Aunt Mariah's Lemon SpongeĀ Cups

April 20, 2010
17 Ratings
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

I found the recipe for these lemon sponge cups in my Aunt Mariah's old-fashioned recipe box (an actual box), when I was visiting with her in my hometown, Galax, Virginia, to learn how to make her exquisite, feathery rolls. The rolls took lots of practice. The lemon sponge cups, though, were a breeze; also, they make you feel fancy, like a lady. You pour the batter into individual souffle dishes or ramekins, and when they come out of the oven they have cute puffy-brown tops, with a layer of lemon custard on the bottom. Without whipped cream, they are perfectly light and sour-sweet; but a spoonful of whipped cream is always nice for company. - ENunn

Test Kitchen Notes

We're so glad ENunn unearthed her Aunt Mariah's version of this classic lemon pudding cake -- its evocative name, mellowed lemon pucker and bare sweetness thoroughly won us over. In one fell swoop, you get two desserts: a delicate, airy cake that rises to the top and browns handsomely, and a lush lemony custard that pools at the bottom, waiting for your spoon. - A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 lemon, grated rind and juice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 pinch salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cream butter. Add sugar, flour salt, lemon juice and rind. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks; stir in milk. Slowly add second mixture to first mixture. Beat egg whites until stiff; gently fold into mixture. Pour into ramekins or individual souffle dishes and place in pan of hot water. Bake in "moderate" oven (350, in my case) for 45 minutes. You will have a layer of lemon custard, with gorgeous, lightly browned sponge on top. Let cool a bit. Turn out and serve with whipped cream, or serve still in the dish. You can also bake this in one large souffle dish. Aunt Mariah likes to garnish with a thin slice of lemon.
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130 Reviews

LisaD September 4, 2023
These look great. But what does "turn out" mean?
Beth September 4, 2023
Literally, turn over and empty unto a small dish. It will be runny on the bottom and a light, airy cake on the top which will become the bottom when you put it on the dish. You don't eat it out of the custard cup (well you could, it would taste just as good but wouldn't look as nice.)
LisaD September 4, 2023
LOL, that's what I would have guessed. But the picture looks so pretty "right-side up" that it wouldn't have occurred to me to upend them!
Jeanne V. April 6, 2023
Has anyone commented whether this can be made a day in advance?
Beth April 6, 2023
Sure. It may thicken up a bit overnight, but not too much to matter. Just keep it in the refrigerator and warm up a bit when serving. Or not, no one will care.
Jeanne V. April 6, 2023
Thank you! Right from the source!!
Renee P. April 5, 2023
I was doubtful this would turn out well when I made it. As I added the egg whites it was kind of lumpy and I thought it would not work. Alas, my cute little ramekins looked great and were scrumptiously delicious. I didn't put in a whole cup of sugar and they were plenty sweet. Great, easy recipe.
Beth April 5, 2023
Why do you say "alas"? Sounds like your recipe turned out perfect. You can make it in a 1 1/2 Qt or 2 qt. casserole too, that's what I do. Not as pretty to serve, but tastes just as good. This was my mother's recipe, and I'm 90 so you know how old it is. Lumpy eggwhites don't matter, if you smooth out the batter too much, it won't rise right.
Cathy 1. April 7, 2023
How long do you cook it in a 2 qt casserole?
Beth April 7, 2023
Check it after 45 minutes, it should be light brown on top like the little ones. If not, keep checking every couple of minutes. You really can't ruin it, but it might get thicker if you overcook it. I doubt it would burn on the bottom in a ceramic dish unless you totally forget it.
Jeanne V. March 27, 2023
This looks amazing! Planning to make it tomorrow. Can anyone tell me about the beautiful footed dishes it is served in?
Pam March 26, 2023
This recipe sounds so perfect for Easter or any spring occasion. A must try for me!

