How far ahead can I make this dessert?

bbstxAugust 20, 2014

We are celebrating Mom's birthday this weekend. She loves lemon desserts. She loves light desserts. The recipe below is one of her favorites that we haven't had in eons. My problem is Saturday is going to be a pretty full day. I would like to make it on Thursday or Friday to be served Saturday evening. What do you think?

Lemon Dessert (not a fancy name, but that is what Mom calls it)

1 angel food cake
6 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon zest
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped
1 package unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cool water

Cut brown parts off of cake. Break cake into walnut size pieces. Set aside.

Beat egg yolks. Add 3/4 cup of sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Cook in double boiler over boiling water until thick. Add gelatin which has been dissolved in cool water.

Beat egg whites until stiff, gradually adding remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Continue beating until sugar is dissolved. Fold in lemon sauce.

Add cake to mixture. Fold in whipped cream. Spread in rectangular pan/dish. Cover and chill for several hours. Cut into squares to serve.

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Can you make it Friday afternoon or evening? It needs to chilled several hours and I'm sure overnight to next day would be okay. Do you remember how leftovers held up?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 4:15PM
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lascatx, I've wracked my brain to remember leftovers. I can't. I think it has been at least 25 years since any of us have made this stuff. I find it a bit fiddly with having to cut all of the crust off the cake, make lemon curd, etc etc. But since it is Mom's b'day, I'd like to make it.

Friday evening ought to be free, but sometimes the neighbors get together for an impromptu dinner on Fridays. Maybe I'll try to slip it in early Friday afternoon. My recollection is it isn't a quick dessert to make.

Does anyone have a tip for making it easier to remove the brown crust from the angel food cake?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 4:28PM
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Don't forget you can make excellent lemon curd in the microwave. The recipe is on, it really cuts the time and effort of lemon curd

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:13PM
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I wouldn't want to leave it too long. At some point it's going to go mooshy. You could do a lot of the prep a couple days in advance, though.

Tips for trimming the cake. Use the finest toothed sharpest bread knife you have. Wipe off all the crumbs between cuts. If it's still crumbly, try slightly chilling the cake. Breaking it up early will probably be good, the way breaking up bread for bread pudding is, unless it's very humid in your house. If so, store in an airtight container. If not, let it get a bit dried out.

You can separate the eggs a couple of days early as well, and make the curd. Then you'd just have to whip the eggwhites and cream, mix everything and chill it.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:11PM
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deeebert, I can't wait to try the allrecipes microwave lemon curd. I'm a little skittish about trying it in this recipe though. The one above compared to the allrecipes version has twice as many eggs and no butter. Wonder if I could take the ingredients in my recipe and use the microwave method for the lemon curd? Any ideas on how to do that? Stir in shorter increments? Maybe microwave for 30 seconds and stir?

plllog, thanks! Breaking the recipe down into elements makes good sense! p.s. I live in the South. It's always humid.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 9:03PM
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bbstyx, if it helps, I use Colleen's Lemon Curd recipe, made in the microwave. I love it and it works every time. Ashley likes it better without the lemon zest, I like the zest in. The sneaky notes are Colleen's, and the last time I made this I used Meyer Lemons from Beachlily. I eat the stuff with a spoon...

Lemon Butter (Colleen's)
4oz butter (NOT margarine)
3/4 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons' worth)
all the rind from the lemons, grated
1 cup sugar (I use superfine)
4-5 eggs, thoroughly beaten
Put butter, sugar, lemon juice and lemon rind into a micro-safe bowl. Cook on high about 3 minutes, stirring halfway through. Butter should be melted and sugar dissolved. Beat in eggs and microwave in 30-second bursts until it thickens, about 2 minutes. Whisk after each burst. Cool and pour into sterilized jars. Cover immediately. Store in refrigerator after opening, or even before opening to prolong the shelf life, which is short.
Makes about 3 medium sized jars.
Sneaky notes: �
If you are making a LOT of this, for gifts, etc, I peel the rind off with a peeler and drop it into the blender. Then cut off the white pith with a paring knife. Making sure there are no seeds, drop lemon flesh into blender. Whizz it up until the rind is pulverised. You should end up with about 1 cup of juice/rind mix per batch, to account for the rind and aeration. You can double or triple the recipe, just use a bigger bowl and adjust the times.
I also use the blender to whizz the eggs. If they are not totally beaten, you can get little white strings from the egg white which don't look great.
If you overcook it and it separates, beat up an extra egg. Gradually mix separated (sounds much better than curdled, doesn't it?) mixture into egg. Repeat if necessary.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 10:29PM
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Thanks, Annie. That sounds yummy. I'm still wondering, though, if lemon curd can be used in my recipe. As written, it doesn't have any butter in it. It is a very light textured dessert. It is similar to a chiffon in lightness. I think the butter in the curd may make it too heavy/rich/creamy for use in Mother's Lemon Dessert recipe.

