Lemon Pudding Cake

My grandma had a serious sweet tooth – or “sweet toot,” she’d say with her endearing whisper of a French accent. My mother’s mother’s maiden name was Dion. Her father anglicized it to “DiYoung” in the days when being Acadian inferred inferiority. She was one of eighteen children born to a French-Catholic family, and she was a wonderful grandmother.

I’ll always remember the way grandma would use a small spoon to firmly pack my ice cream into the very bottom of the cone. It made no difference to me that the ice cream was freezer burnt, the flavour was Grape Nuts and the cone was stale. All my knotty-haired elementary-school self tasted was love.

In her later years, grandma was half-deaf and sometimes confused. My grandpa kept a pet cockatiel who was notorious for escaping the confines of its cage. One day, my grandma was in the kitchen satisfying her “sweet toot” when Chicklet escaped.

My mom, my sister and I were shrieking and diving all over the place trying to trap it under towels whenever it landed. Grandma was enjoying her afternoon tea in peace, oblivious to the commotion in the next room.

After ten minutes of unsuccessful towel-trapping, the bird had worked itself into a freedom frenzy. He tore all over the living room airspace, squawking hysterically, until the furniture was well-splotched with bird crap, and we – his weary, would-be captors – were exasperated and sweaty. A scream or crash must have beckoned grandma from her cake when she eventually emerged from the kitchen, fork still in hand.

The towels had been abandoned. As the cockatiel happily swooped and dived over our heads, thrilled at evading capture, we resorted to standing still with our hands in the air, breathlessly pleading with him in syrupy-sweet voices to come perch on our outstretched palms.

“What’s going on?” grandma implored, aware of the chaos but still seemingly oblivious to the squawking and feathers flying.

“CATCH THE BIRD!” my mom shouted as he soared over our heads toward the kitchen doorway where grandma stood, bewildered.

As he flapped over each of us, our hands sprang up in hope. At this point, grandma seemed to half-catch the drift of what was going on. So when poor Chicklet zipped over her, she mimicked our actions…

I can still see her wrinkled, thin arm shoot straight up with amazing timeliness…


We all slapped our faces and shrieked, “NOOOOOOO!!!!!!”

Frozen in a unified scream, we watched in slow motion….

… as Grandma came thisclose to the mid-flight skewering of our beloved Chicklet.

The bird, acutely aware of his near-forking, made a hasty retreat to his cage, emitting indignant squawks over the violent loss of a tail-feather.

With relief we dissolved into giggles on the floor until tears streamed down our faces.

Today, I share with you my dear grandmother’s recipe, and I remember her with tears of laughter and love.

I honestly think this puckersome, saucy “lemon sponge” (as she called it) is my favourite dessert. I admit that might change – my food-loves are fickle (especially these days…) . But right now, I am unequivocally enamored with grandma’s Lemon Pudding Cake (also, this Easy Lemon Tart in my great Aunt’s pan).

With only three tablespoons of flour and one tablespoon of butter, it is incredibly light – yet seductively luscious. Egg whites are beaten into soft peaks and folded into a yolk-y lemon base. The dessert is baked in a water bath, and when it emerges, a pillowy sponge-cake topping sits atop a creamy, tart pudding.

I made it for a friend’s dinner party last night for the first time in years. Five people devoured it with five spoons, no bowls. A wildly impressive self-control is all that is keeping me from making it again today, for just me.

The only change I made from grandma’s version is a slight decrease in sugar and boost in lemon – my “toot” isn’t quite as sweet as hers.

P.S. I don’t think Chicklet ever flew the coop again after the attempted spearing. Nor did he ever forgive poor grandma.


  • 1 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced (you should get about 1 tbsp zest and 1/4-1/3 cup juice)
  • 1 cup milk
  • Icing sugar for dusting, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Set a kettle full of water to boil.
  2. In a standing mixer, beat butter with sugar until fully incorporated, then add flour, baking powder and salt. Beat in egg yolks followed by lemon zest, lemon juice and milk.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
  4. Use a spatula to gently fold the beaten whites into the lemon mixture until just incorporated (it will still have a slightly curdled look). Scrape the batter into a 1 1/2 quart (1.5 L) baking dish (an 8×8 inch glass dish works).
  5. Create a water bath by setting this dish into a larger baking pan, pouring hot water into the larger pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the pudding dish. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake about 55 minutes, or until top of cake is set. Cool dish on top of a wire rack. Serve warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar if desired.


This easy, made from scratch, light and fluffy Lemon Pudding Cake is better than any lemon cake that comes from a box! Get your hands on this amazing delicious dessert recipe right now!

Last Updated on January 10, 2013 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

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11 years ago

Another Vancouver mousaka lover here, this looks divine! I want to premake it Friday, leave the house for 2 hours then come home and bake it. Do you think putting it all together then leaving it in the fridge for a couple of hours will be ok>

11 years ago

I suffer from the same over-enthusiasm for too many foods!   This does look wonderful, though.  But the 2 foot zucchini sounds positively terrifying!

David Morton
11 years ago

All my god, this was good. Hadn’t made a moussaka in years and moreover your declaration that it was serious comfort food struck a chord, because it was dark and rainy in Vancouver, today, and totally stay in doors (except in the latter part). So I made it. A little time-consuming in preparation, especially because of the eggplant salting, and the three or more separate parts to this recipe. BUT WELL WORTH THE EFFORT!

My one problem was the eggplants. I had one regular eggplant and so made a grocery run to the neighbourhood produce store.  They only had the long, Japanese eggplants … I thought what could be the harm cooking with one of these things? But it was prone to significant shrinkage through the salting and roasting and I fell short on eggplant quantity in the final construction of the moussaka. I’d say stick with the larger bulbous eggplant and slice them on the generous side of 1/4 inch thick. If you slice them too thin, they burn quite easily during the roasting.

There were two great things about the recipe, though, Mme Foodess. Your “pearl of wisdom” to salt the eggplant was spot on. And roasting the eggplant and zucchini produced just the right texture in the minuscule amount of these ingredients that made it in.

The other highlight was the meat sauce!!! Such a dark rich, flavourful sauce, I could eat it all by itself or on rye crisp or pasta or potatoes. Lovely spicing. But it more than made up for the lack of eggplant in my version, and along with the glorious bechamel (I was more generous with the nutmeg), the final outcome was fantastic.

Serious comfort food indeed. It filled the inner need. And tasted wonderful as well!

Thank you! 

Unhip Squirrel
11 years ago

can I come over for dinner?

Sarah Klein
Sarah Klein
11 years ago

This looks so comforting! Yummy.

Andrina Tisi - Wholelicious

Mhhhmmmhhh … not fair to share this so close to lunch time 😉 …I know now what I will make with the ground lamb we bought on Salt Spring 🙂

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