Lemon Meringue

November 24, 2014
5 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Serves 12
Author Notes

This cake will be fitting for any New Year’s Eve celebration or a New Year’s day lunch. I can’t think of a better way to start the new year than with a big slice of meringue, pistachio, lemon curd, whipped cream, and white chocolate with a glass of bone-dry bubbly.

But let me be frank: It is a lot of work, and a whole lot more if you have a small oven and have to bake each meringue layer separately. But the end result of a towering meringue confection is so worth it.

-- Make sure all the equipment is clean and dry when making your meringue.
-- The first thing to do is drain the yogurt: Drain it overnight by lining a wire mesh strainer with cheesecloth and placing it over a bowl. Pour the yogurt into the lined strainer, cover, and leave in the fridge overnight. —heinstirred

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Heinstirred is a hunter and photographer in Cape Town.
WHAT: Like lemon meringue pie, but -- if you can believe it -- even more impressive.
HOW: Make three meringue rings, then layer them with lemon curd and a creamy, tangy pistachio filling. Top with whipped cream and white chocolate curls.
WHY WE LOVE IT: When you’re going to spend a long time making a cake -- and this is a cake that will take some time, we admit -- you want the result to make it all worthwhile. This towering cake balances the flavors and textures of tangy yogurt, tart lemon curd, and crunchy pistachios in a dessert that will make your guests give you a standing ovation. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the meringue:
  • 12 egg whites
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups superfine (caster) sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 teaspoons white vinegar
  • For the fillings and toppings:
  • 130 grams superfine (caster) sugar
  • 20 milliliters grated lemon zest
  • 40 grams butter
  • 120 milliliters lemon juice
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 slab (80 to 100 grams) white chocolate
  • 500 grams plain yogurt (drained overnight -- see headnote)
  • 100 grams pistachios (shelled and roughly chopped)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 250 milliliters whipping cream
  2. NOTE: If your oven is not big enough to bake all three meringues at the same time, make a third of the recipe at a time and bake each third individually.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°F (220° C). Place baking paper on 3 large baking trays and by using the bottom of a 22-centimeter (8 1/2- to 9-inch) cake tin, draw 3 circles on each piece of paper.
  4. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until stiff peaks form.
  5. While the beater is still running, add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until all the sugar has been mixed in and the meringue is thick and glossy.
  6. Sift the cornstarch over the mixture, add the vinegar, and run the beater until everything is combined.
  7. Scoop each third onto a drawn circle and shape the meringue within the drawn lines, keeping the top of the meringue quite even.
  8. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 300° F (150° C) and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 250° F (120° C) and bake for another 45 minutes.
  9. Switch the oven off and let the meringues cool inside the oven.
  10. While the meringues are baking, make the curd and chocolate shards and store until required. To make the curd, start by placing the sugar and zest in a food processor and blitz together until the sugar is fragrant and light yellow.
  11. Set a metal bowl over a large saucepan of boiling water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water.
  12. Place the lemon-sugar mixture in the bowl with the butter, lemon juice, and salt and stir over the heat until the butter is melted and sugar dissolved. Slowly whisk in the eggs and continue whisking over the heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
  13. Spoon the curd into a bowl, cover, and place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
  14. Melt the chocolate in a metal bowl set over a large saucepan of boiling water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water.
  15. Once melted, spread the chocolate evenly onto a piece of greaseproof paper.
  16. Cover with another piece of paper and gently press to release any bubbles. Roll the pieces of paper into a thin tube and place in the fridge for 2 hours to set.
  17. When you are ready to assemble the cake, unroll the tube -- as you unroll, the chocolate will break and you will have the shards to decorate with.
  19. Mix the drained yogurt, half of the lemon curd, pistachios, and lemon zest.
  20. Whip the cream until stiff. I prefer not to sweeten the cream, as everything else in the cake is sweet enough.
  21. Place one meringue layer on a cake stand. Spoon over half of the lemon curd and spread it evenly over the meringue.
  22. Place the second meringue layer carefully on top. Spoon over the other half of the lemon curd, then spoon over the pistachio-yogurt mixture and spread it evenly.
  23. Place the third meringue on top. Spoon over the whipped cream and sprinkle with the white chocolate shards.
  24. The cake will hold its shape so you can make it before the meal and serve it as dessert, but I would not let it stand for more than 3 hours at room temperature.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cathy
  • Natalie Taylor
    Natalie Taylor
  • AntoniaJames
  • jennifer
  • Matilde

