7 Tangy Citrus Desserts Adding Color to the Table

Are your taste buds sweet on tart treats? Indulge those cravings by introducing some citrus fruits to the dessert table this season. Every kitchen needs a bright splash of color during the bleak days of winter, so head to the market and stock up on oranges, grapefruits, limes, and lemons. You’ll be celebrating their vibrantly tasty flavors in no time!

Try these 7 recipes for sweet and tart dessert delights made from your favorite citrus fruits.

Key Lime Pie

Source: iStock

1. Key Lime Cheesecake

Merry Gourmet’s Key Lime Cheesecake delivers a burst of fruity, cheesy flavors in every bite. Tangy lime juice is offset by mild cream cheese, making for a smooth — yet boldly-flavored — dessert. A simple butter and graham cracker crust provides a sweet resolution to this eclectic variety of flavors. The Key Lime Cheesecake takes an hour and 15 minutes to make and yields 10 to 12 servings.


Lime Curd:

  • 7 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup Key lime juice
  • Zest of one lime


  • 1¾ cup graham cracker crumbs (from 14 whole graham crackers)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted


  • 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 5 tablespoons Key lime juice
  • Zest of two limes

DirectionsFor Lime Curd: Whisk egg yolks, sugar, Key lime juice, and lime zest in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until it thickens and comes to a boil, about 7 to 8 minutes. Let it boil for about 30 seconds, then remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

For Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place oven rack in middle position.

Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the sides of the pan with a large sheet of aluminum foil (this will prevent leaking during final baking in the water bath). Whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt. Stir in the melted butter until combined. Press the crumbs onto the bottom and about 1½ inches up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 5 minutes then let cool completely.

Decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

For filling: In a food processor or blender, process or purée the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lime juice, and lime zest until smooth.

Spread the lime curd evenly over the bottom of the crust. Carefully pour the filling into the crust, on top of the lime curd. Set the foil-wrapped springform pan into a roasting pan. Make the water bath by carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come 1 inch up the sides of the cheesecake pan, taking care not to splash the cheesecake. Bake for 70 to 75 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, until the cake is set but trembles slightly in the middle when the pan is gently shaken. Turn off oven, crack the oven door, and let cheesecake sit in the cooling oven for about 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven, carefully lift the springform pan out of the water bath, and let the cheesecake cool completely on a rack.

Chill, loosely covered, at least 8 hours (or overnight) prior to serving. When ready to serve, run a blunt knife around edge of cheesecake to loosen it from the springform pan and remove sides of the pan. Serve ungarnished or with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

2. Blood Orange Bars

Make use of orange’s crimson counterpart — the sinisterly named blood orange — to create these colorfully crusty, buttery bars from Clawson Live. These Blood Orange Bars incorporate a sugary filling flavored with the zest and juices of blood oranges, topped with a sprinkling of powdered sugar to complete the sweet-tart surprise.


For the crust:

  • ½ pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated blood orange zest
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

DirectionsPreheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9-by-13 baking sheet, building up a ½-inch edge on all sides.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Stirring, Mixing, bowl, baking

Source: iStock

3. Grapefruit Cake With Grapefruit Buttercream Frosting

Grapefruit isn’t just for breakfast any more! Pastry Affair’s Grapefruit Cake With Grapefruit Buttercream Frosting is a moist expression of the simple, sour flavors of the fruit. After baking the dish, you’ll brush it with a glaze of grapefruit juice that soaks in to offer the cake a deep, luscious texture. The grapefruit buttercream is made with a grapefruit juice reduction, in which the sourness of grapefruit juice is offset by the addition of powdered sugar. The recipe yields 1 (8-inch) cake with 2 layers.


Grapefruit cake:

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 grapefruit
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup light olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (about 1 grapefruit)
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Grapefruit Buttercream:

  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • Zest of 1 grapefruit
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • Heavy cream

Directions: For cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 (8-inch) cake pans.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together sugar and grapefruit zest with your fingers until fragrant. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Mix in yogurt, olive oil, vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoon grapefruit juice (reserve ⅓ cup for later). Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.

Divide batter evenly between cake pans and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Using a pastry brush, brush remaining ⅓ cup grapefruit juice on top on the cake layers, allowing the juice to soak into the cake. Allow to cool to room temperature. 

For frosting: In a small saucepan, bring grapefruit juice to a boil and simmer until it reduces and thickens to about ¼ cup. Cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and grapefruit zest until smooth. Mix in thickened grapefruit juice. Gradually add powdered sugar until incorporated and smooth. Because the thickened grapefruit juice will vary in amount, add heavy cream one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.

Lemon sugar cookies

Source: iStock

4. Soft Lemon Sugar Cookies With Lemon Frosting

Rich eggs and light cake flour lend these sugar cookies their incomparably soft and moist texture. Lemon zest and juice offer a citrusy touch to complete the dessert’s base — and this is just the beginning! To top it all off is Mother Thyme’s lemon buttercream frosting, sweetly tinged with the tart notes of lemon. These Soft Lemon Sugar Cookies With Lemon Buttercream Frosting are a light, sweet-tart taste of magnificence. The dish takes about 25 minutes to complete and yields a dozen cookies.



  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Lemon Buttercream Frosting:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)
  • food coloring (optional)

Directions: For the cakeIn a medium bowl combine cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time stirring
after each addition. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla until combined. Gradually add in flour mixture
combined. Chill dough for at least one hour in refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll 3 tablespoons of dough into a ball. Use flour on your hands if needed. Place ball on baking sheet and flatten to about ½ inch thick, molding sides to keep round shape if necessary. Continue with remaining dough, placing each 2 inches apart.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 to ­12 minutes. Cool for a few minutes on baking sheet, and transfer to wire rack to
cool completely.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting: Using an electric mixer combine butter and gradually add in confectioners sugar. When all sugar is added, add in lemon zest and lemon juice then blend on medium until fluffy. Add in food color if desired.

