Our Best Lemon Dessert Recipes
While winter is traditionally citrus season, there’s something about spring (maybe surviving the slog of the cold, dark months) that begs for lemon desserts. Zippy and sometimes pleasantly puckering, the tang of lemons hits differently when balanced with sweetness. And, as the weather begins to warm up, calling for celebrating with friends at picnics and potlucks, these recipes prove that, when life gives you lemons, you can do so much more than make lemonade.
1. Lemon Pudding
This six-ingredient recipe, which David Tanis adapted from his friend, the chef and cookbook author JR Ryall, sits somewhere between cake and soufflé. Beaten egg whites that get folded into the mix provide an airy, fresh boost to this dessert while keeping it cozy.
Recipe: Lemon Pudding
2. Lemon Bundt Cake
Behold, Yossy Arefi’s lemon Bundt cake, as luminous as the sun. Not just gorgeous, this showstopping dessert is resourceful, too, using whole lemons: flesh, zest and juice. And it can be made up to four days ahead of time, so it’s especially perfect for entertaining.
Recipe: Lemon Bundt Cake
3. Lemon Cheesecake Tart
Take it from one reader, who called this recipe from Yossi Arefi a “great balance of sweet, tart.” Even better? This recipe keeps up to four days in the refrigerator, making it an easy-to-deploy make-ahead dessert.
Recipe: Lemon Cheesecake Tart
4. Chess Pie
Yewande Komolafe struggled to connect with the food she was cooking in professional kitchens. But making the chef Edna Lewis’s recipes changed that. For this lemon pie, Yewande drew inspiration from Ms. Lewis’s buttermilk chess pie. It features a black pepper crust, and you’ll know it’s done when the custard dances slightly if jiggled.
Recipe: Chess Pie
5. Lemon Sheet Cake With Buttercream Frosting
While waiting for the cake to cool, one commenter wrote, “the house smells like a bakery situated in a lemon grove.” We’re right there with you! This bright sheet cake from Yossy Arefi has been applauded by many lemonheads in the comments section, who offer tips on how to inject even more citrus into the cake and frosting.
Recipe: Lemon Sheet Cake With Buttercream Frosting
6. Lemon Snacking Cake With Coconut Glaze
Can you snack on cake? Melissa Clark thinks so. And with this recipe, she grants us permission to eat cake at breakfast, between meals or whenever. Take a cue from one reader who substituted limes instead of lemon: Other citrus like blood orange or grapefruit would also be welcome.
Recipe: Lemon Snacking Cake With Coconut Glaze
7. Lemon Squares
These classic treats, sometimes called lemon bars, are the pastry equivalent of 1960s gingham — in a good way. Originally adapted from the “Wellesley Cookie Exchange Cookbook” by Susan Mahnke Peery, and published in The Times in 1990 as part of a holiday cookie collection, these lemon squares sparkle all year long.
Recipe: Lemon Squares
8. Lemon Soufflé
Don’t let desserts that puff up intimidate you. Mark Bittman’s sunny soufflé comes together in just two steps. Make it as one extravagant stunner of a dish or bake off as individual ramekins for a personal touch.
Recipe: Lemon Soufflé
9. Lemon Bars With Olive Oil and Sea Salt
In this twist on that beloved classic, Melissa Clark keeps the traditional lemon curd and shortbread crust but adds olive oil and flaky sea salt. Do as she suggests and use a rich, bold olive oil (or something that’s floral). Anything strongly flavored that can stand up to the lemon flavor is ideal.
Recipe: Lemon Bars With Olive Oil and Sea Salt
10. East 62nd Street Lemon Cake
A true Times classic, this cake, adapted from Maida Heatter by Craig Claiborne, has accrued loyal followers since its publication in the 1970s. Sure, it’s delicious, but it’s also widely adaptable, as readers have found. One reader successfully substitutes a loaf pan. Another thickens the glaze with confectioners’ sugar for something closer to frosting.
Recipe: East 62nd Street Lemon Cake
11. Creamy Lemon Pops
This is not your classic orange creamsicle, and that’s more than OK! The unexpectedly classic combination of milk and citrus is alive and well in Samantha Seneviratne’s creamy lemon pops and gets a sweet but subtle upgrade from basil.
Recipe: Creamy Lemon Pops
12. Lemon Sweet Rolls With Cream Cheese Icing
The more than 2,000 five-star reviews for this recipe might be reason enough to bookmark it for your next baking project. Though morning baking projects often imply waking up before the sun, these rolls can casually hang tight in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours — which means fresh, hot, delicious lemon rolls at whatever hour you please.
Recipe: Lemon Sweet Rolls With Cream Cheese Icing
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