Elegant Lemon Tarts

Thick, creamy, and tangy lemon curd poured inside of crisp, buttery pastry shells made from sweet dough and topped with homemade creme fraiche! Plus tons of tips on how to make elegant garnishes from chocolate, isomalt, and more!
decorated lemon tart up close

A classic lemon tart (tart au citron) is at the top of my list of favorite desserts. Whenever I visit a French bakery and see a little lemon tart on display, it’s almost impossible for me to resist. The tangy lemon curd poured inside that crisp buttery crust and topped with crème fraîche wins me over every single time.

lemon tart up close with garnishes on top

I love this tart because not only is the curd thicky and creamy, the pâte sucrée shell stays nice and crisp even after being refrigerated for days thanks to my cocoa butter trick. This delectable lemon tart recipe from Chef Christophe Rull is a mini version of the tarte au citron which usescrème fraîche. But if you prefer, you can top your lemon tart with meringue, whipped cream, or even just a dusting of powdered sugar.

Lemon Tart Ingredients

bird's-eye view of lemon tart ingredients

Cocoa Butter: You may not have any cocoa butter on hand unless you’ve been watching our chocolate series with Chef Christophe Rull. If you do not have cocoa butter on hand that is totally fine! 

Instead of using cocoa butter, you can use melted white chocolate (something like a high-quality white chocolate bar like the Lindt White Chocolate Classic bars) and it will still be delicious! The cocoa butter is used to create a moisture barrier between the lemon curd and the crust so it doesn’t get soggy.

Crème Fraîche:  You can purchase crème fraîche or you can easily make it yourself with some heavy whipping cream and some buttermilk. It does take about 12-24 hours to thicken up though so make sure you plan ahead.

Creme fraiche is whipped cream with a little buttermilk added. The buttermilk has bacteria in it that thickens the cream (like making yogurt) and it also adds a wonderful tangy flavor.

Homemade Crème Fraîche Instructions

  1. If you are making your own crème fraîche, then you will want to make this the day before you are preparing your lemon tarts.
  2. Combine the buttermilk and heavy cream in a glass bowl and cover lightly with plastic wrap.a container of low fat buttermilk next to carton of heavy whipping creampouring tablespoon of mixture into container
  3. Rest at room temperature (do not refrigerate) for 2-12 hours. The longer it sits, the thicker the crème fraîche will be. The bacterial cultures in buttermilk thicken and acidify the cream, while also preventing bad bacteria from taking over so it’s safe to be at room temperature.
  4. After your crème fraîche has thickened, it can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks

Making thePâte Sucrée Tart Shells

  1. First, in the bowl of your stand mixer, mix the room temperature butter and powdered sugar with the paddle attachment. Mix until it is smooth.finger mark inside of butter to show the imprint that it's room temperaturespatula placing butter into mixing bowl
  2. Then, add in the almond flour and continue to mix it until it is combined.
  3. Next, add in the eggs, vanilla bean seeds, and the all-purpose flour. Mix the batter until all of the ingredients are smooth and thoroughly combined.pouring ingredient into mixing bowlscraping vanilla bean into bowlspatula showing the texture of what's inside mixing bowlpouring ingredient into mixing bowlpaddle attachment inside bowl of dough
  4. Wrap the dough neatly in plastic wrap, and then place it in the refrigerator for 4 hours.dough in a rectangle shape covered in plastic wrap
  5. After the dough has chilled in the refrigerator, divide the dough into four pieces.knife cutting the dough in half
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the tart dough out until it is about 1/8” thick.
  7. Use a large circle cutter (about 5″) to cut the dough.hand cutting out circle of dough
  8. Next, gently place the dough inside the tart ring by pressing the bottom down to the corners of the ring and while pressing gently onto the sides of the ring. fingers moving the dough into place in the tart shellfingers moving the dough into place in the tart shell
  9. Then, use a paring knife to trim the excess off the top edge of the ring.showing the bottom of the tart shell
  10. Check the bottom of the ring to see that the bottom edge has been pressed flush. If the dough is getting too warm and sticky to handle, place it back in the fridge to firm it up.
  11. Run your finger around the edge of the tart shell to get a nice even seal on the shell.running finger along edge of tart shell
  12. After that, use a fork to gently dock the bottom of the tart shells to avoid large bubbles forming when baking.unbaked tart shells
  13. Once you have finished all the shells, place them in the freezer for an hour.
  14. Finally, bake the tart shells at 360ºF (182ºC) until they are dark golden brown.baked tart shells on baking sheet

