Here's a dessert that I got from my Aunt Mariah's recipe box when I went down to Galax to cook with her and my cousin Toni, whom I grew up with, and their cousin Martha. Toni and I were planning on photocopying whichever recipes we just had to have, but I was so taken with this recipe in particular that I wrote it down on the spot on a scrap of paper (no one ever writes anything down on a sheet of paper; it's always "a scrap"). And after coming back home and making it in my Chicago kitchen, I felt like a goddess for having the great ability to know a terrific recipe when I see one. I'm still patting myself on the back.
Aunt Mariah was planning to make these lemon sponge cups for her book club meeting coming up the next week. "I serve them with whipped cream and a slice of lemon," she told me in her slow Tidewater Virginia accent, which is so lilting and pretty and which she has always maintained in spite of the fact that everyone in my family has attempted, it seems, to tease her out of it by imitating it. Which must be maddening for her, and which is hilarious since we all have Southern accents, just different kinds of Southern accents. (Hers is quite remarkable though. Apparently, she once said: "Ahm about ta perish for a Co-cola." However, this is a teasing story that gets repeated, along with her pronunciation of wha-tah, aka water, and sofer for sofa, to the point that such tales no longer seems quite plausible. Until you hear Aunt Mariah speak.)
Anyway. . . these lemon sponge cups are wonderful and also quite easy. They make you feel fancy: 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 is nice for company.
Lemon Sponge Cups
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 lemon (grated rind and juice)
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 3 eggs, separated
- pinch of salt
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, then add slowly to first mixture. Beat egg whites until stiff; gently fold into mixture. Pour into custard cups 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 sponge on top. Let cool a bit. Turn out and serve with whipped cream, or serve in the dish. You can also bake this in one large souffle dish.