Lemon tart: How to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom

This versatile, easy-to-make dessert is a lovely treat for Mother’s Day (or any day)

A lemon tart is one of the most versatile desserts. It sits happily everywhere from a family kitchen table to a high temple of patisserie. It will be in the repertoire of the grandest pastry chef, who will probably call it a tarte au citron, but it is very simple to make at home, and would be a lovely treat for Mother’s Day.

A good lemon tart will finish almost any meal perfectly. It is rich enough to follow a light lunch, but the tangy citrus hit cuts through the indulgent cream and sugar in the filling, so it’s a good choice after a big meal too.

I don’t think Cooks Academy would exist without this recipe. It was one of the first recipes I ever taught when I started doing demonstration cooking classes in a friend’s kitchen 15 years ago (within two months I was signing a lease on a cookery school premises).

It is vital to blind-bake the pastry – that is, without the filling – in this tart to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom. Once the pastry case is baked, check carefully for any holes and patch them with scraps of leftover pastry to avoid any leaks once the filling is poured in.


As the tart case will be filled to the top, it can be a little tricky to carry to the oven once it has been filled. Unless you have very steady hands, it may be easier to take the partially filled tart to the oven shelf, and use a jug to pour in the last of the filling in situ.

This classic dessert can be made in advance and refrigerated until needed, though it tastes best if it is brought out of the fridge a little before serving to take the chill off. Elegantly thin slices served on china plates need no accompaniment. To save time, you could buy a pre-rolled all-butter pastry instead of making your own.


Serves eight



200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

100g cold butter, diced small

50g icing sugar

1 egg yolk

1tsp cold water, if needed


3 unwaxed lemons

170g caster sugar

4 eggs, lightly whisked

125ml cream


1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees fan, or equivalent. Grease a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin (not less than 2.5cm deep).

2. To make the pastry, sieve the flour into a bowl. Add the diced butter and rub into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the icing sugar. With a dinner knife, work in the egg yolk then bring together to a firm dough (add a little water if it appears very dry, to help the mixture come together). Shape into a flat disc. Wrap in clingfilm and chill the pastry for 20 minutes.

3. Roll the pastry out thinly to a 2mm thickness on a lightly floured work surface and use it to line the greased tart tin. Lightly prick the pastry base with a fork.

4. To bake the pastry blind, cover the pastry with parchment paper and fill with baking beans (or uncooked rice, dry beans or even dry lentils). Place in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is light golden in colour. Remove the beans and paper and cook for a further four to five minutes, or until the base is dry and crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside.

5. To make the lemon tart filling: using a fine zest grater (or microplane), finely grate the zest from two of the lemons before squeezing the juice from all three (ensure that you are only grating the outer zest and not grating through to the bitter white pith).

6. In a mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice, lemon zest and caster sugar. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.

7. Whisk the eggs into the lemon mixture. Next, stir in the cream until fully incorporated, without overwhisking and creating too much foam.

8. Pour the filling carefully into the baked pastry base (an easy way is to half-fill the pastry case, then use a jug to top it up once it is sitting on the oven rack).  Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the filling is just set (with no wobble in the centre).

Variation: You can also bake six individual lemon tarts in 10cm mini tartlet tins.