This Lemon Lush Dessert Recipe from Scratch will rock your world! A buttery crust without nuts is topped with sweetened cream cheese, homemade lemon pie filling and whipped cream. It's one of the best lemon desserts ever!
You might be thinking you've had this lemon lush dessert before. I'm willing to bet this recipe from scratch tastes way better.
That's because I took Mom's version, with all her improvements to the average lemon lush recipe, and added a thick layer of homemade lemon pie filling (from my Lemon Meringue Pie).
This replaced the lemon pudding made from a box. The brand Mom preferred is no longer available, so I had to come up with a solution.
I also substituted fresh whipped cream for the imitation whipped topping.
The results blew our minds. Everyone gave this lemon lush two thumbs up, and my brother said this might be the best dessert I've ever made!
At the very least, it's the best lemon dessert! I've made it several times, and it's always a hit.
Whether you call it lemon lush, lemon lust, lemon lasagna or lemon delight, you have to try it! You can add it to your 4th of July menu.
How to make lemon lush from scratch
See the recipe card at the end of this post for full instructions. Here are some of the important highlights.
The crust is slightly adapted from Mom's recipe. She took the elements of shortbread crust and decided to use melted butter, instead of cutting solid butter into the dry ingredients.
The result is a moist and sturdy crust, instead of dry and crumbly. And, we're not using any nuts.
The crust ingredients are:
You'll mix the melted butter with the dry ingredients, pat the dough into your pan, then bake the crust.
Cream cheese layer
The sweetened cream cheese layer contains half the sugar found in most lemon lush recipes. If you've been here before, you know I can't stand sickeningly sweet desserts.
Don't worry, though. It's sweet enough and works perfectly with the other layers!
You just need confectioners sugar and two blocks of cream cheese. The blocks will produce a sturdier layer than cream cheese in a tub. I haven't tried it with low-fat cream cheese, but that should work.
You'll beat softened cream cheese with the sugar until creamy.
Lemon pie filling
This is the star of the show, folks. This homemade lemon pie filling is better than anything you can make from a boxed mix. You'll want to eat it out of the bowl with a spoon!
The filling is cooked on the stove and relies on corn starch and flour as thickening agents. This is what makes it a lemon pie filling instead of a lemon pudding, which contains milk or cream.
- Egg yolks
- Lemon zest
- Lemon juice
- Corn starch
See the recipe card for cooking instructions.
You just need three ingredients to make delicious whipped cream:
- Whipping cream
- Confectioners sugar
- Vanilla extract
Beat the cream and vanilla on low until frothy. Add the confectioners sugar and beat on medium, then high, until thick and creamy.
How to assemble lemon lush
You'll place the cream cheese mixture onto the cooled crust. Smooth it out nicely. Next, add the lemon filling.
Then, you'll place dollops of fresh whipped cream (have mercy!) onto the lemon layer. You'll spread it on nicely, lick your spatula, and get that labor of love into the fridge to chill.
- Make this lemon lush dessert a day ahead of time to allow for all the layers to set and chill thoroughly.
- When stirring the filling mixture over heat, use a silicone spatula (affiliate link) and stir gently, so you don't break down the starch molecules. You don't want a runny pie filling.
- After you make the lemon pie filling, freeze it for 20 minutes to allow it to set.
Frequently asked questions
You should be able to use lemon curd instead. You also could make 4 (3.4-ounce) boxes of instant lemon pudding.
Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Since this lemon lush recipe uses homemade whipped cream as the topping, I don't recommend freezing it. If you used a store-bought tub of whipped topping instead, you should be able to freeze the dessert.
More desserts like this
- Lemon Meringue Pie
- Pecan Lemon Pie without Meringue
- Creamy Cheesecake with Sour Cream Topping (9x13)
- Take 5 Cheesecake Bars
And if you love lemon, don't miss these Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes or these Lemon-Blueberry Pancakes!
Be sure to leave a comment and a rating if you try this Lemon Lush Dessert Recipe!
Lemon Lush Dessert Recipe from Scratch
- 6 egg yolks (I use extra large)
- 4 teaspoons lemon zest
- ⅔ cup lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
- 2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour (¼ cup + 3 tablespoons)
- 7 tablespoons corn starch (¼ cup + 3 tablespoons )
- 1 pinch of salt
- 3 cups water
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 5 teaspoons granulated sugar (1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons)
- sprinkle of salt
- 12 tablespoons salted butter (melted)
Cream Cheese Layer
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened (2 blocks)
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
- Set out the cream cheese to soften at room temperature.
