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sparkle kitchen: upside down lemon bars! (gluten-free!)

In the Martin and Sylvia: More Adventures story, "Smelling Your Way," Martin and Sylvia join in the annual Spring Cleaning, they notice a trail of tiny little ants leading to the honey jar. They wonder how the ants found the jar and Momma explains that ants use their sense of smell to find food and to recognize each other. This inspires some scent guessing games and then a grand hunt for treats using nothing but their noses!

You know when you think a baking experiment is going terribly awry, only to find that it turns out beautifully? Well, feast your eyes on these. Lemon bars. Upside Down Lemon Bars.

I was making lemon bars to go with the "Smelling Your Way" story (because after your family hears that story, your children are going to want you to make lemon bars so that they can have the same fun experiment that Martin and Sylvia do).

They were supposed to be normal lemon bars, with the custard on top and the crust on the bottom. But alas, in the moment of adding the custard portion to bake, things went topsy-turvy.

But oh the result! Crust on top and sides, and custard on the bottom. And lusciously good.

I’m going to recount exactly what I did – so you can try this too!

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Upside-Down Lemon Bars



  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • (I used beet sugar.)
  • 2 cups cashew or almond meal/flour (I ground cashew pieces in my food processor until they were a fine meal.)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free, all-purpose flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill.)


  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar (I used beet sugar.)
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free, all-purpose flour
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

to make the crust: in a medium bowl, mix 2 cups nut meal, 1/2 cup gluten-free flour, and 1/4 cup sugar. Add melted butter, and combine. Spread onto the bottom of an ungreased 9×9 inch pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden.

to make the custard: in another bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar and flour. Add the eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour on the baked crust.

Now HERE was the snafu moment — that had a delightful result. When I poured the custard onto the top of the crust, I found that the custard SANK below, and the crust ROSE up! But do not fear! In fact, give a good hearty laugh. The result will be just as delicious as the normal, right-side-up lemon bars you’ve had previous to now.

Even though it looks a bit odd, bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Once it’s fully golden, remove and allow to cool.

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(This is what mine looked like out of the oven.)

As it cools, you will find it gets firm. Pop it in the fridge if you want the bars to be thoroughly cool before cutting.

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(See the custard at the bottom?)

And then cut and serve.

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Really lusciously lemony good.

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And enjoyed on our porch on our very first 70 degree spring day!

Download the recipe HERE

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About the Author

Lisabeth Sewell McCann
Doer of Many Wonderful and Odd Things (including CEO)

Lisabeth Sewell McCann has worn many hats at Sparkle over the years, from Sparkle Kitchen Blogger to Editorial Director to Doer of All Odd Jobs. Her primary role is as CEO. Lisabeth and David live in Austin, Texas with their two sons.

About Martin & Sylvia: More Adventures

Martin and Sylvia can find fun and adventure just about anywhere they go! When the the brother and sister don their explorers' hats, the whole back yard becomes a new land waiting to be discovered. The spring brook becomes a rainforest river! The apple trees become hot air balloons! The neighborhood library is a wizard's castle! These stories delight in the children's adventures at home and beyond.