Pudding cakes are just that, cake and pudding. During baking the the cake layer rises to the top while a pudding forms on the bottom. Whipped egg whites float to the top of the batter and form a light, delicate cake. Underneath this sponge cake is a soft, silky pudding similar to custard.
I found several versions of this recipe handed down from my mom's side of the family. My Great-Grandma Hattie served it to her family, and her daughter (my grandma) served her own version to her family (my mom). I also found a similar recipe in this cookbook, which features old-fashioned recipes that have stood the test of time. The history in the cookbook states that pudding cakes date back to the 18th century. While my mom's family served this in one large casserole dish, the version in the above cookbook features individual serving cups. Each serving is then inverted for an upside-down pudding cake.
Old-Fashioned Lemon Pudding Cake
various versions of this recipe belonged to my Great-Grandma Hattie and Grandma Margaret
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
1 large lemon, grated peel and juice
2 Tbsp flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup milk
*Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease individual ramekins, custard cups or a medium casserole dish; set aside. (I used 6 small dishes of varying size, but you can also try a 2-quart baking dish.)
* In a large glass bowl beat egg whites (reserve yolks) and cream of tartar to soft peaks; transfer to another bowl and set aside.
* Beat butter, sugar and grated lemon peel until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks until creamy. Add flour and salt, beating until combined. Beat in lemon juice and milk until smooth.
* Using a rubber spatula, fold in beaten egg whites. Ladle mixture into individual serving dishes or pour into casserole dish. (Use a ladle for individual cups to help you get an even amount of foam and liquid in each portion.)
*Place baking cups or dish in a shallow pan and fill pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the baking cups/dish. Bake 40-45 minutes or until tops are light golden brown and spring back when lightly touched with finger. Remove from water and let cool on wire rack. Serve warm, room temperature or cool. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Food for Thought: "This is the real secret to life- to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play." -Alan Wilson Watts