This is the same lemon pudding I posted earlier, but presented differently. The illusion is very realistic due to the color and consistency of the pudding and a lemon curd “yolks”. For the toast, there’s an anise seed génoise-sort-of-cake, baked in a loaf pan and toasted before serving. The texture of these “toasts” is nice, not even close to hard or difficult to bite in; they don’t need to be dunked before eating – they melt in the mouth.

Adapted from the Gourmet magazine

Serves about 6

For the trompe l’oeil “Soft Boiled Eggs”:

For the “Toasts”:

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp anise seeds, finely ground
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup fine granulated sugar
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Make the trompe l’oeil “Soft Boiled Eggs”:

With a small knife, tear any membrane remaining in bottoms of the eggshells. To sterilize the eggshells, cover them with 2 inches cold water in a large saucepan and add the vinegar. Simmer over moderate heat, gently stirring occasionally and skimming off any debris, 15 minutes. Carefully transfer the shells with a slotted spoon to a rack to cool. Wipe the shells inside and out gently with a dampened paper towel to clean completely.

To assemble the dessert, arrange the eggshells in the eggcups. Spoon the lemon pudding into each eggshell and make a small well in the center. Transfer the lemon curd to a plastic bag. Snip off one corner of the bag. Pipe about a teaspoon of the curd into the center of each egg to form the “yolk.”

Serve with the trompe l’oeil toasts if making.

Make the “Toasts”:

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8x4x3-inch loaf pan with parchment; don’t grease the parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder, ground anise, and salt together; return to the sifter and set aside.

In a bowl of your electric mixer, using a whisk, combine the eggs and sugar thoroughly. Place the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat the eggs to lukewarm (about 105F).

Remove the bowl from the pan; leave the skillet on the stove but turn off the heat. With an electric mixer, beat the egg mixture at medium-high speed until it has cooled, tripled in volume, thickened and become almost white in color, about 5 minutes in a heavy-duty mixer or longer with a less powerful mixer.

Meanwhile, place the clarified butter and vanilla extract into a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl in the skillet of hot water, with the burner off, to keep it warm.

Sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the whipped eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the mixture – quickly but gently. Fold in half the remaining flour, and then fold in the rest. Remove the warm butter mixture from the skillet. Scoop a little bit of batter into the bowl with the butter and fold together until completely combined. Use the large rubber spatula to fold the butter mixture back into the remaining batter. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Place the loaf pan onto a baking sheet and slide into the oven.

Bake until the cake is lightly browned and a wooden pick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the pan on a cooling rack. Then unmold and cool completely on the rack.

The cake can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept, tightly wrap in plastic, at room temperature or frozen up to 1 month.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 400F.

Trim the ends of the loaf and slice the loaf crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices. Bake on a baking sheet until undersides are golden brown, about 6 minutes. Turn the toasts over and bake for another 3-4 minutes to lightly toast another side.