Lemon Lush is a zesty and creamy layered dessert with a shortbread crust, sweetened cream cheese, lemon pudding, and whipped cream. This recipe is made completely from scratch!

$10.24 is all it costs to make twelve servings of this lemon lush dessert recipe. That works out to be about $0.85 per serving!

Layered Dessert Recipes are so fun to make and even better to eat! For more layered desserts, I recommend this Strawberry Lasagna and this Easy Samoa Dessert Lasagna.

Lemon Lush Dessert

Now tell me that doesn’t look lovely and delicious?!? I basically grew up on this Lemon Lush dessert. I remember my mom making it for almost every family get-together, it was either Lemon Lush or her famous Chocolate Chip Cake.

My favorite part of this layered lemon dessert is the shortbread crust with the walnuts in it. When I was a kid I used to eat this dessert layer by layer, leaving the crust for last. My mom’s Lemon Lush recipe is made with cool whip and lemon pudding from a box.

For mine, I opted to make homemade stabilized whipped cream and homemade lemon pudding because that’s just how I roll.

This dessert is so great to serve at spring and summer get-togethers because it’s tasty, a bit different, and serves a crowd! Plus you can make it ahead of time which I love when I’m entertaining.

This creamy and light Lemon Lush recipe would also be fabulous for a BBQ and Easter dessert.

WARNING: My Lemon Lush recipe is made completely from scratch. This means you won’t be using a boxed pudding mix or whipped topping from the freezer section. I prefer it from scratch even though it’s a little labor-intensive, but you can always make it with store-bought pudding and whipped topping if you’d like.

How To Make Lemon Lush from Scratch:

  1. First, make the lemon pudding in a medium saucepan. After straining the pudding, let it cool to room temperature.
  2. Next, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking dish with foil and then make the crust in a medium bowl. 
  3. Bake the crust for 25-30 minutes, and then let it cool for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Next, make the stabilized whipping cream. Once soft peaks form, it is ready.
  5. Make the cream cheese layer in a stand mixer. Then spread the mixture over the crust.
  6. Smooth the lemon pudding in an even layer, followed by the whipped cream.
  7. Finally, top with chopped walnuts and chill for at least two hours before serving. 

How long is it good for?

SERVE: You can keep this layered dessert at room for about an hour before it will need to be refrigerated.

STORE: Keep covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Serve chilled.

FREEZE: This dessert doesn’t freeze the best because it gets a little runny once it’s defrosted. Because of this, I do not recommend freezing it.

Recipe Variations and Substitutions:

Ingredients 100% matter to the success of my recipes. Below I’ve broken down each ingredient to include flavor variations and substitutions.

  • Granulated Sugar – This is for the homemade lemon pudding layer. Please don’t use any other sugar.
  • Cornstarch – This is essential to thicken the pudding, no substitutions.
  • Milk – You can pretty much use any kind of milk, but please use something that has some sort of fat content, though.
  • Egg Yolks – This helps give the pudding its richness in both texture and flavor.
  • Lemon Zest – Please use fresh lemon zest, not the freeze-dried kind from the grocery store.
  • Salt – A little bit of salt goes a long way in boosting the flavor of the pudding.
  • Lemon Juice – You can use fresh or bottled. Also, you can easily turn this into lime lush or key lime lush by using lime juice and zest or key lime juice and zest.
  • Unsalted Butter – Unsalted is key in controlling the salt in the Lemon Lush. Since there’s so much butter in the crust, you really need to use unsalted butter, so the shortbread crust isn’t too salty.
  • All-Purpose Flour – While I’m sure you can use other flours, I just haven’t tested them in this recipe.
  • Powdered Sugar – Using powdered sugar in the crust helps the shortbread keep a butter, almost melt-in-your-mouth consistency. Powdered sugar is also used in the whipped cream. In a pinch, you can use granulated sugar in the whipped cream.
  • Walnuts – My little guy is highly allergic to walnuts, so I always leave them out of this recipe. You can omit them completely or use another nut like pecans instead.
  • Unflavored Gelatin – This is essential in making the stabilized whipped cream layer. Stabilizing the whipped cream will enable you to keep this dessert in the refrigerator for longer than if you use unstabilized whipped cream.
  • Water – This is essential in dissolving the unflavored gelatin.
  • Heavy Whipping Cream – If you don’t have heavy whipping cream for the stabilized whipped cream, you can use a container of Cool Whip for this layer.
  • Cream Cheese – Full-fat cream cheese is best, but you can use reduced-fat. Please don’t use fat-free.
How much lemon juice is in a lemon?

On average, one lemon makes between ¼ and ⅓ cup fresh juice. This is about 4-5 Tablespoons per lemon. One tip to get the most amount of liquid from a lemon is to microwave it first for ten seconds before cutting and squeezing it. 

Can I use lemon juice instead of fresh lemon?

