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Shaker Lemon Pie Dressed as a Tart

Shaker Lemon Pie Dressed as a Tart
Better With Butter RecipeShaker Lemon Tart: A Star Is Born

My favorite winter dessert (hands down) is Shaker Lemon Pie. Each bite is a pop of sweet-sour goo, chased by a chew or two of flaky rich crust, resilient rind and simple unadulterated flavors of homespun goodness. With such attributes, you’d think I could leave it alone.  Fat chance, this plain Jane pie is begging to be gussied up, to sport a makeover worthy of her farm-fresh ingredients and taste potential. Yep, I turned this country cousin into a city tart.

Why change things? For as much as I love this pie it has two shortcomings: tough lemon rinds and a deep-dish thickness that can overwhelm.  By reinventing the pie into a thinner tart and reworking the filling into a smoother more refined custard, the dessert shines on all levels.

I start with a butter rich dough and roll it out into a circle about two to three inches larger than the tart pan.

I press the dough gently down into the pan to cover the bottom and sides. Try not to stretch the dough or it will spring back during baking.

A quick firm roll of the pin removes all excess dough.

Unlike the original pie recipe, I pulse the filling in a food processor, reducing the stringy long rinds (think citrus-flavored rubber bands) into tiny bright bits of lemon essence. I add a top crust and run the rolling pin over the pan again to cut off the edges, and in this case use a star cookie cutter to add dough appliques and a needed air vent in the center.

The top crust shrinks a bit to reveal the golden gleam of Shaker lemon pie custard.

Shaker Lemon Tart

Recipe Type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Tom adapted from Saveur.com
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Making over my favorite Shaker Lemon Pie into an even dreamier tart.
  • 2 large organic lemons
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp. sifted flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 10 tbsp. cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tbsp. lard or vegetable shortening
  • ice cold water
  2. Thoroughly wash lemons
  3. Finely grate lemon zest into a bowl.
  4. Slice lemons very thin; remove and discard seeds.
  5. Add slices to zest and toss with sugar and salt.
  6. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours.
  7. When ready to make the pie, put the lemon-sugar mixture into food processor (blade attachment)
  8. Pulse for a minute or two, until lemons are a pureed, with little bits of lemon present
  9. Add room temperature eggs one at a time, pulse to mix
  10. Melt butter, add to mixture, pulse
  11. Add flour
  12. Pulse until well mixed and lemon rinds are pureed.
  13. Set aside and make crust.
  15. Sift flour and salt together into a large mixing bowl.
  16. Use a pastry cutter or forks to blend butter and shortening into flour
  17. Stop blending when lumpy
  18. Sprinkle in up to 6 tbsp. of ice water, stirring dough with a fork until it just begins to hold together.
  19. Press dough firmly into a rough ball
  20. Move to lightly floured surface.
  21. Give the dough several kneads with the heel of your hand to form it into a smooth ball.
  22. Divide dough into two balls, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  24. Preheat oven to 425°
  25. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into two 12″ rounds.
  26. Fit one round into a 9-10″ tart pan
  27. Cut dough edges off with rolling pin over the top of the tart tin
  28. Pour filling into tart pan. leaving about 1/4 inch from top of rim
  29. Cover pie with remaining pastry round.
  30. Run the rolling pin again to cut the edges off the top
  31. Cut steam vents in top crust (or cookie cutter holes at the time of rolling)
  32. Brush with half and half, sprinkle sugar on top.
  33. Bake until edges begin to brown, about 20 minutes.
  34. Reduce heat to 350° and bake until crust is golden brown, 25–30 minutes more until firm
  35. Remove from oven and cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

:: Use organic lemons
:: Farm-fresh eggs make a big difference in this recipe (or any recipe)
:: Brushing the top crust with milk, half and half or cream facilitates browning
:: Sprinkle sugar on top before baking for a nice finish
:: Serve with ice cream (whipped cream will do in a pinch) 😉

 Crazy for cookie cutters: Pastry snowflakes tend to fall on my Shaker lemon tarts this time of year.

The post was sponsored and made buttery delicious by Darigold.


  1. You’re a lemon lover after my own heart. I’m obsessed with all things lemon!

    Also, love the new clover background – clover is one of my favourite scents in the world. It’s so delicate and underrated…Clover means summer to me! And we’re missing summer up here in Toronto!

  2. Oh! Wow!! To die for!! Or died and went to lemon heaven!! Everything is perfect about your first contribution to the Butter is Better Recipes Collection..Yummy!!

  3. Fell in love with Shaker Lemon Pie decades ago after discovering it at a restaurant. Took literally another decade to find the recipe for the first time. Now I have 3 versions. It never disappoints. I like your thinner layer of filling idea, though, as the flavours are powerful.
    Testing butter recipes… must be Hell doing all the research!

  4. Could the filling be made ahead and (gasp!) frozen for a couple weeks? Would cooking the custardy filling slightly in a double boiler prevent the eggs from doing funky things in the freezer? I want to make this to bring to the family holiday gathering the weekend after Christmas, and the lemons on my potted lemon treelet are ready now, and the amazing fragrance in the zest will not be there in two weeks.

    • Hi Annabel, here’s my suggestion, just make the lemon and sugar part of the filling, then freeze that, or put it in a jar in the fridge, between the acid and the sugar, it will keep a long time I bet. Then when you’re ready to make the pie, then add the butter and eggs to the thawed lemon-sugar mixture and pulse it all in the food processor. In fact, I plan on canning some of the lemons and sugar only so I can make the pie whenever I want without having to let the lemons stand 24 hours. I’ll just add the butter and eggs to make the custard. Hope this helps.

      • what about meyer lemons and limes?

        Have you ever sprinkled lime juice in an apple pie? ooo la la

        I also made a quince cake for Groundhog’s Day with quince from my little orchard. It was luscious. Do you want the recipe?

        • Hi Sara, I’ve been wanting to try this recipe with key limes but have yet to. And I love lime juice on apples. In fact a squirt of lime juice in a glass of apple juice makes it sing! And yes, I’d love to try your quince cake, do send the recipe, please.

  5. Hello, Tom – I’ve been curious about making a Lemon Pie for awhile. My husband brought me some fresh lemons this week from Arizona, so I guess it’s time to try it. You’ve mentioned a couple of times that you can the lemon/sugar mixture. Can you tell me more? Will a full batch fit in a quart jar? Do you water bath it? For how long? He brought back a lot of lemons and if we like the pie as much as I think we will, I want to save as much of the lemons as I can! Thanks for your time.

    • Hi Nancy, when you get lemons, make Shaker lemon pie and can or freeze the rest. What I do per whole pie is zest three large lemons and thin slice two of the lemons and juice the third lemon and add two cups of sugar to all lemons/juice. Put lemon sugar mixture in a ziplock bag and let it sit out overnight and then freeze the next day. I like freezing better as it’s easier. Then when I’m ready to make the pie, I let the bag thaw and toss the lemons and sugar in a food processor and puree for a minute or two, and then I follow the recipe by adding eggs, butter, and salt and pulse to mix it all up, and I’m good to go. The mixture goes to unbaked pie crust, and topped with a vented top crust. Bake and prepare yourself!


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