{recipe} Lovely Little Lemon Custard Cake Bites

Note: I am finally shutting down the old, ugly, 1.0 version of this site so I am re-posting some of my favorite recipes over here. This is a keeper!

I rarely make lemon desserts, because lemon isn’t my favorite dessert flavor, even though I love it in savory applications. But when one of my best friends asks for lemon birthday cake, by all means, I will make him lemon birthday cake.

In this case, for ease of transportation and serving in a restaurant setting, and because he invited 20+ people to his birthday, I decided to make a bunch of little individual lemon cakes in square paper cups. (The square paper cups were an impulse buy from awhile back, and I was glad I finally found a good use for them.) I wanted these cakes to be special, so instead of using a garden-variety icing, I opted to make a tart, lemony creme fraiche custard topping with vanilla beans that’s akin to a loose panna cotta.

These are a little more involved than most things I make, but that’s just because of the cutting and what have you. It seems wasteful to cut so much cake off, but never fear- you can make cake balls with the extra.

I have a well-protected box of decorative gold leaf that I only rarely utilize (yes, it’s real gold!), but these were calling for it, and I knew the touch of birthday bling would be much appreciated. Barring the availability of gold leaf, a berry alone is still a beautiful garnish, or you can give it a light dusting of powdered sugar to finish them. I went with raspberries but blueberries or blackberries would be great too.

Recipe: Lovely Little Lemon Custard Cake Bites
This will make 35 1 1/2-inch square cakes. Serving size per person averages at about 2 (although one person who shall remain nameless ate 5, possibly 6…)


  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • zest of 5 lemons
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • juice of 4 lemons
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 7.5 oz package creme fraiche (about a cup)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • extra sugar and powdered sugar as needed, about 1/2 cup total
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • berries for garnish


Make the cake: 

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom (actually important in this case to sift or you will get lumps.)
  • In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, 2 cups sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and vegetable oil.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry and mix with a wooden spoon or whisk just until blended.
  • Pour into 9×13 pan that’s been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake about 40 minutes, until golden on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool 10 minutes and flip over onto a baking rack to cool.
  • When completely cool, use a ruler to cut cake into squares of whatever size you choose (I did 1 1/2 inch squares.) If tops aren’t flat, trim them off so they are flat.

Make the lemon syrup:

  • Put lemon juice in a small pot.
  • Add 2-3 Tblsp sugar. Turn heat to medium and cook until sugar has melted and syrup looks clear. Taste and add more sugar as needed, to get a sweet-tart syrup. You don’t need it too sweet. All told I used 8 Tblsp sugar and it was still quite tart. It will just depend on your lemons. When sugar is all melted turn off heat.
  • Once you have achieved your desired sugar balance, cut 1/2 vanilla bean and scrape seeds. Add seeds and pod to warm lemon syrup and leave to sit at least an hour.

Make the lemon custard:

  • Put cream and creme fraiche in a mixer with a whisk attachment and beat to stiff peak.
  • Meanwhile, pour gelatin over 2 Tblsp boiling water and stir to melt.
  • Remove pods from lemon syrup and add syrup to creme fraiche, while whisk is still going. It may get a little soupy, which is OK.
  • Taste and add powdered sugar as needed. (I added about 1/4 cup total.)
  • Add gelatin and continue to whisk.
  • The custard may look thin and gloppy but that’s OK, the gelatin will help to set it a bit. Take bowl off and leave on the counter. Whisk it every couple of minutes by hand. The mixture will set up along the sides of the bowl before the middle so be sure and mix it all together. After about 10 -20 minutes, it will start getting thicker and spreadable. It might seem a little lumpy but the lumps will whisk/spread out.

Assemble the cakes:

  • Spread custard on squares and garnish with berries.You can leave them at room temp for a couple of hours. If it’s any longer than that, don’t put the berries on top as they will bleed, just put the iced squares in the fridge and garnish before serving.
  • They will taste good cold or room temperature.

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3 Responses

  1. Melanie says:

    So, is this the lemon cake recipe you used to make the lemon raspberry cake pops? And, just the cake or did you use the syrup and custard as well? Thanks!

  2. Melanie says:

    Yes, it does…. Thank you so much for responding!!