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Frozen Lemon Cream Cakes with Toasted Meringue and Caramel Sauce

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Serves eight.

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 105

Denver pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom turns the classic lemon icebox cake into an impressive individual frozen dessert boasting a graham cracker crust, layers of lemon curd, lemon cream, and toasted meringue, with a rich caramel sauce and fresh berries.

For the crust
  • 5 oz. (1 cup plus 2 Tbs.) graham cracker crumbs (from 12 to 13 homemade graham crackers or 9 whole storebought crackers)
  • 1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
For the lemon layer
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 to 4 medium lemons, zest finely grated to yield 1/4 cup, then juiced to yield 1 cup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
For the caramel sauce
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. table salt
  • 1-1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the meringue
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/8 tsp. table salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • Fresh blueberries, for garnish
Make the crust

Arrange eight 3-inch-diameter, 2-inch-deep round metal ring molds on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment.

In a large bowl, stir the cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar until the crumbs are evenly moist and slightly clump together. Divide the mixture among the molds and pack it in, pressing to compact. Refrigerate.

Make the lemon layer

Fill a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes plus a cup or so of water. Set a second bowl (one that holds at least 2 quarts) in the ice bath and put a medium-mesh strainer in the bowl.

Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a medium bowl and rub it between your fingers to release the lemon oil into the sugar.

In a large heatproof bowl, whisk the lemon juice, eggs, egg yolks, and the sugar mixture. hisk in the butter pieces. In a 4-quart saucepan, bring 2 inches of water to a bare simmer. Set the bowl over the pot (the water shouldn’t touch the bottom of the bowl). Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and reaches a temperature of 170°F, 5 to 10 minutes. Immediately strain into the bowl in the ice bath. Gently stir every so often until completely cool.

Distribute 1/2 cup of the lemon curd evenly among the 8 ring molds and spread it with the back of a spoon to cover the crust. Put the baking sheet in the freezer.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream just until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. With a spatula, gently fold the remaining lemon curd into the whipped cream until well combined. Spoon about 1/2 cup of lemon cream into each mold (you may not use all of the cream). Cover loosely with plastic and freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Make the caramel sauce

In a 4-quart heavy-duty saucepan, mix the sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup water with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar turns golden-amber, about 15 minutes. As the sugar cooks, occasionally rinse down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the cream—it may splatter a bit. Stir in the vanilla. If the sugar hardened when adding the cream, stir until it’s completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature, about 4 hours.

Make the meringue

Shortly before serving, boil the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a heavy-duty 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (235°F to 240°F on a candy thermometer), 3 to 5 minutes. As the sugar boils, occasionally wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming.

Meanwhile, whip the egg whites and salt in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on low speed until foamy. Increase the speed to medium, add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, pour the hot sugar syrup in a very thin stream down the side of the bowl. Continue beating on medium-high speed until the egg whites are firm and glossy and the bowl is cool to the touch, 6 to 8 minutes.

Assemble the cakes

Put the cakes on individual serving plates. To unmold, quickly pass the flame of a small kitchen torch around the sides of the rings to loosen them, and then use tongs to slide the rings off. Dollop spoonfuls of meringue over the lemon cream. Using the kitchen torch, lightly brown the meringue. Pool about 2 Tbs. of the caramel sauce next to each cake and garnish with blueberries. Serve immediately.

Make Ahead Tips

The sauce may be made several days ahead. Refrigerate and gently reheat just long enough to take off the chill before serving. Leftovers will keep, refrigerated, for about 2 weeks.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 1110; Fat (g): fat g 66; Fat Calories (kcal): 590; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 40; Protein (g): protein g 10; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 19; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 127; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 220; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 455; Fiber (g): fiber g 1;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I am a very experienced baker, and this is a great recipe. That said, I would not consider it to be easy because it has a lot of steps. I made mine in butter-lined paper cupcake molds because I don't have metal rings. It worked great. After I froze them, I peeled off the paper and they looked gorgeous. I will go layer by layer and describe my experiences. I would brown the graham cracker crust in the oven and cool it before I put the filling in. The graham crackers were extremely crumbly and I prefer the flavor of toasted graham cracker crust. The lemon curd was delicious. I had trouble getting it up to the 170 degrees that the recipe requires. I stopped after 45 minutes of whisking, and it was fine. I had the curd in a pyrex bowl over an All Clad stainless steel sauce pan with simmering water, and the temperature just wouldn't budge over 160. The lemon cream was amazing, tart, not too sweet. The meringue was also delicious. I accidentally over whipped it though, so it wasn't smooth and glistening like the photo. Be careful while cooling the meringue that you don't also over whip it. I used strained raspberry sauce and it was delicious. I agree with previous posts though, this dessert could easily be made smaller and it would be just as good. Most people at my dinner party didn't finish their entire dessert, but everyone raved about it. I will definitely make it again.

I wish I could give this more than 5 stars! These lemon cream cakes are one of the best desserts I have EVER made! I made them last summer for a party and they were a huge hit. Then I made them again last weekend for Easter and again, awesome! Love the lemon curd, love the lemon cream and LOVE the caramel. However one thing I am thinking about doing differently going forward is switching to 2" ring molds to ease the calories a bit. And I wonder if its possible to do meringue ahead? Can it be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen on the cakes? Running a stand mixer for 10 minutes at a dinner party is a bit of a distraction but the toasting part is so much fun. =)

I make only the frozen lemon part, served with a seedless raspberry sauce it's DIVINE!!!!!

This is a WOW dessert--both in taste and in looks. It comes out just as beautiful as in the photo. This recipe is definitely a keeper for me. Here's a tip: Cut strips of clear plastic from page protectors (the kind you slip sheets of paper or recipes into)--1/2 an inch higher than the ring and at least the circumference in length (I cut them the long way off the sheet and keep them 11" long--you should get at least four per double-sided page protector)), and slip them inside the rings before you fill them. It makes them MUCH easier to unmold--the rings just slip right off. You can even unmold them, then put them back in the freezer. You ought to try this recipe!

Another outstanding recipe. Very tasty and elegant. See my entire review at: http://themomchef.blogspot.com/2010/06/frozen-lemon-cream-cakes-with-toasted.html

I just made these for a dinner party (all foodies). It would be an understatement to say that they were a smashing hit. People went nuts for them! They looked absolutely gorgeous and they tasted soooooo good. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

This is a fabulously delicious and easy to make restaurant quality recipe.

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