Anyone with an opinion on actual lemon curd being used in place of the not-quite-lemon-curd in the recipe?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 10:47PM
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I don't know if you're purchasing the angel food cake, but assume so. If so, you might look and see if your store sells angel food cake in loaves instead of the traditional shape. It might take two, but it is so much easier to slice off the straight sides than shaving a round one. I'd use an electric knife if you have one, maybe put the cake in the freezer for 1/2 hour or so to firm it up before slicing off the brown.

Then I'd tear the cake and put the prepared cake pieces in an airtight container. I'd make the lemon sauce and save the whites. Refrig all, and on Sat a.m. I'd whip the whites and then the whipping cream, fold in the lemon sauce and assemble.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 11:02PM
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Yes, what Olychick said. :)

I thought we were just using "curd" as a generic term. If you put butter in it, you'll want to remove some cream, or you'll just have a greaseball. I'd stick with the recipe as written, with the do-aheads, since it's a favorite and you want it to come out as expected, or as close as you can manage given the time demands. The looser it is, the better it'll get into the cake, which is another reason not to use butter. You might need to warm up the lemon mixture a little to refresh and loosen it. With the acid and sugar in it, it should keep fine for the day or two it's going to sit.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 12:03AM
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Yes, I'm purchasing an angel food cake. I would like to use a homemade angel food cake, but (a) I've never made one and now isn't the time to learn; and (b) this is for Mother and she always used a store-bought cake, so home-made might make the dessert taste "off" to her.

Thanks everyone for taking the time to help me sort through this and for your excellent advice and tips!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 7:28AM
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Worst case -- the edges of the cake are cut off primarily for appearance. You could bypass that step, but freezing the cake would make trimming easier. Use a serrated knife -- like a bread knife (I've never owned an electric knife). The cake can be made (or bought) and prepped in advance -- just store in a zip loc or air tight container. You could even that part a week ahead and freeze. Once you do that, the rest should go together pretty easily, especially if you have a way to beat egg whites and whip cream without stopping to wash (stand mixer, hand mixer, stick blender). I'd still try to do the assembly no earlier than Friday evening so everything stays light.

If you want to make the cake, it really isn't a hard cake to make, but I find it hard to use or justify tossing a dozen yolks too often so I will share that Duncan Hines Angel Food cake mix makes a very decent cake -- and they have instructions, or at least baking times, for loaf pans if I recall correctly. I think it is much better than what I can buy here.

Your mom will enjoy the dinner and the dessert no matter
the details.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 2:46PM
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I had an electric knife once. Wish I knew where it went. It was really useful for things like carving a turkey or slicing a ham. I know it would be super for cutting the crust off an angel food cake. I suspect it went to Goodwill in some cleaning frenzy I got into.

Thanks for the tip on the Duncan Hines angel food cake mix. I'm already back from the store and I picked up one there. Maybe one day I'll make one from scratch!

Isn't there a way to freeze egg yolks?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 5:02PM
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Isn't there a way to freeze egg yolks?

Yes - make a creme Anglaise and freeze it in an ice cream maker. I always have leftover egg whites when I make ice cream using a creme Anglaise. You can also use egg yolks to make mayonnaise, hollandaise, Avgolemono, and many other sauces. If you are artistic, you can make egg tempera with the yolks and do a painting.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 6:41PM
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Lars, you are just full of suggestions - most of them good!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 8:32PM
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Here's the follow up on the Lemon Dessert.

My brand-new knife made relatively swift work of cutting the brown off the angel food cake. Then it went downhill from there. It took me 3 1/2 hours of near constant cooking to make this dish. And I really don't know how it took so long!

The lemons weren't very juicy and it took forever to juice enough to get 3/4 of a cup of lemon juice.

