lemon sponge cups

Have you all found Food52 yet?  It’s my latest internet culinary obsession.  Created by Merrill Stubbs and Amanda Hesser, the site features weekly ingredient inspired cooking competitions (hence the 52) to which readers submit their favorite recipes.  Merrill and Amanda narrow down the finalists, and then everyone votes.  You can browse the recipe archives for an incredibly diverse array of recipes and favorites.  There’s even a “food pickle” section where you can pose all your burning culinary questions.  Food52 is not only a consummate source of culinary inspiration, it also tickles me because it’s such a great example of how the internet has (and will continue to) revolutionized the way we cook, eat, and live, and share with one another. 

Of course lately, it’s hard to focus on recipes and culinary advice in the wake of the monumental tragedy in Japan which, thanks to the internet also, has been almost too easy to watch unfold.  It feels wrong to launch directly into a recipe without acknowledging the pain unfolding in Japan.  Catastrophe always makes me consider the fragility of life and makes me profoundly grateful for all the small things and simple pleasures that together make my life whole.  All of us with food on the table, a roof over our heads, and surrounded by loved-ones, are so deeply and magically blessed in a world too often overcome by tragedy.     

In that spirit, I present today’s recipe, a simple and small excerpt from my own blessed life, which is taken from a compilation of great late winter citrus recipes on Food52.  I was immediately sold by the name alone, “Aunt Mariah’s Lemon Sponge Cups,” and once I read that it was indeed the author’s Aunt Mariah’s original recipe, taken from a well-worn recipe box in Virginia, I had already reached for my whisk. 

Part sponge cake, part pudding, part soufflé, this is like no dessert I’ve ever made before.  The cups bake up golden brown and puffed and once cool, your spoon will find a layer of lush lemon curd hidden by a lemony-scented sponge top.  Which, given this is one single batter, is pretty remarkable, and kudos to Aunt Mariah, insanely delicious.  The sponge cups reminded me of a lemon triffle, but without the work of making a cake and then a separate custard – this mysterious little recipe folds all the steps into one.  Spoon them up as is or topped with a little softly whipped cream.  Serves 6.     

One Year Ago: french lemon tart with a chocolate bottom, tomato fennel soup and a revolution, raspberry ricotta pancakes

Aunt Mariah’s Lemon Sponge Cups

adapted from food52.com

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Finely grated zest of one lemon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • Powdered sugar for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and egg yolks.  Add the milk and whisk to combine. 

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Carefully fold the whites into the lemon mixture one third at a time. 

Divide the batter evenly between 6 ramekins and place the ramekins in a large baking dish.  Fill the dish with hot water so it comes half way up the sides of the ramekins. 

Bake 35-45 minutes or until puffed, golden brown, and set.  Cool at least 45 minutes and then serve topped with a little powdered sugar.  The sponge cups are best eaten the day they are made. 


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