Also known as lemon surprise pudding or lemon sponge pudding, Self Saucing Lemon Pudding is an absolute favourite. Made from scratch with fresh lemons and regular cake ingredients, it’s insanely simple to make.

And if you love easy lemon desserts you’ll love this lemon curd mousse too.

A spoon taking a scoop of pudding out of a white bowlThis lemon pudding gets it’s name from the light and fluffy sponge cake which sits on top of a silky smooth, tangy lemon sauce that it somehow magically creates during baking.

I grew up on desserts like sponge pudding – often a berry or lemon flavour but, ever so rarely, a chocolate version. I must admit, I was always a sucker for lemon or berry flavoured desserts though, and we’d smother these, warm out of the oven with hot runny custard. Yum.

Self Saucing Lemon Pudding vs Lemon Delicious

When you search for a lemon pudding recipe, you’ll come across 2 very common versions. Although they look almost identical, lemon sponge pudding and lemon delicious have one main difference – eggs.

Self Saucing lemon pudding (aka lemon surprise pudding or lemon sponge pudding) is literally a light, fluffy sponge on top of a smooth sauce. Lemon Delicious also tends to have a little sauce but the texture is more souffle-like which comes from a larger number of eggs, of which the whites are beaten separately, then folded into the mix.

Personally, the sponge texture wins hands down and it’s also easier to make. Win, win!

Top down view of a lemon pudding in a round white bowl, with a scoop taken out. Lemons in the top corner

Ingredients for Lemon Sponge Pudding

You’ll find all your regular cake ingredients in the batter – flour, baking powder, sugar, butter, egg and milk – plus a good dose of lemon zest and juice.

The sauce is nothing more that lemon juice, water, sugar and a touch of cornflour (cornstarch) to help it thicken.

How to make Self Saucing Lemon Pudding

  1. Start by mixing together flour, baking powder and salt and set it aside.
  2. Mix together melted butter and sugar, then add an egg and beat it until it becomes a lovely pastel yellow colour.
  3. Use a spatula to stir in lemon zest and juice.
  4. Now stir in the flour and milk, alternating between one third of the flour, half the milk and repeat until all gone.
  5. Tip this batter into a greased casserole or pie dish.
  6. To make the sauce, combine the cornflour with lemon juice, then add 1 cup of boiling water.
  7. Sprinkle some sugar over the top of the cake batter, then drizzle the sauce over the back of a spoon all over the top.

Both the cake and the sauce cook together in one dish but create two distinct layers – a fluffy lemon sponge on top, with a smooth, glossy (almost lemon curd like) lemon sauce below.

The sauce ingredients melt and binds together and seeps through the cake as it cooks until it hits the bottom where it turns into a luscious lemon sauce.

As the sponge cake bakes, the baking powder and beaten egg give it lift, making it lighter than the sauce so it rises through, while the sauce is sinking. Magic right?!!

Some of the sugar will leave a crispy coating that you’ll see on top when it finishes baking.

A lemon pudding in a round white bowl, with a scoop taken out.

Important notes & tips

  • This recipe uses 2 – 3 medium lemons or 2 large ones should do it. Zest them first, then juice them right at the start. Any leftover zest or juice can be frozen.
  • Don’t skip the zest – the zest gives great lemon flavour so don’t skip it. Invest in a microplane if you don’t have one to get finely grated zest without the pith.
  • Use an electric beater to step 2 if you like (I actually find this better than a stand mixer) or beat by hand if you have the upper body strength that I don’t.
  • Use any oven safe casserole dish that has a 6-8 cup capacity (1-1.5L). It can be round square, ceramic, glass even metal but nothing with a removable base.
  • Make sure no cornflour (cornstarch) is left behind when pouring the sauce onto the batter as you need it all for the sauce to thicken up. If there is any left in the jug, just add a little of the hot water back to it, give it a swirl so you can pour it onto the pudding.
  • Test the cake is ready by inserting a toothpick into the middle, only about 1 cm. It should not have any wet batter left, but maybe a sticky crumb or two. Don’t push the toothpick too far or you’ll just hit the sauce. The top should be a little cracked and starting to turn golden.
  • Let the pudding sit for 10 minutes after taking it out of the oven for 2 reasons. First, this will allow the sauce to cool slightly so you don’t burn your tongue and secondly the sauce will thicken a little more in this time.

