Meyer Lemon Custard Cakes

Recently I was given a rare gift for a Minnesotan: a bag full of ripe Meyer lemons, grown on the tree – a Meyer lemon tree that lives in sunny California – of an acquaintance of mine.  What to do with Meyer lemons?  So many options, it turns out!

I decided to go for a custard dish, since I tend to favor the custard family for desserts (both in terms of taste and enjoyment of the process of making them).  Problem is, as much as I like eating and making custards, I’m not much of a baker, and so I still have very limited experience and even fewer recipes upon which I can rely.

Reliability: that’s a big one when it comes to baking. I’ll skip to the punchline here. The recipe I chose, which came from (GASP!) Martha Stewart, was just not that great. Perhaps technically speaking it was reliable: it did was it was supposed to do from a chemistry standpoint. But the flavor? Unfortunately, it was just meh. Granted, her recipe calls for regular lemon juice, and I used Meyer lemon juice. Meyer lemons are sweet, more mandarin-esque than regular lemons. So the end result lacked tartness. But it wasn’t just the flavor that I was disappointed with, Martha, it was the texture. You warned, me, I suppose, with the word “cake” in the recipe’s name, and the ingredient of “flour”. I was expecting a truly rich, thick pudding with a somewhat crusty top. What I got was an alright pudding (not as rich as I would have liked) and a cakey top.

If I were you, reading this post, I’d try making Martha’s recipe with regular lemons, as she calls for – and I’d ignore my own deviant behavior. I might even add a significantly larger quantity of zest. Shucks, I might just make an entirely different recipe.  I still have lots of Meyer lemon juice leftover, so hopefully I’ll have a more successful adventure that appropriately takes advantage of these lemons’ delicious flavor, and soon.

(Meyer) Lemon Custard Cakes

From Everyday Food (a Martha Stewart publication), 2004

  • Unsalted butter, room temperature, for custard cups
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons grated lemon zest, (1 lemon)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set a kettle of water to boil. Butter six 6-ounce custard cups and place in a dish towel-lined baking dish or roasting pan.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until light; whisk in flour. Gradually whisk in lemon juice, then milk and zest.

With an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Add to lemon batter and fold in gently with a whisk (batter will be quite liquid).

Divide batter among prepared custard cups; place baking dish in oven and fill with boiling water to reach halfway up sides of cups. Bake until puffed and lightly browned (but pudding is still visible in bottom), 20 to 25 minutes. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

Here’s the thing: my cooking smarts need to get somebody else’s baking smarts’ number. Anyone care to help?

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4 Responses to Meyer Lemon Custard Cakes

  1. Sydney says:

    Hey Rachel! If you have any more whole Meyer lemons left, this recipe is pretty spectacular (although the crust is a bit fussy): Hope you’re doing well!

  2. Annie says:

    a) you are so adorable. b) those cakethings look delightful! c) I’ve had the same experience with Martha’s recipes–from a kitchen science standpoint, they’re airtight. but the flavors don’t dial up the way I feel like they should.

    as for baking smarts? mine are all hippie-related. first, the whole gluten-free thing, and then second, I’m liable to try the weird recipe that calls for black beans in brownies or tofu in cake or some shit. but I *do* know that you and your brain would love this:

    it’s really helped refine my “recipe bullshit” meter.

    • Rachel says:

      Annie, thanks! I’ll have to check it out. I should have just looked at another really wonderful food science book that I actually have on my shelf – Cookwise, by Shirley O’Corriher – which would have cut right through that ingredient list to tell me what my end product would taste like!

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