16 Sweet-Tart Lemon Desserts for Spring

Lemon-Ricotta Cake
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Bright, tangy lemon is as much a spring treat as it is a summer refreshment. Lemon juice and zest give the ideal edge to sweet pies, provide the perfect topping to cakes, and create a delicious filling for cookie sandwiches. From lemon meringue pie to tasty lemon tarts, here are 16 vibrant lemon dessert recipes fit for celebrating the season.

01 of 16

French Lemon Tart

French Lemon Tart

Cara Cormack

In this classic citrus tart, the lemony custard is poured into the baked pastry shell, so there's no need to worry about an undercooked crust or a curdled filling. 

02 of 16

Lemon Ripple Cheesecake Bars

Lemon Ripple Cheesecake Bars
© Anna Williams

Cookbook author Elinor Klivans got her start as the "cheesecake specialist" at a restaurant in Camden, Maine. Her creamy, tangy lemon cheesecake bars can be made up to three days ahead, plus they're portable enough to bring to outdoor gatherings. For the neatest squares, slice the cheesecake into bars with a warm knife, wiping off the blade between cuts. 

03 of 16

Lemon Meringue Pie with Marcona Shortbread Crust

lemon meringue pie
Jennifer Causey

"I like lemon pie so much that I want even more of the bright, sunny lemon flavor to come through, so there's less sugar and more lemon juice in this filling than you'll find in most recipes," cookbook author and F&W Cooks contributor Ann Taylor Pittman says. "It's assertively — but not aggressively — lemony, and is balanced by the fluffy meringue topping, which has the perfect sweetness and density to complement the tarter-than-usual filling."

04 of 16

Lemon Pound Cake

Lemon Pound Cake

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Josh Hoggle

This lemon pound cake recipe has a moist and tender crumb with a golden-domed crunchy crust that’s topped with a lemony glaze for an accent of sweetness. A handful of pantry staples come together to create this citrus-infused cake that's perfect for breakfast, tea, dessert, or as a snack. 

05 of 16

Lemony Butter Cookies

Lemony Butter Cookies
© Kristen Stevens

Using powdered sugar in the dough in place of granulated sugar gives these lemony cookies a light, delicious crumb.

06 of 16

Poppy Seed Crêpes with Tangy Lemon Curd and Ricotta

Poppy Seed Crêpes with Tangy Lemon Curd and Ricotta
© Sarah Bolla

Tangy lemon curd is spooned over these warm ricotta-filled and poppy seed-studded crêpes. They're light, colorful, and perfect for an Easter brunch and buffet.

07 of 16

Lemon Buckwheat Shortbread

Lemon Buckwheat Shortbread
Victor Protasio

Lemon filling highlights the nuttiness of buckwheat flour in these shortbread cookie sandwiches from 2017 F&W Best New Chef Nina Compton. Substituting store-bought buckwheat flour will yield a less nutty cookie. Be sure to keep either flour in the freezer.

08 of 16

Lemon Curd Macarons

Lemon Curd Macarons
© Erin Kunkel

Pink peppercorns aren't just pretty, they're great counterpoints to the tangy lemon filling in these quintessential French cookies.

09 of 16

Lemon-Olive Oil Semifreddo with Blueberry Compote

Lemon-Olive Oil Semifreddo with Blueberry Compote
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall

Even with rich lemon cream as its base, this tart, sweet semifreddo from famed pastry chef Claudia Fleming retains its light texture and flavor after it is frozen. Semifreddos do not harden when they freeze, so there's no need to let this soften before serving it. You can make this up to three days in advance of serving.

10 of 16

Limoncello-Ricotta Cheesecake

Limoncello Ricotta Cheesecake
Photo by Fred Hardy II / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Christina Brockman

Limoncello — the sweet, potent Italian lemon liqueur made by steeping lemon peel in grain alcohol or vodka — is the star of this silky, creamy dessert. The filling is lightened by the addition of ricotta cheese, and boasts citrusy flavors from both the fresh lemon juice and limoncello. The basil garnish balances the lemon nicely, but feel free to swap in berries or mint if you prefer.

11 of 16

Thalheimer's Lemon Chess Pie

Lemon Chess Pie
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Scholar and cookbook author Jessica B. Harris' good friend Karen Finley shares her family recipe for buttery, silky, and lusciously tart lemon chess pie. The flavor of the filling is similar to a lemon bar, but a touch sweeter and with some pleasant texture from floral lemon zest.

12 of 16

Vatrushka with Lemon and Ricotta Filling

Vatrushka with Lemon and Ricotta Filling

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

These buns — known as vatrushky — are stuffed with lemony golden raisin-studded cheese and baked for a sweet Ukrainian Easter tradition.

13 of 16

Lemon-Almond Cake with Roasted Rhubarb

Flourless Rhubarb Cake Recipe
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Sarah Elizabeth Cleveland

This tender, lemon-scented almond cake is topped with roasted rhubarb but is equally delicious with any kind of fresh or roasted fruit, like roasted strawberries, fresh orange segments, or roasted plums. Since the cake doesn’t contain any gluten or wheat flour, it’s ideal for those who’d like to avoid gluten.

14 of 16

Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Layers of delicate flavors from lemon, honey, and extra-virgin olive oi­l — which helps keep the cake moist and imparts mild fruitiness — come together in this one-bowl batter. Stacked with a fluffy and rich lemon-cream cheese frosting, this easy layer cake is a keeper. 

15 of 16

Orange and Lemon Tart

Orange and Lemon Tart
© Quentin Bacon

The filling for this simple citrus tart is reminiscent of a very fresh, not-too-sweet, chunky marmalade.

16 of 16

Lemon-Ricotta Cake

Lemon-Ricotta Cake
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

"I first created this cake by accident, substituting the ricotta I had in my refrigerator for the sour cream that my recipe called for," says 2020 F&W Best New Chef Camille Cogswell. "The result was, happily, far superior to the original! Now, this super moist and tender ricotta cake with bright lemon flavor is one of my go-tos. Dressed up with soft whipped cream and showered in seasonal fresh fruit, it becomes quite an elegant dinner dessert with minimal effort."

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