Pierre Herme’s Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart Recipe

{Check out Dorie’s article over at Serious Eats about this very same tart.}

When I first opened my copy of Baking: From My Home To Yours, I was immediately drawn to the recipe for The Most Extraordinary Lemon Tart. Put anything lemon in front of me, and I’ll be happy. VERY happy.

I had a little trouble with the lemon cream, but no matter. It turned out great and I can’t tell you how wonderful and silky it is. My husband said, “Oh…this is….this is….WOW. We need this. We need this to be part of our lives.” Or something along those lines.

Pierre Herme’s Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 8 servings


1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

1 fully-baked 9-inch sweet dough tart shell (check out this post for a how-to)


Getting ready: Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

1. Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic.

Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

2. Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch.

You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. (Mine never went above 165 degrees F, which Dorie herself told me was okay–via comments on her blog.)

As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks.

Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes. (I whisked for about 45 minutes!)

3.As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.

(Sorry, no pics of the blender process. I couldn’t do the blender and the picture taking at the same time…)

4. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

5. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.

Serving: The tart should be served cold, because it is a particular pleasure to have the cold cream melt in your mouth. (Um, yeah. I can totally agree with that statement.)

Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the fridge for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

Doing my own thing–

I piped some stabilized whipped cream on top of the tart. It did sort of cut the richness, which seems a little odd considering how rich cream is. I just didn’t have enough filling left after Fred and I kept eating it out of the bowl by the spoonful.

The Verdict


I haven’t even let my kids taste this. This is not for kids or neighbors or dinner guests. Unless you are nicer than I am. :)

My husband and I have almost eaten the entire thing.

I will definitely be making this again. And I may even try it with passion fruit concentrate. I get excited just thinking about making it again.

Note–it doesn’t get better as it sits. It was better the first and second days.

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  1. Mmm….passionfruit concentrate, has my tastebuds tingling just at the thoughts of it! Your tart looks fabulous dahlink!!! I would so have loved to try the lemon, but Todd hates lemon, so I did orange. It too tasted wonderful, even if it didn’t work out exactly as I had planned! Well done! I love the way your photos come out. They have a certain look to them, almost the same look that you get when you look at the pictures on the Pioneer Woman cooks. Would love to know your secret!

  2. I just love the series of photos and your tart is just beautiful with all those little peaks of whipped cream, beautiful!

  3. Your tart shell is absolutely perfect! And that luscious filling is making me drool here, Lindsey.
    I’m going to send you an email about the comment you left on my blog. :)

  4. Thanks, ladies! You are far too kind…

    About the pics–it’s all the lens I use. It’s a 50mm f/1.8. I think the Pioneer Woman uses a 50mm f/1.4. It allows a lot of light to come in so you don’t have to use flash! And of course, I’d be fibbing if I said I didn’t edit them a bit. :)

  5. I was going to make this on Friday until I realized that I don’t own a tart pan (insert sad face here).

    Glad to know it is as delicious as it sounded!

  6. WOW!! Thanks for all the sweet comments!

    Katie–I think you could get away with making it in a pie plate. The filling might be a little thicker is all–and I see no problem with that whatsoever. :)

  7. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! And my husband’s reaction was the same as yours – “this is so good, really, this is soooo good!” And now you have me thinking about passion fruit!

  8. your photographs are beautiful! what a lovely tart, love it sitting on that blue/white linen. the piped cream makes it look like a real treat!

  9. Gosh, I love lemon. I love it that it’s great in sweet and savory dishes.

    P.S. I am SO making those samoas this weekend.

    P.P.S. Beautiful photos!

  10. OK, you have convinced me, I absolutely have to try the lemon. But not until I get a thermometer. Your tart looks fabulous!

  11. Your photos really are beautiful, and instructive. I’m excited that you’re using that lens – I have the same one! What I don’t have is a dSLR camera to put the lens on. :) It’s on backorder unfortunately. But I hope I can eventually get the same caliber of pictures that you’ve shown here.

  12. I love the idea of passion fruit concentrate. I just stocked up on this when I was in Seattle recently. Tell me how you’re going to make it!

    Great photos too. Everthing looks so lovely.

  13. I can’t believe it could be that creamy with only eggs butter and lemon juice. What makes it so creamy it looks as if there is cream added.

    1. Rose, the eggs, butter, and lemon juice create an emulsion. For lack of a better comparison, it’s like a sweet, lemony mayonnaise. Super, super creamy and rich. It’s the best lemon tart I’ve ever had in my life.

  14. Thanks Lindsey but every lemon tart I’ve had is sooo eggy could I add cream instead of butter thanks

  15. Thanks Lindsey but every lemon tart I’ve had I can taste is very eggy I would love to add cream is that possible? Thanks

  16. I made this last year for Christmas and it was absolute perfection. I can’t wait to make it again this year!

  17. This tart is sooooo delicious! Ive made it in the past. I wonder if the lemon cream could be piped and retain its shape if it’s not whisked after being in the fridge?

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