Posted by: Erica Retrochef | November 20, 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie

This was the worst thing I’ve made in a while. (Not as bad as Jellied Frankfurters, but then what could possibly be as bad as Jellied Frankfurters?) Today’s fable has many morals, and I’ll walk you through each one of them. Consider it a rough draft for the home economics book I could write someday.

1. When you want to cook, have a recipe.
Unless you’re Masahari Morimoto, it’s risky to just throw things together and expect them to taste good. It can work for stir fried vegetables, but not for baked goods.

2. Having a recipe in the house isn’t enough. Know where your recipe is and look at it before you start
Unsurprisingly, this is where my problems started. I knew I had a lemon meringue pie recipe on an old Jello advertisement I’d previously used for a retro recipe.


I also knew I had some lemon gelatin. So, I started making the lemon gelatin.

3. When you have found your recipe, and when you realize you haven’t been following it at all, and in fact it’s not a recipe but an instruction to look somewhere else that doesn’t exist, don’t start combining other recipes.
When I decided to actually look at the recipe, I panicked. There wasn’t a recipe there at all, just this annoying little note:
Directions on the box?!?

At this point, I realized (a) I should have been using Jello Pudding, not Jello Gelatin and (b) Jello Pudding does not print lemon meringue pie recipes on its Lemon Jello Pudding boxes any longer. Arrrrrgh.

So I had no recipe. Thanks to Google, I managed to find one that called for lemon Jello combined with Cool Whip, and then made another critical mistake…

4. “Whipped topping” and “cream cheese” are not the same thing.
While it’s possible to combine cream cheese and gelatin (I’ve seen it done and it’s quite tasty), it’s almost impossible to do so by hand with cold cream cheese.


Mix the cream cheese with the gelatin... SRSLY?

After (in crust):

Lemon filling in pie crust

See the little white bits? That’s teeny chunks of cream cheese which weren’t properly blended. Whisking by hand just won’t work for this.

I tried to repair my mixer (which won’t turn off and smells of burnt wiring, ever since it sucked up Election Cake batter), and Buzz and I each wasted a good half hour trying to remove this one stupid two-inch-long bolt that was holding the damn thing together. All the others came out fine, but THAT one had to strip. And if you can’t get into a mixer, you can’t clean out the gunked-up motor, so you can’t keep it from wildly sparking and potentially electrocuting you while mixing.

5. You won’t get nice stiff peaks in your egg whites if you whisk by hand.
Same problem as with the lemon filling… not enough mixing power without my mixer, although I came close before my arm fell off. The peaks were present, but wimpy rather than stiff. My pie topping desperately needed Viagra. (Meringue lasting more than four hours… ?)

Lemon Meringue Pie, After Baking

Without those spiky little peaks, you don’t get the same light browning and drying-out that makes for a really tasty meringue.

6. Meringue is not spelled with a “Q”
I don’t know why, but I have a constant compulsion to type MERINQUE. No wonder my blog only rates at a junior high school level.

It isn’t the worst pie I’ve ever had, but it’s down there. The filling was bland, the meringue was insipid, the overall experience was thoroughly pointless. It was a refresher course in culinary stupidity, though, as well as a compelling argument to buy a new mixer 🙂


  1. Oh, Erica–thanks for the laugh. I needed that this morning. I won’t even admit here how many times I’ve done similarly idiotic things in the kitchen when I’m DETERMINED to make something, even though I only have half the required ingredients and the wrong equipment. It’s a testament to our unflagging optimism (or sheer stupidity) when we forge on ahead, knowing that inevitable disaster looms. I’m impressed that you ate it. Tell us, though: how much of it ended up in the trash?

  2. We ate about two thirds of it. It sat in the fridge for several days, then I cut myself another piece. The meringue disintegrated when I touched it with the pastry cutter; it had lost all its stiffness. (I think perhaps more important than its being under-whipped was that the meringue was under-baked. The pie couldn’t be left in the oven too long without re-melting the Jell-o layer underneath!) Then I accidentally left the pie out overnight, and so it got pitched the next day.

  3. “Accidentally” left the pie out all night? A likely story!

  4. We need to get Erica a MixMaster! I just may have to run a telethon at I feel responsible for the dead handheld mixer.

  5. @Rose — Glad I could help. I figure if I’m going to blog about cooking every week, I have to be honest about it. I’m no Martha Stewart, and I imagine it would be less interesting if I was. Even thought it wasn’t a good pie, it was an adventure.

    I wasn’t disappointed when I came down that morning a week later and saw it on the counter, though. “Oh, darn. Raw-ish eggs out all night. Guess it has to go in the trash.”

    @Historiann — believe me, there is only one person responsible for my kitchen mishaps, and that’s me. (I’d like to blame it on Buzz but he’d rat me out!)

  6. Oh golly, I was smiling sympathetically until I saw that sad and pitiful meringue. I’m still belly laughing!

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