Any pudding, cake or biscuit with the word ‘surprise’ in its title tends to leave you wanting more. I found this zesty little number moonlighting as Lemon Sponge Soufflé in Personal Recipes of the East Kent Federation of Women’s Institute; a handbag-sized booklet packed with medicinal remedies, meaty broths, entrees, chutneys and sweets – the best-kept culinary secrets from WI members in south-east England during the 1950’s.
Alongside ‘Aunt Martha’s pudding’, a ‘Spiced Fruit Whip,’ and a ‘Prunefaux Muran’ (a tipsy combination of prunes, sherry and sugar), recipes were tried and tested by WI members before being collated and bound, along with tasteful pencil illustrations, to invoke ‘memories of friends in the county.’ A particularly delightful back section on fabric hails the arrival of nylon and its ability to ‘withstand the usual effects of moths, mildew and salt water.’
As materials have evolved, so too has the development of traditional recipes. The Lemon Sponge Soufflé became more commonly known as Lemon Surprise Pudding, retaining an old-school magic thanks to the separation of tangy lemon custard which lies beneath a light sponge topping.
The original recipe from 1950 uses teacups and tablespoons in the measuring, with little guidance on tips and baking temperatures. To ensure you get it right first time I’ve taken this recipe from WI Book of Puddings by Janet Weir (1984) – an updated version on a classic pud – and a great way to round off autumn supper.
- 50g/2oz butter
- 100g/4oz caster sugar
- Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 eggs, separated
- 25g/1oz plain flour
- 275ml/½ pint milk
- Heat oven to gas mark 4/180ºC/170ºC/350ºF.
- Butter a 1 litre (2 pint) pie dish.
- Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Beat rind into butter and sugar. Beat in egg yolks.
- Sieve the flour and add it by degrees with the milk, followed by the lemon juice (it will curdle – but don’t worry!)
- Beat the egg whites stiffly and fold evenly into the mixture.
- Turn into the pie dish and bake for 40 minutes until golden brown.
- Surprise! You’ll find that the curdle mixture has separated into a lemon custard with sponge top.