Meringues, toasted, topping, marshmallow, pie

Source: iStock

5. Grapefruit Meringue Pie

Egg whites and sugar are whipped together to form meringue, a delicate, sweet dessert often appearing in French, Swiss, and German bakeries, reports Princeton University. Lemon meringue is among the most popular citrus infusions used in this cooking method, but Sugar Hero offers a delightful twist on the standard with this boldly-flavored Grapefruit Meringue Pie. The recipe yields 1 (9-inch) pie and is best enjoyed immediately, but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


For the grapefruit filling:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup cold water
  • ½ cup corn starch
  • ¾ cup grapefruit juice (from one large or two medium grapefruit)
  • zest of one grapefruit
  • 4 egg yolks
  • pinch salt
  • 1¼ cups boiling water

For the meringue layer:

  • ½ cup water
  • 1¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Directions: To make the grapefruit filling: Combine all of the ingredients except for the boiling water in a medium saucepan, and whisk until the corn starch fully dissolves. Add the boiling water and whisk everything together, then place the pan over medium-high heat.

Stir constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping down the bottom of the pan so that it doesn’t scorch. Bring the mixture to a slow boil, always stirring, until it thickens. You’ll notice that it goes from runny to thick in an instant. As soon as it thickens, remove the pan from the heat, whisk it to smooth out any lumps, and pour it into the baked and cooled pie shell. Spread it into an even layer. Press a layer of cling wrap on top, and let it cool to room temperature before refrigerating it to cool completely.

To make the meringue layer: Combine the water, sugar, and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Once the sugar syrup comes to a boil, insert a candy thermometer and cook the syrup, without stirring, until it reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer.

While the sugar syrup is cooking, prepare the egg whites. Once the syrup reaches about 225 degrees Fahrenheit, pour the room temperature egg whites into the clean bowl of a large stand mixer. Begin whipping them with the whisk attachment on medium speed. The goal is to have the white reach firm peaks at the same time the sugar syrup reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit. If the whites are ready first, stop the mixer—do not overbeat!

When the sugar syrup is at 240 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the pan from the heat. With the mixer running, carefully pour the hot syrup into the egg whites in a slow, steady stream. Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat until the whites are glossy, voluminous, and hold firm peaks. Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.

Spread or pipe the meringue onto the cooled pie filling. You can eat it as-is, or use a kitchen torch to toast the top of the meringue. Serve immediately.

vanilla cupcake, buttercream

Source: iStock

6. Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes

Oh-so-moist and fluffy, these Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes need to be on your table ASAP! Orange zest and juice infuse the cupcake bases with fresh, citrusy goodness, while a smooth buttercream frosting tops it all off to perfection. Cooking Classy notes that if you would like a large amount of frosting on each cupcake, you may wish to use around ¾ of the buttercream frosting. If you plan to be somewhat more sparing, you can half the frosting recipe. Store these cupcakes at room temperature in an airtight container.


For cupcakes:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons finely grated orange zest (from about 1½ oranges)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1½ teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

For frosting:

  • 1½ cups butter, at room temperature
  • 4½ cups powdered sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

DirectionsPreheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer set on medium-high speed, blend together butter, granulated sugar and orange zest until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in eggs one at time, blending until combine after each addition. Measure out cream into a liquid measuring cup, stir in orange juice, orange extract and vanilla extract.

With hand mixer set on low speed and working in 3 separate batches, blend in flour mixture alternating with cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing just until combine after each addition. Divide batter among 14 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup ¾ full.

Bake in preheated oven 23 to 25 minutes, rotating muffin tins once halfway through baking, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool several minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely then frost with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. Garnish with an small orange slice if desired (just before serving).

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

7. Lemon Creme Brulée

Need of a splash of color to cure the winter blues? Head to the market and pick out some seasonal Meyer lemons. Serious Eats points out that these vibrant fruits are in peak season from November through March. And if you’re not sure how to incorporate lemon into your dessert menu, look no further then this Lemon Creme Brulée from She Wears Many Hats. The dish yields 6 servings.


  • 1 vanilla bean or 1½ teaspoon good vanilla
  • 2½ cups heavy cream
  • zest from 2 Meyer lemons, about 1 teaspoon
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Hot water, enough for water bath
  • 6 tablespoons superfine sugar

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place 6 ramekins (about 6 ounces each) onto a roasting pan, baking pan, or rimmed baking sheet.

If using a vanilla bean, split it in half and scrape the seeds out with a knife. Add vanilla bean and seeds (or vanilla/vanilla paste) to a saucepan along with the cream and Meyer lemon zest. Slowly warm cream mixture over medium heat, just until foam begins to form around edge. Remove from heat, and let mingle for about 10-15 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until it begins to lighten in color and slightly thicken.

Strain the cream mixture at this time. While continuing to stir, very gradually add the cream mixture into the egg/sugar mixture until all is combined to create the custard base. Work slowly to avoid cooking the eggs.

Pour equal amounts of custard mixture into the ramekins. Transfer baking pan (with filled ramekins) to oven and pour enough hot water into baking pan to come to halfway up the side of the ramekins. Bake until custard is set, but still a little jiggly in the center, anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes, remove from oven, let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.

When ready to serve, evenly spread the superfine sugar over tops of custards. Using a torch, carefully melt the sugar until golden brown. Let cool until sugar hardens and enjoy!

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