My Flourless Warm Lemon Pudding Cake is downright magical ~ it’s an easy self-saucing lemon sponge cake dessert that bakes up with a fluffy cake layer and a tangy pudding layer. Don’t miss this unique recipe!
warm lemon pudding cake is a unique lemon dessert!
Lemon is king here in the Great Island kitchen. I can’t think of any ingredient that features more prominently in my recipes. There is always a big old bowl of them on the counter, and I never leave a supermarket without a fresh supply (stray lemon halves and wedges are never more than an arm’s length away!) I use lemons to make salads, salad dressings, soups, salmon, shrimp, and pasta, but one of my favorite ways to use tangy lemon is in desserts.
the delicious history of warm lemon pudding cake
Is it a cake? A pudding? A soufflé? Warm lemon pudding cake, aka lemon delicious pudding, lemon lava cake, lemon magic cake, or self-saucing lemon cake, is a homey dessert that’s actually been around for a long time; similar recipes can be traced all the way back to colonial New England, and hot puddings and pudding sauces commanded entire chapters in early cookbooks like Fanny Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book. (Back then the term pudding was borrowed from the British and meant dessert, generally, not what we think of today as pudding.)
what’s in lemon pudding cake
- lemon ~ using the juice and the flavorful zest.
- eggs ~ we’ll separate them. The yolks will enrich the pudding layer and the whites will be beaten to form the fluffy top layer.
- flour ~ the recipe calls for a very small amount of flour, so it’s easy to make it gluten free using almond meal or another gf flour like oat.
- buttermilk ~ in a pinch you can make a substitute by adding a teaspoon of lemon juice to a cup of whole milk. Let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes before using.
- cream of tartar ~ helps stabilize the beaten egg whites so they don’t deflate
how a pudding cake works
This lemon pudding is made with beaten egg whites folded into the batter so that it bakes up like a fluffy sponge or soufflé. The light egg white layer rises to the top while the thin custard layer magically forms a tart lemon ‘pudding’ at the bottom.
Once the egg whites are folded into the batter you can ladle it into buttered oven-safe bowls. You can also make this in a single casserole dish if you prefer.
Tip: When cooking with a water bath, add the water to the pan before you add the batter to your bowls, this makes it so much less stressful. Put your baking dish on a baking sheet so you can easily transport it to and from the oven with minimal sloshing.
This pudding is super tart and tangy, and can hold its own with just a shower of powdered sugar, or a dollop of whipped cream. But in season berries are a no-brainer. Blueberries give that wonderful color contrast, but raspberries or strawberries would work too.
Note: the little silver spoons I used were my great grandmother’s, and they’re very old coin silver spoons from the 1800s. They’ve been sitting in a drawer for ages, but lately I’ve been enjoying getting out the random silverware that I’ve acquired/inherited over the years and putting it to use. Why let it waste away in a drawer or a box?
craving more lemon?
- Buttermilk Lemon Bread
- Fresh Lemon Truffles
- Blueberry Zucchini Snack Cake with Lemon Buttercream
- Scottish Lemon Sugar Shortbread
Warm Lemon Pudding Cake (gluten free, or not!)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1 heaping Tbsp lemon zest from 2 lemons
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour, (for gluten free use almond flour)
- pinch salt
- 1 cup cultured buttermilk, shake before measuring
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, this helps stabilize the egg whites
- powdered sugar
- berries, optional
- Preheat oven to 350F Lightly butter 6-8 oven safe bowls, ramekins, or mugs Arrange them in a baking pan or roasting pan with sides. Put a large pot of water on the stove to simmer for your water bath.
- Cream the sugar and soft butter together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, letting each one get incorporated before adding the next, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Blend in the lemon zest, flour, and salt, then mix in the buttermilk and lemon juice until everything is well combined.
- Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they hold stiff peaks. Lift your beaters straight upright ~ the whipped whites should hold their points and not flop.
- Fold the egg whites gently into the batter until no more white streaks or large lumps of egg white remain. Do this gently so you don’t deflate the beaten whites, and be patient, it takes a few minutes.
- Pour boiling water into your pan with the ramekins to a depth of about halfway up your ramekins.
- Ladle the batter into each of the bowls, filling almost full. Depending on their size you’ll fill 6-8.
- Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until the cakes are set on top and not super jiggly. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar and serving. Garnish with berries if you like.
- Be sure to enjoy it warm!
Questions and Reviews
If these are made and not all eaten the same day, how best to store and reheat later on?
I’ve eaten them the next day, but honestly, they’re not nearly as good.
I’m a real foodie and this us one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. Soft, tender, light. Delicious with your choice of fruit any time of year. It’s a 5 out of 5!
I’m so glad you loved this Deborah, we loved it so much we keep creating other flavor versions with the basic recipe.
I love your website! Question about this recipe. Do you think that Meyer lemon would be a good swap of lemon?
Yes, for sure, you can use them interchangeably.
do not have cultured buttermilk—what can i use for a substitute? I have homemake yogurt.
You can use yogurt, or make your own buttermilk using a tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of whole milk, let sit on the counter for 15 minutes and then use.
Sue I have Crohn’s disease and I’ve been on a strict diet for 29 yrs, really it’s a life style now. I can’t eat Sugar, starch, grains and limited milk products. So could I substitute the cup of cultured buttermilk with almond milk? Lemon deserts are so scrumptious, this would be a Grand treat for me.
I think you should have no trouble with that Pamela, and please let us know your results if you try.
It looks lovely! I don’t have access to Almond meal and oat flour, so was wondering if I could substitute the flour with gluten free plain flour? Thank you!
Yes, you can use regular all purpose flour, too. The amount is small and just there to bind the pudding together.
Loved it it was a huge success. I doubled the recipe. I used a bundt pan.. I had to make the night before and reheated covered it was beautiful.. thanks
Thanks Marcie, I never would have thought to try it in a bundt pan!
what size bowls did you use in these photos? my ramekins are 4 oz. is that too small?
I used small bowls that have an 8 ounce capacity if filled right to the rim, and I filled them to about 6 ounces. You can use your smaller ramekins, but the baking time will be shorter, so keep an eye on them.