Monday, January 21, 2013

My Dad's Answer to Dessert: Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake



I, like probably half of you who are reading this, am a child of divorce.  I was eight when my family fell apart. I really hate to put it like that, but it is what it is.  Even though I survived it did leave an indelible mark on me.  Now before I totally bum you out and you exit out of my site, I have to say that it wasn't really all that bad in the end. Experiences like this made me who I am, and even though there are a few people who might disagree, I think I turned out alright.

Starting at this early age I spent every other weekend with my Dad.  Obviously I would have preferred having my parents together, but the times I got to spend with him one on one were priceless. He was both loving and fun and made running even the most mundane Saturday morning errands enjoyable.  By the time we had the car washed, his ears lowered, and the dry cleaning picked up, and even though I was half full of "candy and junk" (my mother's words, not mine), he rewarded me with lunch at one of our regular places where I got the VIP treatment.  I don't think I've had a waitress ask me since if I'd like "the usual".

Saturday lunchtime with Dad may have meant pit barbecue and drugstore cheeseburgers, but nighttime was reserved for one of his "jungle" buffets at home.  Why he called it this was and still is a mystery to me, but I think he was just trying to make simple sound special.  He would often pull out some onion dip and taco flavored Doritos for an appetizer which was followed by a main course of  Little Smokies drenched in barbecue sauce with a side of dill pickles and some soft, fluffy white bread.  Poor old one protein and two veg Mom, how was she supposed to keep up with this?

After the dishes were done he would most likely pull out a boxed treat of some sort for dessert in front of the TV.  Two of our favorites were gingerbread and lemon pudding cake.  The pudding cake was always my number one choice.  I thought then (and still do) that this little box mix was no less than genius.  By just adding a little boiling water and popping it in the oven, it magically separated into not one, but two, layers of lemony goodness.  On top a light and airy souffle-like cake; on the bottom a silky smooth warm pudding sauce that had the absolute perfect viscosity time after time.

It has been a long time since I've seen one of those boxes on the store shelves, but many years ago a friend gave me her great aunt's mother's cousin's best friend's recipe.  Since I've had a persistent craving for one of these lately, I've been looking for a reason to pull out that little yellowed index card and make one.   A couple of days ago when I walked into the grocery store and saw a big display of Meyer lemons I knew that this was my opportunity.  I hope you'll like this recipe as much as I do.

This one's for you Daddy.




Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake

Meyer lemons were introduced to the US in 1908 by agricultural explorer Frank Nicholas Meyer who brought a sample back from China while working for the US Department of Agriculture.  Thought to be a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin or ordinary orange, its flavor is sweeter and milder than true lemons.  While Meyer lemon trees produce throughout the year, most of the fruit is harvested in the winter months. 

2 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated placing yolks and whites in separate medium size bowls
1 teaspoon lemon zest (for easier zesting, zest lemons before juicing them)
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 juicy medium size lemons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 – 1/3 cup milk
Powdered sugar to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Spray an 8” square glass or ceramic baking dish (or a dish of a similar size) with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
Cream butter and 1 tablespoon of the sugar with an electric mixer set to medium until it is fluffy and lemon colored.  Mix in egg yolks one at a time alternating with the remaining sugar until it is all combined.  

With the mixer set to low, add lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla; mix well.

Add the flour a tablespoon at a time mixing well after each addition.

Add salt and mix well.

Slowly add the milk; set aside.

Beat egg whites to stiff peaks.  Fold in 1/4 of the beaten whites into the yolk mixture to lighten the batter before thoroughly folding in the remaining whites.  The batter will be thin so don't worry.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish.  Place the baking dish in a larger heat proof baking pan.  Place the pans on the middle rack of the preheated oven towards the front; pour boiling water into the outside pan until it comes 1/2 of the way up the side of the inside dish.  Carefully push the pans toward the back of the oven.

Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool for at least 5 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar and serving.  This recipe is also delicious served warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings


This recipe is delicious made with just plain old lemons too.  If I have any fresh or frozen berries around I also like to sprinkle a handful into the bottom of the prepared dish before pouring in the batter and baking.

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