Creamy Lemon Squares

You know what they say: when life gives you lemons, make lemon bars.

Oh wait, that’s not how the saying goes?

Well, make lemon bars anyway. Creamy, mouth-puckering, sweet, crumbly lemon bars. These bars boast a sunny custard on top of a buttery crust, and are sprinkled with the heavenly whiteness of confectioners sugar. It’s a great dessert to tote along with you to a barbecue because it tastes so summery.

they’re gonna go fast, so be sure to save a square for yourself

I followed Martha Stewart’s recipe and only very slightly tweaked it.

Creamy Lemon Squares

for the crust:
1 stick cold, salted butter cut into pieces (plus more for buttering the baking pan)
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

for the filling:
4 large egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
juice of 3 lemons
zest of 1/2 lemon
about 1 to 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar, for dusting

Make the crust first, which is essentially like making shortbread. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put all the ingredients in a big bowl and mix until the dough clumps together. If you have an electric mixer, you can do this with the paddle attachment. But I don’t have a mixer, so I go old school and use my hands to crumble the butter into the flour mixture.

Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper and butter it.  Press the dough into the pan and make sure to press well (for a relatively even layer, I usually do this with a spoon). Prick all over with a fork and bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes.

Now make the filling. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, condensed milk, lemon juice and zest until smooth. Pour over hot crust in pan, return to oven, and bake until filling is set, about 30 minutes. Cool completely. Then refrigerate until the filling is set, for at least 3 hours.

cut into squares and dust with confectioners sugar before serving

I loved how easy it was to make these. It’s also great that it has so few ingredients (I am all about easy-to-whip-up recipes lately) and that it uses condensed milk. With every lick and spoonfull of condensed milk, it’s like I’m being transported back to my childhood.

I made these last weekend for a friend’s pig roast and kept it chilled until people were ready to dig in. The filling is indeed very creamy so I’m not sure how well it would stand if it gets a little warmer than room temperature. But I’m sure it won’t be a problem licking sticky fingers if they’re covered in sweet lemon custard.

Creamy Lemon Squares

What’s your favorite summer baked good?


41 Responses to “Creamy Lemon Squares”

  1. #
    Michelle posted July 10, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I’ve seriously been enjoying all of the fabulous ice cream stands this summer. Last night, I hit up Kimball Farm for a scoop of their cherry vanilla chip ice cream!

  2. #
    christina posted July 10, 2011 at 10:17 am

    mmm perfect summer dessert!!

  3. #
    Sue/the view from great island posted July 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    We’ve been on a crazy lemon kick here all spring and summer. We’ve made tons of lemon curd, but no lemon bars…these will be next!

  4. #
    Heather posted July 10, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Yum! I love any sort of lemony dessert.

  5. #
    MelissaNibbles posted July 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Lemon squares are the only lemon flavored food I like. Yum!

  6. #
    Elizabeth posted July 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    I wish I could have tried these!! They look soo good. I’ve never used condensed milk in lemon bars. Sounds insane.

  7. #
    Muriel {Cook Bake & Decorate} posted July 10, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I am so glad you did because wow do I want to make these lemon bars so bad now! I am a sucker for anything Lemon! Have a great day! :)

  8. #
    Megan posted July 10, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Love lemon bars! (You could try them with a pretzel crust some time… for a sweet/salty twist.) My favorite summer baked good would have to be strawberry shortcake though!

  9. #
    Claire @ Live and Love to Eat posted July 11, 2011 at 7:42 am

    I love lemon squares… I usually cheat and use a boxed mix though!

  10. #
    Meghan@travelwinedine posted July 11, 2011 at 7:48 am

    I love lemon squares!

  11. #
    dan posted July 11, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Thanks for bringing these, they were soo good! I know you had to go recently after the pig was devoured, but later in the night everyone started attacking the desserts and these were gone quickly!

  12. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted July 11, 2011 at 9:32 am

    yum! I bet these were perfect at the BBQ. I just made lemon bars too – they are much easier to make than I thought.

  13. #
    Daisy posted July 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

    these look excellent. perfect for a summer BBQ indeed

  14. #
    Melanie posted July 11, 2011 at 11:47 am

    These look fabulous! We have a recipe on the Ocean Spray website for blueberry lemon cheesecake squares that I’ve been dying to try… your post may have inspired me to just do it. Lemon desserts are the best in summer!!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 11, 2011 at 10:03 pm

      Thanks Mel. I’ll check out the blueberry lemon cheesecake recipe too – I’ve been meaning to make cheesecake!

  15. #
    val posted July 11, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    This is a perfect Summer recipe.

  16. #
    Patty posted July 11, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Please, please make these when you come home!!

  17. #
    Alaina posted July 11, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    I had a bad experience with lemon bars as a teen… But that’s a story for another time!

    My fav summer dessert is a simple white layer cake with strawberry jam filling and homemade whipped cream frosting and fresh strawberries

    It’s so light and summery. Not too filling but sweet enough to keep me away from the ice cream!!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 11, 2011 at 10:02 pm

      Hi Alaina, now I want a white layer cake with a strawberry filling and whipped cream!
      PS – nothing wrong with eating a lot of ice cream… ;)

  18. #
    Taryn posted July 11, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    YUM, I love lemon bars, and I haven’t made them in forever! Thanks for the inspiration… I might make some this week! I haven’t ever made with with condensed milk, so I’ll definitely have to give that a try!