Serving and storing lemon pudding

  • How to serve: This lemon sponge pudding is absolutely bursting with lemon flavour, so it’s wonderful served warm with hot custard, ice cream or thick dollop cream. Be mindful that ice cream and custard will both add more sweetness though.
  • Storage: Store this pudding in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap for 3-4 days. The day after making you’ll still have some sauce but the longer it sits, the more sauce will soak into the sponge. It will still taste amazing though. It will freeze well too.

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Lemon pudding in small white dessert bowls with a larger bowl in the background

If you’re a lemon lover or know a lemon lover then this lemon surprise pudding recipe is for you. All at once, comforting and uplifting you’ll be amazed how flavour packed this incredibly simple dessert is. If a fluffy, self saucing sponge pudding doesn’t grab you, I don’t know what will.  

More lemon recipes

Top down view of a lemon pudding in a round white bowl, with a scoop taken out. Lemons in the top corner

Self Saucing Lemon Pudding

4.29 from 7 votes
Easy to make and ready in less than an hour, this Self Saucing Lemon Pudding is light and fluffy lemon sponge, with a surprise, thick lemon sauce. With a bright, tangy flavour from real lemons, this pudding recipe is for every lemon lover.

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE BATTER

  • 165 g plain (all purp) flour (1 ¼ cup / 5.8oz)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup white granulated sugar (100g / 3.5oz)
  • 57 g unsalted butter, melted (¼ cup / ½ stick)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (notes)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (notes)
  • ½ cup milk (125ml)

FOR THE LEMON SAUCE

  • cup lemon juice (80ml)
  • 3 teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 cup 250ml boiling water
  • cup white granulated sugar (66g / 2.3oz)

TO SERVE

  • Icing (powdered) sugar for dusting
  • Thick dollop cream or ice cream

Instructions
 

FOR THE CAKE BATTER

  • Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F / 160C fan. Grease 6-8 cup capacity casserole or pie dish with butter.
  • Get some water boiling in the kettle.
  • Zest the lemons, then juice them and set aside.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl using an electric beater or by hand, beat together the melted butter and sugar until well combined.
  • Add the egg and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary until it’s a pastel yellow colour.
  • Using a spatula now, stir through the tablespoon of lemon juice and zest.
  • Gently stir in one third of the flour mixture, until just combined.
  • Add half of the milk, Mix gently again. Continue – flour, milk, flour – stirring each time until only just combined. Don’t overmix or the cake may turn out dense.
  • Pour the batter into your prepared pie dish

FOR THE LEMON SAUCE

  • In a small jug mix the ⅓ cup of lemon juice and cornflour until fully combined. Add the boiling water and stir. Set aside.
  • Sprinkle the ⅓ cup of sugar in an even layer over the top of the cake batter.
  • With an upturned dessert or soup spoon in one hand, slowly dribble the boiling water & lemon juice over it, moving it around so the water is dribbled evenly over the whole cake (see notes)
  • Bake the pudding for 32-35 minutes. The top should look dry, cracked and starting to turn golden and a toothpick inserted (just into the cake portion) should come out with just a sticky crumb or two attached.
  • Let the pudding sit for 10 minutes before serving. Dust with icing (powdered) sugar and serve with warm custard, cream, dollop cream or ice cream.

Notes

  1. I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons worldwide)
  2. For best results you should always weigh ingredients like flour and sugar. Kitchen scales are relatively cheap but if you can’t weigh the ingredients, use the spoon and level method (don’t scoop).
  3. Pouring the boiling water / lemon mixture over the back of a spoon very slowly will allow it to sit on top of the cake batter and not create holes in your cake batter.
  4. Leftover zest or lemon juice can be frozen.
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A lemon pudding in a round white bowl, with a scoop taken out.