lemon cup custard


Well, I didn’t intend to choose an unpopular dessert for Tuesdays with Dorie this week. I was picturing a satiny, lemony pots de crème-type custard. Obviously I didn’t pay enough attention to the ingredients, which, with just milk, whole eggs, lemon zest, and sugar, in no way indicate that this custard would be rich. Sorry, custard-haters!


Hey, at least it was easy and didn’t use many ingredients. After the milk is steeped with lemon zest, it’s mixed into sugar and eggs, then baked in a water bath. I added a drop of lemon extract to half of my custards.

The lemon flavor was pretty tame, although it was noticeably stronger with the extract. The texture was certainly more eggy than I expected. I don’t mind the texture of classic baked custard, but I know it isn’t popular with a lot of people.


Overall, I thought the custard was light and refreshing, especially with the bit of lemon extract. It’s even a relatively healthy dessert – no butter, believe it or not! Not only that, but it was easy. So at least it was a winner in my book!


Lemon Cup Custard (from Baking: From my Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan)

Mine seemed to cook a little faster than Dorie indicates, so you might want to check them early.

Makes 6 servings

2¼ cups whole milk
grated zest of 1 lemon
4 large eggs
½ cup sugar
pure lemon oil or extract (optional)

Getting ready: Have six (6-ounce; ¾-cup) custard or coffee cups at hand. Put the milk and zest in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and set aside for 30 minutes so the zest can infuse the milk with its flavor. Reheat the milk before mixing the custard.

Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325F. Line a roasting pan with a double thickness of paper towels and put the custard or coffee cups in the pan. Have a fine-mesh strainer at hand. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat.

In a 1-quart glass measuring cup or a heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until well blended. Still whisking, strain in about ¼ cup of the hot milk little by little – this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly strain in the remaining milk. Discard the zest remaining in the strainer. If you’d like a stronger lemon flavor – Dorie usually does – stir a few drops of lemon oil or extract into the custards. (Don’t go overboard – ⅛ teaspoon extract, less if you’re using oil, is about the most you’ll need.)

With a spoon, skim the foam off the top of the custard, then pour the custard into the cups. Very carefully slide the roasting pan into the oven, then pour enough hot water from the teakettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cups.

Bake the custards for 40 to 50 minutes, or until they jiggle only in the center when you tap the cups lightly. Transfer the cups to a rack and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serving: Serve just as is.

Storing: Well covered and away from foods with strong odors, the custards will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Playing around:
Vanilla Cup Custard: Omit the lemon zest and oil or extract, and after the hot milk has been blended into the eggs, add 2½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract. (Dorie often adds ⅛ teaspoon pure almond extract too.) Alternatively, you can steep the milk with 1 split and scraped vanilla bean instead of using extract.

Lemon-Clove Cup Custard: Add 4 whole cloves to the milk along with the lemon zest.

Orange-Star Anise Cup Custard: Omit the lemon zest and oil or extract and add the grated zest of 1 orange and 3 points from a star anise to the milk before heating it.

Espresso-Cinnamon Cup Custard: Omit the lemon zest and oil or extract and add a cinnamon stick to the milk before heating it. Whisk 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder into the egg-sugar mixture.



  1. Hi Bridget, I have just finished making (and eating!) mine, and I really liked it. I feel like there must be something strange about me because I did, but gosh, it was good. I also loved that there was NO chocolate for a change. Thanks for hosting this week – your custards look fab.

  2. No worries!! Looks great to me 🙂

  3. Your pictures are soooooooooooo beautiful and I’m delighted you liked the custard. I think you “got” it — it’s not a rich dessert, it’s not a cream, it’s an old-fashioned baked custard meant to be simple and soothing.

  4. Your custard looks great and you have beautiful pictures! Even if I wasn’t crazy about it, it was nice to get more experience making custards.

  5. I made mine last night, and have yet to try it, but am looking forward to it! Your pictures look great!

  6. I really enjoyed it. Light, refreshing and great to accessorize! I can’t wait to try other variations, thanks for the selection, and thoughfully stylized pictures.

  7. I loved this! It was a nice change from the rich desserts we usually get to make. I too was sort of expecting a little more “puckery” flavor, but I really like custard so I didn’t mind the eggy taste so many people were put-off by. I’m glad you chose this, thanks so much! 🙂

  8. i think you made a great choice!

  9. Yours looks beautiful! I didn’t have a chance to make it 🙁 but I really meant to and I’ll have to try it again soon. A lot of ppl did like it!

  10. I liked it! Thanks for choosing this week

  11. I liked the recipe, too, and I like that you stood by your choice! It’s all about trying new things, right? Your pictures are lovely and thanks for choosing this one!

  12. Hi Bridget! Your custards look beautiful, and I love your photo of the zest. I made mine with chai spices, which create an intense flavor.

  13. This was definitely a matter of preference. I’m so glad you selected a non-chocolate recipe, so it was a great change of pace! Beautiful photos!!