Would Food 52 be able to tell us where the 3 footed glass cups were found? I would like to find them too!
tortolita March 22, 2023
The ultimate comfort food. Everything is in the pantry or fridge. Voila.
ms June 27, 2022
gremolata April 23, 2022
A favorite recipe, was on my

chef school menu, and also a very delicious version was on the menu at Hammersley in Boston! Very special dessert!
sscook December 12, 2020
This is my go to easiest dessert especially for company! We love it!
KSR May 17, 2020
Could I do this with buttermilk, anyone think? Looking to use up some...
Virginia H. February 14, 2020
It came out perfect! I didn't have dessert for our Valentine's dinner. Read the recipe a few hours ago in the car, asked my husband if we had milk. Yep! I made it with Myer lemons, fast, easy, lemony custard, and it was delicious. What a treasure! Thank you so much!
Elizabeth V. October 21, 2019
This is my absolute favorite dessert. The recipe comes out perfect every time and we fight over them in my family.
Beth October 21, 2019
Absolutely! I think some folks expected a thick custard on the bottom, and mine never comes out that way. It's more like a sauce on the bottom, quite thin but totally delicious. I do it in a 1 quart casserole dish, maybe it would come out more solid in individual custard cups. Wonderful either way, though.
Beth April 5, 2019
This was my mother's recipe and I'm 86, so you know how old it is. I don't do the yolks & milk separately, just add them after creaming the rest. The whites have to be beaten in another bowl of course, and added carefully.
The pudding part is quite runny and the sponge is very light when baked. It's done when the time is up and top is lightly brown, poking with a toothpick won't work because it's too wet inside. This is delicious using orange juice and coconut, too.
Ram August 6, 2018
Recipe says "In a large bowl, cream butter. Add sugar, flour salt, lemon juice and rind. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks; stir in milk. Slowly add second mixture to first mixture.". After I did this the mixture was completely lquid. Is this how it is supposed to be? If so how do you fold the beaten stiff egg whites into it?

My problem is that I got the custard part right but the sponge part didnt seem to come out very thick. Thanks!
Beth October 21, 2019
It will be pretty liquidy. Fold the beaten eggwhites in carefully, I usually break up big lumps but leave a lot of little chunks of eggwhite. When you bake it, it will separate naturally into soft sponge on top and quite liquid pudding on the bottom. Don't expect the pudding to get firm, it won't.
Kevin July 23, 2016
I have made these twice now and both times have a lot of liquid in the bottom..... Followed the recipe exactly.... Any ideas what may be the reason?
Beth October 21, 2019
It's supposed to be soupy, liquidy on the bottom. That's the pudding part, it's a pudding cake.
rachel February 21, 2016
My grandmother lived in Hillsville, right near Galax, and my uncle recently moved to Galax. Loved my grandmothers country style home cooking -- I'm sure making these for my dad would evoke memories of his childhood and mean a lot, as she passed a few years ago. I don't usually comment but I wanted to thank you for sharing!
Graham February 19, 2016
Very good, wonderfully light, but I like the Joy of Cooking recipe slightly more.
Kristin February 17, 2016
Okay what did I do wrong? Beautifully browned on top but remained a soup underneath- despite baking for 60 minutes. I made in a 1 1/2 qt casserole dish and used up one of my duck eggs in place of one of the chicken eggs....any ideas? So bummed. Went into the trash.
Beth October 21, 2019
It's supposed to be soupy on the bottom! That's the pudding part, with a nice light sponge on top.
Amy February 16, 2016
Wondering if you can provide the source for the beautiful footed glass ramekins that the souffle is shown in (in the photo). Thanks.
Gonul B. April 13, 2016
Food52 sells them. https://food52.com/shop/products/1133-egg-coddler
Renee B. July 25, 2018
Do these coddlers (footed ramekins) work in the oven? They're made for cooking eggs in water. I love the shape but fear they won't work for this recipe.
lmeberhart April 17, 2022
It appears these are no longer available - although I see your post is from 2016 !!! Ugh, they are adorable.
Julia P. September 25, 2015
Can you freeze them if you end up with extras?