Lemon Custard with Pillow Top

Lemon Custard with Pillow Top -  BoulderLocavore.com

Recently I’ve had a childhood dessert tugging at my memories.  It was something my Mom made frequently and has slipped my mind for years.  The arrival of a box of citrus from snowbird relatives put my planning into high gear feeling this Guest Post would be a perfect time to try to make it myself for the first time.  Though in Colorado we can expect several more cycles of teasingly spring temps followed by a ruthless, soppy dump of snow until late May, some of you may already be enjoying the feeling of the season’s renewal.  This recipe, Lemon Custard with Pillow Top, feels bright and an ‘Ode to Spring’ to me.

Lemon Custard with Pillow Top - BoulderLocavore.com

As a child I found this custard wondrous and magical.  How one could prepare it so there was beautiful lemony custard on the bottom and a light cakey top was unimaginable.  It’s quite easy, I’ve learned with my first crack at.   Though I prepared this from a family recipe, my mother believes my grandmother (who passed the recipe to my Mom) was first inspired to make it from a Joy of Cooking recipe so I want to be sure to give that nod here too not knowing the true roots of this in our family culinary lineage.  I made mine in the same custard cups my Mom used to make it when I was a child.  I will resist labeling them as ‘vintage’.

Lemon Custard with Pillow Top -  BoulderLocavore.com

Lemon Custard with Pillow Top

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 6 custard cups

These simple to make lemon custard cups with a light, pillow top are refreshing and unique. The custard batter naturally separates during cooking to form a layer of actual lemon custard and a meringue-like top. Fresh and light, they are always a welcome treat at the end of a meal!


  • 2 tablespoons of softened, Unsalted Butter (plus extra to butter the ramekins)
  • 2/3 cup Extra Fine (or ‘Baker’s’) Sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 4 large Eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons All Purpose Flour (gluten-free or regular)
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 3 teaspoons Lemon Zest
  • 1 cup Whole Milk


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter 6-6 ounce custard cups or ramekins.
  2. Using a wooden or other sturdy mixing spoon, mash together the softened butter, sugar and salt until crumbly and combined.
  3. Slowly stir in lemon juice (make sure to remove any seeds!) and lemon zest. When combined, stir in milk.
  4. In a separate upright mixer bowl or using a hand held mixer, beat 4 egg whites until firm but not dry.
  5. Fold the egg whites gently into the lemony batter just until combined.
  6. Spoon gently into custard cups (do not pour). Place custard cups into a roasting pan where they will not touch each other. Add hot tap water to reach halfway up the side of the custard cups (water bath).
  7. Cook until the custards are lightly browned on top and a knife comes out clean; approximately 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow custards to remain in the water bath an additional 10-15 minutes to set.
  8. Enjoy at any temperature!
 Lemon Custard with Pillow Top - BoulderLocavore.com
This post was originally published as a guest post on Ask Chef Dennis; the blog of a friend, colleague and talented chef Dennis Littley.


  1. Diann G says

    Oh yummy! I gave up sweets for the Lenten period…but this will be one of the first treats I will make and indulge in once Easter is here! Can't wait!

  2. says

    I have a set of those cups too! Got them from my grandma when she cleaned out her kitchen to move to FL. This looks like a great treat to fill them with!

  3. says

    We just planted a lemon tree, this recipe is a keeper for them! I thank you for your visit. I love the honey fried puffs that are almost hollow inside, have made them many times… especially around Cinco De Mayo.. thanks for reminding me… would love a great recipe for them if you have one posted!

  4. Le says

    This dessert looks lovely! I love lemon infused flavours in anything. I saw your guest post from Dennis' site and thought I'd check out yours.

    Will definitely be following your blog now 🙂


    P.S Check out mine too!

  5. Beyth says

    What a lovely dessert! I tried this last night and my husband decided that three bowls of it made a perfect dinner. 🙂

    Just one little note – I think you may have accidentally omitted the flour from your instructions (it's on the ingredient list, but doesn't appear in the step-by-step). As I was folding in the eggs whites, I thought, “Did I miss an ingredient? This looks awfully thin.” I spooned out what I could of the eggs whites, mixed in the flour, and then added the egg whites back in. It worked out beautifully, but just thought you might want to know!

    (Btw, I've stumbled over to your site courtesy of my good friend, Lindsay, at Rosemarried.)

  6. says

    I love anything with lemon in it so this is a must try on my lemon dessert list. And I love your polka dot mixing bowls! Are they fireking? And I have the same custard cups and I'm not that old so I'm ok with you not calling them vintage 😉


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