Lemon Curd Filling

Recipe for homemade lemon curd - perfect filling for cakes and pies

Yesterday was my mom’s 70th birthday. I can’t believe she’s 70 – and neither can she. My family and I spent the day at her house celebrating with her. We played games, ordered (way too much) Chinese food, and of course had birthday cake with candles.

Blowing out the candles for 70th birthday

Here’s the rub. We almost had no birthday cake. Why? My mom doesn’t really like food, so she started out saying that she didn’t want a birthday cake. Then she decided we could just pull out a leftover partial cheesecake my dad had bought her for Mother’s Day. Or we could just pick up something somewhere. I refused at each turn – a birthday is meant to be celebrated with a cake made just for you and made the way you want it. Finally, she admitted that she really wanted a lemon cake, but she didn’t want anyone to go through any trouble for it. That is my mom to a T.

So of course I told her I’d make her one. Lemon? Why not. I’m sure she was thinking more of like a cake flavored with lemon, but I wanted to do something light and airy that had a lemon filling instead. Any lemon flavoring I was thinking of for the cake itself would end up with a dense, heavy cake – not something I want for July 1.

I’m pretty proud of what I came up with – and I made it all dairy free so Little Miss could have some, as well. This lemon curd filling is dense enough that it didn’t ooze out of the cake but still tender and light and mildly decadent. It was a beautiful compliment to the light vanilla layer cake I made and the sweet tooth fluffy frosting I used to top the cake.

The nice thing is that the lemon filling can easily be made a day or two ahead of time, which means that when prepping for a party, you can have less to do and stress about the day of. The only downside to this is that some people may discover your lemon curd and think that it’s so good on its own that you end up with just a tiny bit less than you were anticipating.

Someone is stealing my lemon curd

Fortunately, I stopped her before she ate much of it, and this recipe easily fills a four layer cake so no one but me noticed that it was a little short.

Delicious slice of lemon filled cake

Lemon Curd Filling

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c sugar
2 lemons, zested
1 c lemon juice
1/4 t salt
4 eggs
6 egg yolks*
1 t unflavored gelatin
1/2 c butter, frozen

*Save your whites to make your cake to go with this lemon curd filling.

Directions:
Add the sugar to a heavy nonreactive saucepan (acids don’t like copper and other reactive metals). Zest the lemons directly into the pot and set the lemons aside.

Zest lemons straight into the pot

Before you start cooking, you want to extract as much of the lemon oil in the zest as possible and integrate it into your sugar to give a maximum fresh lemon taste. Using your (clean) fingers, squish around the sugar and lemon zest until the sugar starts to feel a little moist from the oils.

Use your fingers to squish together lemon zest and sugar to make lemon sugar

Add your lemon juice, salt, and gelatin to the sugar mixture and bring the heat to medium high, stirring periodically to dissolve your sugar. Don’t let it boil.

While the sugar is heating and dissolving, separate six eggs to get your egg yolks, saving the egg whites for your cake. Whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining four eggs in a larger bowl than you think you’ll need.

As soon as the sugar is dissolved, remove the pot from the stove. While whisking the eggs, slowly pour the hot liquid into the eggs to temper them. If you don’t whisk or if you pour too quickly, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, pour back into your saucepan and return it to the stove.

Cook at medium low heat for 10 or so minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk to keep anything from burning on the bottom. If you have a candy thermometer, keep cooking until it reaches 170 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, you’ll know it’s done when it starts to get really thick and darkens in color. When you can draw a line in your lemon curd with a spatula and the line remains after you’ve drawn it, you know it’s done.

Lemon curd is cooked enough when you can draw a line through it with your spatula

Turn the heat off, and add the frozen butter. This fat is what adds a last decadence to your lemon curd, so don’t skip the step. It also helps to cool it so that you can put it in your fridge sooner. Once you add the butter, keep stirring constantly so that the fat is absorbed into your lemon curd. If you stir too quickly, it will splash out, so be aware.

