If you’re in search of sunshine on a plate, stop scrolling. My Lemon Curd Tart with Whipped Mascarpone Cream is a perfect blend of bright citrus, extra creamy fresh cheese, and a sweet, short pastry crust. This, my friends, is an exemplary springtime dessert.
⭐ Why You’ll Love This Recipe
If ever there was a tart fit for royalty, I’m pretty sure this is it. Made with the traditional scone accompaniments of homemade lemon curd and a whipped mascarpone cream (which is my loose interpretation of Devonshire clotted cream), this tasty treat has tea time written all over it.
If you’re feeling intimidated, I’m here to ease your mind. This simple lemon curd tart is made with my regular tart dough and a mere 6 additional ingredients. If you are anything like me, you probably already have a round of tart dough hanging out in your freezer just begging to be turned into something delightful.
Breaking this lemon tart recipe into several steps makes it feel entirely attainable. The tart dough can be made and frozen up to two months in advance; the lemon curd takes just about 20 minutes to make and will last for several weeks in the fridge, and the whipped mascarpone cream takes just a few minutes to make.
❓ What is Lemon Curd?
Lemon curd is a splendid fruit spread that I’d love for everyone to try! It’s sweet, tart, buttery, smooth, and somehow also creamy. It literally tastes like a ray of sunshine! If you’re a fan of lemon bars, I can basically guarantee that you’ll also love lemon curd.
Made with just 5 ingredients, this delectable form of fruit preserves is one of my favorites. Eggs create a sort of custardy consistency; sugar adds sweetness to counteract the sour lemons; salt adds seasoning, and butter is whisked in at the end for a lovely mouthfeel.
❓ What is Mascarpone?
The closest ingredient that we can compare mascarpone to is cream cheese. Mascarpone has less acidity than cream cheese, which makes it perfect for pairing with a higher acidity ingredient like lemon curd.
The process of creating the two is essentially the same; the primary difference is that cream cheese is made with whole milk, while mascarpone is made with heavy cream.
The heavy cream is heated, acid (like lemon juice or vinegar) is added, and the cream starts to clot and thicken. After pouring into a strainer lined with cheesecloth and letting it set up overnight, you have mascarpone.
To add extra richness and to counteract the acidity of the lemon curd, I whip the mascarpone with heavy cream to turn it into a quasi-clotted cream. The result is simply divine - thick, smooth, unctuous, and dreamy.
- Lemon Juice - Fresh is best, every time. To get the most juice from your citrus, give each fruit a firm roll on the countertop for 10-15 seconds before cutting in.
- Eggs & Egg Yolk - These are an essential piece to creating the custard-like consistency I associate with curd.
- Mascarpone - This fresh cheese used to be a specialty item when I was a kid, but has since become more readily available in most grocery stores. If you are unable to find it, you can make your own.
- Fresh Berries - Feel free to use any type that you like! Be sure to wash and dry them thoroughly first. If you’re buying your berries ahead of time, check out this awesome hack for keeping them fresher for longer.
- Thyme - Herbs on dessert, you say? I’m here to give my full-throated endorsement. Remember my rosemary shortbread, rosemary chocolate tart, and rosemary salted caramel macarons? Adding a bit of savory flavor to your sweets gives them depth of flavor and an adult complexity that I simply love. Fresh thyme is not only dainty and adorable, it also pairs beautifully with lemon. Heck, you can even use lemon thyme to double down on the citrus flavor!
Making this lemon curd tart requires a few pieces of specialty equipment that I suggest every home baker have in his/her repertoire. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Non-Reactive Mixing Bowl - Citrus juice, vinegar, and tomatoes are just a few acidic ingredients you may work with on a regular basis. Turns out, acids react with most metals and can result in a weird, 9-volt battery flavor imparting itself on your tasty creations. Make sure you invest in a set of non-reactive mixing bowls made from tempered glass or stainless steel.
- Non-Reactive Whisk - Ditto everything I just said about the mixing bowl. Opt for stainless steel, or a whisk with protective silicone if you use a lot of non-stick pots and pans.
- Tart Pan(s) - One of the best things about tart pans is that they will make your dessert look polished and professional; it’s all about that fluted edge! If you don’t have one on hand, you can use a springform pan instead.
- Thermometer - In my opinion, a well-stocked kitchen should have an oven thermometer, an instant read thermometer, and a candy thermometer. The oven thermometer will help you monitor the accuracy of your oven, while the instant read or candy thermometer will help you know when to add butter to your curd.
- Immersion Blender - I also love using my immersion blender for making chocolate ganache, frothy coffeeshop-style beverages, and creamy soups.
