This recipe is adapted from Maida Heatter’s Book Of Great Desserts.
About 48 single smaller ladyfingers or 24 larger ones
1 Tbls. (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin
1/4 c. cold water
4 extra-large (or 5 smaller) room temperature eggs, separated
Finely grated zest of 1 lg. lemon
Juice from 2-3 lemons, about 1/2 c.
1 c. sugar
1 c. heavy cream
Generous pinch of salt
Tart sour cherry preserves
1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Chopped green pistachio nuts and/or shaved or grated semi-sweet chocolate, for garnish
Prepare a 2 1/2 – 3 qt. loaf pan: Use two long strips of aluminum foil to line the pan (one lengthwise and one widthwise). Make sure there is enough to cover the pan. Pat the foil down carefully so that it lays along the sides of the pan. Place ladyfingers close along the bottom of the pan, curved side against the pan.
Place a medium-size bowl and beaters in the refrigerator to cool. You can use the bowl from your mixer if you have one.
Sprinkle gelatin over cold water. Set aside. Place egg yolks in top of small double boiler. Stir to mix. Add zest and gradually stir in lemon juice and 1/2 c. of sugar. Place pan (bottom of double boiler) over hot water on medium heat, scraping the sides continuously with a small silicone spatula. Cook until mixture thickens slightly (enough to coat a metal or wooden spoon) – about 180 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat. Add gelatin and water and stir to dissolve. Let stand, stirring once in a while, until it cools completely. Wait until it does to begin the next step.
Remove mixing bowl and beaters from the fridge and whip the heavy cream until it holds soft peaks.
Using another small bowl, beat egg whites and salt until they have increased in volume and begin to thicken. While beating, slowly add remaining 1/2 c. of sugar and continue to beat until egg whites stand in peaks. Do not overbeat.
Gradually, in 3 or 4 additions, add lemon-egg yolk mixture into the whites. In a larger bowl, fold this mixture together with the whipped cream.
In lined loaf pan, spread a good thick helping of mixture over ladyfingers. Then repeat with another layer of ladyfingers; then another layer of mixture. Continue this until no ladyfingers are left. Finish with a layer of mixture. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
To serve: Open top layer of foil to expose cake. Cover cake with your serving dish and invert. Remove pan and aluminum foil.
To make topping:
Stir 2-3 Tbls. of preserves to soften. Spread over top of cake.
Using a chilled bowl and beaters, whip cream, sugar, and vanilla until it holds soft peaks. Smooth it over top of cake. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and/or grated chocolate.