Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lemon - Buttermilk Pudding Cakes with Whip Cream and Berries

Dinner parties are one of my favorite ways to entertain. They give you the opportunity to be flexible with the number of guests you invite. Ideally, 4 to 8 people total works best for me. I am able to enjoy the party and interact with everyone on a personal level. The key to a successful dinner party is preparing 90% of the dinner ahead of time. Mise en place is a French phrase defined to mean "everything in place", as in set up. Over the years, the more I work with this theory, the smoother the event goes. Plastic Glad containers are an entertainer’s best friend. Typically I have numerous sizes stacked in my refrigerator ready to either be served or heated up.

A few weeks ago, we had some dear friends over for dinner. I wanted to make it a special and memorable event. With the warm weather here, we enjoyed the appetizer course outside and had the subtle noise of the fountain running in the background. The appetizer course was Gruyere Olive Poppers and Port Infused Dried Mission Fig Crostini. We enjoyed a bottle of Conundrum wine. It has dazzling aromas of apricot, honeysuckle, and vanilla and lime zest enhance an intensely-flavored palate of tropical fruit, peach, pear and melon flavors. The involvedness of this wine is brought into balance with a rich, round, soft texture; clean acidity; and a stunning, rewarding finish.

{Bottom row: Mike, my husband Charles Top row: Da Gang, John and Jeff }

One of my signature entertaining tips is to create a menu for each of my guests. I will lay one at each person’s seat. It gives them an opportunity to sense the theme set for the evening along with a memento to take home with them. I keep a binder for all of the menus I have created over the years, so I can have memories along with not duplicating menus.

{Left to right: John, Da Gang, me, Jeff and Mike }

Our starter course was a Pan Seared Salmon over a Verde Relish. I served it in a shell to create interest. This was paired with a German Riesling from Bex Winery. It has bright aromas of lemon, grapefruit, honeysuckle and a splash of vanilla. A mineral note rises on the nose along with a hint of orange cream flavors and a caramel finish. This wine is neither too sweet nor too dry, just right. A very approachable wine to be enjoyed with or without food.

Another entertaining tip is to have fun at your dinner parties. Recently I purchased a conversation starter of sorts from a company called Table Topics. They are conversation cards in a plastic cube and range from dinner party, happy hour to gourmet to book club. We used the dinner party version and it was so much fun. Each course, we passed out another round of cards. Let the conversation begin!

Speaking of courses, we were now onto the salad course. I created a simple salad of julienne sliced apples, thin slices of fennel, blue cheese and pecans. Tossed with lemon juice and olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. It was such a fresh and crunchy salad that everyone enjoyed. I paired this with a Rombauer Vineyards’ Carneros Chardonnay which has earned a reputation for being a benchmark California Chardonnay. This wine displays intense pear, pineapple and tropical fruits, balanced with creamy, toasted vanilla. Refined acidity and hints of apple linger on the finish.

Are you getting hungry? I hope so, since we are now at the main course. We had Asian Braised Shortribs with Orange Hoisen Sauce, Crème Fraiche Mashed Potatoes and Baby Carrots. This is my husband’s absolute favorite dish that I make. I paired this with a spectacular Cabernet by Landcaster. Estate grown, produced and bottled, the 2006 Lancaster Cabernet has lush ripeness with plums, rich black cherry and cassis characters and sweet, spicy aromas of clove, nutmeg, and vanilla. Finely textured tannins and layers of complexity extend over the long finish. Aged 22 months in French oak barrels, this wine was bottled unfiltered. It is 84% Cabernet Sauvignon 11% Malbec 2% Merlot 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Truly an award winning wine and went perfectly with the shortribs.

Last but not least was the finally – dessert. We enjoyed this in the family room so we could relax in comfortable chairs and sofas. The dessert was from Cindy Pawlcyn’s book – Big Small Plates. It is a Lemon Buttermilk Pudding Cake with Whip Cream and Berries. I adapted it slightly and would make this again in a heartbeat. Try it at your next dinner party if you want to impress.

Lemon Buttermilk Pudding Cake with Whip Cream and Berries


2/3 C. plus ¼ C. Sugar
½ C. Flour
½ C. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
3 T. Lemon zest, finely grated
1 ½ C. Buttermilk
4 T. Melted butter
3 Large eggs, separated

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2/3 cup sugar and flour. Add the lemon juice, buttermilk and zest. Whisk until combined and smooth. Using a separate bowl, whish the butter and the egg yolks together until a light yellow color. In a stand up mixer, add the egg whites and beat until frothy. Sprinkle in the ¼ cup of sugar to the egg white and beat until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the other mixture, until the batter is smooth and thick.

Pour into 8 ramekins and place into a large pan. Add water until half way up the sides and place into the oven. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes until slightly brown and beginning to crack but still jiggly. Cool to room temperature and then place into the refrigerator.

Whip Cream

1 C. Heavy cream
2 t. Vanilla
¼ C. Powdered Sugar

Use a stand up mixer and add the ingredients for the whip cream. Mix until stiff peaks form. Place into a covered container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble, simply use a sharp knife to go around the ramekin to loosen the cake. Place the plate on top of the ramekin and then turn over. The cake should drop out. Place a dollop of whip cream and garnish with various berries.


  1. What a beautiful and delicious dinner party. The menu is a great idea and the Lemon Buttermilk Pudding cake looks so simple and light. You are such a consummate hostess. :)

  2. Love anything lemon esp. dessert. Also going through a buttermilk phase so this is perfect! Thanks.

  3. Lovely dinner party. Yes, this is making me hungry,the Lemon-buttermilk Pudding Cake with Whip Cream looks incredible. Thank you for sharing.

  4. OMGoodness...you sure know how to put out a spread and surely the hostess with the mostess. Like your ideas like the binder with past menus and the conversation starters. Beautiful food and dishes. I sometimes find it difficult to be a part of the party because I'm serving and doing all those hostess things. Definitely need some tips from you. :)

  5. Wow, what a great spread--so impressive. Besides all the other food, I think you can write a book on your crostinis alone. Always winners.

  6. Yum! I love dinner parties! Cooking for friends & fam is the best. Cute blog! :)

    ~ RLV

  7. Hi Lisa, first the menu idea, how cute...Loved it. Second you are spoiling your guests with beautiful delicious food. The pudding looks lovely. Just makes me wish I was living in your neighborhood. LOL

  8. I love your menu and the apps are fabulous, love them both but the gruyère olive poppers are very cute! You really throw a beautiful dinner party, your friends are lucky to be entertained so lavishly, thanks for sharing all the photos!
    ps, the lemon buttermilk pudding cake looks like the perfect ending:-)


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