Recipe: Laughing Lemon Sponge Pie

Recipe: Laughing Lemon Sponge Pie

The name of this website, Laughing Lemon Pie, comes from a cooking mishap that has become the stuff of legend in my family.

Many years ago, my grandmother made a lemon pie for the family, but something must have gone slightly awry in the kitchen, because as the pie was served, everyone noticed immediately how… well, how sour it was.

But my grandmother is not the sort to apologize for a little thing like that. In her kitchen, if something burns a little, it is simply browned, thank you very much.

In any case, I’m sure that with a little laugh, they all dug into the pie any way.

But that’s all it took: a little laugh.

If you’ve ever eaten something sour and then started to laugh, you’ll know the exquisite pain that can occur right behind the joint of your jaw.  And this is precisely what started to happen to the family.

They laughed, and someone said ouch, and that was funny, so they laughed harder.  Then someone else clutched their face in pain, and before you knew it, the entire family was in paroxysms of laughter and pain all at once.

Certainly, a pie not to be forgotten.

And now, whenever we have a lemon dessert that’s even just a little on the tart side, we remind each other to watch out!  It’s laughing lemon pie.


I asked my grandmother for the infamous laughing lemon pie recipe, and although she couldn’t remember exactly, she thought it was probably a lemon sponge pie from the Betty Crocker Cookbook.

I’d never heard of a lemon sponge pie, but a little Googling turned up a recipe.  Like a lemon meringue, the eggs are separated, whites beaten to stiff peaks and yolks beaten into the lemon filling.  Unlike a lemon meringue, the whites are then folded into the filling and, during baking, rise to the top to create a “magic” spongy topping.

I adjusted this recipe so that it is quite tart—not enough to hurt, though!  So, if you prefer sweeter lemon flavors, you can add up to an extra half cup of sugar based on your tastes. Alternately, you could also use Meyer lemons for a sweeter taste.

Laughing Lemon Sponge Pie

Laughing Lemon Sponge Pie


  • 1 pie crust, 9-inch
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare pastry and line pie pan with crust. Leave unbaked.
  3. Beat egg whites in a large mixer bowl until stiff peaks form, reserve.
  4. Beat egg yolks; beat in lemon peel, lemon juice and milk. Add sugar, flour and salt; beat until smooth. Fold lemon mixture into egg whites.
  5. Pour into pastry-lined pie plate. Bake until golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. (A layer of lemon will settle to the bottom and a soft meringue-like topping will float to the top.)
  6. Serve with sweetened whipped cream if desired.


This makes quite a tart pie. You can increase the sugar by as much as half a cup to taste.

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