We were all very fond of the ridiculously French chef-teachers at Le Cordon Bleu. Only a few weeks into classes, we found ourselves doe-eyed and fresh-faced in a demonstration kitchen being taught the secrets of set custards. Chef (he didn’t seem to have a first or last name, just ‘Chef’) stood in front of our class, a huge grin on his face, and pronounced that the perfect panna cotta “should wobble like the breasts of a teenage girl”.

I can’t recommend jiggling in one hand your panna cotta and in the other… ahem…  Nevertheless, the “wobble” test is a reliable one – there’s nothing more titillating than watching your dessert dance on it’s plate.

Panna cotta (like ice cream) is such a fun dessert to play with and a perfect canvas to splash with a colourful flavour experiment or two.

This is my version of a recipe from Fandango: Recipes, parties, and license to make magic, an amazing book with fabulous party themes and ideas. I think the lemon cups are really fun, and a great way to incorporate the citrus theme for The Cookbook Challenge this fortnight. I’ve infused the milk with some herbs from my garden and decided to serve the panna cotta in lemon cups instead of orange ones – I just find them a little more delicate. If you want a bigger serving, this recipe will make four panna cotta cups if served in oranges.

Panna cotta is very easy to make – you quite simply heat all of the ingredients to dissolve the gelatin, let it set in the fridge and hey presto !  The secret is not to let the milk get too hot (i.e. don’t furiously boil), as it will stop the gelatin from working properly.  This would be lovely served with a crisp almond biscuit or a caramel macadamia brittle.  The flavour of this set-milk dessert is wonderfully complex without being overpowering.

Now I know you’re wondering what on earth that baby budgee figurine is doing on the plate.  I can’t think of a reasonable answer to give you.  I just felt compelled to include him in the shot.

sweet, salty, fragrant lemon panna cotta

makes 6 lemon cups

  • 2 tsp powdered gelatin
  • 1/2 cup (110g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120mL) heavy cream
  • 2 cups (480mL) whole milk
  • zest of 2 lemons (grated or sliced)
  • 2 sprigs of mint
  • 2 sprigs of lavender
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
  • 1/8 tsp of sea salt
  • 6 medium sized lemons
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the gelatin in 1/3 cup warm water.
  2. Combine the gelatin, sugar, cream, milk, zest, mint, lavender, thyme and fennel seeds in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat until steaming.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for about 30 minutes to allow the herbs to infuse.
  4. Strain the mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the salt.
  5. Slice a quarter off the top of each lemon and scoop out the flesh using a spoon or your fingernails to gently ease the flesh apart from the pith.  Be careful not to break the lemon skin.
  6. If the base of the lemon doesn’t sit flat, slice a very small amount off the knob on the base of the lemon so that it sits upright.
  7. Put the hollowed-out lemons in a baking dish and pour the milk mixture until they are almost filled to the top.
  8. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight, until set.


CK May 13, 2021 at 10:13 pm

These look very nice. Great photos and like everyone else, think serving the panna cotta in the lemon is a brilliant idea.

Lorraine Not Quite Nigella May 14, 2021 at 2:22 pm

What a cute way to serve lemon panna cotta! I’ve seen gelato served like this but not a panna cotta 🙂

Anonymous May 14, 2021 at 3:48 pm

What a beautiful idea! And I love the photos.

Anonymous May 15, 2021 at 1:11 am

Oh I’m so glad my little budgee has some fans… I love using soy/rice/oat milk – you can just sub them in any panna cotta recipe and use a smidgen more gelatin 🙂

Agnes May 15, 2021 at 8:03 am

Laughing at the wobble test! That’s one way to describe it 😀

Prudence May 15, 2021 at 2:25 pm

I love the idea of serving desserts in a fruit skin bowl, no less. Will try this recipe 🙂

Ellie May 16, 2021 at 11:37 pm

Beautiful photographs. Clever use of the lemon shells!

Jennifer May 17, 2021 at 5:13 am

I love the idea of serving the panna cotta in lemon cups. So inventive!

Renata May 17, 2021 at 8:42 am

I love your lemon cups! Great choice of flavors as well.

Hannah May 19, 2021 at 3:00 am

How fantastic! I adore using typically “savoury” herbs in desserts, and I’m hopelessly addicted to lemon desserts. Such gorgeous presentation, too!

Siobhan May 19, 2021 at 3:03 am

Lemon as a cup! Love.

Monique May 19, 2021 at 4:16 am

I love the idea of serving the panna cotta in lemons. Beautiful!

Chitchatchomp May 19, 2021 at 8:25 am

What a brilliant dish and I love that you served them in the little lemon cups – too cute!

Cate May 19, 2021 at 9:31 am

I love the budgie – but I had to look twice to see if it was real!!!

Beautiful looking dessert!

Michelle DT May 19, 2021 at 7:16 pm

Wonderful recipe and photos!

Jaye May 19, 2021 at 8:52 pm

this panna cotta looks just lovely!! I especially like the baby budgie – I actually thought he was part of the plate at first glance 😉

Camille May 19, 2021 at 10:42 pm

I love the flavor combination! I made a lavender-mint-chocolate ice cream last summer that was a huge hit. The lemon and fennel in this one certainly adds a touch of intrigue…

Kayla May 20, 2021 at 4:18 am

Great job!! These look magnificent! I love how the baby budgee adds ‘life’ to the photo:) I’m inspired to make some dairy free panna cotta too!!

Alisa May 20, 2021 at 6:49 pm

They look wonderful and the baby budgie is so cute!I came across your site from the foodieblogroll and I’d love to guide Foodista readers to your site. I hope you could add this panna cotta widget at the end of this post so we could add you in our list of food bloggers who blogged about recipes for panna cotta,Thanks!

Janine May 21, 2021 at 12:40 am

totally loving your presentation and LOL at the wobble test

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