Lemon Posset Shortcakes


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Baking Bible

By Rose Levy Beranbaum

Published 2014

  • About
Oven Temperature 350°F/175°C

The recipe and word “posset” date from medieval times and refer to the small pot in which the dessert was presented. This recipe was inspired by a trip to Minneapolis, where Woody and I had an exquisite version created by pastry chef Ann Bridges at Restaurant Alma. The lemon posset, which was prepared with Meyer lemon juice and presented in ramekins, had the purest, cleanest flavor I’ve ever experienced. It is a soft lemon cream that, unlike lemon curd, contains neither butter nor eggs; nor unlike panna cotta, gelatin. It relies entirely on the acidity of the lemons to set the cream. The pairing of the lemon posset with my favorite individual sponge cakes makes this the most ethereal of cakes, but I always make extra lemon posset without the cake as a special treat to be eaten by the spoonful during the day.

Plan Ahead The lemon posset can be made after the cakes have been brushed with syrup.



unsalted butter 5 tablespoons (½ stick plus 1 tablespoon) 2.5 ounces 71 grams
pure vanilla extract ¾ teaspoon (3.7 ml) . .
2 large eggs cup plus 1 tablespoon (94 ml) 3.5 ounces 100 grams
1 large egg yolk 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon (17 ml) 0.7 ounce 19 grams
superfine sugar cup 2.3 ounces 67 grams
Wondra flour (see Note) ½ cup (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) minus ½ tablespoon 2.3 ounces 66 grams

Special Equipment

One Marianne or shortcake pan with 6 cavities, or six 10 ounce (4 by 2 inches) Pyrex dessert dishes, coated with baking spray with flour (if using the dessert dishes, set them on a baking sheet) | A quarter sheet pan or baking sheet lined with plastic wrap


Preheat the Oven

Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Clarify and Brown the Butter

Beurre Noisette

Have ready a fine-mesh or cheesecloth-lined strainer suspended over a 1 cup glass measure with a spout.

In a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, melt the butter. Raise the heat to low and cook, uncovered, watching carefully to prevent burning. Move away any foam on the surface to check the progress. As soon as the milk solids become a deep brown, immediately pour the butter through the strainer, scraping the solids into the strainer.

Measure or weigh tablespoons/52 ml/1.5 ounces/43 grams of the browned butter. Let it cool slightly to 110° to 120°F/40° to 50°C. Stir in the vanilla, cover, and keep warm. Refrigerate or freeze the milk solids for a future use.

Beat the Eggs and Sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using a long-handled wire whisk, lightly combine the eggs, egg yolk, and sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water) and heat just until lukewarm to the touch, stirring constantly with the whisk to prevent curdling.

Set the bowl on the stand mixer and attach the whisk beater. Beat the mixture on high speed for a minimum of 5 minutes. The mixture will more than quadruple in volume and be very thick and airy. (A handheld mixer will take at least 10 minutes.)

Make the Batter

Remove almost ½ cup/1 ounce/26 grams of the beaten egg foam and whisk it thoroughly into the melted butter.

Dust about half of the flour (sift it if substituting the flour mixture described in the Note) over the remaining egg mixture and fold it in gently but rapidly with a large balloon whisk, slotted skimmer, or silicone spatula until almost all the flour has disappeared. Repeat with the remaining flour until all traces of flour have disappeared.

Fold in the butter mixture just until incorporated. With a silicone spatula, reach to the bottom of the pan to be sure to moisten all the flour.

Fill the Pans

Using a tablespoon, spoon the batter into the prepared Marianne cavities, filling each three-quarters full (1.5 ounces/43 grams). If using the Pyrex dishes, they will be one-third full.

Bake the Cakes

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown and the cakes start to shrink slightly from the sides of the pan cavities. In the Pyrex dessert dishes, the cakes will puff slightly, but will not pull away from the sides. They will rise in the center to a little above the sides of the pans and then sink slightly when baked fully. Avoid opening the oven door before the minimum baking time because the fragile cakes could fall. Test toward the end of baking by opening the door a crack and if the cakes do not appear done, continue baking for another 2 minutes.

Cool and Unmold the Cakes

To prevent the collapse of their delicate foam structure while still hot, the cakes must be unmolded as soon as they are baked. Have ready a small metal spatula and a wire rack lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Immediately loosen the sides of the cakes with the small metal spatula. Place the wire rack on top of the pan and invert it. The Pyrex dishes need to be inverted individually. Cool completely.

Make the Syrup

See recipe.

Make the Apple Glaze

See recipe.

Make the Posset

See recipe.

Apply the Syrup

When the cakes are cool, place them on the prepared sheet pan. Brush the cakes all over with the syrup, especially on the sides and on top of the sides around the indentation. There will be 1 tablespoon/15 ml of syrup for each little cake.

If the cakes were baked in custard cups, leave them inverted and use a small sharp knife to cut a ¼ to ⅜ inch deep circle out of the center of the cake, leaving a ¼ inch wide rim around the outer edge. Brush with syrup as above.

Allow the syrup 3 hours to distribute into the cakes before applying the apple glaze.

Apply the Glaze

With a small, clean artist’s paintbrush or pastry brush, brush the glaze onto the cakes, covering the sides and top border well to keep them from drying. Let the glaze set for 30 minutes before filling the cakes.

Compose the Shortcakes

Using a tablespoon, spoon equal amounts of the posset’s custardlike top layer into each cake’s depression. Refrigerate the partially filled shortcakes for 1 hour and then spoon the remaining creamier posset to fill each shortcake nearly to the top. Avoid spooning any watery posset at the bottom of the measuring cups. If necessary, smooth the surfaces with the spoon. If properly set, the layer of posset in the cakes should be about ½ inch thick.

Refrigerate the shortcakes, uncovered, for at least 2 hours to set. When set, the lemon posset will have a smooth sheen. If not serving at once, set the shortcakes in an airtight container and refrigerate.

To serve, let the shortcakes sit for 10 minutes at room temperature. The tops of the possets and the plates can be sprinkled with powdered lemon zest. If desired, garnish with curled strips of lemon zest.


Airtight: room temperature, 1 hour; refrigerated, 2 days. Do not freeze, because the texture will become less smooth.

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