When I get married again, I’m having these “cupcakes” as the dessert. When I fantasize about opening a bakery, I think through the logistics of selling something that’s made in a ramekin.
When my friends offer to share a serving because there are only two left, they can’t; it’s so good everyone needs one to themselves.
This recipe is so good it should be the featured recipe of Vintage Cakes. In fact, it should be the only recipe in Vintage Cakes. It’s that good.
Plus, it’s a bit of a scientific mystery. You put in two layers, but when you eat it there are three layers. I reread the recipe about a hundred times the first time I made this because I was so sure I was missing something. Nope. It’s just chemistry, keeping some of its baking secrets.
If you are lucky enough to be able to find oven-proof mugs, make these cakes in them. The original “cup cake.” I can’t find them anywhere, so I made them in ramekins. Don’t make them in muffin tins. Won’t turn out right.
Lemon Queen Cakes with Meringue Frosting
From Vintage Cakes
Yield: 6-8 servings
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (9 1/3 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (from approximately 2 lemons)
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup lemon juice (from approximately 3 lemons)
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 egg whites
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350F.
Butter the teacups and place them in a roasting pan.
To make the cake, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest on medium speed until well combined. Add the egg yolks, two at a time, and blend on medium-high speed until the batter is creamy. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl often to keep the mixture uniform. Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to stir in the lemon juice by hand, followed by the flour, mixing until evenly incorporated. Finish the batter by stirring in the milk. The mixture should be thin.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until medium peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture until all of the ingredients are evenly incorporated. Distribute the batter among the buttered teacups, filling them to just below the rim. Place the roasting pan in the oven and carefully add enough hot water to the pan to come about one-third of the way up the sides of the cups. Bake the cakes until the tops of the cups are firm and appear golden in spots with little cracks beginning to form, 30 to 32 minutes. (The bottoms of the cakes will stay a pudding-like consistency, so don’t try to test for doneness using a wooden skewer.) Carefully remove the teacups from the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool.
Once the cakes have cooled, prepare the meringue topping. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk by hand the egg whites, sugar, and salt. Place the bowl over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. Continue to gently whisk the mixture by hand until it reaches 160F. (Use a candy thermometer.) Move the bowl to the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whip the whites on medium-high speed until they have tripled in volume, hold stiff peaks, and look thick and glossy. Quickly distribute the meringue evenly atop the cakes, spreading the meringue over each to completely hide the lemon cake beneath. Using a metal spatula or the back of a metal spoon, sculpt the top of the meringue into peaks and valleys.
Use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue to a golden brown hue (alternatively, place the cups on a baking tray and slide the tray into the middle of the oven preheated to broil, watching vigilantly and turning the tray as necessary to toast the meringue tops).
Because the egg whites in the meringue cooked to 160F, these cakes can sit at room temperature for up to 2 days. That being said, this dessert tastes best on the day it is made!