I made the lemon sauce in the microwave following the directions for the microwave lemon curd. Stopping to stir every 30 seconds until the sauce thickened took a while. I don't know if my stirring with a wire whisk helped or hurt, but it seemed to get thinner after each stirring. The finished product had a slight smell of overcooked eggs.

I used pasteurized eggs. The whites will whip, but the Safe Egg website warns that it will take longer than usual. It took me 15 to 20 minutes to whip them to moderately stiff peaks with a KA stand mixer.

Then whipped the cream and combined all the parts.

My family liked it and Mother especially enjoyed it. However, I'm afraid they won't see it again soon. I think I dirtied every bowl in my kitchen!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 2:01PM
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Mother especially enjoyed it

Yay!!! That's success!

It sounds like making the curd on the stove would have been a lot easier (it really is easy to do!). I never remember to do this, but I have very juicy garden lemons and great reamers, and if there's any juice hiding I don't know where it is, still, they say for getting the juice out of a lemon, it helps to cut it lengthwise. There's a thing about it on The Kitchn (for example).

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 2:49PM
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pll, I agree, making the curd on the stove would have been easier. I don't have a double boiler, though, so I thought I'd give the microwave technique a shot.

Thanks for the lemon cutting tip! Loved watching the Gourmet video. I miss Gourmet. [sigh]. Because I couldn't figure out how many lemons I might need to get 3/4 cup of juice, I bought a bag of lemons instead of individual lemons. The lemons in the bag were smaller.

And I was gratified that Mother enjoyed it.

As an aside, neither my sister nor I knew what Mother's favorite cake flavor was. When she called last night, I asked her. Her answer was "all of them!"

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 3:13PM
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Glad your mom enjoyed it. She sounds like my mom, and that makes me smile. Thanks.

I made a key lime pie from fresh key limes once -- those tiny thing take forever to get a quantity of juice. I understand what that's like.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 3:33PM
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Bbstx, re the double boiler, if you have a tempered glass mixing bowl, that's bigger than your saucepan, that works really well. A small stainless--or even better, enamelled--bowl would work, too. Or you can fold up an old tea towel and put in in the middle of a frying pan with a small sauce pan or bowl on top of it, and the water covering the towel. You can do the towel bit for a bain marie, too--it's the old fashioned way--though the oven temperature always worries me.

Your curd/melted chocolate/caramel/hollandaise/anything-needing-a-double boiler will be at a low enough temperature that you needn't worry about cooking the towel. Hm...but for that matter, you could probably use a thick ribbed silicone potholder, instead, if you happen to have one. Part of the reason for the towel is to keep the smaller pot from sliding in a larger one, when you can't use a larger bowl over a smaller pot (and, of course, it's to keep the heat from transmitting directly from the bottom vessel into the top one, which is why a silpat isn't adequate).

And, if you have induction, you can do it on setting #1 or #2 and skip the double boiler altogether!

Edit: I meant to say, I get it about the small lemons! My friend's heritage tree puts out softballs, but even my dwarf lemon tree has juicy ones. I think they must pick those bag lemons for their size, when they're under ripe. I also totally get it about trying a new technique! You don't know until you try!

This post was edited by plllog on Mon, Aug 25, 14 at 17:50

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 5:40PM
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Interesting ideas for a double boiler replacement, pll. I have a glass bowl that will go in the oven and has handles that would keep it up off the water. Do you think that would work?

The only silicone thing I have is a trivet. It isn't thick enough to hold anything up out of water, though. Probably less than 1/4" thick.
I want this from Ikea for only $6. I read somewhere that it works very well. The closest Ikea is 6 hours away. For the price of gas, I could probably buy the best double boiler All-Clad makes! ;-)

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 5:56PM
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I'm sure any glass oven dish will work fine so long as it'll rest on the edge of the pot securely and doesn't hang down into the water.

Good point about the silicone trivet being too thin for the double boiler, but you could also use it with a spare block of wood to keep things from shifting, or just the block of wood, or do the towel trick thicker. Your oven bowl is a much better idea, however. If it's resting on open (rather than flange) handles, you might want to pad them with paper towels or something just to insulate them a little, or use a small enough pot that the sides of the bowl sit on the edge. Just in case, because the handles have a lot of internal stresses.

Re your pictured handled bowl, even with the $15 delivery fee, it's still a bargain. A lot less than gas! Amazon has something similar, but for over twice as much. Might be worth it if you have Prime or order enough for the free shipping. People also really like this magic pitcher style double boiler. The water goes in between the inner and outer walls.

