Versatile Cortland and Lemon-Apple Cake with Meringue

Cortland apples. (Bar Lois Weeks)


It is great for fresh eating, with plenty of juice and some of the characteristic sweet-tart flavor of its McIntosh parent.

Cortland browns slowly after being cut, making it popular in salads.

Cortland is a great apple for baking due to its large size, exceptional flavor, and because it holds its shape when cooking. 

Cortland excels in ciders.

Cortland is a beautiful apple, with yellow-green striping over a red skin. Its size and striping come from its second parent, the heirloom Ben Davis.

In storage, Cortland often develops a light, greasy film that helps it retain moisture. It is tasteless, harmless, and easily rubbed off.

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Cortland apples and lemon zest give the cake outstanding flavor. (Bar Lois Weeks)

IF YOU ARE LOOKING for an unusual dessert for a special occasion, try this recipe for Lemon-Apple Meringue Cake. It comes to us from Ann Moss Burger of Northampton, Massachusetts, who has been making it since the recipe was passed on to her more than 25 years ago.

Make no mistake: this exquisite cake takes work! Cubing the butter, zesting the lemon, cutting up the apples, and making the meringue all require effort. But each step is enjoyable, and the time it takes to make it is part of what makes the cake so special.

The wet ingredients are whisked in a well in the middle before being combined with the dry ingredients. (Bar Lois Weeks)

Another special feature of the cake is its meringue topping. The original recipe calls for one egg white, and Ann recommended doubling it. We doubled it again! With four egg whites there is plenty for a thick, rich topping.

The finished cake has four distinct layers: the thin, crispy crust, a pleasing contrast to the soft cake and meringue; the cake, studded with bits of apple; a layer of moist apples congregating just beneath the meringue; and the light meringue on top.

The lemon zest with the apples gives this cake rich flavor. We used Cortlands, of course. 

It is delectable!

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Lemon-Apple Meringue Cake with whipped cream. (Bar Lois Weeks)

LEMON-APPLE MERINGUE CAKE can be served alone or with toppings.

Ann Burger recently tried topping it with a bit of applesauce. We had Galas on hand and made applesauce with them (the rare time we have made applesauce with a single variety!), and tried the cake all three ways.

The applesauce is delicious, the whipped cream adds another texture, and yet the cake by itself is exquisite. No wrong way to enjoy it!

Lemon-Apple Meringue Cake

Adapted from The Italian Country Table


1 c plus 3 T all-purpose flour

1 c whole wheat flour

1-1/2 plus 3 T c sugar

3/4 c cold butter, cut into small pieces

pinch of salt

3/4 c milk

2 eggs

1 t vanilla

zest of one lemon

1 T baking powder

2 large Cortland or other New England apples, cored and cut into small pieces

4 egg whites

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

In large bowl, rub together 2 c flours, 1-1/2 c sugar, butter, and salt with fingers until crumbly. Remove 1 c and press over the bottom and along the sides of the prepared pan.

Make a well in the remaining flour mixture. Add milk, 2 eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, baking powder, and the remaining 3 T flour. Blend with a whisk without incorporating the flour.

With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour until well blended but still a little lumpy. Fold in the apples, then scrape batter into pan.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy. Add remaining 3 T sugar and beat until whites start to stand in peaks. Spread over batter.

Bake 65-75 minutes, until knife inserted in the middle comes clean. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

Slip off sides of pan to finish cooling.