No-Fail Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust

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Bright and summery No-Fail Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust. This dessert is hands down one of our favorite sweet bars for the spring and summer months! These bars are silky smooth, perfectly lemony, and perfectly balanced sweet and citrus. Oh, and the crust is SO buttery, holds up to the filling, and is actually very easy to make. This combination makes for a truly special but super simple (and delicious!) silky, sweet, and tangy dessert. Made with nothing more than a few pantry staples, fresh lemon juice, and no real speciality equipment, these bars are the one treat you need to keep on your “need to bake” list for this spring and summer. The real secret behind these decedent bars? Cooking the lemon custard before baking! Oh, yes. It’s that simple to ensure that your lemon bars will never fail again. Be sure finish each bar with a light dusting of powdered sugar for a super special and decadent dessert. A truly beautiful and delicious spring and summer dessert that’s perfect for any occasion.

twelve lemon bars on parchment with lemon slices and forks

→ This post is also available as a Web Story: No-Fail Lemon Bars

About The Recipe

The one thing I look forward to every year, believe it or not, is spring and summer. I love all the bright flavors that follow them, making each dish something unique and special after a long couple months of spiced bakes! These easy lemon bars are exactly the break we needed to get us looking forward to those wonderful summery days.

Each bite is tart, perfectly sweet, silky smooth, and basically our new obsession. Every bite basically feels like summer!

And we couldn’t wait to share it with all of you! Trust me when I say this recipe has been a long time coming.

Lemon bars were such a huge deal where I grew up and they were something everyone made, but it wasn’t something my mom ever got around to…until last summer! Yep. This recipe has been in development for almost a whole year.

We actually published these lemon bars last summer on the blog, but shortly took them down, as we weren’t satisfied with the out come. We made these bars 5. times. It just wasn’t coming out right! With every bake, the lemon bars always had this…crust on top. We even had our cookie crust float to the top of the custard TWICE!

It wasn’t a recipe we were proud of. So, we took it down and did some SERIOUS work on it. We tested so many different methods and quick fixes that, we came to the conclusion that, we just couldn’t make it the traditional way. It was just NOT happening.

overhead photo of lemon abrs on parchment with lemon slices, flowers, and two forks

Which brings us to today! My mom had the great idea to cook the custard, like you would a tart, before placing it on the crust and baking it in the oven to set. It worked the FIRST. TIME. We were shocked! Which meant, we could finally share a recipe with all of you that we were genuinely proud of.

Now, I totally understand the hype. These bars are seriously delicious! And, if you’ve read our blog before, you know that I like citrus as much as the next person, but I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest fan. Now, I really think I might be!

So simple, but bursting with flavor. Every bite is like citrus heaven, without being too much. Even if you aren’t the biggest lemon fan, or even if you are, these no-fail lemon bars are definitely for you!

What To Expect From These No-Fail Lemon Bars

  • They’re made from a cooked custard, rather than an egg, sugar, and lemon juice mixture. This method means all of the usual troubleshooting suspects for lemon bars are no more!
  • This recipe uses a lot of egg yolks. The good part? You’ll have plenty of egg whites to make omelet’s for breakfast for a few days or even a big batch of meringue!
  • The shortcrust is SO simple to make. All you need is a hand-mixer!
  • No refrigeration needed for the custard to set!
  • Every bite is silky smooth, extra lemon-y, and SO. GOOD.
overhead shot of twelve lemon bars on parchment paper with flowers, lemon slices, forks, stack of white plates, and measuring cup full of powdered sugar

Equipment Needed

Ingredients

(Full ingredient amounts and instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the post)

For The Shortcrust:

  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Salted Butter
  • Egg Yolks
  • Vanilla Extract
flour, egg yolks, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla on marble counter

For The Custard:

  • Egg Yolks
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Lemon Juice
  • Lemon Zest
  • Salted Butter
lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, butter, and egg yolks on marble surface

How To Make Lemon Bars

Step 1: Make the dough for the crust

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour and powdered sugar.

Add the butter and mix until it looks like corn meal, about 2-3 minutes.

Mix in the egg yolks and vanilla until a smooth dough forms, about 2-3 minutes.

Step 2: Press into pan and bake

Turn the dough into prepared pan and press the dough down to cover bottom of pan evenly. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Bake crust until lightly browned around edges, about 25 minutes.

Step 3: Make the custard

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Place the bowl over the top of a simmering pot of water and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened significantly.

Strain through a fine meshed sieve into a clean bowl.

Stir in the pats of butter. Be sure to whisk thoroughly! The butter needs to be well incorporated.

Step 4: Spread over crust and bake

Spoon the custard over the crust and spread evenly. Bake for 10 minutes, or until mostly set. It should still be jiggly in the middle. Let cool completely in the pan before lifting out of the pan.