I prefer enamel or glass, however, being that they're non-reactive. I think your glass bowl will be just fine. :)

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 12:38AM
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Well, I would point out that if you were going to use the lemon curd microwave method as far as the 30-second bursts went, you should have used the _whole_ method, ie, heated the juice, rind and sugar in one zap (probably about 3 mins) until quite hot, _then_ added the yolks and done the 30-second bursts. The wire whisk was a good choice, but how much were you stirring? A quick turn or two would have been enough just to eliminate hot spots.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 7:45AM
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Colleenoz, thanks for pointing that out. I totally missed it in the lemon curd recipe. I mixed yolks, sugar, juice, and zest together then did the zapping 30 seconds at a time. And I did a pretty vigorous fluffing with the whisk each time. I must have been the only one put-off by the overcooked egg smell, though. Everyone ate all they were served and some asked for seconds.

plllog, when I go to the Ikea website, it tells me the STABIL Double Boiler insert is not available for purchase online. Truth be told, I have use for a double boiler about once every 2 years. I have successfully made blender hollandaise for years, so I don't need a double boiler for that. Maybe twice a year, I melt chocolate and I use the microwave for that. I think I'll just use some of your work arounds.

While looking on Amazon at plllog's links, I followed a link for an All-Clad double boiler. The description starts "Crafted of porcelain." It is no more crafted of porcelain than I am! How odd.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 9:35AM
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I was intrigued, since that seems to be the universal description, so I ran it down. The All-Clad site even says "porcelain" but doesn't explain.

A customer review on says "heavy, non-metal insert".

Here's a description from
With the All-Clad Copper-Core porcelain double boiler insert, you can melt chocolate or gently reheat foods with confidence. This duo features a 2 quart sauce pan made of five layers of metal, including a core, copper layer to generate optimum heat distribution and conductivity. The 1.5 quart insert has a porcelain base to be placed over gently simmering water. You'll gain optimal temperature control of delicate ingredients without the threat of scorching or burning foods. This set comes with two lids to fit each piece individually. The All-Clad Copper-Core porcelain double boiler insert includes the following items:* Exterior pot is a 2 quart All-Clad Copper Core sauce pot* Insert is white porcelain with a capacity of 1.5 quarts* The porcelain comes with a stainless ring that fits around it. This ring has a handle to make the insert easier and safer to remove from the exterior pot* All-Clad stainless lid* Fully-clad All-Clad Copper Core cookware is made in the USA. Lids are currently being made in Asia.

AHA! Progress!

Then I found a much better picture on good old Houzz:

Here's another view from

It's a porcelain bowl grafted onto an All-Clad pot handle! It's actually a pretty cool design. It gets to be their signature stainless steel, but still a perfectly non-reactive interior. They have a larger one that they say is non-reactive because it's 18/10 stainless, and that's sort of true, but the porcelain is better. :)

The picture at Chef's Arsenal that confounded you is probably of that bigger insert.

OTOH, the shape isn't the most convenient looking. I haven't found a picture of the interior, but, for whisking, a true bowl shape works better, and, especially, a wider opening so you have room to work sideways, rather than up and down.

Pyrex, Duralex, Arc and Anchor Hocking all make appropriate glass bowls. :) They're often sold as cheap open stock at grocery stores that have housewares sections, and they also come in nesting sets. Very useful things to have around. I have the Arc set, an extra from the "Arcoroc" days that was my mothers (most useful size and most used) and an extra set of the four smallest. You could check the market for a good bowl to use as a double boiler. :)

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 4:30PM
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Pll, I think you have put your finger on what has always bothered/irritated me about double boilers. I don't like the rim inside most inserts. I understand why it is there but it annoys me.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 5:32PM
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bbstx, as usual, I'm late. But for future reference . . .

When making lemon curd, there is absolutely no need for a double boiler. You will, however, require two things:

1. A heavy, non-reactive saucepan.
2. A whisk.

And the most important thing to remember, once the pan hits the burner, do not walk away from it, because that will be the exact moment the lemon curd will boil and curdle, just to spite you.

If you decide to try again next year, I will provide every helpful tip I know regarding this luscious citrus concoction. And will post the recipe I use, if you need one.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 12:35AM
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