- Make the lemon filling. Separate six eggs, placing the yolks in a small bowl. (Save the whites in a sealed plastic container and refrigerate or freeze them for another use.) Beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and set them aside at room temperature, near your stove.
- Rinse and dry four lemons. Zest the lemons until you have 4 teaspoons of zest. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze them until you have ⅔ cup of lemon juice. (You might need a 5th lemon.) Set the juice and zest next to your stove.
- In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan (I use my stainless steel one) whisk together the sugar, flour, corn starch and salt. Gradually whisk in the water. Make sure your corn starch mixture is fully incorporated before placing the pan over heat. Use a silicone spatula for gently stirring from this point forward, so you don't break down the starch molecules and get a runny result. Place the pan over medium-high heat and gently stir until thick and boiling. Reduce the heat. Cook and stir gently for two more minutes, and remove the pan from the heat.
- To temper the egg yolks so they don't scramble, gradually mix in 1 cup (two standard ladles) of the hot filling into the bowl of yolks. Then, add the yolk mixture to your pot with the rest of the filling. Stir gently over medium-high heat and bring to a gentle boil. (Lower the heat if needed.) Cook and stir gently two minutes more. Remove from the heat. Your filling should be very thick.
- Carefully stir in the butter and lemon zest. Gradually stir in the lemon juice (gently!), making sure the liquid is fully incorporated before adding more. Stir until there is no liquid pooling at the sides of your pan.
- Pour the hot filling into a bowl or pan that fits in your freezer. Freeze the filling for 20 minutes, until it's firm to the touch and set. Cover the filling and transfer it to the refrigerator while you make the rest of the dessert.
- When the filling is chilling in the freezer, make your crust. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Add the flour, sugar and salt to a medium bowl and whisk them to combine.
- Melt the butter, covered, in the microwave (use a bowl that's microwave safe.)
- Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients and use a fork to stir until everything comes together into a soft dough.
- Thoroughly grease the bottom of a 9x13 glass pan (metal works too, but the glass pan will show off the layers), using solid butter or baking spray. Transfer the crust dough to the pan and use clean hands to press it evenly into place along the bottom.
- Bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until it's golden brown. Set the crust on a metal rack to cool.
- While the crust is in the oven, make the cream cheese filling. Place the softened cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl or stand mixer. Beat until blended and creamy. Refrigerate, covered, until you're ready to assemble your dessert.
- To make the whipped cream, pour the whipping cream into a clean, medium stainless steel bowl. Add the vanilla and beat on low with clean beaters until frothy. Add the confectioners sugar and beat on medium, then high, until you have thick whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to assemble the dessert.
- To assemble the lemon lush, make sure the crust is cooled off. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the crust in an even layer with a butter knife or silicone spatula.
- Scoop the chilled lemon filling onto the cream cheese layer. Smooth out the lemon layer with a clean silicone spatula.
- Spoon the whipped cream onto the lemon layer and spread it evenly with a clean spatula or butter knife.
- Cover the dessert with plastic wrap or foil, without letting it touch the whipped cream. Refrigerate the lemon lush for several hours, but ideally overnight, so the layers can firm up and chill thoroughly.
- Cut into slices and serve chilled. Refrigerate leftovers for 3-4 days.
(Recipe Source: Cooking with Mamma C. Inspired by Mom's lemon dessert we've enjoyed for decades. Originally published on June 20, 2018 and updated now with additional information.)
This was a bit of a labour intense dessert, BUT so worth it. Made for Christmas Day and everyone raved about it. Will make again, but double crust receipe, I found it was a bit too thin in my 9 x 13 pan. I will definitely make this again. Thanks
Hi Donna - I know it takes longer than using boxed pudding and frozen whipped topping, but I agree it's worth it. I'm so glad this was a hit!
Is there anyway to make this gluten-free by subbing more cornstarch for the filling? And, subbing something for the flour in the crust...maybe just gf graham crackers with the butter? Thanks for any thoughts!
Hi Kelli - I haven't tested a gluten-free version of this. However, I know people who use Cup4Cup Mulitpurpose Flour (affiliate link) as a substitute for regular flour when baking/cooking. I'd try that. Let me know if you do!