Lemon Meringue Poke Cake

by Jillian
Delicate vanilla cake, refreshingly tart lemon curd, and fluffy toasted meringue—the perfect spring OR summer dessert!

Delicate vanilla cake, deliciously tart lemon curd, and fluffy toasted meringue—the perfect spring OR summer dessert!

For me, Lemon Meringue Pie was one of those desserts that took a little growing into. It definitely gave off “old lady” vibes, most likely because it always seemed be served when my grandma had her friends over. The meringue also threw me off because I expected it to be whipped cream, not egg whites.

Eventually, my tastebuds matured over the years and I was finally able to appreciate the perfect balance of flavors that this classic dessert had to offer–buttery, flaky pie crust, tangy lemon filling, and fluffy meringue! I’m sure most would agree that nothing screams spring or summer quite like Lemon Meringue Pie. HOWEVER, what if we replaced the pie crust with cake…

HEAVEN.

PURE HEAVEN.

That’s all I have to say about this cake…well almost. The cake is light, tender, and supremely moist. The lemon curd is tart, tangy, zesty, and lusciously creamy. The meringue is thick, fluffy, and exactly how I’d expect a cloud to taste. The blend of textures and flavors is truly nothing short of perfection. Not to mention, this is one good-looking cake. Even the non-lemon meringue lovers will be eyeing this cake at your next gathering–I guarantee it!

So how does one get started on this heavenly creation? Well, it actually starts off super simple. Ya see, since there are a few different components involved in making this dessert (the cake, lemon curd, and meringue), I like to allow myself a little shortcut–box cake mix. It’s not only a much quicker route, but the flavor and texture are comparable to homemade.

Once you’ve baked your cake, it’s time to get started on the lemon curd. I’ve used this lemon curd recipe in several other recipes and it has NEVER let me down. It’s incredibly creamy and packed with the perfect balance of sweet and sour. Not to mention, the recipe is rather foolproof. Just combine your egg yolks, egg, and sugar. Stir in some lemon juice, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt. Add some butter, and cook the mixture until it thickens into a beautiful lemon curd. 

After the lemon curd has had time to cool, it’s time to poke the cake. I ended up poking 60 holes–10 rows of 6 (horizontally). Try not to poke all the way to the bottom of the cake. You only need to go about halfway through the cake. Spread that gorgeous lemon curd on top and into the cake holes. The beauty of poke cakes is that you’re able to pack even more wonderful flavor into the cake when it comes time to add the filling/topping. 

Now when it comes to the meringue, I recommend making the meringue on the day you plan on serving it. Meringue tends to be kind of temperamental based on weather and temperature changes, so your safest bet is to make sure that it’s the freshest when you serve it. That being said, this meringue holds up A LOT better than your traditional Lemon Meringue Pie meringue. That’s because I topped this cake with a different kind of meringue that’s less foamy and much more stable.

Most lemon meringue pie recipes require the meringue to bake on top of the pie, so I went with a meringue that doesn’t require any baking. This meringue has more of a marshmallow fluff consistency, making it less stiff and more ooey gooey. While the process in making it might seem intimidating, I promise it’s SOOOOOO worth it!

You’ll start off by whipping the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Oh, and make EXTRA SURE that the bowl you whip the egg whites in is impeccably clean–no grease, food particles, etc. If there’s any residual grease left on the bowl, the whites won’t whip up properly. Once whipped, it’s time to start on the sugar syrup. Combine your sugar and water, and cook this mixture on the stove until the temperature reaches 240ºF. I personally don’t have a candy thermometer, so I usually end up using a meat thermometer…shhhh! 

Immediately after the desired temperature is reached, the sugar syrup is slowly and steadily poured into the egg whites as the mixer is going. Try to avoid hitting the beaters/whisk if you can. The hot sugar syrup actually cooks the egg whites, making this meringue completely safe to eat. Once you’ve added all of the sugar syrup, cream of tartar, lemon juice, and vanilla are tossed into the meringue. Crank that mixer (or beaters) up to high speed, and continue beating that meringue until it’s extra thick, glossy, and room temperature–about 8-10 minutes. The meringue will gradually cool down as more and more air is whipped into the meringue. 

If you couldn’t tell by the looks of this cake, this recipe makes a good amount of meringue. If you want, you could definitely cut the meringue part in half. However, I found that the sweetness and airiness of the meringue really helped to balance out the tangy richness of the lemon curd. Plus, the thickness of the meringue layer definitely adds to the pizazz factor of this cake.

To toast the meringue, I used my handy dandy kitchen torch. It’s probably my favorite tool in the kitchen because how often do you get to play with fire? Not often enough, I can tell ya that! What I love about using a kitchen torch is that it allows for more control than an oven broiler. It’s also a lot of fun! You might want to keep it AWAY from the kiddos though…

This Lemon Meringue Poke Cake was a MASSIVE hit in my house. Although the cake makes enough to serve 12-16 people easily, this cake was gone within 3 days. I should also add that there are just 3 of us in my house…

Delicate vanilla cake, refreshingly tart lemon curd, and fluffy toasted meringue—the perfect spring OR summer dessert!

Lemon Meringue Poke Cake

Delicate vanilla cake, deliciously tart lemon curd, and fluffy toasted meringue—the perfect spring OR summer dessert!
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 28 minutes
Refrigeration Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 58 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 Servings

Ingredients
  

Lemon Curd:

  • 7 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon zest
  • teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter cut into half-inch pieces

Cake:

  • 1 box white cake mix plus all the ingredients needed

Meringue:

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

Instructions
 

Make the Lemon Curd:

  • In a medium saucepan, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, and sugar together until just combined. Whisk in the lemon juice, zest, and salt. Add the butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened, about 4-8 minutes minutes.
  • Immediately strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium-size bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Make the Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Prepare the cake batter according to the directions on the box.
  • Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake for 23-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with few crumbs attached. Allow to cool completely.
  • Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes into the cake that are about an inch apart (I did 60). Pour the lemon curd on top and spread into an even layer, ensuring that the lemon curd gets down into the holes. Place cake in the refrigerator to firm up the lemon curd layer, about 2 hours.

Make the Meringue:

  • Place the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or large mixing bowl with a beater), and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  • Pour the sugar and water into a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat, without stirring, until it reaches 240ºF. This usually takes about 5 to 6 minutes from the time it begins to boil. Immediately pour the hot sugar syrup in a slow, steady stream into the egg whites, with the mixer running on medium speed; try to avoid the whisk attachment.
  • Once all the sugar syrup has been added, add the cream of tartar, lemon juice, and vanilla. Continue beating the meringue on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it’s cooled to room temperature and glossy peaks form.
  • Using a spatula, spread the meringue evenly on top of the chilled cake. Use a spoon to add decorative swirls to the meringue. If desired, use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue.*

Notes

*If you don't have a kitchen torch, you can also use your oven broiler to toast the meringue. Just be sure to watch it the whole time!
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