Add frozen butter to your lemon curd to finish it off

Once the butter is fully incorporated, you need to strain your lemon curd. Generally, I don’t strain the foods I make, as I like to have the texture in there. In this case, I want my lemon curd on my cake to be as smooth as possible, so this is the one time I will actually strain out the skin or seeds in a recipe. Use a fine mesh strainer and carefully pour your lemon curd into the strainer over a heat safe storage container. Once it’s in the strainer, use a spatula against the edges of the strainer to push out all the lemon curd until you have only the lemon zest remaining. Sadly, discard the lemon zest (or feed it to a child who thinks it tastes amazing).

Strain out the lemon zest to finish off your lemon curd

Place plastic wrap atop it so that your lemon curd doesn’t develop a skin. Store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. This will easily keep two to three days and still make a beautiful filling for a cake. Simply stir it up and use when you’re ready!

I made my recipe dairy free by utilizing coconut oil in place of the butter. It worked beautifully and didn’t change the flavor. If you have allergies, this is a great substitute.

Lemon Curd Filling

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Lemon Curd Filling

Easy recipe for homemade lemon curd - a perfect filling for cakes and pies. This pairs beautifully with this light and airy vanilla cake and fluffy frosting.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 1 c lemon juice
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 egg yolks (save the whites to make a cake)
  • 1 t unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 c butter, frozen

Instructions

  1. Add the sugar to a heavy nonreactive saucepan (acids don't like copper and other reactive metals). Zest the lemons directly into the pot and set the lemons aside. Before you start cooking, you want to extract as much of the lemon oil in the zest as possible and integrate it into your sugar to give a maximum fresh lemon taste. Using your (clean) fingers, squish around the sugar and lemon zest until the sugar starts to feel a little moist from the oils.
  2. Add your lemon juice, salt, and gelatin to the sugar mixture and bring the heat to medium high, stirring periodically to dissolve your sugar. Don't let it boil.
  3. While the sugar is heating and dissolving, separate six eggs to get your egg yolks, saving the egg whites for your cake. Whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining four eggs in a larger bowl than you think you'll need.
  4. As soon as the sugar is dissolved, remove the pot from the stove. While whisking the eggs, slowly pour the hot liquid into the eggs to temper them. If you don't whisk or if you pour too quickly, you'll end up with scrambled eggs. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, pour back into your saucepan and return it to the stove.
  5. Cook at medium low heat for 10 or so minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk to keep anything from burning on the bottom. If you have a candy thermometer, keep cooking until it reaches 170 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, you'll know it's done when it starts to get really thick and darkens in color. When you can draw a line in your lemon curd with a spatula and the line remains after you've drawn it, you know it's done.
  6. Turn the heat off, and add the frozen butter. This fat is what adds a last decadence to your lemon curd, so don't skip the step. It also helps to cool it so that you can put it in your fridge sooner. Once you add the butter, keep stirring constantly so that the fat is absorbed into your lemon curd. If you stir too quickly, it will splash out, so be aware.
  7. Once the butter is fully incorporated, you need to strain your lemon curd. Generally, I don't strain the foods I make, as I like to have the texture in there. In this case, I want my lemon curd on my cake to be as smooth as possible, so this is the one time I will actually strain out the skin or seeds in a recipe. Use a fine mesh strainer and carefully pour your lemon curd into the strainer over a heat safe storage container. Once it's in the strainer, use a spatula against the edges of the strainer to push out all the lemon curd until you have only the lemon zest remaining. Sadly, discard the lemon zest (or feed it to a child who thinks it tastes amazing).
  8. Place plastic wrap atop it so that your lemon curd doesn't develop a skin. Store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it. This will easily keep two to three days and still make a beautiful filling for a cake. Simply stir it up and use when you're ready!

Notes

This recipe makes enough to fill a 4 layer cake or one pie. I made my recipe dairy free by utilizing coconut oil in place of the butter. It worked beautifully and didn't change the flavor. If you have allergies, this is a great substitute.

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