📖 Step by Step Instructions
Before you start feeling overwhelmed by the length of the instructions for making this lemon curd tart with whipped mascarpone cream, just remember: you can break this up into smaller bites! Each bolded heading denotes a step that should be followed through to completion, but each step can be completed individually rather than in one go.
Make Tart Dough
- Start by mixing sugar, butter, vanilla paste, salt, almond, and all-purpose flour until combined. Take a moment to scrape the mixing bowl.
- Add room temperature eggs one at a time, mixing between additions, then add bread flour, making sure to not overmix.
- Wrap the mixed dough tightly in plastic wrap. Then, place in the fridge to chill before using for at least one hour.
- I tend to make my tart dough ahead of time so I throw it in the fridge until the next day. If using this method, remove your dough from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to roll it out - you’ll find that it will be MUCH easier to work with!
Form Tart Shell
- Lightly dust the table you'll be working on, and using a rolling pin, gently roll out your dough. As you roll, make sure it does not start sticking to the surface you are working on.
- Once your dough is rolled to the desired thickness (I prefer ¼ inch), press gently into the bottom of your buttered tart pan. Poke the bottom of the tart LIBERALLY with a fork, and place in the freezer to chill for 20-30 minutes.
- This is essential - your tart shells are less likely to shrink while baking if you take the time to freeze your shells.
Bake Tart Shell
- In this case, we are blind baking the tart shell, meaning that we bake it without filling. In order to prevent escaping steam from warping the bottom of the crust, you’ll need to line the frozen tart shell with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights (or dried beans or dried rice).
- It tends to take 25-30 minutes to fully bake. Make sure to let it fully cool before adding your layers of cream and curd. Another option is to bake the tart shell, freeze it and assemble whenever you would like!
Make-Ahead Tip: Once you've formed your tart shells, or fully baked them, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and throw them in the freezer! They will last up to two months in the freezer, allowing you to pull them out and fill or bake at your leisure.
Make Lemon Curd
- In a saucepan, heat a few inches of water on medium and bring to a simmer. With a non-metal or stainless steel whisk, whisk together all ingredients except the butter in a non-reactive heatproof bowl. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure it doesn’t touch the water. We want the hot steam of the water to slowly heat the mixture.
- Take care to continuously mix while the temperature raises and the mixture thickens, otherwise your eggs might end up scrambling!
- Remove bowl from heat once a thermometer reads 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue whisking mixture continuously in order to help it cool down.
- Once the temperature has lowered to 135 degrees, add ½ inch pieces of butter to the mixture. Using an immersion blender, continue to blend until butter is fully incorporated.
Make-Ahead Tip: Lemon curd can be kept covered in the fridge for up to a month, and can be frozen for up to 3 months!
Make Whipped Mascarpone Cream
- Add mascarpone and whipping cream to the stand mixer bowl fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk until stiff peaks form - this should not take long!
- Add whipped mascarpone cream to the tart shell, using the back of a spoon or an offset spatula to spread it in an even layer. Working carefully, top the mascarpone cream with lemon curd, again spreading it in an even layer. Allow tart to chill for 1-2 hours before garnishing with fruit and thyme. Enjoy!
⏲️ Substitutions & Variations
This lemon curd tart with whipped mascarpone cream is a home run as is, but that doesn’t mean you can’t customize it to your liking! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Make a different flavor citrus curd. The method for making lemon curd is no different than making a lime, grapefruit, yuzu, or even bergamot orange curd. Feel free to swap in your own favorite!
- Add zest for a more pronounced citrus-y flavor. Citrus zest is a potent carrier of essential oils. If you want to add more zing to this bright curd, feel free to add up to a teaspoon of zest. Make sure you thoroughly wash your fruit before zesting, and ensure that you take only the top, colored layer of the rind; the white pith is quite bitter and off-putting.
- Use tartlet pans for individual patisserie-style desserts. There’s no rule that says you have to make one LARGE tart. Feel free to turn this recipe into smaller, individual portions. This is a great idea if you have a small household, as the individual components can be stored separately and assembled as needed.
- Choose different berries for garnish. In my opinion, basically all berries taste delicious with lemon, so choose your favorites! I opted for blackberries and raspberries because I find them to be breathtakingly beautiful, but there’s no rule against using strawberries, blueberries, boysenberries, or even sugared cranberries if you like!
Did you come up with a winning combination the world should know about? Be sure to let me know in the comments below, or by tagging me in your instagram pics so I can cheer you on!
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips
- Make sure your cream and mascarpone are room temperature. Ensuring your ingredients are at the same temperature will help to prevent curdling. Also, because mascarpone has such a high fat content, allowing it to soften some will make it easier for the cream to incorporate.