64 Reviews

Ellen G. March 21, 2021
when I drain yogurt now I line a funnel with paper towel folded into quarters and opened up to make a liner for the funnel. The funnel goes into a solid glass or a jar. There was never room for the strainer in my fridge and this way the whey is already collected in a jar ready to lid and store for refrigerator soup. It makes a wide process taller in a crowded fridge.
The recipe looks yummy. I plan to make it for Easter. Thank you
Sandy March 13, 2021
Yes, this is a bit of a project but well worth the time to see everyone’s initials smiles and their eyes rolling in delight! Excellent for a crowd, especially for an Easter celebration. Light, crisp with a wonderful lemon punch. Thank you!
Cathy April 13, 2018
Jennifer, the cake you described with layers of meringue between might be a marjolaine cake. Yours sounds delicious.
Elise April 13, 2018
This cake was amazing! I didn't have the oven space or the time to make three meringues but as I don't like white chocolate I simply did to layers with a bit of cream on the side. Sooo good!
heinstirred April 14, 2018
So glad you enjoyed.
judy August 9, 2017
This is beautiful. I do ok with pavlova and lemon curd, but never thought to put them together. I will omit the WC because I don't like, and the pistachios because I can't eat them. I will not get the full deal flavor. But what a great idea.
heinstirred August 10, 2017
Thank you so much Judy
Cathy February 12, 2016
whoa! measurements switch to metric? how about including both throughout?
heinstirred February 12, 2016
Hello Cathy. Unfortunately I can not edit the recipe anymore. Both measurements for the recipe is on my blog www.heinstirred.com
Cathy February 12, 2016
Thank you from the metrically impaired! A kind answer and a terrific new blog to follow!
Natalie T. November 8, 2015
I love measurements by weight for baking, but I'm confused as to why the lemon zest, a dry ingredient, is listed in ML. The original recipe on another site has even more dry ingredients (sugar, cornstarch) listed with wet ingredient measurements. Weird.
Nancy C. November 8, 2015
Yes. I have noticed this as well, on several recipes. They don't seem to be edited well for a website like this (which is weird.) It doesn't seem like it would be that difficult to run it past someone. Fortunately, it is usually it is an ingredient that won't matter to the recipe.. like lemon zest.. (I always add extra!)
AntoniaJames February 16, 2015
What a show stopper! We shared it with the neighborhood over the weekend, and everyone is still talking about it. The pistachio + thick, unsweetened yogurt filling is such a clever touch, while the lemon curd is one of the best I've ever made. The whole thing was such fun to make, too. Thank you, heinstirred, for this well-written recipe, and this perfectly lovely, very special dessert. ;o)
heinstirred February 17, 2015
So happy to hear you loved it AntoniaJames!
tony A. February 13, 2015
for the white vinegar, it says 6 teaspoons here, but 6 tablespoons on your website. which is correct?
heinstirred February 13, 2015
Oh no, apologies it is 6 teaspoons. I must have made an error when I rewrote the measurements recently on the blog. I have made the exact meringue recipe with 6 tablespoons recently and the result was fine.
jennifer January 29, 2015
This is beautiful and I am so excited to try it! It reminds me of a desert I used to make years ago - a very special cake that included layers of pistachio and meringue and, I think, pistachio brittle? It was a beautiful cake from Martha Stewart that I loved. Nowadays, I have to avoid gluten, but I have an aversion to 'gluten free' baked goods....which is usually OK since I rarely crave sweets but would, for those times when I do - or for those times I need to serve a desert to a gathering, like an alternative to my fall-back creme brûlée (I know, hard to believe one could grow tired of creme brûlée, however.....) Plus, in spite of all the sugar and dairy, this has all those egg whites..has to be somewhat healthy? Right?!? Of course:)