  19. #
    Erica @ In and Around Town posted July 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Those look amazing! I never think to make these – always go for a cookie dish or something, but these are a great idea!

  20. #
    Malorie posted July 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I just love anything lemony, this recipe looks great! I can’t wait to try it out

  21. #
    Alaina posted July 11, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    I have tried 3 times to make good lemon squares but for some reason I just can’t master the crust. I never thought about using my hands to mix the butter with the flour! :-P I’ll have to try this recipe next time. They are my husbands favorite!

  22. #
    Aldy posted July 11, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Hi Bianca, This looks absolutely delicious! I’m a fan of anything lemon flavored and your lovely dessert looks great–Mmmm…I want one :)

    Have a wonderful day,


    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 11, 2011 at 10:00 pm

      Thanks Aldy, and thanks for dropping by my blog too :)

  23. #
    chrysta posted July 11, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Lemon bars are actually one of my favorite things….It jsut reminds me of summer!

  24. #
    thehealthyapron posted July 12, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Lemon bars are seriously one of my fav! YUM!

  25. #
    Susan (Oliepants) posted July 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I am pretty much willing to testify that there is no better summer dessert than a lemon bar! I look forward to it every summer with a side of berries. Perfect!

  26. #
    Simply Life posted July 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    I have yet to bake with lemons – this looks great!

  27. #
    Emily @ Write Twenty Eleven posted July 12, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Mmm lemon bars are GREAT! I made lemon pound cake recently, but haven’t made these in a while.

  28. #
    Joanne posted July 13, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Well, that might not be THE saying, but it’s MY saying. These look amazing! I love that tart sweet flavor.

  29. #
    sharon (umommy) posted July 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    These look amazing! My husband loves lemon bars but I’ve never tried making them for some reason. You’ve inspired me to make my husband (and kids) happy. Can’t wait to try this recipe :)

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks Sharon! I’m always happy to hear when I inspire someone to cook/bake!

  30. #
    Maggie posted July 31, 2011 at 9:04 am

    You included some lemon zest as one of the ingredient, but then didn’t specify when or where to add.

    In the mixture I suppose…or does one sprinkle on top of the set custard. At any rate, in a few minutes I am heading to the kitchen…have all the ingredients…but guess, I’ll wing it.

    Perhaps an update…

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted July 31, 2011 at 9:23 am

      Hi Maggie, good catch! The lemon zest is added into the filling mixture. I just updated the post :) Thanks for commenting!

  31. #
    Beverly posted August 2, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    YUM! YUM! YUM!

    My anytime favorite dessert . Your photo looks better than Martha’s. hehehe

  32. #
    Maggie posted August 3, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Yes, I’m back with another question. Made the lemon squares this past Sunday…everything seemed to go quite easily. Out of the oven. Cooled. Then refrigerated for the requisite three hours —it seemed to take forever—as I was dying to taste. Well, the taste was delicious…except that

    …the texture was not at all as in your photos, which is what drew me to make these in the first place. The filling layer was VERY dense & smooth. Went back over all the steps (OK, I confess…turns out I used whole eggs, not just the yolks)…but would that be the spoiler?

    Started to compare other Lemon Bar/Square recipes that I’ve collected (though not tried)…and discovered that the basic ingredients are practically the same in all; i.e., though some use melted butter (David Leibovitz), some used softened butter, some use whole eggs, some just yolks, and yet overall proportions are very alike. But, most (when pictured) have a much softer texture than I achieved.

    Any thoughts on what went awry?
    P.S. I plan to try again!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted August 3, 2011 at 10:44 am

      Hi Maggie, thanks for coming back ;) Yes, the egg whites are definitely the culprit. Using just the egg yolks (the larger the yolks, the better, I think) – plus the whole can of condensed milk – results in a creamy, custard-like consistency. I actually just made these lemon bars again a couple of nights ago and used the exact same recipe above, except I only used the juice of 2 1/2 lemons, which made the filling a little less tart. I hope you do try it again, and make sure to use just egg yolks. I’ve made these lemon squares a few times already and the filling is always creamy, even sticky! Good luck!

  33. #
    Maggie posted August 26, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Second go-round! Used only the yolks! Perfect lemon layer texture. Lighter and what I expected the first time. (Will say this about my mistaken use of the whole eggs, the lemon layer was much deeper the first time – though rather dense.) And as before, no complaints about the overall taste! Served it to guests with a drizzle of raspberry sauce.

    Now what I want to perfect is the shortbread layer, I’d like this to be more tender. It is fine, it an interesting counterpoint to the lemon layer—but….still it is not 100% to my satisfaction for the ultimate result.

    Years ago, I used to buy the Silver Palate’s (in NYC) cookie baskets for parties (when time was short for preparing enough desserts for large gatherings)…these baskets contained many varieties and it was there I first experienced truly luscious lemon squares. (No recipe for them in Rosso & Ludkins’ first book, and I couldn’t locate my copy of their second book)— it seems to me that the recipe is out there. (Google, was no help) but I’m determined to find it. The Silver Palate version was “…everything I’m looking for…”pardon me, Ernie Bloch!).

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