- Don’t use a reactive bowl for making lemon curd. Make sure to use a non-metal (or stainless steel) bowl and whisk so that the acid from the lemons does not react and result in a metallic taste. Avoid this by using a stainless steel, porcelain, or glass bowl instead.
- Don’t let the curd bowl touch the boiling water. Using a bain marie (or double boiler) is intended to mitigate temperature extremes for dealing with delicate ingredients like eggs or chocolate. Don’t let the bowl touch the boiling water, or the high temperature will cause your eggs to scramble and leave you with a less than appealing curd.
- Don’t forget to freeze your tart shell before baking. This will help your tart shell keep shape and prevent it from shrinking.
- Definitely use pie weights. Blind baking is essential for this recipe because neither the curd nor the mascarpone cream should be baked. In order to ensure that your tart shell is well formed and even, use pie weights. Note that dried beans or dried rice can easily (and repeatedly) be used as pie weights, but they should not be cooked for consumption after being used as such.
- Don’t assemble too early. Due to the creamy nature of the tart filling, I suggest assembling it no more than 3-4 hours prior to serving.
💭 Recipe FAQs
Yes and no. You can easily make the components ahead of time - the tart dough (or baked tart shells) will last for up to 2 months in the freezer, the lemon curd will last for up to a month in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer, and the mascarpone whipped cream will last for 2-3 days in the fridge.
That said, the tart should not be fully assembled until 3-4 hours prior to serving, or you’ll risk a soggy crust. Remember: Paul Hollywood doesn’t like soggy bottoms!
Yep! Lemon curd can be stored in the freezer for up to three months.
Sure! Simply swap in your favorite cultured plant-based butter.
While I haven’t tried them myself, there are several vegan mascarpone brands on the market. If you can find one, simply use it and coconut cream to make the filling - just note that coconut cream will impart a bit of coconut flavor to the overall dish.
Absolutely lemon lovers! Homemade lemon curd works beautifully as a cake filling, especially between layers of pound cake or lemon cheesecake. Its tangy flavor contrasts nicely with the sweetness of cakes.
Lemon curd can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Ensure it's sealed well to retain its creamy texture and vibrant lemon flavor.
More Springtime Favorites
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Lemon Curd Tart with Whipped Mascarpone Cream
- Tart Pan
- 145 g (½ cup & 2 Tbsp) Lemon Juice
- 3 Eggs, large
- 1 Egg Yolk
- 150 g (¾ Cup ) Granulated Sugar
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- 225 g (1 Cup ) Unsalted Butter, room temperature
Whipped Mascarpone Cream
- 100 g (½ Cup ) Mascarpone , room temperature
- 100 ml (½ Cup ) Heavy Whipping Cream , room temperature
- Fresh Raspberries
- Fresh Blackberries
- In a saucepan, heat a few inches of water on medium and bring to a simmer
- With a non-metal whisk, whisk together all ingredients other than the butter in a non-metal heatproof bowl, and place on top of the saucepan allowing the hot steam of the water to slowly heat the mixture145 g Lemon Juice, 3 Eggs, 1 Egg Yolk, 150 g Granulated Sugar, ¼ teaspoon Salt
- Take care to continuously mix while the temperature raises and the mixture thickens
- Remove bowl from heat once a thermometer reads 180 degrees Fahrenheit
- Continue whisking mixture continuously in order to help it cool down
- Once the temperature has lowered to 135 degrees, add ½ inch pieces of butter to the mixture225 g Unsalted Butter
- Using an immersion blender, continue to blend until butter is fully incorporated
- Add mascarpone and whipping cream to kitchen aid bowl fitted with a whisk attachment100 g Mascarpone, 100 ml Heavy Whipping Cream
- Whisk until stiff peaks form - this should not take long!
- Add mascarpone filling to the tart shell and then follow topping with lemon curd. Allow tart to chill for 1-2 hours before garnishing with fruit and thyme before serving.Fresh Raspberries, Fresh Blackberries, Thyme
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make this lemon curd tart with whipped mascarpone ahead of time? Yes and no. You can easily make the components ahead of time - the tart dough (or baked tart shells) will last for up to 2 months in the freezer, the lemon curd will last for up to a month in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer, and the mascarpone whipped cream will last for 2-3 days in the fridge.
- Is it possible to freeze lemon curd? Yep! Lemon curd can be stored in the freezer for up to three months.
- Can I make lemon curd without dairy? Sure! Simply swap in your favorite cultured plant-based butter.
- Can I make the whipped mascarpone cream without dairy? While I haven’t tried them myself, there are several vegan mascarpone brands on the market. If you can find one, simply use it and coconut cream to make the filling - just note that coconut cream will impart a bit of coconut flavor to the overall dish.