How to Make the Lemon Filling

For a less tart lemon filling, replace 25% of the lemon juice with orange juice.

  1. In a separate bowl, add in your egg yolks and mix them so that they are smooth.whisking inside glass bowl
  2. Then, in a pot over medium heat, add in your sugar, lemon juice, and zest. Mix everything completely and heat it over medium heat until it is just simmering.pouring wet ingredient into sauce panpouring sugar into sauce panhand scraping lemon zest into sauce panwhisking inside sauce pan
  3. Next, add about 1/3 of the lemon mixture to the separate bowl of egg yolks while whisking together to temper the eggs.
  4. After that, add the lemon/egg mixture back into the pan with the rest of the lemon juice while whisking contiously over medium heat. While whisking you can move the pot on and off the heat so it doesn’t get too hot. Then, once it reaches a boil, let it continue to boil (while whisking) for about 30 seconds.whisking inside saucepan
  5. Finally, remove the pan from heat and add in the butter. Use an immersion blender to incorporate the butter and make the curd very smooth.pouring from sauce pan into containeremulsion blender inside of container
  6. Cool the lemon curd to 28ºC (82ºF)

Assembling the Lemon Tart

  1. Once you have baked your tart shells and let them fully cool, use a pastry brush to coat a thin layer of cocoa butter (or white chocolate) to the insides of the shells. This is the secret to keeping your lemon tart sheels nice and crisp!brushing tart shell with brush
  2. Then, after the cocoa butter has set inside the shells, you are ready to pour the lemon curd into the tart shells.
  3. Fill each shell with lemon curd almost all of the way to the top.pouring lemon curd into tart shell
  4. Allow the tart to cool in the fridge for 2 hours before you decorate.
  5. Add fresh fruit, creme fraiche, and any garnish you like to complete your elevated lemon tart. Continue reading to learn how to make some fun edible garnish! *Pro Tip: You can brush the tops of your lemon tarts with simple syrup to keep them looking nice and shiny.

How To Make Elevated Lemon Tart Garnishes

We used a lot of different types of garnish for this simple lemon tart to show you that you can really let your creativity shine with the decor. Below you will find all the instructions for the garnishes we used but you can use just one or none at all.

variety of lemon tart decorations shown on the table

More Garnish Ideas

  • Gold Leaf – Apply small pieces with tweezers or a brush
  • Fresh Berries – Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, let your imagination and taste buds run wild!
  • Edible Flowers – There are many flowers that are edible and look gorgeous as decor such as violas, lavender, thyme, dill, cilantro, day lily, squash blossom, Nasturtiums, chives, roses, basil and more!). 
  • Meringue Kisses or Meringue Flowers – so cute and easy to customize to your design

How To Make A Quenelle

  1. Prepare a glass of hot water and place a dry towel next to it. It’s crucial that the water is hot to make the best quenelles. Take an oval-shaped spoon and place it in the glass of water.
  2. Pull your spoon out of the water, dry it on the towel.
  3. With the spoon angled, carve the spoon directly up towards the edge of the bowl or container then rotate 1/4 turn to form the quenelle. scooping creme fraiche from container
  4. Gently place the quenelle onto your lemon tart. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect, this takes practice to perfect and no matter how it looks it will taste good! scooping creme fraiche from containerplacing a scoop of creme fraiche on lemon tart