Yes, you can substitute bottled lemon juice for fresh lemon juice in this recipe and any other. Use the same amount of bottled lemon juice that the recipe calls for fresh lemon juice.

How much will this Lemon Lush recipe cost to make?

Recipe cost: $10.24

Per Serving Cost: $0.85

NOTE: The recipe prices are calculated by using grocery store websites. The actual cost of the recipe will vary depending on what ingredients you already have.

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar – $0.75
  • ¼ cup cornstarch – $0.10
  • 2 ½ cups milk – $0.40
  • 3 large egg yolks – $0.15
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon zest – $0.48
  • Salt – $0.01
  • ½ cup lemon juice – $0.52
  • 1 cup and 2 Tablespoons butter – $1.00
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour – $0.38
  • 1 ¾ cup powdered sugar – $0.50
  • 1 ¼ cup walnuts – $1.95
  • 8 ounces cream cheese – $1.96
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin – $0.10
  • 1 Tablespoon water – $0.00
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream – $1.94

What can I make with a lot of lemons?

5 from 14 votes

Lemon Lush Dessert

Author Jillian – a Food, Folks and Fun original!
Recipe Cost $ $10.24
Serving Cost $ $0.85
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 6 hours 25 minutes
12 people
This Lemon Lush dessert is a layered dessert with a shortbread crust, sweetened cream cheese, lemon pudding, and whipped cream. This Lemon Lush recipe is made completely from scratch!

Equipment

  • medium saucepan
  • whisk
  • fine mesh strainer
  • mixing bowls
  • 9×13-inch baking pan
  • pastry cutter
  • stand mixer

Ingredients
 
 

Lemon Pudding

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • pinch salt
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened

Crust

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Stabilized Whipped Cream

  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 Tablespoon cold water
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar sifted

Cream Cheese Layer

  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar sifted
  • 1 cup of the prepared stabilized whipped cream

Garnish

  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts

Instructions

Lemon Pudding:

  • In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and milk until smooth. Add the egg yolks, zest and salt. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly until thickened and the mixture coats the spoon, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and butter. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl and strain the pudding. Let cool to room temperature.

Crust:

  • Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 325 degrees F. Line 9×13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on all sides.
  • In a medium bowl sift together the flour and powdered sugar. Using a pastry cutter or 2 forks, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the walnuts. While still in the bowl, knead the dough until smooth, about 10 times. Pat the dough evenly into your prepared baking pan and prick with a fork 25-30 times. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until light brown in color. Cool for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack.

Stabilized Whipped Cream:

  • In a small bowl soak the gelatin in the cold water. Give it a quick stir and let sit for 5 minutes. Place the bowl of gelatin in a pot of simmering water, about 1-inch deep. Heat until the gelatin dissolves. In the bowl of a stand mixer add the heavy whipping cream and gelatin. Whip until soft peaks form.

Cream Cheese Layer:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the cream cheese and powdered sugar. Mix on medium speed until combined and smooth, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the stabilized whipped cream and mix until just combined.

To Assemble:

  • Spread the cream cheese mixture in an even layer over the cooled crust. Smooth the lemon pudding in an even layer, followed by the remaining stabilized whipped cream and sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional).

To Finish:

  • Chill for at least 2 hours (or overnight) before serving.

Notes

  • This recipe is completely versatile, so feel free to substitute the homemade lemon pudding for your favorite; key lime, vanilla, chocolate…whatever! I’ve made a key lime version of this recipe. Instead of using walnuts, I used coconut and it was to die for!
  • If you want an extra lemon kick, try adding 1 Tablespoon of lemon zest to the shortbread layer.

Nutrition

Serving: 8ounces | Calories: 538kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 131mg | Sodium: 118mg | Potassium: 214mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 34g | Vitamin A: 1040IU | Vitamin C: 5.6mg | Calcium: 124mg | Iron: 1.5mg

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Lemon Lush on a white plate with a piece of it on a fork.

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38 Comments

  1. This looks amazing! Since I have no fine mesh strainer, I will make using the cooking method lemon pie mix. Adding abfine mesh strainer for the future. Really love your recipes!

  2. I knew I had to make this recipe as soon as I saw the word lemon. Our tree is bursting with lemons. The whole family loved this!!

  3. I’m obsessed with anything lemon and this cake is packed with lemon flavor. It’s perfect for summer too.

  4. This looks amazing! What is the purpose of the foil under the crust? Can this be made without the foil? Thanks!

    1. My mom has been making it this way with the foil for decades. She said it’s easier to get the lemon lush out of the pan this way.

  5. Emily Flint says:

    This was so amazing and the nuts in the crust made such a difference. I am putting them in all my crusts from now on!

  6. I love any kind of lemon dessert and this looks delicious.

  7. This is really delightful! Everyone at my house was impressed!

  8. Jessica Formicola says:

    I have been in the mood for allll things lemon lately! This lemon lush is perfect and I can’t wait to try it!