Tastes Like Spring: 7 Refreshing Lemon Recipes for the Season
‘Tis the season for lemons. Or rather, ’tis the season for consumers craving lemons. Unlike other citruses, lemons don’t need a lot of heat to ripen, so trees in particularly temperate areas can have fruit ripening year-round, but consumers do tend to want citrus in early spring months more, and that’s because most of us crave fresh fruit just as the winter months finally wind down.
Lemons fit the bill, and luckily, they’re not bad for you, either. Thanks to their vitamin C, folate, fiber, and potassium content, lemons are a good fruit to incorporate into one of your spring homemade delicacies, just in case you don’t want to pucker up to the citrus fruit by itself.
Thanks to their bright, tangy flavor, lemons typically are a fruitful (no pun intended) addition to foods, and around this time of year, more cooks, bakers, and recipe developers work to integrate the refreshing fruit into their foods. Here are seven recipes you can use to try to make the most of the bright and tangy fruit, and before you know it, your kitchen will smell and taste like spring, even if your backyard says otherwise.
1. Lemon poppy seed yogurt cake
Our first highlighted recipe comes from Eat Live Run, because if lemon poppy seed yogurt cake doesn’t scream spring to you, we don’t know what does. Packed with Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and poppy seeds, this delightfully light cake is the perfect treat to enjoy with a morning cup of coffee, as a mid-afternoon snack , or as a nighttime dessert. Once you pop this cake via bundt pan out of the oven, you’ll be transported to lemon poppy seed bliss, and you’ll be eating a dessert that people in France especially enjoy. Jenna Beaugh, the blogger behind Eat Live Run, says that this cake was inspired by the traditional cakes made with yogurt found all over France.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup whole fat, preferably organic, yogurt (Greek yogurt recommended)
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and zest of 1 large lemon
- juice of 1/2 large lemon
- enough powdered sugar to make a drizzle
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a bundt pan and set aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, poppy seeds, and lemon zest. Set aside.
In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one, followed by the vanilla and lemon juice. Add dry ingredients along with yogurt and mix until a thick batter forms. Spread batter into your prepared pan. Place in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden and springy. Let cool 5 minutes in the pan before inverting on a cooling rack. Let cool completely while you make the glaze.
To make the glaze, simply mix together the lemon juice and powdered sugar until you have a drizzle. Carefully poke holes all over the cake with a fork, then spoon the drizzle on top, letting it flow down the sides. Glaze will harden as it cools.
2. Lemon blueberry layer cake
Another refreshing cake recipe to throw your way is lemon blueberry layer cake – because lemons plus blueberries equals a match made in summer-craving heaven. This cake looks like something we’d pucker our lips for, and it comes fresh from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Made with fresh blueberries, lemons, and other ingredients that are stocked in any regular baker’s pantry, this cake tastes like a breath of fresh air. Considering it’s topped with cream cheese frosting, we’re guessing you would have no problem welcoming that breeze into your kitchen.
- 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour; be careful not to overmeasure
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) buttermilk
- zest and juice of 3 medium lemons
- 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh (258 grams) or non-thawed frozen (275 grams)
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Cream cheese frosting
- 8 ounces (224 grams) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3.5 cups (420 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 milliliters) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch salt
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray three 9-inch by 2-inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Set aside. To make the cake, use a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment to beat the butter on high until creamy, about 1 minute. Add granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until everything is combined, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat on low speed for 5 seconds, then add the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Remove from the mixer and stir lightly until everything is just combined. Toss the blueberries in 1 tablespoon of flour and fold into the batter. Batter is extremely thick. Do not overmix at any point.
Spoon batter evenly into 3 prepared cake pans. Bake for about 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until no lumps remain, about 3 full minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add 1 more tablespoon of cream to thin out, if desired.
Assemble and frost. First, using a large serrated knife, trim the tops off the cake layers to create a flat surface. Place 1 layer on your cake stand. Evenly cover the top with cream cheese frosting. Top with second layer, more frosting, then the third layer. Top with frosting and spread around the sides. The recipe doesn’t make a ton of frosting — just enough for a light frost. Top with blueberries or lemon garnish if desired. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before cutting, or else the cake may fall apart as you cut.
3. Candied Meyer lemon peels
Taking a break from cake, there are also other ways to embrace this sweet and sour fruit, and one of them entails taking the peel off the lemon and giving it a little glaze. (We promise it tastes better than it sounds.) Don’t believe us? Take it from Martha Stewart. She provides the perfect recipe for candied Meyer lemon peels.
Candying your lemon peels is no difficult task, but it does require some patience, as well as a candy thermometer. Once you’ve stocked up on both of those, it’s time to give this recipe a try. If you’re unfamiliar with Meyer lemons, they’re simply a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange — and yes, they’re as good as they sound.
- 3 medium Meyer lemons, preferably organic, rinsed and dried
- 3 1/4 cups sugar, preferably organic, plus more for coating
- 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Halve lemons crosswise and juice, if desired, reserving juice for another use. Cut each half into 4 equal pieces. Using a small sharp knife, remove the flesh from skin; if flesh has not been juiced, reserve for another use. Cut skin (pith and peel) into 1/2-inch pieces; set aside.
Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to a simmer and add lemon skin; let cook until skin offers no resistance when chewed, about 45 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Fill a large saucepan with 3 1/4 cups water. Add sugar and cream of tartar. Place over medium-high heat and cook until sugar has dissolved. Add lemon skin to saucepan and bring to a simmer; let cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 230 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer, 50 to 55 minutes.
Drain lemon skin and place on a wire rack set over a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet; let dry until less sticky, about 2 days. Gently toss in sugar to coat. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place; do not refrigerate.
4. Lemon brioche French toast
On to breakfast ideas, we come to lemon brioche French toast from The Kitchn, because to us, that simply sounds like the perfect dish for an Easter or Mother’s Day brunch. Grab those lemons in the grocery store before you’re too distracted by other in-season fruits and get to work in the kitchen soaking your rich brioche bread in a custard made of eggs and low-fat milk. After baking your French toast, you’ll top it with a tangy lemon glaze comprised of lemon juice and powdered sugar, and your guests will be smacking their lips in no time.
- One 16- to 20-ounce loaf brioche, challah, or other egg-enriched bread
- 2 lemons, zested and juiced
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 3 cups 2 percent milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
If planning to bake immediately, preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or butter. Slice the bread into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then cut each slice in half. Arrange half of the bread in overlapping layers in the baking dish. Sprinkle the bread with about half of the lemon zest.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until well mixed, then whisk in the brown sugar. Whisk in the milk, vanilla, salt, nutmeg, and remaining lemon zest. Pour half of the custard over the bread. Layer the rest of the bread on top and pour the rest of the custard over to coat. (At this point the casserole can be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.) When ready to bake, take the casserole out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before baking. Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the casserole for 30 minutes or until slightly golden on top and puffy.
Whisk the lemon juice with the confectioners’ sugar and drizzle the glaze over the hot casserole. Put a few teaspoons of confectioners’ sugar in a small sieve or strainer, and dust the top of the casserole by tapping the strainer lightly over it. Let the casserole cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve in large slices, with raspberries on the side.
5. Lemon custard pie
Up next is an oldie but goodie: Taste of Home’s lemon custard pie. One slice of this refreshing pie and you’ll be transported right back into your mother or grandmother’s kitchen, where they would diligently beat their egg whites solely for your pleasure. This spring, give them a nod and whip up your own lemon custard pie. This recipe is simple but it hits all the right taste receptors — one bite of this and you’ll be ready for longer, brighter days.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 1 unbaked pie pastry (9 inches)
- whipped cream, lemon and mint, optional
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter until well blended. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk, flour and salt; mix well. Stir in lemon juice and peel; set aside. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; gently fold into lemon mixture.
Pour into pie shell. Bake 1 hour or until lightly browned and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool. Garnish with whipped cream, lemon and mint if desired. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 6-8 servings.
6. Lemon pudding cakes
This next recipe features a delicate dessert that almost anyone will salivate over: lemon pudding cakes from Food & Wine. Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, the woman behind this refreshing recipe, said: “When you overwhelm dry ingredients with wet ones, an amazing texture separation happens. These cakes are rich without being too heavy.” We’ll take it from her that this citrus-flavored dessert is the perfect light and delicious ending to any meal. Get out your ramekins — it’s time to make some puddin’.
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup skim milk
- 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Fresh raspberries or blackberries, for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray six 6-ounce ramekins with vegetable oil spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the flour. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the butter until well blended. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour the lemon mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins and transfer to a small roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake the pudding cakes for 35 minutes or until they are puffy and golden on top. Using tongs, transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Serve the cakes in the ramekins or run a knife around the edge of each cake and unmold onto plates. Serve warm or at room temperature with the berries.
7. Meyer lemon bars
Last but not least is one final feature with the Meyer lemons that we all love to love in the form of Foodie Crush’s Meyer lemon bars. Everyone loves a chocolate-laden dessert, but this light, refreshing confection has the potential to change your mind about what you’re craving after supper. As summer nears and consumers’ cravings for heavy comfort food fly north for the season, more eaters are craving fresh, rejuvenating after-dinner treats, and that’s where these Meyer lemon bars come in. Sweetened with both granulated and powdered sugar, and then given a kick with lemon juice and zest, these bars will yield quite the sour/sweet explosion in your mouth. Before you know it, you’ll have an entirely new favorite fruit on your hands.
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
- 2 cups plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/3 cup fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
- 1 heaping tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan by lining it with criss-crossed pieces of aluminum foil that have an overhang of an inch or two. Spray with cooking spray unless using non-stick aluminum foil. Cream the powdered sugar and butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add 2 cups of flour and beat on medium speed until mixed. Press into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden.
Beat the eggs, sugar, Meyer lemon juice, and lemon zest in a large bowl, either by hand or with a mixer. Sift the reserved 1/2 cup flour and baking powder into the mixture and mix well. Pour over the hot crust and return to the oven to bake for another 20-25 minutes. Check for doneness at 20 minutes, and add on time as needed.
Cool completely before cutting, then dust with powdered sugar and serve.