A Lemon of a Sale

Kevin and I have a bit of a tradition on Saturday mornings.  He and the cats sleep in a little and I make coffee and peruse Craigslist for any estate sales that are happening nearby.  We are never first in line–I don’t like the antique dealers, who get there an hour early and make numbered lists as to who gets in first.  I’m more interested in looking at the mise en scène of a house and seeing how people lived their everyday lives than being the first in line and jostling about.  I have a certain reverence when I go to estate sales because the fact that it’s a person’s life that’s on display is never far from my mind.  One can find out so many things about people by searching through the flotsam and jetsam — I can only imagine what people will say about my own treasures.

This Saturday, we decided to visit a neighborhood in Northern Seattle.  The house was unassuming and had a bird bath and feeder in the front (as a fellow bird-lover, I took that as a good sign).  We walked up the back steps into the kitchen and listened to the daughter, who was running the sale, talk about her late mother to a person buying a few knick-knacks.  Kevin soon came up to me with an old, spiral-bound notebook, going for $1, that was filled with recipes.

I couldn’t believe it was for sale, but I knew immediately that it would be well-loved in my home.  It’s previous owner had made tabs for each type of recipe, and after giving it a once-over, it was obvious that she loved making desserts!  Kevin and I had already talked about posting something lemony this week since we had a few lemons who kept looking at us longingly from the fruit basket.  Luckily, our newly-found recipe book had a few recipes for lemon desserts, and since we were having friends over for some home-made pizzas, we decided to try the recipe for Lemon-Sponge Custard.

I’ve copied the recipe (with very minor alterations) for those who don’t want to squint at the old newspaper clipping.

Lemon-Sponge Custard

(makes 8 individual servings)

2 tbsp. melted butter

1 c. sugar

1/4 c. flour

1/8 tsp. salt

1/3 c. lemon juice

2 tsp. lemon zest

3 eggs

1 1/2 c. whole milk (warm)

1.  Combine butter, sugar, flour, and salt.   Add lemon juice and zest.

2.  Separate eggs.  Beat yolks well.  Combine milk and egg yolks.  Mix thoroughly with sugar mixture.

3.  Beat egg whites until stiff.  Fold into sugar mixture.

4.  Pour into 8 custard cups.   Set custard cups in pan of hot water and bake for 35 min. at 350 degrees.

5.  Refrigerate to cool.  Invert and serve.  Spongy layer will be topped with custard sauce.

We really enjoyed this recipe.  It’s relatively easy and it can be made ahead and chilled for a day or so.  We didn’t end up inverting the custard cups, we just topped them with some whipped cream.  I think 5 minutes more in the oven would have yielded a firmer custard, but overall, this was a great lemony dessert!!  We’ll definitely be making this one again!


  1. Reply
    Kate March 29, 2010

    What a treasure to find! I would love to peruse this collection. I like your first choice. This time of year, lemons are abundant.

    Great photographs! Love the collage.

  2. Reply
    Karen March 29, 2010

    What a beautiful recipe book. This is the kind of find that I just love!

    • Reply
      alison March 29, 2010

      Thanks Karen! It made my weekend!

  3. Reply
    Maggi March 29, 2010

    What a treasure trove! I just love old recipe books!!!

    • Reply
      alison March 29, 2010

      Thanks Maggi! And I just want to say–your blog rocks!

  4. Reply
    Susan @The Spice Garden March 29, 2010

    Alison… I found this post so poignant. I have collected recipes over the years and have begun a digital catalogue because I am so afraid that they will be lost … like that notebook your husband handed you might have been. I have a friend in NYC who commented once that she felt people often don’t appreciate the older, less sexy items in life. She was referring to slotted spoons, rolling pins, glass juicers, etc… the things she found at yard sales and flea markets in dirty boxes and bins … I assured her that there are peole out there that do still appreciate those things… like you.

    • Reply
      alison March 29, 2010

      @Susan: Thanks so much for your comments. I know a lot of people find estate sales morbid, but I think that the person’s influence can stretch so far through those everyday items that keep on living. 🙂

      I have another post up my sleeve on the topic for later this week, so stay tuned!

      @Richard: Thanks! And the ramekins actually came with the house we just bought. I’m writing a post about them later in the week!

  5. Reply

    What an awesome find! And I adore your little ramekins! I’m envious of them!! 🙂

  6. Reply
    jamie March 29, 2010

    What a delicious post. I can almost taste the lemony goodness.

    • Reply
      alison April 1, 2010

      @Jamie: thanks! It was so much fun to make these!

      @Ungourmet: Awww, thanks!

  7. Reply
    theUngourmet March 30, 2010

    What a fantastic custard! I adore lemons. Oh, and you’d better watch out, I might just sneak over and steal those darling little bowls from you! ;D

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