How To Make Candied Lemon Slice Garnish

  1. First, in a stovetop pan, mix 8 ounces of water and 7 ounces of sugar together and bring it to a boil.sauce pan with unmixed sugar inside
  2. While the sugar water is warming up, cut up a lemon to create thin slices. Remove the seeds.cutting a lemon with a knifeslices of lemon stacked on top of each other
  3. Once the sugar water reaches a boil, add the thin lemon slices into the pan in a single layer.lemon slices inside sauce pan
  4. Then, simmer the slices for about 15 minutes.candied lemon slices
  5. Transfer lemon slices to a wire rack or parchment paper and let cool. Let them dry overnight for use the next day.candied lemon slicecandied lemon slices

How To Make A White Chocolate Swoosh Garnish

  1. Using tempered chocolate place a penny size drop onto some parchment paper.
  2. Use a spoon to spread it out in a swoosh.
  3. Let the chocolate set and then peel off the parchment to use on your lemon tart. swoosh marks from white chocolate made using a spoonhand placing white chocolate on lemon tart

How To Make A Chocolate Curl Garnish

I’m using the same technique Chef Christophe taught us in his easy chocolate decor episode. I used white chocolate for the lemon tarts but the photos are of when we used dark chocolate. You can use either one.

  1. Using tempered chocolate, spread a thin layer onto some acetate.spreading tempered chocolate on acetate with an offset spatula
  2. Using a cake comb, make some lines in the chocolate.using a cake comb to scrape lines into chocolate on acetate
  3. Once the chocolate has gone matte but is not fully set, curl the acetate and clip it until the chocolate fully sets.peeling acetate off chocolate curls
  4. Unroll the acetate and use the chocolate curls as a garnish for the lemon tarts.

How To Make Isomalt Coral Garnish

  1. Place some raw isomalt in a small pile on top of a silicone mat on a sheet pan.
  2. Use a toothpick to add a couple small specs of food color. toothpick on silicone mat
  3. Place a second silicone mat on top.
  4. Bake the isomalt in the oven at 350ºF until the isomalt melts (about 5 minutes).
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and let the isomalt cool complately.
  6. Carefully remove the isomalt from silicone and put it on your lemon tart. lemon tart decorated with isomalt

FAQ

How long does lemon tart last in the fridge?

Lemon tarts will stay fresh for 1-2 days if you store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

What is a lemon tart made of?

The two components of a lemon tart are the lemon curd and the tart shell (or pâte sucrée). Lemon curd is made with eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter. 

What does a lemon tart taste like?

It has a crisp, buttery shell that is filled with a curd that tastes bright, acidic, and flavored with lemon. 

What is the difference between a lemon tart and a lemon meringue pie?

The biggest difference between lemon tarts and lemon meringue pies is that lemon meringue pies will be topped with a mountain of meringue. Lemon meringue pie topping is made using eggs, cream of tartar, sugar, and vanilla extract that is whipped on high speed to produce fluffy, creamy peaks of light and creamy meringue. 

How do I know when a lemon tart is done?

The tart shells will be medium brown in color. A white or light brown shell indicates that it is underbaked. Allowing your tart shell to get darker in color will bring out all of the caramelization of the butter and sugar together which is what gives your tart shell flavor!

Chef Christophe Rull recommends checking on your tart shell’s progress every 10 minutes while baking. Depending on the oven you are using, the back of the oven may distribute more heat than the front. For instance, if you notice that the shells on the back of the oven are darker in color than the tarts on the front, rotate the baking sheet to distribute more heat to the underbaked shells.

Can I buy my tart dough?

Yes. If you cannot find premade tart dough you could also buy pie dough. But keep in mind that pâte sucrée is a sweet dough that works best with desserts, whereas pie dough. Isn’t as sweet. The biggest takeaway is that if you buy your tart dough, it may not be as sweet as if you made it yourself. PRO TIP: You can coat a thin layer of melted white chocolate onto your shortcrust dough before adding your lemon curd to add a bit of sweetness back to the dough!

