The River Cafe's Lemon Tart

10 to 12 Serves

Use the freshest lemons and eggs available for this intensely flavored dessert from London's celebrated River Café. Grating the pastry before baking it adds a coarse texture and a rustic flair to the presentation.


Sweet Pastry

  • 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 1 pinch sea salt

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

  • ¾ cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

  • 3 egg yolks


  • Finely grated zest and juice of 7 lemons

  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar

  • 6 whole eggs, plus 9 egg yolks

  • 2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups) unsalted butter, room temperature


  1. Sweet Pastry: Pulse flour, salt, and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add confectioners' sugar followed by egg yolks and pulse. The mixture will immediately combine and leave the sides of the bowl. Remove pastry, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

  2. Tart: Preheat oven to 320 degrees.

  3. Coarsely grate chilled pastry into a 12-inch loose-bottomed fluted tart pan, then press it evenly onto the sides and base. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

  4. Line pastry shell with parchment and fill with raw rice or dried beans (or baking beans). Bake blind 20 minutes. Remove paper and rice, then bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Let cool.

  5. Meanwhile, make filling. Put lemon zest and juice, granulated sugar, eggs, and egg yolks in a large saucepan over a very low heat and whisk until eggs have broken up and sugar has dissolved.

  6. Add half the butter and continue to whisk. At this point the eggs will start to cook, and the mixture will thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add remaining butter and continue whisking until mixture becomes very thick. It is important to keep whisking throughout cooking process to prevent mixture from curdling.

  7. Remove pan from heat and set it on a cold heatproof surface. Continue to whisk until mixture is lukewarm. Meanwhile, preheat broiler to high.

  8. Spoon lemon filling into pastry shell and let settle 5 minutes. Broil until top is mottled brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool before serving.

    river cafe lemon tart on white plate tablecloth
    Matthew Donaldson

Cook's Notes

Excerpted from "River Café London" Copyright The River Café Ltd 2017.

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