I had lemons, I had buttermilk and wanted cake. So, when my NYTimes “what to cook” email came through featuring this recipe, again, I took it as a culinary sign that lemon pudding cake was in my future.
This cake was a snap to make. I was a little skeptical about it separating and turning into sponge on top and custard on the bottom. But, like the magic that baking is - it happened. One batter two layers.
Well, I don’t believe in magic (since I’m a muggle – sigh) and we know baking is actually a science, I wanted to know the “why” behind the magic science. Turns out that during the baking process, the egg whites and flour rise, while the pudding stays at the bottom. The water level in the oven bath helps determine how much pudding there’ll be. The water insulates and slows down the bottom layer’s cooking, which allows the cake portion to form and bake, like magic, I mean science (Thank you, America’s Test Kitchen for the info). A lot of recipes suggest serving this fresh tangy cake warm, I liked it cold. Next time, there’ll be vanilla ice cream and blueberry sauce to go with.
Makes 1 8-inch cake
4 large eggs, separated
Zest from two lemons
2/3 cup lemon juice
1-tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square or round cake pan. Place it in a large roasting pan, fill roasting pan half way up with water. Remove buttered cake pan, and place roasting pan in oven.
Whisk egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and butter together in a large bowl. Whisk sugar, flour, and salt together in another bowl. Whisk half the sugar mixture into the egg yolks, followed by half the buttermilk. Whisk remaining sugar mixture, then buttermilk, and whisk until smooth.
Beat egg whites into soft peaks, then carefully fold into batter. Pour batter into prepared pan, place in water bath and bake until the cake is set, about 35-40 minutes.