Celebrating Spring with Lemon Desserts

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Picking lemons from my mom's generous backyard lemon tree

Spring has sprung in the Bay Area. Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure this isn't news to you. Haven't you noticed coworkers with a little extra spring in their step--perhaps an unexpected smile on the bus? Asparagus is in the markets, flowers are popping up at the corner store by my place, and it's no longer getting dark at 5:30 p.m. Hallelujah. For me, there's something so appealing about the notion of fresh starts, new beginnings, and second chances that always leads me to put spring on a bit of a pedestal. Who doesn't love the chance at a new beginning? Even if it doesn't come to fruition literally, spring always gives me a surge of creativity and energy. It means going for runs after work instead of hunkering down, making fresh salads for dinner, and doing a little spring time baking. So here we find ourselves.

I spent some time at my mom's place in Marin last weekend and she has an amazing lemon tree with more lemons than she knows what to do with. I started bagging some up and racked my brain for what I wanted to do with them. Then I remembered reading a recipe for a Lemon Pudding Cake recently that I was curious to try. The recipe is from one of my first blogging friends, Kelsey, over at The Naptime Chef. If you haven't seen her blog, it's pretty great. She loves cooking and baking but found herself strapped for time after having her first child. So she started choosing and adapting recipes for the naptime hour--most that can be done in an hour or less. While I don't have kids, I appreciate Kelsey's tasteful recipe choices, great cookbook recommendations, and smart voice. Oh, and this cake.

Lemon Pudding Cake
A bowl of Lemon Pudding Cake right out of the oven. Enough said.

Kelsey adapted this cake recipe from Cooks Illustrated Entertaining 2010. As printed, the directions were much more complex, so Kelsey made it more approachable and do-able in under an hour. It's somewhere in between a luscious lemon pudding and a light fluffy cake, and I loved it right out of the oven. But I've also discovered that, with a cup of strong coffee, it makes a nice breakfast. And in addition to Kelsey's recipe, I've included some links below for other lemon desserts popping up around the web--all from bloggers or food sites that I read regularly. So here's to new beginnings, fresh starts, and cake for breakfast.


Making Lemon Pudding Cake
Juicing, Zesting, Mixing, and Separating: all in the name of Lemon Pudding Cake!

Lemon Pudding Cake
From: The Naptime Chef; adapted from Cooks Illustrated Entertaining

Makes: 8-10 servings

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cups whole milk
5 eggs, separated; yolks in one bowl with whites in another

1. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter an 8" square baking pan. Bring several quarts of water to boil for water bath. Mix flour and cornstarch together in a bowl, set aside.
2. Cream the butter, 1 cup of the sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Then, beat in the egg yolks and flour mixture, mixing until smooth. Slowly mix in the lemon juice, then stir in the milk.
3. Set the custard mixture aside and beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Then, add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and beat egg whites to stiff, moist peaks. Gently stir a dollop of the egg whites into the custard. Then, working slowly, fold the remaining egg whites in bit by bit until they are all incorporated, but not overly beaten.
4. Pour the batter into the baking pan and place the pan inside a larger baking pan. Then fill the larger baking pan with hot water bath until it comes halfway up the side of the pan. Bake until pudding cake center is set and springs back when gently touched, about 1 hour. Remove roasting pan from oven and let pan cool for 1 hour before serving.

Other Lemon Desserts to Check Out: