb curd and strawberries too. The curd serves as a tart, flavor packed, refreshing burst to cut through the richness of the whipped cream and the sweetness of the meringue. The cream serves to bind it all together, the way whipped cream does, and the fruit of course, a happy delight and illusion of this being a healthy snack. You can make a nut brittle if you wanted to sprinkle that on for added texture. As these are light flavors I recommend a pistachio or almond, pine nut kind of nuttiness.