BTW - I love recipes with measurements - digital scales are very inexpensive, small, slim, easy to store, and accurate. They streamline the cooking process immensely - in the case of many recipes, one scale means fewer measuring utensils to clean!
heinstirred January 29, 2015
Thank you so much Jennifer. Let's think of it as some sort of an egg white omelet :)
I am going to hunt down that Martha Stewart recipe - it sounds fantastic!
jennifer January 29, 2015
I spent a few minutes trying to locate it....and couldn't find the exact one - but I know I have it saved in my files 'somewhere'! It was layers of cake sandwiched with merengue layers cut to fit and 'glued' in with frosting - I'm thinking buttercream icing and pistachio brittle played a role in it. I do remember it was beautifully decorated with ivy leaves and toasted pistachios (only Martha!) I remember making it when we'd just moved to Lexington, Kentucky - and we were lucky to have a healthy bed of ivy which I used to decorate the cakes - timewise, it means it must have been about 20 years ago! Yikes! If I find that recipe, I'll be sure to send you a copy or link or whatever.
heinstirred January 30, 2015
Oh that would be amazing Jennifer and thank you for taking the trouble! It would be fun to create a modern version of it. My contact details are on my blog www.heinstirred.com. Have a wonderful weekend!
Matilde January 17, 2015
I made it yesterday for a friends's birthday and, my god, it was beautiful! By far the most impressive dessert I've ever made. It is definitely a challenge to get this done (I tried to get the meringues right 3 times (on a side note, never bake when you're sleep deprived)) but the results are amazing! Thank you :)
heinstirred January 18, 2015
Oh Matilde, that is just the best news. So sorry it took 3 times but so happy it worked in the end and you loved it!
smonfor December 30, 2014
Looks lovely - Are your pistachios raw or roasted? Have you ever used just the yolks for the curd or do you need the whole egg?
heinstirred December 31, 2014
Hello smonfor. These pistachios were raw but you could use roasted too. I have not made curd with just yolks but have seen recipes where it is a combination of whole eggs and egg yolks. I think just yolks might change the texture of the curd and also be overly rich.
marymary December 29, 2014
Congratulations on the win! This will definitely be my next dessert masterpiece! Thank you for sharing.
heinstirred December 31, 2014
Thank you and it is a pleasure MaryMary!
heinstirred December 29, 2014
I will add US equivalents to the original recipe on my blog - http://heinstirred.com/2013/12/28/lemon-meringue/ It seems the edit function has been removed from the recipe here so I can not add it. I am on my way to the airport to fly back to South Africa so give me a day to do it. Thanks
Noelle B. December 29, 2014
Weight measurements? Seriously? I do not have the time to try and look up each of these measurements so "please" put the directions in the US equivalents next to the other weight measurements. Your recipes look delicious but we won't make them if we have to spend all our time trying to figure them out.
CarlaCooks December 29, 2014
This 'we' is happy to make the recipe with metric weights, which at least for me, is far more accurate for baking.
Emily S. December 30, 2014
Seriously Noelle, you really should invest in a kitchen scale and start using one for all your recipes-- they're not very expensive and not that hard to use, and the payoff is worth it. You'll have much better results than you do using your old US measurements.
AntoniaJames February 12, 2015
I'm in favor of weight measurements, too! In fact, I'm giving recipes with weight measurements preferences these days, rarely making baked goods providing volume only - except much older recipes. ;o)
heinstirred February 12, 2015
I love taking my scale out when I want to bake - makes me feel rather professional :)
AntoniaJames February 12, 2015
It's also so much easier! If only people in the U.S. knew . . . I really wish would Food52 would take a leadership role here. ;o)
Emily S. December 29, 2014
Not to be a pain in the backside, but in addition to the error about the three circles on each parchment paper/baking trays (which I see you have already said should be just one circle on each tray) I think that step 10 (spoon the curd into a bowl...) is probably in the wrong spot (since steps 11, 12 and 13 are making the lemon curd) and should go after step 13. Looks like a yummy recipe though and I'm going to try it for my sisters' birthday. Thank you.
heinstirred December 29, 2014
Hello Emily. There were some steps that went missing went Food52 published the recipe from my food52 recipe as a contest finalist so I think it has to do with that. I am also unable to go into the recipe to correct the steps so can only suggest to check the original recipe on my blog - http://heinstirred.com/2013/12/28/lemon-meringue/. Apologies for the hassle.
Emily S. December 30, 2014
No hassle at all so don't feel you need to apologize :-) Thanks for your reply; I thought maybe you'd be able to edit the recipe, but since you can't, I'm sure most people will be able to figure it out easily enough.
AntoniaJames February 12, 2015
I'll send a note to the editors to ask them to correct this. I too found it confusing, but was able to figure it out. Once a recipe becomes a finalist, it's locked forever to the author. ;o)
Nancy C. December 28, 2014
Looks fabulous. Does it cut into pieces nicely without the meringue crumbling? Or is it soft meringue? On step #3 it does say draw 3 circles on each piece of paper.
heinstirred December 29, 2014
Should read 'one on each piece of paper'. There is some crumbling but it does hold its shape well when sliced. I made it at sea level so not sure if that might make a difference.
Nancy C. December 29, 2014
Mary A. December 28, 2014
I agree what a nuisance especially since meringue portion of recipe is in US equivalency!
heinstirred December 29, 2014
Hello Mary Ann. I will update my original blog post with US conversion and message the link to you.
Cindy December 28, 2014
This dessert I will make post haste for sure. I understand the US is behind "world measurement" times but this requires a lot of work looking up US conversion equivalents. Common ladies, give me a break and show in parenthesis the US measurements for these ingredients. Just a suggestion, thanks.
Jelena December 28, 2014
I applaud the cook for not using cup measurements. The only proper way in baking is to use weight measurements.
Jelena December 28, 2014
Oh, I see that meringue portion is in volume measurements. Half applaud then.
heinstirred December 29, 2014
I'll take that half applaud Jelena :)
heinstirred December 29, 2014
Hello Cindy. I will update my original blog post with US conversion and message the link to you.
Jazzball December 28, 2014
Why the three baking sheets & 9 circles? This doesn't make sense to me, given the rest of the recipe -- which looks quite fabulous.
heinstirred December 28, 2014
Hello Jazzball. Not 9 circles. It is 3 circles of about 9 inches in diameter.
heinstirred December 29, 2014
I see the error in step 3 now. It's just 3 circles of meringue. Apologies.