Tartine Bakery's Lemon Cream

March  2, 2012

Every week, FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: What butter can do for curd when it comes in at a different cue. Meet your new tart filling, scone spread, and trifle layer -- and the best lemon pudding you'll ever taste.

tartine's lemon cream

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- Kristen

We've already seen lemon do some miraculous things on FOOD52 (Posset. Lazy tarts. Sorbet. Sponge cups.). And we've witnessed the magic of emulsification.

Now we get to talk about them together. With butter. I'm so happy right now.


FOOD52er sarabclever taught me about this delightful substance, a lemon cream that comes from the legendary Tartine Bakery in San Francisco and its namesake cookbook. (Sara went ahead and did this with it too.)

Tartine's recipe takes the traditional lemon curd process and reverses it, not only saving time, but also producing something richer, silkier, and just better in the end.

separating eggs
eggslemon curd

A typical lemon curd starts with lemon juice, egg (yolks or a mix), sugar, and sometimes butter melted together and whisked over a double boiler until it thickens. It's delicious. Lemon meringue pie, pavlova, and trifle have been known to depend on it.

But Elisabeth Prueitt, Tartine Bakery's pastry chef and co-owner, holds off on adding the butter till after the other ingredients have gotten to know one another. And then she adds a lot of it, violently -- a technique inspired by Pierre Hermé. You'll see!

elisabeth prueitt  tartine cookbook

Naturally (this is an iconic pastry book, after all), there are specific temperatures involved, but I've made this with scalawag thermometers that couldn't be trusted, and just went by looks. It's very forgiving.

You just do that whisking-over-a-double boiler thing till it gets thick and glassy and leaves a lingering trail behind your whisk (or you can go rogue and cook it over low, direct heat -- just be prepared to strain out any cooked egg bits).

Then you pull it off the heat to cool while you slice your butter into neat tablespoons and pull out your blender.

lemon curdlemon curdbutter

Here comes the violence: You scrape the curd into the blender and let it rip, dropping in pats of butter one at a time. Each one is greeted with a satisfying -- suck! glurgle! -- as the lemon curd drinks up the butter and slowly swells.

The chunks of chilled butter cool down the mixture and thicken it faster than the traditional all-stovetop method would, while the blades of the blender beat in extra air.

tartine's lemon cream

The result is a buoyant, stable buttercream that stays spreadable in the fridge for days. It's smoother and more mellow than curd, which is often so severe in its pucker that you must take measures to lighten it after the fact -- a mousse folded in; a thick, sweet layer of meringue piled on top. You won't need, or want, to do that here.

You will, however, sweep it onto your scones or toast, lard it through the middle of a layer cake, or smooth it into a tart crust. (Please consider garnishing with Tartine's mohawk-esque dollops of cream and flower petals if you do.)

lemon pudding

And I will go down fighting if anyone tells me I can't eat this as a pudding.

Tartine Bakery's Lemon Cream

Note: If you're looking for a genius tart shell to stick this in, try Paule Caillat's Brown Butter Tart Crust.

Adapted very slightly from Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson (Chronicle, 2006)

Serves 4

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter

See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

lemon cream tart


Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].


Photos by James Ransom


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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Steve
  • Alessandra Larios Obregon
    Alessandra Larios Obregon
  • mudpuppy
  • Pauline Nelson
    Pauline Nelson
  • marieeve
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Steve September 6, 2021
Total waste of time, energy, and $$$. The results were liquid. Used a Blendtec blender on low speed.

