Years ago, when I was the food editor of the Honolulu Advertiser, I saved a recipe for Lemon Sponge Pudding from a news wire story. I hadn’t run the story but must have liked the recipe, because I just found it recently in an old recipe binder. So after decades, I thought I’d try it out.
Lemons have been on my mind recently because Dave bought a new house that came with a bonus lemon tree. Delighted to receive the bounty from my son, I grated the peels and juiced the lemons to store in my freezer.
At first look, the recipe seemed very simple. When I actually read through it, I found key information was missing. There was no yield, it didn’t say what to bake the batter in, and it didn’t give the baking temperature.
This is why it’s always important to read a recipe first, and be able to imagine the steps required for preparing the dish, before you get going. This is how you spot a flawed recipe before you commit to purchasing the ingredients.
The recipe, probably part of a retro recipes story, was credited to Mrs. Anna Kellogg and printed in 1941 in “Favorite and Original Recipes of the Members of the San Joaquin County Farm Home Department of the Farm Bureau.” In those days, recipes didn’t have to be as detailed since women were more experienced cooks – there were no takeout or ready meal options.
So I took an educated guess to fill in the blanks, adding some embellishments of my own, and tried out the recipe. It turned out as promised, with a lovely layer of jelly on the bottom and light, fluffy sponge on top. But it was so sweet as to be inedible, and the entire batch had to be tossed. Also, it made 12 puddings – way too much for most families.
Undaunted, I tried again, cutting the recipe in half, cutting back the sugar and adding more lemon juice. I also buttered the custard cups (not in the recipe) and dusted them with sugar so the pudding could slip out easily, to be served pudding side up.
Here’s the revised recipe and it is so completely different from the original in ingredients and method to have evolved into a new recipe. I also beefed up the instructions, adding more details as guideposts.
If you’ve never beaten egg whites before, check out this video before beginning the recipe.
Lemon Sponge Pudding
Makes 6 puddings
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
Butter for greasing
Additional sugar to coat custard cups
- Heat oven to 325°F and start a kettle of water boiling. Butter 6 (6-ounce) custard cups or ramekins and dust with sugar.
- In large bowl, combine egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar and whisk thoroughly. Add lemon juice, grated lemon peel, flour and salt; whisk to blend and set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff.
- Add milk to the lemon mixture and whisk. Add 1/4 of the egg whites and whisk gently to combine. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in remaining egg whites.
- Ladle lemon mixture into prepared cups, dividing equally. Put cups in a baking pan and fill with hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake puddings about 30 minutes until tops are golden.
- Carefully remove cups from hot water, lifting the cups by the edge with a pot holder. You can slide an egg turner under the cup to get a head start.
- Cool for 10 minutes; center a dessert plate over a cup and flip to invert the pudding onto the dessert plate. Repeat with remaining puddings. Serve puddings warm or cold.
Note: to dust the custard cups with sugar, put about 1 tablespoon of sugar in the greased custard cup and tap the cup to scatter the sugar; a thin layer will adhered to the butter. Keep turning and tapping until the entire cup is dusted with sugar. Turn upside down over the next cup and tap to get rid of excess sugar. Do the same for the remaining cups, adding more sugar as needed.
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