  14. One of the greatest treasures of participating in TWD is that I learn something new every week. Who knew so many people dislike flan/custard desserts? The good news is, for the anti-custard folks, this dish took very little time and used few ingredients. And we all learned from it! And that’s at least half the fun of this challenge.

  15. i chose flan when it was my turn to pick, and that wasn’t too popular with the group either. what are ya gonna do, right? yours look gorgeous!

  16. It was a nice, easy and delicious choice. Many thanks!

  17. No butter? I would have never guessed this was healthy! 😀 Thanks for sharing the recipe – I really need something relatively challenging to bake up when I get home and this looks like it’ll fit the ticket (I’ll admit that I’ve never properly whipped up a custard!)

  18. This recipe was fun and something I wouldn’t have tried on my own. Your photos are gorgeous, too! Thanks for the fun choice!

  19. I didn’t hate it! I wasn’t sure about it when I first tried it, but after I let it chill overnight, somehow it tasted better. You’re right – it’s just a simple, light custard – nothing fancy at all. A nice change from heavier and more complicated desserts! Thanks for choosing it! Oh – and by the way, I have those same custard cups – I should have used them – they look great with the pale yellow filling!

  20. Great recipe choice – thank you for choosing it! I liked this recipe and your pics look fabulous as usual!

  21. teaandscones says:

    Thanks for this one, Bridget. I like simple. I like subtle. I like no chocolate once in a while. Great pick. And great Pics. Love the Red and Black.

  22. I LOVED this recipe! Thanks so much for choosing it! I’ll definitely be making it again!

  23. Don’t worry about an “unpopular” choice! There are lots out there that liked this. Then there are those of us that are chickens. 🙂 Every recipe will get made eventually so there will be a few that aren’t as well liked. The way your photos look though make even a hater like me want to try it! 🙂

  24. AMAZING photos! And Dorie loves you, so good choice whether we liked it or not!

  25. Kelly D says:

    My mom LOVED this and it was so easy. We can’t have chocolate cake every week. Love your photographs.

  26. Thanks for choosing this dessert- I have never been a fan of custard but my dad loves it and no one ever make it for him so he was thrilled!! Even if you don’t like custard you have to admit that this recipe was easy and foolproof! I will make it anytime I ever need to make custard again!

  27. I like custard. This is a nice dessert.

  28. I think you made a great choice! Keep in mind that there are a million bakers and only a few quoted.

  29. I agree with Amy– even though I didn’t love it, I am so glad that I tried it! Whenever I hear of someone praising flan, I will make this for them.

    It is totally something I would have chosen, because I *love* lemon.

    I am really enjoying TWD and trying new things. Good choice!

  30. i really liked it, and i thought it was a refreshing change from the past few! glad you enjoyed your pick, and your pics look great! 🙂

  31. I think this was a great pick, Bridget! It was not my favorite, but for me one of the best things about TWD is trying new things and working on new techniques. Now I can say that I’ve made custard. I didn’t do it very well, but I sure had fun trying! Your photos are simply breathtaking. Thanks again for a fun TWD week!

  32. It makes me sad that you had to apologize for your choice! But what makes me happy is this recipe – we loved it, and the fact that it was so simple and light meant that we could enjoy it for two desserts and not feel guilty. In fact, licking the custard cup might even have happened at our house!

    It always surprises me how people’s tastebuds can differ so much. I served some spice cookies at Christmas that had a pinch of anise (among lots of other mixed spices) and only three people out of about 12 even could tolerate the taste. Just left more of them for me!

  33. Your custard looks great! Nice pictures. My husband is glad you picked this one–for once he got to have something that he likes that I don’t. =)

  34. Glad you liked the lemon custard. I’m glad I at least made it and tried it. One of my four boys really liked it.
    Hey, it was high in protein, too!
    And I LOVE your colored ramekins!

  35. No worries about the pick! Sometimes you win, sometime you don’t. I actually thought it was pretty good, and definitely easy and very few ingredients. Thanks for pushing us in directions we don’t always naturally go!

  36. Extremely nice, crisp and clean pictures, Bridget… very, very well done!

    …and I AM GLAD… you picked that recipe… although you think it was unpopular, I thought it was great and exactly how custard should be.

    So call me marginal… I loved it. Thank you.

    And you can choose whenever you want!!! LOL

  37. I thought it was a good and easy pick.. and like you I was thankful I didn’t have to go out and get ingredients. Good pick! I made mine a vanilla-cinnamon combo and it tasted good 🙂

  38. Gorgeous pics! It was easy, so at least all us haters can’t complain about that! 🙂

  39. Looks wonderful.

    Thanks for picking this week.

  40. Beautiful pictures and your custard looks great. Thank you for picking a recipe I would probably not make if left on my own, LOL. Just because alot of us didn’t care for the custard doesn’t meant it wasn’t fun to make; no one like every recipe.

