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How to Make an Amazing Lemon-Curd Cake Filling

Updated on September 23, 2017

Homemade Lemon Curd Recipe

Sweet, tart and absolutely popping with flavor, bright lemon curd is just amazing. As a cake filling, a filling for tarts, on biscuits or all alone this stuff is absolutely addictive!
Sweet, tart and absolutely popping with flavor, bright lemon curd is just amazing. As a cake filling, a filling for tarts, on biscuits or all alone this stuff is absolutely addictive!

How to Make Lemon Curd

I really wish lemon curd had a gloriously beautiful name—the taste of this silky pudding certainly deserves something eloquent and gorgeous. I have to admit, the word "curd" doesn’t sound awesome. It conjures up images of Little Miss Muffet and her accompanying spiders—not nice at all.

But if you can get past that. Lemon curd really is the most wonderful, delightfully bright-tasting stuff. Silky, just sweet enough, and about as perfectly lemony as anything can get, this go-to dessert filling doesn’t take much effort or time to make, and the reward is heavenly. You can use this as a filling for cakes of course, but it has a much greater range than just as a filling. It’s perfect on its own too, with perhaps a dollop of freshly whipped cream. It’s the perfect dessert for summer. Or you can sneak it out of the fridge with just a spoon—not that I’ve ever done such a thing.

Ingredients

Lemon Curd Recipe - Ingredients

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large egg yolks

Directions

Lemon Curd Recipe - Directions

  1. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in egg yolks.
  2. Return the pan to the heat, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, whisking constantly until mixture thickens, about five minutes.
  3. If the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, and your finger leaves a path when drawn through it, you know it’s thick enough. Be very careful not to let it boil – it will curdle.
  4. Immediately strain the curd through a fine sieve to remove any solid bits from the lemon zest or solidified egg yolk. Don’t skip the straining – you can see all the icky bits in the picture below.
  5. You don’t want those in your beautiful, silky lemon curd. Allow it to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Check Out the Quick Tutorial!

One Stick - or 1/2 Cup of Butter, Melted

Start by melting a stick of butter (1/2 cup) over low heat. Meanwhile, zest 3 tablespoons worth of lemon zest - about three lemons.
Start by melting a stick of butter (1/2 cup) over low heat. Meanwhile, zest 3 tablespoons worth of lemon zest - about three lemons.

Once Melted...

Add 3/4 cups of sugar to the melted butter.
Add 3/4 cups of sugar to the melted butter.

Add Lemon Zest

Add lemon zest to the butter and sugar mixture. You can work off the heat at this point.
Add lemon zest to the butter and sugar mixture. You can work off the heat at this point.

Lemon Juice

Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the pan. Stir well and add a pinch of salt. The juice from the same three lemons used for the zest is just at 1/2 cup, so it's perfect.
Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the pan. Stir well and add a pinch of salt. The juice from the same three lemons used for the zest is just at 1/2 cup, so it's perfect.

Stir to Combine and Add Egg Yolks

Stir the butter and sugar mixture well to fully incorporate the ingredients. Still working off the heat, add the eggs yolks and whisk well.
Stir the butter and sugar mixture well to fully incorporate the ingredients. Still working off the heat, add the eggs yolks and whisk well.

Over Medium Low Heat

Place the lemon curd on the stove and set the eye to medium low. Whisk constantly and cook for about ten minutes. Be careful not to let it boil - it may curdle if you do. You simply want it to thicken.
Place the lemon curd on the stove and set the eye to medium low. Whisk constantly and cook for about ten minutes. Be careful not to let it boil - it may curdle if you do. You simply want it to thicken.

Coat the Spoon

You know the lemon curd is ready when it will coat the back of a spoon. This is when it's thickened correctly.
You know the lemon curd is ready when it will coat the back of a spoon. This is when it's thickened correctly.

It will Hold a Line

Another test is if you draw a line through the lemon curd on the back of the spoon and it holds. This shows it's been cooked to just the right spot!
Another test is if you draw a line through the lemon curd on the back of the spoon and it holds. This shows it's been cooked to just the right spot!

Place a Fine Mesh Strainer Over a Large Bowl

It's important to strain the finished lemon curd while it's hot. Place a large mesh strainer over a large bowl.
It's important to strain the finished lemon curd while it's hot. Place a large mesh strainer over a large bowl.

Stain the Warm Lemon Curd

Strain the lemon curd, working it through the fine mesh of the strainer with a plastic spatula. The resulting lemon curd will be super silky!
Strain the lemon curd, working it through the fine mesh of the strainer with a plastic spatula. The resulting lemon curd will be super silky!

Leftovers!

Most of what you're straining out is lemon pulp, but you also make sure you have no stray lemon seeds in the finished lemon curd. You also catch little bits of coagulated egg white. Get rid of that!
Most of what you're straining out is lemon pulp, but you also make sure you have no stray lemon seeds in the finished lemon curd. You also catch little bits of coagulated egg white. Get rid of that!

Transfer to a Container to Cool

Let the finished lemon curd cool completely, then refrigerate to chill until you're ready to use it. I have to hide it at my house!
Let the finished lemon curd cool completely, then refrigerate to chill until you're ready to use it. I have to hide it at my house!

© 2017 Jan Charles

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