What size tart pans can I use?

You can use any tart pan you want for this recipe no matter its size or shape, but keep in mind your baking time may vary. Also, you may need to adjust the ingredients to make a larger shell and have enough lemon curd. This recipe yields enough to make 12 mini tarts.

Can I freeze lemon tarts before baking?

Yes! Chef Christophe Rull recommends coating the tart shells with a thin layer of cocoa butter to protect them from the humidity in the freezer. If you don’t have cocoa butter, you could also use a thin layer of melted white chocolate to coat the tart shells. But, keep in mind if you use white chocolate that it will add a bit more sweetness to your tart shells. 

What does pâte sucrée mean?

Pâte sucrée is French for “sugary dough.” 

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Did You Make This Recipe?Leave a rating and tell me how it went!
decorated lemon tart up close

Elegant Lemon Tarts

Thick, creamy, and tangy lemon curd poured inside of crisp, buttery pastry shells made from sweet dough and topped with homemade creme fraiche! Plus tons of tips on how to make elegant garnishes from chocolate, isomalt, and more!
5 from 2 votes
Print Rate Never Miss A Cake
Prep Time: 30 mins
Serves: 12 mini tarts
Calories: 4497kcal

Ingredients

Pâte Sucrée

  • 70 grams butter
  • 50 grams powdered sugar
  • 20 grams almond flour
  • 25 grams egg
  • 150 grams AP flour
  • 1 vanilla bean (scraped)

Lemon Curd

  • 200 grams Eggs
  • 270 grams sugar
  • 190 grams lemon juice
  • 2 Whole lemons (zested)
  • 240 grams butter (European)

Homemade Crème Fraîche

  • 227 grams (8 ounces) heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk

Equipment

  • Stand Mixer
  • Tart ring
  • pan and bowl for double boiler
  • Immersion blender
  • pastry brush
  • acetate sheets
  • microplane

Instructions

Making the Pâte Sucrée Tart Shells

  • First, in the bowl of your stand mixer, mix the room temperature butter and powdered sugar with the paddle attachment. Mix until it is smooth.
  • Then, add in the almond flour and continue to mix it until it is combined.
  • Next, add in the eggs, vanilla bean seeds, and the all-purpose flour. Mix the batter until all of the ingredients are smooth and thoroughly combined.
  • Wrap the dough neatly in plastic wrap, and then place it in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
  • After the dough has chilled in the refrigerator, on a lightly floured surface, roll the tart dough out until it is about 1/8” thick.
  • Use a 5" circle cutter to cut out your tart shells.
  • Next, gently place the dough inside the tart ring by pressing the bottom down to the corners of the ring and while pressing gently onto the sides of the ring. Then, use a paring knife to trim the excess off the top edge of the ring.
  • Check the bottom of the ring to see that the bottom edge has been pressed flush. If the dough is getting too warm and sticky to handle, place it back in the fridge to firm it up.
  • Run your finger around the edge of the tart shell to get a nice even seal on the shell.
  • After that, use a fork to gently dock the bottom of the tart shells to avoid large bubbles forming when baking.
  • Once you have filled all of the rings, place them in the freezer for an hour.
  • Finally, bake the tart shells at 360ºF (182ºC) until they are dark golden brown.

How to Make the Lemon Filling

  • In a separate bowl, add in your egg yolks and mix them so that they are smooth.
  • Then, in a pot over medium heat, add in your sugar, lemon juice, and zest. Mix everything completely and heat it until it is just simmering.
  • Next, add about 1/3 of the lemon mixture to the separate bowl of egg yolks while whisking together to temper the eggs.
  • After that, add the lemon/egg mixture back into the pan with the rest of the lemon juice while whisking and bringing it back up to heat to a boil. Whisk continuously so that it heats evenly and doesn’t scorch on the bottom. Then, once it reaches a boil, let it continue to boil for about 30 seconds.
  • Finally, remove the pan from heat and add in the butter. Use an immersion blender to incorporate the butter and make the curd very smooth.

