What to Do With a Too Sour Lemon Cake

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Dear Home-Ec 101,

I have made good lemon cake. Problem is it’s too sour. Any sauce
I can use that complements lemon cake? I am from South
Africa. Thank you.

Tart in Tembisa


Heather says:

Thank you for writing in, I love hearing from Home-Eccers all over the world.

I have a good friend who loves to tell me, “All food is simply a carrier for sauce.” When you think about it, he makes a good point and yes, since you ask, he did go to culinary school in France. That’s neither here nor there and only gives you a hint to your too sour lemon cake problem.

Too balance out the tartness of the lemon you’ll want to complement the flavor profile with a sauce that has both a bit of fat to mute the sour and the richness of vanilla to broaden the flavor.

Creme anglais is the answer to your problem and it is simple to make, if you take care not to scramble your eggs in the process. Heat a heavy saucepan over low heat, to this add 1 cup of heavy cream and 2 tsp quality vanilla extract. Heat just until bubbles form at the edges and remove from the heat.

In a small bowl whisk together 4 egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar.

Slowly, by 1/8th to 1/4 cup at a time, whisk the cream and vanilla into the egg and sugar mixture. This process is called tempering and prevents the eggs from scrambling. Once the eggs are fully incorporated into the cream return to the burner and stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Alternately -and much more simply- melt some high quality vanilla bean ice cream and spoon over the lemon cake.


Good luck!

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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7 thoughts on “What to Do With a Too Sour Lemon Cake”

    •  @carnellm yes and the rum sauce also has the fat, from butter and milk, that soften the bite of the acid. Great suggestion.

  1. It sounds like you don’t like the acid.
    Baking soda will neutralize it and allow the other flavors to come through.
    This works with acidic fruit juices, too. Be careful to leave enough room for the fizz. The acid-base reaction creates carbon dioxide bubbles. That happens so quickly in liquids that it can fizz up and over the top of the glass.
    Start small. Too much baking soda doesn’t taste good. If you use too much,  you can neutralize the excess with an acid, like orange juice.

    •  @Tornado while your suggestion is chemically sound, it’s not going to work really well in this application (an already baked cake). And the other thing I’d be concerned with, when dealing with more delicate flavors like lemon is the product of the chemical reaction. . . salt. Acid + Base = Water + Salt The next time the reader makes the cake they can simply reduce the amount of lemon juice or extract with water (or milk, but added separately) to ensure the liquid volume remains constant. 

  2. I was going to suggest a sweet raspberry sauce, but then I read carnellm’s comment and realized that rum wins.  Maybe rum and raspberry?


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