Nope, that’s not a typo. I think I may have stumbled upon a new kind of cake, so I figured I should give it a name. It’s rich, moist, and buttery like a pound cake while at the same time being feathery light and spongy.
This particular baking adventure started after seeing Michelle’s Warm Lemon Pudding Cake. I thought it looked delicious, but she didn’t think it went particularly well, so I asked if I could steal the idea and run with it. I envisioned something like a molten chocolate cake only less chocolaty and more lemony.
To be honest I’m not much of a baker and I’ve never made a molten chocolate cake before. After doing a bit of research it looked like they came in two varieties. In one you stick a piece of cold ganache in the center which melts as the cake cooks. In the other you simply under-cook the cake so you have “molten” batter in the center. The only way I could think of to make a lemon ganache would be to do something with lemon curd and white chocolate and that just seemed far too fiddly to be bothered with so I decided to go the under-cooked route.
Next there was the matter of flavor. I wanted my cake to be intensely lemony and pleasantly tart, but how was I going eliminate the chocolate while adding enough juice into the batter without throwing the flour/liquid/fat ratio out of whack? My answer (as usual) was to toss caution (and recipes) to the wind and just wing it.
I imagined a really light cake so I knew I’d have to whip up some egg whites. I also wanted a rich creamy center so I knew it needed lots of yolks and butter. Then of course it needed that lemon flavor and tartness so I knew a poor lemon would be sacrificing its zest and juice for the sake of mon petits gateaux.
As a novice baker, one of the first things I learned was that all cakes have essentially the same ingredients, but what makes them different is how they’re mixed. I started by making a sweetened meringue. Then I used the emulsifying effects of egg yolks (specifically the lecithin in them) to magically combine the melted butter and lemon juice. Then by folding the butter/juice mixture and a small amount of sifted cake flour with the meringue, I had my rich yet light and fluffy batter.
With that sorted I moved onto the cooking time. The first time I made these, I cooked them for 10 minutes which yielded a perfectly cooked, incredibly moist cake which was both rich and buttery and light and airy at the same time. Still, it didn’t have the molten center, so I gave it another go, cutting the bake time down to 8 minutes. I was disappointed once again after seeing it had failed to yield a liquid center. Then, it occurred to me that this cake was really tasty! Maybe it didn’t need to be fixed. Maybe this was in fact its destiny. A different type of cake that’s somewhere between a souffle and a pound cake.
Warm… cold… by itself… or with a creme anglaise drizzled on top, this simple cake is a quick dessert that can sate a weeknight dessert craving yet is suitable to be served for company.
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter and flour 4 ramekins and place on a baking sheet.
- Put the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue beating until incorporated and glossy (but not stiff).
- Add the 3 yolks into a bowl with the melted butter and lemon zest. Whisk together with a fork. Add the lemon juice and continue whisking.
- Sift the flour onto the egg whites, then pour the lemon/yolk mixture on top. Use a spatula to gently fold everything together until just combined. Divide the mixture evenly into the 4 buttered ramekins and smooth off the tops.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until the cake it mostly set. Remove from the oven and rest for a few minutes. Use a paring knife to separate the cake around the edges of a ramekin and invert onto a plate. Serve immediately with some powdered sugar on top. This can also be served with a raspberry sauce or creme anglaise.