Assembling the Lemon Tart

  • Once you have baked your tart shells and let them fully cool, use a pastry brush to coat a thin layer of cocoa butter (or white chocolate) to the insides of the shells.
  • Then, after the cocoa butter has dried inside the shells, you are ready to pour the lemon curd into the tart shells.
  • Fill each shell with lemon curd almost all of the way to the top.
  • Add fresh fruit, creme fraiche, and any garnish you like to complete your elevated lemon tart.

Homemade Crème Fraîche Instructions

  • If you are making your own crème fraîche, then you will want to make this the day before you are preparing your lemon tarts.
  • Combine the buttermilk and heavy cream in a glass bowl and cover lightly with plastic wrap.
  • Rest at room temperature (do not refrigerate) for 2-12 hours. The longer it sits, the thicker the creme fraiche will be. The bacterial cultures in buttermilk thicken and acidify the cream, while also preventing bad bacteria from taking over so it’s safe to be at room temperature.
  • After your creme fraiche has thickened, it can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Candied Lemon Slice Garnish

  • First, in a stovetop pan, mix 8 ounces of water and 7 ounces of sugar together and bring it to a boil.
  • While the sugar water is warming up, cut up a lemon to create thin slices.
  • Once the sugar water reaches a boil, add the thin lemon slices into the pan in a single layer.
  • Then, simmer the slices for about 15 minutes.
  • Transfer lemon slices to a wire rack or parchment paper and let cool. Let them dry overnight for use the next day.

White Chocolate Curl Garnish

  • Using tempered chocolate and a spatula, spread the white chocolate on acetate in any shape you desire and let it cool. PRO TIP: You can roll the acetate while the chocolate is still warm and this will create a chocolate curl.
  • Once it has cooled, gently peel it away from the acetate and place it onto your lemon tart.
  • For these lemon tarts, we used a variety of garnishes on our tarts including, lemon slices, basic chocolate decorations, creme fraiche quenelle, edible gold leaf, berries, and abstract isomalt shapes. But you can totally get creative and make it your own! 

Notes

Important Things To Note Before You Start
  1. If you are making your own crème fraîche, do this the day before you plan on making your lemon tart! 
  2. Bring your butter to room temperature.
  3. Practice Mise en Place (everything in its place). Measure out your ingredients ahead of time. Then, have them ready before you start. This will reduce the chances of accidentally leaving something out.
  4. Use a scale to weigh your ingredients (including liquids) unless otherwise instructed (Tablespoons, teaspoons, pinch, etc). Scaled ingredients are much more accurate than using cups and ultimately help ensure the success of your recipe. 
  5. Chef Christophe Rull recommends checking on your tart shell’s baking progress every 10 minutes while baking. Depending on the oven you are using, the back of the oven may distribute more heat than the front. For instance, if you notice that the shells on the back of the oven are darker in color than the tarts on the front, rotate the baking sheet to distribute more heat to the underbaked shells.
  6. For these lemon tarts, we used a variety of garnishes on our tarts including, lemon slices, basic chocolate decorations, creme fraiche quenelle, edible gold leaf, berries, and abstract isomalt shapes. But you can totally get creative and make it your own! 

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 4497kcal (225%) | Carbohydrates: 455g (152%) | Protein: 51g (102%) | Fat: 285g (438%) | Saturated Fat: 167g (835%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 14g | Monounsaturated Fat: 74g | Trans Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 1504mg (501%) | Sodium: 2542mg (106%) | Potassium: 750mg (21%) | Fiber: 7g (28%) | Sugar: 325g (361%) | Vitamin A: 8974IU (179%) | Vitamin C: 75mg (91%) | Calcium: 280mg (28%) | Iron: 12mg (67%)
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