If you enjoy eating scrumptious classic lemon bars, you’re going to love this delicious recipe! It starts with a beautiful buttery shortbread crust that’s filled with sweet, slightly tart lemony goodness. This bakery-style dessert is very easy to make and tastes 10 times better than a boxed lemon bar mix. Last week my good friend Mike requested that I make classic lemon bars and post up the recipe. So here it is!
This traditional dessert is just like the ones you’ll see displayed on cake stands under large glass domes at bakeries, coffee houses and diners. Below are all the ingredients you’ll need to make the shortbread crust and lemon filling for classic lemon bars. You might already have most of these ingredients in your pantry. It’s also helpful to have a 9X13 bar pan or cookie sheet, and some parchment paper.
If you don’t have fresh lemons on hand or they aren’t in season when you’re craving these luscious classic lemon bars, it’s absolutely fine to use bottled lemon juice. Today I bought fresh lemons at the market. In my backyard I have 4 large lemon bushes, but they don’t produce fruit until mid-October. So in a few months I’ll be making and posting more recipes that call for lemons!
To make classic lemon bars you don’t need any fancy kitchen equipment. I use my KitchenAid stand mixer, but you can use a mixing bowl, pastry cutter, wooden spoon and a whisk. Start by adding the butter and sugar to your mixing bowl. Cream them together.
Add vanilla and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to the bowl. Mix briefly. Add in the flour, cornstarch and salt. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated. The dough for your shortbread crust should look like this.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9X13 pan with parchment paper. Leave a few inches of parchment paper hanging over the sides of the pan. Later you’ll use these edges to lift up and remove the classic lemon bars from the pan. Transfer the shortbread dough to the pan. Use your fingers and/or a spatula to spread the dough in an even layer within the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Today I made the edges of my crust shallow. You can build them up a little higher if you’d like.
Bake the shortbread crust for about 15-16 minutes until it’s just lightly golden brown all over. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the crust to cool off completely.
While the crust is cooling, make the lemon filling. If using fresh lemons, squeeze one full cup of lemon juice. For this classic lemon bars recipe I ended up using 8 fresh lemons. But it really just depends on how juicy the lemons are. So I always make sure I have a few extra lemons on hand, just in case.
In a clean mixing bowl, whip the eggs, granulated sugar, one cup of lemon juice and the flour until fully combined. Your lemon filling mixture will look like this.
Pour the lemon mixture into the cooled-off crust. Bake your classic lemon bars at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the filling is set. Just look at how beautiful and scrumptious this looks. My kitchen is filled with the gorgeous smell of shortbread and lemon. It feels so satisfying to make this homemade treat for family and friends.
When you pull this lemony dessert out of the oven, the top of the lemon mixture will have a lot of small bubbles. That’s perfectly okay. Most of the bubbles will settle down a bit while cooling. Allow your dessert to cool off for one hour at room temperature. Then place the pan in the refrigerator for two hours or overnight.
When you’re ready to serve your classic lemon bars, generously sprinkle the top of the lemon filling with powdered sugar. Use the oversized edges of the parchment paper to lift the lemon bars dessert up and out of the pan. Transfer it to a cutting board.
Slice into 12 even squares. Or if you’re hosting a party with a lot of different desserts, cut each of the 12 classic lemon bars into four little squares. It’ll make this yummy dessert stretch a lot farther!
If you’d like, you can garnish each piece of dessert with lemon zest. Enjoy your classic lemon bars with a tall glass of ice-cold milk or a cup of tea.
Classic lemon bars are perfect for breakfast, dessert or a yummy mid-day treat. They’re also a wonderful dessert to take to a friend’s house when you’re invited over for dinner.
Half of these lemon bars are headed to my daughter Ashley’s house. She’ll share them with a group of friends who are coming over to her home this evening to study for a big law school exam. The rest of these classic lemon bars are packed up and ready for my husband to take to work. He’ll eat one or two squares and share the rest!
Refrigerate any leftovers on a covered plate or in a large Ziplock bag. These classic lemon bars will stay fresh for up to a week. But if your family’s anything like mine, these scrumptious classic lemon bars will magically disappear in a day or two!
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I love using cake stands. The one you see here in this post I got online through Minted. But you can get a similar one from Amazon. Because I have so many lemon bushes in my yard, it really helps to have a lemon press. They come in three different sizes for limes, lemons and oranges.
Classic Lemon Bars
Yield 12 servings
INGREDIENTS FOR SHORTBREAD CRUST
- 3 sticks unsalted butter (24 tablespoons), softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 + 1/2 teaspoon pure Mexican vanilla (or vanilla extract)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
- 1 + 1/8 teaspoons salt
INGREDIENTS FOR LEMON FILLING
- 6 large eggs
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed or bottled
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Powdered sugar for dusting
INSTRUCTIONS - SHORTBREAD CRUST
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Line a 9X13 pan with parchment paper. (Leave enough parchment paper over the edges of the pan so later you can use these as handles to lift the dessert up and out of the pan when it's ready to cut and serve.)
- In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add in the vanilla and lemon juice and mix briefly. Add flour, corn starch and salt. Thoroughly combine all ingredients.
- Spread the dough over the bottom and sides of the pan in an even layer. Use your hands and/or a spatula.
- Bake the crust for about 15-16 minutes until it's just lightly golden. Remove from oven.
- Allow the crust to cool completely.
INSTRUCTIONS - LEMON FILLING
- While the crust is cooling, prepare the lemon filling.
- In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, lemon juice, granulated sugar and flour until everything is well combined and there are no lumps.
- Once the crust has cooled, pour the lemon filling into the crust.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. When the filling has set, remove from the oven. There will be a lot of small bubbles on top of the lemon filling. That's absolutely fine!
- Cool the the dessert on your countertop, then refrigerate for two hours.
- When you're ready to serve the classic lemon bars, generously sprinkle the top of the lemon filling with powdered sugar. Lift up the edges of the parchment paper and transfer the dessert from the pan to a cutting board. Slice into 12 squares. Enjoy!
- Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to one week.
Courses Breakfast, Tea Time, Snack, Dessert
Cuisine American, Italian, French
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How to Make Classic Lemon Bars
Have you enjoyed classic lemon bars this season? Do you have a favorite lemon dessert? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!