lemon meringue wedding cake

11" round cake pan
8" round cake pan
5" round cake pan
(i have 2 of each to make the process go quicker)
parchment paper
plastic straws or wooden dowels (about the diameter of a straw)
1 wooden dowel long enough to measure the height of the cake
cardboard cake rounds (2 for each cake tier of corresponding size)
large cake platter or wooden round for transportation and presentation
offset spatula
decorator bags
large round tip
extra large star tip, large star tip, medium star tip

For the Cake--make 3 batches (do not increase by 3, make 3 separate batches)
(from nick malgieri)
3 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
18 Tbs unsalted butter--softened
2 1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs vanilla extract
9 large egg whites
1 1/8 cup milk

preheat oven to 350.  whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  in a mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until very soft and light. beat in vanilla.  whisk together the egg whites and milk until just combined.  reduce the mixer speed to low and alternately beat in the flour and milk in 4 batches, starting and ending with the flour.  in order to not over mix, do not fully incorporate each addition before adding the next one. scrape down the sides in between each addition.
to bake
i bake this off in thin layers, making it easier to stack when putting the cake together. you can make 2 layers and slice into layers if you prefer...but i feel that the thinner layers, while taking longer to bake, are easier and fuss free, in the long run.  this will make 6-7 thin cake layers.  each layer should be less than 1/2" thick --i use about 3/4 cup batter or each layer.  spray  cake tins with pan spray and place a circle of parchment in the bottom.  if you only have 2 pans, you will have to wash in between baking.  bake each layer about 10 minutes, but carefully watch, as the layers are so thin, they will brown easily. once you pull the pan from the oven, wait just a few minutes, then turn it out onto parchment, wash and dry the tin, then start the process again. let the layers cool.

For the Curd--Double the Recipe
lemon curd
grated lemon zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup lemon juice
11/4 cup sugar
12 Tbs unsalted butter--cut into small pieces
12 large egg yolks
beat the yolks, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest together in a bowl.  place bowl over bain marie and cook, stirring continually until the liquid thickens to a nappe (coats the back of a spoon and retains shape when you swipe your finger down the middle). do not let it boil, as the eggs will scramble.  remove from heat and pour through a sieve into a clean bowl.  toss in the butter while the curd is still hot.  stir until the butter is full incorporated.  cover with a bit of plastic wrap placed directly on the top of the curd. 

For the Buttercream--Make 2 Batches (if you have a giant mixer, you can double, but i suggest making 2 batches)
italian buttercream icing
(if you have a favorite icing, use it and add lemon curd)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
4 egg whites--room temperature
2 cups unsalted butter--room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

about 1/2 cup lemon curd (you will have to taste and decide how lemony you want the buttercream)
place egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment
combine 3/4 cup of granulated sugar with water in a heavy saucepan.  bring to a boil over medium heat and continue cooking until it reaches 235 (just before soft ball)
meanwhile, while the sugar is boiling, begin whisking the egg whites.  once frothy, "rain" in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.  whip to soft peak.
when syrup reaches 235, remove from heat (it will continue to get hotter and reach the desired 240f). with the mixer on medium speed, begin immediately pouring the hot syrup into the egg whites.  be careful not to hit the whisk directly.  once all the syrup is incorporated, kick the speed up to high and whisk until it cools to room temperature.
change the attachment from whisk to paddle, and begin adding butter, a few bits at a time.  once all incorporated and it looks like buttercream, mix in the vanilla

For the Meringue--Make 2 batches (if you have a giant mixer, you can double, but i suggest making 2 batches)
3 large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
Make sure the beater and bowl are extremely clean and free of any oil or fats.  Beat whites on low until foamy. Add salt and then kick up the speed to medium. Add cream of tartar.  Begin to slowly add the sugar "raining" it into the egg whites.  Continue to beat until soft peaks form, then add vanilla.  Beat to stiff and firm peaks.
If you over-beat, you will see moisture starting to "weep" from the whites.  If this happens, start over!

To Assemble
Start with the bottom tier:  place first layer on cake round.  Place buttercream in decorator bag fitted with large round tip.  pipe a border around the edge of the cake, making a "dam" with the buttercream.  spread a 1/4" thick layer of lemon curd on top of the cake and inside the "dam". place a second cake round on top.  pipe a border around the edge of the cake and then fill with buttercream, in a 1/4" thick layer. continue this process until you have the cake to your desired height, then top with your final layer. using the offset spatula and buttercream, do a quick crumb coat and place the cake in the refrigerator to firm up. 

make your second and top tier in the same fashion.

once the cakes have firmed up, remove one at a time from the refrigerator and see if they need any trimming. there might be bulging on the sides or the top may be  bit off-level.  do not go hacking away at it, take the trimming slowly.  i like to run a long serrated knife directly perpendicular to the cake and just slowly turn the cake to make sure my sides are straight.  i also trim any excess cardboard cake round at this time.  once you are happy with the shape of the cake, place the straws or dowels in the cake (see Placing Support).  cover the cake in a thin layer of buttercream frosting, making sure the top is even and smooth. (the sides are not as important as they will be covered in meringue)

Placing support
the straws/dowels are put in place so the tiers above don't sink through the middle of the cake.  i also keep a cardboard layer in between each layer, to aid in structure and removing tiers for cutting.  place the 8" cake tin dead center of your 11" layer, making a bit of a mark.  insert your straws/dowels just inside the line you have made, setting at intervals so you have about 5 straws/dowels evenly placed.  push them in so they are flush with the top of the cake.  

repeat this process with the second tier

Securing the tiers
once you place your third tier on the cake, check to make sure the cakes are placed exactly where you want them, then insert the long dowel from top to bottom.  you will meet some resistance when you press through the cardboard layers. i use a hammer and gently tap until the dowel pushes through.  the dowel is essential if you are transporting your cake, as the motion of the car will definitely move the cakes.  if you are serving the cake where you are making it, you can skip this part, although i don't recommend it.

Final flourish
now that the cake is securely in place, you can begin to decorate.  because this is a wedding cake and not a birthday cake, i like the look of the white meringue.  you may decide that you would prefer to toast the meringue...have at it...no rules against it. but if you do, please toast it before you add any flowers or toppers.  i only decorated the sides of the cake, leaving the tops to show the light yellow buttercream. i find that it gives the tiers more definition.  for each tier, my star tip got a little smaller.  i used the largest i could find for the bottom tier and a medium size tip for the 5" cake.  while you can reuse buttercream (if you don't like the way it looks, scrape it and try again) you cannot with meringue.  the meringue flattens a bit when you squeeze it through the decorator bag, and you can't get definition the second time around.  just whip up a 3rd batch if you find yourself running low!
decorate the sides as you like, i chose to do alternating scroll (big on bottom, small on top--then reverse) for my cake, but you can do random circles or squigglies.  i have also decorated this cake by applying the meringue with an offset spatula in swirls and dips (like a pie) to beautiful results.  allow the meringue to tighten a bit and dry on the exterior.  if toasting, you would do it at this point.  decorate with flowers or leave plain with a simple topper.  this is really beautiful with one large striking flower on top like a peony or dahlia.

Important Note:
meringue is best served on the day it is prepared.  you may make the cake layers the day before and keep them refrigerated until assembly, but please do not apply the meringue until the day the cake will be eaten.  Leftover cake should be kept refrigerated