Vintage baking: Tarte au citron

The tarte au citron has been described as the ‘staple of the Parisian patisserie’. Sure, the macaron or the ispahan may be more trendy and glamourous, but the tarte au citron has stood the test of time. A Parisian patisserie trolley without its lemony goodness would be like Disneyland without Mickey Mouse (aka sad).

The good news for us bakers is that, unlike eclairs or millefeuille, making a tarte au citron is actually quite manageable. It doesn’t even involve choux pastry, puff pastry or beating any egg whites (sigh of relief). Basically, the tart consists of a sweet shortcrust pastry shell (pâte sucrée), and a lemon cream filling (creme de citron). Here’s how to make one.

Ingredients (makes about 6 tartlets or one big tart)

1 batch of shortcrust pastry (recipe here)
5 large eggs
125ml cream
225g caster sugar
2 lemons, juice and zest (use 3 if you like extra tangy creme de citron)
icing sugar, for dusting

Equipment needed

a food processor
a rolling pin
baking beans
6 small tart tins (one larger tin will also do)


1. Roll out your shortcrust pastry and line the tart tins with the dough, gently pressing the pastry into the flutes.
2. Cover the pastry-lined tins in cling wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat your oven to 200°C.
4. When the thirty minutes are up, remove the cling film, line the pastry cases with tin foil and fill them with baking beans.
5. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the pastry is set. Remove the tin foil and trim the excess pastry from the sides of the tartlets, using a sharp knife.
6. Return the pastry cases to the oven, and bake for another 10-12 minutes until they are pale golden and completely dry. When they are done, take them out and reduce the oven temperature to 170°C.

7. In a jug, whisk together the eggs for the filling. Then add the rest of the filling ingredients and whisk until combined.

8. Pour the filling into the cooled pastry cases, stirring it beforehand to make sure the lemon zest is mixed in. Take care not to spill any filling, as you want the outside of the pastry cases to remain dry and crisp.
9. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the filling has just set but still has a ‘wobble’ in the centre. Make sure you watch for this indicator, you don’t want to over bake your tartlets and find yourself eating lemony scrambled egg (gross).

10. Leave the tartlets to cool for about half an hour, then remove them from the tins.
11. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Voila, your tartelettes au citron are now ready to be served. They are great for tea time, or as an after dinner dessert. Your friends and family are going to love this classic French treat.

Download print-friendly recipe.