Best Ever Lemon Tart

When I was in college, I ate my fair share of junk food, or, to use the more fun Italian word, schifezze. The consumption of things like ramen noodles, PopTarts, and Easy Mac is after all part of the college experience, the lack of home cooking reminding you that you're off on your own now, fending for yourself and thus making a few questionable food choices, because you can. My roommate and I periodically bought and shared large boxes of Peanut Butter Crunch cereal; the dining hall's most popular dishes were tacos and chicken parmesan; the campus Lobby Shop kept students stocked with candy bars, potato chips, ice cream, and my personal favorite, Golden Graham Treats. You're probably not familiar, so let me explain: the Golden Graham Treat was a large bar of golden graham cereal, held together by melted marshmallows and chocolate, decorated with milk chocolate chips. It was sugary, chewy, and crunchy, all at the same time, and I loved them. They were perfect fuel during exams and paper writing, but when I graduated college and moved to Italy, we lost touch.

I crossed paths again with my beloved GGTs not long ago, during a recent trip to the States. Delighted at our reunion, I bought two, one to enjoy right away and the other to snack on later. As I bit in to my Treat and chewed, I decided the recipe must have changed -- what I was eating was stodgy, too sweet, and artificial tasting, nothing like the GGT of my college days. I wrapped up the rest of the Treat, realizing, as I have more than once, that the recipe for Golden Grahams have not changed, but rather, my taste buds have. My diet in Italy, unlike my college years, consists of lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, pasta, and cheese, and as a result my taste for sugar has waned; I'm no longer used to things are that are processed, packaged, or generally overly sweet. When it comes to desserts in particular, I have found a new appreciation for things that are subdued, on the simple side, and just sweet enough. 

So, what is the connection between Golden Graham Treats and this Lemon Tart?! It is a perfect example of a dessert that I would never have appreciated before, back in my sugar-high days; in fact, the pre-Italy Francesca would pick a milk chocolate-y or frosting-laden dessert over a lemon one any day, finding the flavor too sour and sharp. I only began to notice the beauty of a tangy, citrus-y dessert in the past few years -- discovering things like Lemon Squares and Lemon Poppy seed Cake -- and oh how I've been missing out! 

Now, to today's post! This lemon tart is The Lemon Tart, or rather the lemon tart to beat all other lemon tarts, a tart possessing all of the qualities befitting of a perfect lemon dessert: here we've got a silky smooth, tangy filling, with just enough sweetness to let all the citrus flavor shine, vibrant and sunshine-y and happy (if a dessert could have moods and emotions). The tart crust, so often an afterthought, is crisp and  shortbread-like, capable of complementing but not overwhelming the A+ filling. This tart is a splendid way to celebrate the start of Spring, or to ward off any remaining Winter gloom if temperatures are still chilly where you are (sorry, Rhode Island). It is a lovely end to a fancy meal or just as an afternoon treat with tea. I loved it and I think you will too.

A couple of notes: I find that tarts with a liquid filling such as this can be a bit tricky, as you pour it in to the crust, then have to transport the whole thing to the oven. Learn from my mistakes: place the tart shell and pan on a baking sheet, transport that baking sheet to the oven rack, and pour the filling in directly, then close the oven. I found that the crust here shrinks a bit down the sides of the tart pan when baking, so make sure that it goes all the way up the sides of the tart pan to anticipate this. I found I had a pastry and extra filling (indeed, just pour enough filling up to fill the sides of the tart crust). As you can see in the photos below, I used the excess pastry and filling to make two mini lemon tarts (tiny tart pans purchased at Tiger). You could probably also do this in greased muffin tins.

Looking for other not too sweet desserts? I've also got: Lemon Squares, Lemon Ricotta Olive Cake, Lemon Poppy seed Cake, Chocolate Souffle Cake, Red Wine Chocolate Truffles, Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake, or Chocolate Loaf Cake. In search of other tarts? Check out this Dark Chocolate Tart, this Pear and Chocolate Custard Tart, these Berry Tartlets, this this Honey Pinenut TartStrawberry Jam Tart, or these savory ZucchiniCherry Tomato, or Butternut Squash tarts. Want some more recipes for my picks for the best of the best of their kind? Check out this perfect apple cake, these magnificent brownies, and these spot-on chocolate chip cookies


Ingredients for the tart crust:
2 cups (250 grams) flour
1/2 cup (70 grams) powdered sugar
8 tablespoons (125 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 egg yolks

Ingredients for the filling:
5 eggs
3/4 cup (140 grams) sugar
2/3 cup (150ml, 11 tablespoons) heavy cream
Juice from 2-3 lemons (3 1/2 ounces of liquid, or 98 grams)
2 tablespoons lemon zest

To make the tart crust: Mix the flour and powdered sugar in a bowl. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until crumbly (you can also use a food processor for this if you want -- pulse the flour and butter together a few times). Mix in the egg yolks. If the pastry is still too dry, add 1-2 tbsp water until it comes together. Roll into a ball and flatten out the pastry with your hands. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or aluminium foil, then chill for at least 30 minutes.

While the tart dough is chilling, make the filling: Beat all the ingredients, except for the zest, together. Sieve the mixture (though if you don’t do this step because you don’t have a sieve that’s probably fine) then stir in the zest.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface (to about the thickness of a 1 euro coin, if that helps) then lift into a 23cm tart pan that is lightly buttered. Press down gently on the bottom and sides, then trim off any excess pastry. Stab a few holes in the bottom with a fork and put back in the fridge for 30 mins.
Heat oven the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius). Line the tart crust with foil and fill with rice or dried beans. Bake for 10 mins, then remove the tart pan from the oven, discard the foil, and bake for another 15 or so minutes. 
When the pastry is ready, remove it from the oven, pour in the lemon mixture and bake again for 30-35 mins until just set. 
Leave to cool, then remove the tart from the tart pan and serve at room temperature or chilled, dusted with powdered sugar. Serves 10-12.
Recipe from


  1. I adore lemon desserts! I also love not-too-sweet desserts too. Italians are masters at this. Their pastries and desserts are just sweet enough, but not overpowering so the other ingredients shine, too. Brava!

  2. Grazie cara!! Give this one a try, its perfect for Spring!!

  3. Hi Francesca :)
    The Citrus season is in full swing in South Africa and I just finished baking your lemon tart. It is Lovely!! (I made some taste-tarts with the left-over pastry and filling in cupcake tins). Looking forward to enjoying it after lunch.
    Hope all is well in Rome and that you enjoy every moment of spring and summer :)

    1. Hi Marion! So nice to hear from you, and so pleased you liked the tart!!! Sending you a big hug, come back to Rome soon!xo