Lemon Sponge Pie

My Grandma’s Lemon Sponge Pie is one of my all-time favorite treats. She used to always make this on holidays. Even if she offered other desserts too, this was usually on the menu.

Lemon Sponge is a very unique pie. The finished texture is a custard-like sponge with a very strong lemon cream flavor. This pie is perfect after a big meal on Thanksgiving and Christmas because it has a light, refreshing taste. It’s also wonderful in the summer because the citrusy sweetness compliments a hot day.

Basically, I love this treat because it tastes wonderful and reminds me of my Grandma.

Here is her original recipe, which she wrote out for me back in 2003.

This is all I’ve had to work from and (let’s be honest) the directions are certainly not the clearest! She lives over 3,000 miles away, so it’s been quite awhile since we’ve baked together. I’ve experienced a great deal of trial and error making this. The first time I made this pie on my own, I didn’t even know I had to cream the sugar into the butter before adding the other ingredients. I mixed everything else and then tried to stir the butter in! Duh!

With some practice, and a helpful article in Better Homes and Gardens that featured a similar recipe, I’ve got it down to a science now. I have tweaked Grandma’s measurements some. I think she used very little butter and no salt in her version because my Grandfather was diabetic and had other health problems. So, I use a little more butter, a little less flour, and a dash of salt. Here are my ingredients:

  • pie crust
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • extra lemon and sugar if you want to make candied lemon slices as a topper

Now I’ll take you through the steps I follow.

1. First, decide what you want to do about your pie crust. I cheat! I use a Pillsbury refrigerated crust that I simply let get to room temperature, and then unroll carefully into the pan. (Maybe someday I will make my own crust, but for now, this works great.)

I actually pre-baked it a wee bit this time. I covered it in two layers of foil and baked it at 450 degrees for 8 minutes. I had to pop a large bubble that formed, and then pinch the dough back together where I pricked it.

2. Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Next, separate your eggs. If you’ve never done this, it’s not hard. Just crack the egg in half over a bowl and very gently pour the yolk back and forth from half shell to half shell, allowing the egg white to fall into the bowl. Then just put your yolks in a separate bowl, like this:

3. Next, grate your lemon peel and get your lemon juice measured and ready. You need  2 tsp peel and 1/4 cup juice. I just use the small holes on a cheese grater and a small brush to get the lemon peel grated and into a bowl.

4. Put the butter in a bowl and make sure you have everything else measured and at-hand.

5. Beat the butter until fluffy. I used a hand-held electric mixer for this. Then, cream the sugar into the butter. When blended, mix in the egg yolks. I added and mixed the sugar and yolks by hand, but you could use the mixer.

6. Add the lemon juice, lemon peel, flour and salt until just combined.

7. Add the milk and beat until just combined (I used the mixer for this). The mixture will be thin and might even look a little curdled.

8. Wash the beaters well. Get your bowl with egg whites and beat them until they form stiff peaks (tips stand up). You’ll now have two bowls, like this:

9. Gently fold the egg whites into the milk mixture. Don’t over mix!

10. Pour the mixture into your prepared pie crust. Cover the crust edges with little strips of foil to prevent over-browning.

11. Carefully place the pie into your preheated oven and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Then, reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until the center is set.

I watched the pie closely and had to loosely tent a piece of foil over the top about 15 minutes into baking because the pie was already starting to brown up. I removed all the foil for the last five minutes so the pie and the crust could get a bit golden.

12. While the pie was baking, I made some candied lemon slices. To do this, cut a few lemon slices very thin. Combine 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar in a saucepan. Bring to boil and add the lemon slices. Reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the lemon slices and place on waxed paper.

13. When the pie is done, let it cool for an hour then cover and refrigerate. Serve with lemon slices on top.

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One Response to Lemon Sponge Pie

  1. mm says:

    This is wonderful! Visually appealing and I think your Grandmother would be so pleased to see her recipe so carefully presented.

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