I've been alone in the house for almost 6 weeks while my brother and his girlfriend have been off seeing the world. As much as I like my alone-time, I've really missed having them around. And the novelty of blasting music late at night/leaving messes in the kitchen/talking to myself has worn off.
I wanted to make something as a "welcome home" gesture - something that says "look how green and summery it got while you were away!" (some consolation after having to come back from an epic holiday) that tasted fresh and looked somewhat impressive. I think the lemon/raspberry combo is generally a safe bet, and the meringue adds some fluffy creaminess without being super rich or overly sweet. Decorating took all of 5 minutes, but I'm really pleased with how it looks; I wanted to take the customary "slice" photograph, but I couldn't bear cutting into it just yet. I may not hold out for much longer though - if they're too tired to have any tonight, they may wake up to a half-eaten cake tomorrow. I'm just saying...
Lemon Cake with Vanilla Meringue and Raspberries
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the cake:
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the lemon juice, zest and extract. In a separarte bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt; add this to the creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Beat just until combined. Pour into a greased and floured cake pan (I used a 9-inch springform, but you could also use a bundt, sandwich tins, or loaf pans). Bake at 350°F/180°C for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.
To make the meringue:
In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, lemon juice and cream of tartar. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbly and clear. In a medium mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and vanilla to soft peaks. It made sense to me to whip the egg whites while monitoring the sugar, but you can do each in their own time, too.
Very slowly add the hot sugar mixture to the egg whites - just gently drizzle it in - while whipping constantly until stiff peaks form, about 7 to 10 minutes. The meringue should be thick and glossy.
Pile it all on top of the cake, being as fancy or messy as you want. It's all going in your mouth anyway, amiright?
*Note* If you're not going to serve this right away, keep it refrigerated in an air-tight container; the meringue will dry out if it's left out in the open for too long.