Spring is for rejuvenation, fresh starts and light, fruity desserts.
It all started with a fail.
The cake curdled and wept, but I couldn’t blame the recipe. I knew better–as we so often do, but we simply can’t stop ourselves…a hasty reply, an off-handed comment, the rush and tumble diverting our attentions and derailing our intentions.
In my case, I did not take the care to mix the few ingredients correctly to make the classic pudding cake magic happen.
Yes, baking magic requires patience and attention. Like so many other things do.
I did not soften the butter enough. I did not whip the egg whites properly. And I completely neglected the hot water bath.
So, in the end my effort to get my lemon-loving daughter to love old-fashioned lemon pudding cakes failed outright.
But this is a redemption story. Appropriate for spring, don’t you think, when nature renews itself? We can take our cues from the greening up of the grasses, the uncreasing of the buds, the fresh-flowing waters.
It takes focus and some work, but it’s doesn’t have to be hard—and it can certainly be joyful—to set out on a new path or the same well-worn one with a sense of renewal.
I, myself, am formulating new goals after a period of rest and self-reflection–mixed well with lots of time outdoors.
I redoubled my efforts to get this lemon pudding cake right because it seems just right for an Easter brunch, which approaches so soon.
Extra-Lemony Pudding Cake
Lemon pudding cake is a much-loved recipe that dates at least to the The Settlement Cook Book first published in 1901. The original recipe can be made from pantry ingredients plus a few lemons, which makes it a wonderful dessert to pull off without any extra planning, shopping or time.
I tucked whole raspberries from the freezer into the batter at the last minute. Lemons and raspberries (for no good agricultural reason here in the Northwest) just feel like spring and celebration.
Most lemon pudding cakes use a conservative amount of lemon. I doubled the (Meyer) lemon zest and juice in this recipe.
I also adopted a technique learned from Dorie Greenspan to massage lemon zest with granulated sugar to release more of the essential oils. It created a kind of cooking spa to inhale the fragrance while taking an extra moment to work these two ingredients together.
Everything takes more time than I plan on, but I’m learning to accept that and to adjust my expectations. Happily, the results from a more patient, attentive approach bring rewards both small and sweeping.
Here’s to spring!
Lemon Pudding Cakes with Raspberries
- 2 whole lemons
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
- 2 eggs, separated pastured
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup milk at room temperature
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
- confectioner's sugar optional
Grate the zest from the lemons into a medium mixing bowl to get about 1 heaping tablespoon. Juice the lemons into a small bowl to get about 4 tablespoons and set aside.
Add the sugar to the mixing bowl with the lemon zest and use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar, tinting it yellow and releasing its scent.
Cream the butter with the lemon sugar with a sturdy whisk or using a hand blender. Add the egg yolks and beat again until well mixed. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until blended. It will be very thick and stuck in the whisk or beaters, but will release once you add the liquids.
Add the reserved lemon juice followed by the milk and mix until it is smooth and thick as pancake batter.
Bring a teapot of water to a boil and preheat the oven to 350°F. Set 4 ungreased 6-ounce ramekins into a baking dish.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gently fold the whites into the batter to make an airy batter. Distribute the batter into the ramekins. Push 5 or 6 raspberries into the batter in each of the ramekins.
Set the baking dish on the oven rack and pour the boiling water into it to reach 1 inch up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the puddings are set. (You can check the center with a knife.) They will be puffed up and deeply golden brown on top.
Cool on a rack and serve warm or chilled with a dusting of confectioner's sugar, if desired.