Thursday, April 18, 2019

Vintage Lemon Tart

If you're still struggling with what dessert to have for your Easter brunch or dinner, I have a super easy and delicious recipe for you!  This delicious lemon tart (or pie should you decide to make it in a pie pan) can easily be made a day ahead, which is a must when I'm entertaining.

Last weekend, we were invited to a dinner party and I offered to bring the dessert.  I knew I wanted to make something that tasted like spring and decided it would be lemon.  I consulted my Pinterest Board called "If Life Gives You Lemons" and I went down a vast worm hole of lemon recipes on the internet.

The recipe I decided on was mainly inspired by Tricia's beautiful lemon pie at Saving Room for Dessert.  There are many versions of lemon or Key Lime pies or bars that use sweetened condensed milk, many dating back more than 50 years.  The Eagle Brand website has their original version.  Many of the comments on recipes that I browsed, stated that their grandmother or great-grandmother had made the same recipe.

What won me over about Tricia's recipe was her whipped cream topping that includes cream cheese as a stabilizer.  Another do-ahead bonus! Remember I told you that is originally a very, old recipe?  The old-fashioned way to top the pie was to use the egg whites that are left-over from the pie filling to make a baked meringue topping. If you need to find another use for those egg whites, make an angel food cake, an egg white omelet or these delicious almond crisps from my friend Juliana.  Egg whites can also be frozen for up to a month. 

For the dinner party, I decided to add some finely ground almonds to the graham cracker crust.  In my research, I also saw crusts made from animal crackers and saltine crackers.  I'd love to try both!

I used a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  I had enough ingredients left to make these two individual tarts for my husband to enjoy the next day.  Just as tasty as the first day they were made!

Did you know that condensed milk was first introduced in France in 1820 and in the United States by Gail Bordon in 1856.  Condensed milk is real milk from which all water has been removed during a vacuum process.  It was used to feed soldiers during wars and to feed infants and children when lack of refrigeration lead to death from spoiled milk products.  In the 1930s, The Borden company (which is now Eagle Brand) asked homemakers to create and send in recipes made using sweetened condensed milk and I love that we are still using some of them today.

April weather has been very interesting! We've had highs in the 70s but this is what our back yard looked like on Sunday.

Thankfully, the early spring flowers are very hardy! These photos were taken yesterday, after the snow had melted. On the left, Katharine Hodgkin dwarf iris; in the center white Hellebore, or Lenten rose; and on the right, Chionodoxa or Glory of the Snow.

May you all have a save and happy holiday weekend!

Vintage Lemon Tart

Printable Recipe

Servings: 10 slices

My Notes: I used a 10 inch tart pan and doubled the entire recipe. I had enough cracker crumbs and filling left to make 2 4-inch tarts. You could also use a 9 x 13 inch baking pan, which may take slightly longer to bake.

Tip:  Since I was bringing this dessert to someone else's home, I made the whipped topping in the morning and then placed it in a large piping bag with large tip. I like Wilton's large tips. but you will then need to use the large coupler. I sealed the open end of the piping bag with a rubber band, placed it in a zipper bag, and refrigerated it along with the tart.  I was then able to cut and decorate each slice individually when we served it.


2-1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (2 packages)
1/3 cup ground almonds
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar


2/3 cup sour cream
2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk (I used Eagle Brand)
9 large egg yolks
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, from about 8 large lemons, strain (I prefer to use organic lemons when the zest is also used)
2 tablespoon lemon zest, plus more for garnish


4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Fresh strawberries or raspberries
Grated lemon zest


Preheat oven to 350F.

In a food processor, combine the graham crackers, almonds and sugar. Process for about 15 pulses until finely crushed. Add the melted butter and pulse until just blended.  Press the crumb mixture firmly into the bottom and sides of a 8-inch tart pan with removable bottom (or use a pie plate or 9 x 13 baking pan).  Tip: Use the bottom of a 1-cup round measuring cup to help firmly press the crumbs onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Bake for 8 minutes and set on a baking rack to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling.  In a medium bowl (I like to use an 8 cup pyrex mixing bowl with pouring spout), add the sour cream.  With the mixer speed on low, slowly add the sweetened condensed milk and mix until combined. Add the egg yolks, one at a time until each is blended.  Add the lemon juice and zest and mix until blended. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake for about 25 minutes or until the filling is set, but is still somewhat jiggly in the center. Cool completely on a wire rack and then refrigerate at least 2 hours or until ready to add the topping.

Place the cream cheese into a medium bowl and mix until smooth using an electric mixer. Add the whipping cream slowly and beat until combined. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Pipe or spread over the top of the tart.  Top with fresh berries and sprinkle with additional lemon zest.

Inspired by Easy Lemon Pie from Saving Room for Dessert