The curd was cool when I started, and the butter was right out of the fridge.
Alessandra L. April 15, 2015
This is called a mousseline in french pastry.
mudpuppy January 7, 2015
This is my favorite lemon curd. Am going to try it with coconut butter/oil and going to can it and see how it does.
MrsWheelbarrow January 7, 2015
Please, no waterbath canning with eggs in the mix.
Pauline N. January 6, 2015
I used to love lemon curd before I had to stop eating sugar! I don't suppose there's a way to make this with less than 3/4 cup of the stuff?
mudpuppy December 24, 2012
I have not tried freezing it because there is never any left. I just made a batch tonight. I have a beautiful Myers lemon tree in my front yard. I did make a couple of changes because I like a lot of lemon power. I double the lemon juice, then blended a really ripe medium to large Myers lemon in my Vita Mix. I then added the creme from the stove to the blended lemon, I finished as per the recipe, OMG! the best I've made yet! It will be part of our Christmas feast! (If it makes it that far!)
marieeve December 9, 2012
Did anyone ever freeze this? I've made this recipe many times...min fact, I no longer consider any other recipe, but always ate it right away. I find myself with a lot of meter lemons to take care of.... Would love to make a few batches and have on hand for the holidays. Will it keep its texture?
inspiredbyyou March 16, 2012
kristen, terrific piece! i have not done the comparing but maybe you have?>> should i now be able to just take a jar of gifted lemon curd, heat it, throw it in the blender and add the butter? i.e. is the pre-butter part of the recipe basically a lemon curd? thx much!
saltandserenity March 7, 2012
I would never dream of fighting you if you tried to eat this as a pudding. I'm too wise and know enough to stand between a girl and her pudding!! Thanks for another genius recipe. I may have to try this just so i can hear the "satisfying -- suck! glurgle! " of the blender.
MsDivinaLoca March 6, 2012
I will definitely try this version. I've made Ms. Greenspan's lemon cream and prefer the texture of the product to a curd where the butter is melted. Ms. Greenspan includes lemon zest in addition to juice - which I loved (the more lemony, the better), but I'm interested in trying a version with a little less butter.
Giggles March 5, 2012
I'm in love with all things lemony and I would certainly get this as a pudding. I have no issues eating lemon curd like pudding either. Would a food processor work in place of a blender?
Joy (. March 5, 2012
Love lemon curd - tarts, sandwich filling for cookies, scones, and great for French toast! I also like brushing my tarts with a bit of melted dark chocolate. Chocolate + Lemon = great combo!
lisas156 March 5, 2012
I'm sure this is wonderful, but isn't it the exact same technique that's used in Dorie Greenspan's "The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart"? Greenspan credits Pierre Herme with coming up with this technique. She too puts the cooked ingredients into the blender and then, after it's cooled for 10 minutes, blends in the butter rather than making it like a traditional curd. It is indeed silky and wonderful, but clearly the provenance of this technique is in question!
teamom March 5, 2012
Lovely recipe!
I tend to make indivual tart shells vs. an 8/9" tart shell (have kids - I use muffin tins for this). Let the baked shells cool, then coat them with melted chocolate, let cool, then turn in the lemon cream. The chocolate compliments the lemon, and prevents the pastry from becoming soggy. Whipped cream is a la minute.
bluechefk March 5, 2012
this looks like a fantastic & really useful addition to the lemony/creamy part of my 'love these recipes' file! one question: i'd love to use this as tart filling - usually, when i make a lemon tart, i'm filling the shell with curd & then baking for a little while to set. would this filling also require baking in order to set the way it has in the photo above? - love that nice clean, firm slice! or should i be using the cream cool, as is?
Roquette March 4, 2012
Ummm, I've always made curd by whisking in cold butter at the end. I'm pretty sure that's the standard. I love Tartine and am sure the recipe is delicious, but I'm not sure it's as revolutionary in its method as the author thinks it is.
Amanda H. March 4, 2012
We (the Food52 crew) had all made lots of different curd recipes, but we all thought this one was definitely markedly different -- and great. Try it and see what you think!
Trillinchick March 4, 2012
Oh, how I wish my dearest friend, and anchor of my adult life, was still alive. I wish it for many reasons selfishly, but Kathleen adored anything lemon-y. She made my first taste of lemon curd from scratch and we spread it on warm bran muffins (Kellogg's box recipe?). Like Proust's madeleine cookie, I will always cherish the sensory and emotional satisfaction of that moment. I have not eaten it since being diagnosed with diabetes. Does anyone know how much (if it's possible) to substitute Truvia or Stevia, and maintain its deliciousness? Cheers!
Sarag March 4, 2012
Swoon....recover, one more spoonful, swoon again.
Sarag March 4, 2012
Swoon....recover, one more spoonful, swoon again.
Elisabeth P. March 4, 2012
Kristen, I got your email forwarded by the bakery, but there wasn't a return email included, so I'll post about your question here!
Kristen's question was, essentially, is my Lemon Cream recipe from Dorie Greenspan, Pierre Herme, or my own creation. I don't know Dorie personally, although I hold her in high esteem; her recipe uses only whole eggs and is sweeter than mine. My recipe was inspired by Pierre Herme. His version has significantly more butter and different ratios of sugar and lemon juice as well. Where the real inspiration came in is in how the butter is incorporated. I thought it was brilliant. Amazing how one single change in how a recipe is put together changes the whole result. Glad everyone is enjoying the recipe!
ALittleZaftig March 4, 2012
Elisabeth, I sincerely didn't intend to cast doubt on whether or not this recipe should be credited to you when I commented that Dorie credits Herme with the twist of emulsifying butter into what would have been a lemon curd. I love your original recipe and your work. I apologize.
Bingobobbo March 4, 2012
I've made this recipe numerous times with great success. All my friends love it every which way. It is not at all eggy. Makes a great key lime tart, too. I make it using a Kitchen Aid mixer and tried it with an immersion blender. All work well.