Lemon Curd: Secret Dessert Weapon

Photos by Keri White

Lemon is an ideal summer flavor. It is fresh, light and adds a zingy burst of citrus while complementing many other flavors without overpowering them.

Homemade lemon curd is a revelation. It takes about 15 minutes to make (before chilling), and the result is so far superior to the jarred version you will never again buy it. It also adds a huge “wow” factor to desserts. Here are just a few ways to use this delicious stuff:

  • Spoon a dollop into a pretty bowl and top it with fresh berries.
  • Slather it on homemade or store-bought pound cake, spongecake or angel food cake.
  • Use it as a cake filling between layers. This can be done if you make a traditional two-layer cake or, if you do a smaller square cake, simply slice the cake in half horizontally and slather the bottom layer with lemon curd. Frost the top layer with homemade whipped cream.
  • Fill cupcakes with lemon curd: Using a standard spoon, scoop out the middle portion of the cupcake from the top and fill with a spoonful of lemon curd — when you ice it, no one will know that the top has a gaping hole in it! The recipe below makes enough filling for about a dozen cupcakes.
  • Make (or buy) a graham cracker crust or a traditional pie crust and fill it with lemon curd. Top with whipped cream or merengue. (Note: Double the recipe below for a standard sized 9-inch pie,)
  • Make parfaits: Crumble plain tea cookies (or almond biscotti); layer the crumbs with lemon curd and top with whipped cream

Homemade Lemon Curd

Makes about 1½ cups

Some recipes require straining the lemon juice before adding it and then straining the cooked lemon curd before putting it in the bowl to cool. I do neither — it is unnecessary; I like the authenticity and flavor of the lemon zest and other bits in the final product, but if you are a stickler for a super smooth curd, then by all means, strain away!

I am a fan of chilled lemon curd, but if you wish to serve it warm, straight from the pan, feel free to do so. If given a chance to chill, the flavor will deepen a bit and the texture will thicken.

3 eggs

6 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

6 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ cup butter, cut in pieces

  1. Whisk the eggs, sugar and lemon zest until smooth in a medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Add the lemon juice and butter, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened. It should be the texture of pudding, not runny or liquid. This takes about 10 minutes.
  3. Pour the lemon curd into a glass bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface and chill it for several hours. It will keep for about three days, but I bet it won’t last nearly that long.


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