For the lemon curd:
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
For the meringue:
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cake:
- Basic Vanilla Cake, baked and cooled
Make the lemon curd: Whisk the sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, cornstarch and salt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; cook, whisking occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until thick, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time until melted, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.
Make the meringue: Whisk the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) until the mixture is warm and the sugar dissolves, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pan; add the cream of tartar and vanilla and beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, 6 to 8 minutes.
Assemble the cake: Put 1 cake layer on a platter; spread the lemon curd on top, stopping about 1/2 inch from the edge. Top with the second cake layer and press down gently. Cover the cake with the meringue, using the back of a spoon to make swirly peaks. Brown the meringue with a kitchen torch. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 1 day.
Photograph by Levi Brown