Step 5: Cut and serve

Cut into 16 bars and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately!

3 Tricks For Making The Best Lemon Bars

  • Don’t skip lining your pan! This is IMPORTANT.
  • Fresh juice is always better. While using store-bought is convenient, the flavor of fresh squeezed lemons is unmatched. It takes about 4 ½ small lemons.
  • Do NOT put custard on a hot crust. You need to make the crust and give it time to cool before you make the custard,.

How To Store

Take the leftover lemon bars and place them in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

You could also freeze them for about 3 months! Forgo adding the powdered sugar on top and go straight to cutting them. Place them on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until firm. About an hour or so. Wrap each slice in plastic wrap and place in a freezer safe bag or container. To thaw, simply place in the refrigerator and then dust with powdered sugar before serving!

bite taken out of lemon bar on parchment paper with flowers and more lemon bars behind

Choosing The Right Lemon & How To Get The Most Juice From It

Sounds a little silly, but there is actually a trick to this!

  • First things first, when you’re at the store, don’t go for the larger lemons. I know it’s tempting, but generally… that size yields in quite a bit of rind. Not juice.
  • Pick them up! Use that scale you see by the other fruits. See what’s heavier. The heavier the lemon, the more more juice it’ll have.
  • Squeeze it gently. A thinner rind will have some give to it, whereas a thicker rind will be about as hard as a rock.

Now that you have your lemons, how do you get the most amount of juice… Well, let the lemons come to room temperature. That’s always the first step. From there, roll them onto the counter until they’re super soft and squishy! This will yield the most amount of juice. Especially if you’re using a citrus juicer!

overhead photo of twelve lemon bars on parchment paper with a bite taken out of one

Expert Tips

  • Make sure your eggs, butter, and lemons are at room temperature!
  • Sift the flour and powdered sugar for the crust. This ensures no lumps!
  • You can use blood oranges, naval oranges, or grapefruit in place of the lemon.
  • Check your oven temperature! Make sure they’re accurate. A few degrees off could cause your bars to burn or be undercooked.
  • Allow the bars to cool completely before lifting out of the pan.
  • Before lifting out of the pan, take a small knife and cut the custard away from the parchment paper. You shouldn’t have to cut all the way down, just the very top.
  • Want clean cuts? Be sure to wipe the knife after each cut!

When you make these No-Fail Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust, leave a comment down below! We love hearing from you and answering any questions you might have! Also, be sure to tag us on social media and hashtag it #BakersTable.

overhead shot of twelve lemon bars on parchment paper with flowers, lemon slices, forks, stack of white plates, and measuring cup full of powdered sugar

No-Fail Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust

Traci
Silky, tart, perfectly sweet, and extra summery. These No-Fail Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust are a must-bake any time of year, but especially during the summer months!
5 from 9 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Refrigeration Time 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs
Course Desserts
Cuisine American
Servings 16
Calories 362 kcal

Ingredients
 

Crust

  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 10 Tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Filling

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 16 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
  • ¾ cup salted butter, room temperature

Instructions

Crust

  • Line a 9-inch square ceramic or glass baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together flour and powdered sugar.
  • Add butter.
  • Beat with an electric mixer until it looks like corn meal, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add egg yolks and vanilla.
  • Continue to mix until it forms a smooth dough, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Turn dough into prepared pan.
  • Press dough down to cover bottom of pan evenly.
  • Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • While crust is chilling, heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Bake crust until lightly browned around edges, about 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove to cooling rack.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Filling

  • In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  • Place over the top of a pot of simmering water.
  • Cook while stirring until curd has thickened to a pudding consistency, about 20-30 minutes.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl.
  • Whisk in butter.
  • Pour on top of baked crust.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, until mostly set.
  • Remove from oven.
  • Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Watch How To Make This Recipe Below!

Notes

  • Make sure your eggs, butter, and lemons are at room temperature!
  • Sift the flour and powdered sugar for the crust. This ensures no lumps!
  • You can use blood oranges, naval oranges, or grapefruit in place of the lemon.
  • Check your oven temperature! Make sure they’re accurate. A few degrees off could cause your bars to burn or be undercooked.
  • Allow the bars to cool completely before lifting out of the pan.
  • Before lifting out of the pan, take a small knife and cut the custard away from the parchment paper. You shouldn’t have to cut all the way down, just the very top.
  • Want clean cuts? Be sure to wipe the knife after each cut!

Nutrition

Serving: 1 barCalories: 362kcalCarbohydrates: 40gProtein: 5gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 12gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 261mgSodium: 149mgPotassium: 57mgFiber: 1gSugar: 29gVitamin A: 777IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 35mgIron: 1mg

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

When you make this recipe, remember to tag @bakerstble or hashtag it #BakersTable!

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