This is a very light summery cake with a delicious lemon filling, wrapped in a soft Italian meringue. I have make this for birthdays and even a wedding.
I would start this cake the day before you want to eat it as it has several stages of preparation and chilling time.
Lemon & Ricotta Gateau
You will need 2 x 15cm sandwich tins, greased and baselined with baking parchment.
For the sponge
4 large eggs
120g caster sugar, plus 1 tsp
120g plain flour
For the syrup
80g caster sugar
2 unwaxed lemons
For the ricotta filling
170ml double cream
25g caster sugar
350g Lemon Curd
For the Italian Meringue
150g caster sugar
3 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 180C/160 fan.
Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk with an electric mixer or use a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, until pale and frothy, then whisk in the sugar. Whisk on a high speed until the mixture is pale in colour and very thick. It should leave a trail if you cut through it with the back of a wooden spoon.
Sift the flour into a bowl, then fold a third of the flour into the egg mixture using a large metal spoon, until the flour is combined. Repeat this 2 more times until all the flour is incorporated. Do this carefully so you don’t lose any air to keep your sponge light and fluffy. Divide the batter between the tins evenly and bake for 18 – 20 minutes. The sponges should be well risen, golden and firm to the touch.
Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the outside to loosen. Place a piece of baking parchment onto a cooling rack and sprinkle with caster sugar. Turn the sponges onto the parchment and leave to cool fully.
While the sponges are cooling make the lemon syrup. Put the sugar and the water into a small saucepan. Add the grated zest of 1 lemon and peel and slice the zest of half a lemon, cover with clingfilm and set aside. Squeeze the juice of 1 -2 lemons, you need 2 tablespoons. Add the juice to the pan and heat gently, stirring all the time, until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for a couple of minutes to make a syrup. Leave to cool.
To make the ricotta filling, whip the cream until thick, then add the sugar and beat until you get soft peaks. Gently stir in the Lemon Curd. Mix a third of the lemon cream with the ricotta until well combined, then fold the ricotta mixture into the whipped lemon cream until thick and smooth. Cover and chill for 30 – 40 minutes.
To assemble the cake, slice each sponge horizontally in half. Place the first layer with the cut surface up onto a serving plate. Brush a quarter of the syrup onto the cake and let it soak in. Spread a quarter of the ricotta cream onto the sponge and carefully spread a third of the lemon curd on top. Place the second sponge, cut side up on top and repeat the syrup, ricotta cream and lemon curd. Repeat with the third sponge then place the final sponge on top but with the cut side down and brush with the remaining syrup. Add the final layer of ricotta cream and chill for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile make the Italian Meringue. Put the sugar and 90ml of water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Continue boiling the sugar water until it reaches 115C on a sugar thermometer.
In the meantime, put the egg whites and cream of tartar into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form (do not overbeat, a trail cut through the mixture should slowly close). Switch to a high speed and slowly let the hot syrup trickle into the egg whites. After about 10 minutes, the meringue will be glossy and thick. Continue to whisk the meringue until just warm.
Use the a third of the meringue straight away and while still slightly w arm (it will be easier to use) to cover the sides of the cake in a thin layer. Fill a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle with the remaining meringue. Pipe vertical columns from the bottom up all around the cake and level with the top. Top each column with a small meringue star. Finally, brown the meringue with a chef’s blowtorch and decorate with the reserved lemon ribbons.