Lemon Pudding Cakes with Apricot Sauce

The unusual thing about these lemony cakes is that while they are baking, the batter splits, creating a creamy, puddinglike top and souffle-like bottom.

SERVINGS: 8

INGREDIENTS

CAKE
1 1/4 cups whole milk
Zest of 2 lemons
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2 lemons)

SAUCE
One 8 1/2-ounce jar apricot halves in syrup, drained
1/2 cup apricot preserves
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Salt

HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

Preheat the oven to 325°. Lightly spray eight 6-ounce ramekins with vegetable cooking spray and arrange them in a small roasting pan.
In a small saucepan, combine the milk with the lemon zest and bring just to a simmer. Strain the milk through a sieve into a medium bowl and let cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with 6 tablespoons of the sugar at moderately high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. At medium speed, beat in the egg yolks, 1 at a time, until incorporated. Using a spoon, stir in the flour, lemon juice and infused milk until combined.
In a large bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until the egg whites are firm and glossy. Working in batches, gently fold the meringue into the batter just until combined.
Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until small cracks appear on top of each cake. Using tongs, transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool.
In a food processor or blender, puree the apricots with the preserves, water, lemon juice and salt until smooth.
Run a blunt knife around each cake and invert onto a dessert plate. Spoon the apricot sauce around the cakes and serve.

MAKE AHEAD
The recipe can be prepared through Step 6 up to 2 days ahead. Refrigerate the cakes and the apricot sauce separately. Serve cold or at room temperature.

CONTRIBUTED BY GARY DANKO PHOTO © TARA SGROI