  41. pinkstripes says:

    I love custards. This was a great choice. Simple and tasty. Thanks for choosing it!

  42. Im glad you liked it. I thought it was easy to make.

  43. Don’t apologize for anything! That’s part of the game. Some recipes work better for some than others. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  44. Gorgeous pictures! I need to explore your blog further. I loved the custard and so did my husband. Thanks so much for choosing something non-chocolate and to which I will return!

  45. Your custard looks wonderful!

  46. Don’t apologize for picking the recipe you wanted! Like Jules said, some work for better for others and then some don’t. While I didn’t have success with mine (and I do love custard), I’m still glad I got to try it. I’d like to experiment with it and find out what I did wrong. Thanks for the easy recipe!

  47. I loved the light texture and flavor of this custard. Looking at your pictures makes me want to head to the fridge for another serving.

  48. Thanks for choosing this custard. I was looking forward to making it when I saw the March list, and I wasn’t disappointed in how it turned out. Mine were delicious.

  49. I love your pictures and I didn’t hate it! It was fun to try something new.

    Thanks for choosing this.

  50. Thanks for the choice, Bridget. I ended up adding cloves and a lot of vanilla extract and quite liked this. And I definitely appreciated not using up half a pound of butter this week!

    Your photos are gorgeous, by the way.

  51. Oh those look delicious! I make pudding at home fairly often, but have never tried a custard. It’s been a while since a dessert really made me want to jump up and run to the kitchen, but you managed to inspire me!

  52. Karen says:

    thanks for picking this one, it’s one of the ones i’ve been curious about. i guess i’m just not much of a custard person but i’m glad i gave it a try. beautiful pictures as always.

  53. I love how easy this dessert was, and I love custards so thanks for choosing this one. Your photos are beautiful!

  54. Thanks for picking this recipe; it is definitely not one I would have noticed myself and it was fun to try. I’m also happy there was a link to your photo tips in the OSI, your photos are beautiful.

  55. So beautiful! I love your photos! I have been getting into lemon flavored things lately…so I may have to try this when I’m not so crazy!!

  56. Your photographs are really beautiful! The custard was a good pick that I had every intention of making, until all of that eggy talk got the better of me and I chickened out. :o( Sorry! I’m a wimp…what can I say? I do love lemon, though. I’m very glad you truly enjoyed your choice.

  57. 1. Your photos are impeccable. Love the white background.
    2. I am on the yes side of the fence and I like custard.
    3. This was a good choice for a lot of reasons, simplicity and basic ingredients among them.
    So….no need to worry. There are lots of happy bakers out there. ” :-)” Thanks for choosing and I think Dorie hit the nail on the head.

  58. i’m sorry there was so much controversy over your pick but i enjoyed it! thanks 🙂

  59. Your custards look great and I’m glad you enjoyed them. I was one of those not so thrilled with the texture – but I can’t expect to love every new thing I try. Thank you for hosting this week – fantastic job!

  60. Thank you SOOOOO much for this pick! It was such a relief to have a non-chocolate dessert to make, and one that was easy and delicious. I really liked this one a lot and thought it got better after a day. I only made half a batch but now I wish I made the whole thing!

    I’m sorry you felt like you needed to apologize for this one. I think those who didn’t like it were more vocal than those who didn’t. The custard “fans” are showing up here, which is a good thing.


  61. THANK YOU for picking this recipe! Although it wasn’t my all-time favorite, I’m so glad I tried a recipe I would have skipped! (Isn’t that what TWD is all about?!) And yes, who knew the poor egg and custard were so hated!? It was so easy to make and without that usual stick of butter! Lovely!

  62. Nice pick, I didn’t love it, but am glad I made them. The controversial picks are always more fun to read about anyway! And this was definitely healthier than most other Dorie recipes, and I think we could all use a little bit of that 🙂

  63. I LOVED this dessert. It is now among my top 5 favorite Dorie desserts from this book. This was a great pick, and whether people liked it or not was, as usual, a matter of taste. Great job!

  64. Absolutely beautiful! Just wonderful pictures. Stunning.

  65. I am glad to have tried it. Your pictures are beautiful; Thanks for choosing something new for us to try and taste.

  66. Thanks for your pick this week! It forced me to step outside my comfort zone and try something new 🙂

  67. Lovely pictures! The recipe didn’t put me off, i really liked it 🙂

    Thank you.

  68. No, it was a great pick. I learned some good things and though I’m still on the fence about custard I thought this was a great introduction to it. Thanks for a good week!

  69. No, I’m 100% with you on this one. Light, refreshing, and a wonderful pick all around. I wasn’t even expecting to like it, and absolutely loved the texture and “egginess.” Egginess is not a four letter word!

  70. This looks really tasty to me. I love eggy, custard-y desserts. And I have a Meyer lemon tree that keeps producing like crazy. So I’m excited to give this a try. Thanks!

  71. Five years later and I finally made these 🙂 I enjoyed them. Thanks for sharing the recipe.


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