This Lemon Sponge Pie combines a creamy lemon curd base with a light and fluffy lemon sponge topping, and it's all baked in a flaky, homemade pie crust! It's a refreshing Pennsylvania Dutch classic that is absolute perfection and a hit with any lemon dessert lover!
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Reasons to Try This Classic Lemon Sponge Pie
The Flavor. This recipe uses fresh lemons and lemon zest—giving this pie that perfect lip smacking, citrus tang flavor! I reserved a tiny bit of the lemon juice and zest as well, mixing it in with the egg wash to brush over top of the pie crust. So good!
The Texture. Each bite gives you the combination of a creamy lemon curd bottom with a light and fluffy lemon sponge top. It's absolutely refreshing and when paired with the pie crust, it's like heaven in your mouth!
A Flaky Pie Crust. Speaking of pie crust—this one is made using all shortening! It's adapted from my all butter pie crust recipe swapping out the unsalted butter for a butter flavored vegetable shortening. It gives this pie crust a really nice flaky texture. And yes, even the butter flavor comes through nicely!
Perfect for Lemon Dessert Lovers. If you're like me and love lemon desserts just as much as chocolate, then you will very much enjoy this lemon sponge pie recipe! It's not overly complicated to make and taste fantastic!
What Ingredients Are Needed
Only 8 ingredients are needed to make this lemon sponge pie. Add 2 more if you plan to make it with this homemade all shortening pie crust.
- Granulated Sugar. Helps to give that citrus tang some sweetness! You'll also use ½ teaspoon of this for the pie crust.
- Unsalted Butter. Any brand will work fine, just make sure it's at room temperature.
- Eggs. You'll need 3 large eggs at room temperature and separated. The egg whites get beaten in a separate bowl first. Then the egg yolks go into the rest of the mixture.
- Lemon Zest. Before juicing those lemons, you will need 3 teaspoons of zest.
- Fresh Lemon Juice. For the ⅔ cup that is used you will need about 4 medium-size lemons. Add 2 more to your ingredients list if you would like to make candied lemon slices for a garnish. I explain how to make these below!
- Milk. 1%, 2%, or whole is good. You can even use a lactose free milk (same percentage or whole).
- All Purpose Flour. This helps to thicken the lemon sponge filling. Only a small amount is needed for the filling. More is needed if you plan to make your pie crust from scratch. Store-bought pie crust is totally acceptable to use with this recipe though.
- Salt. Helps to balance out all the tart and sweet! Regular table salt will be fine. You'll need this for the pie crust too.
If you're planning to make the shortening pie crust add on these 2 ingredients:
- Vegetable Shortening. I used Crisco's butter flavored vegetable shortening. I kept it chilled in the refrigerator until I was ready to use it for the pie crust.
- Cold Water. Brings that beautiful flaky pie crust together. This should be super cold water too. Use some ice cubes if you'd like—just don't put them into the pie crust!
How to Make Candied Lemon Slices
For a simple garnish you can top your lemon sponge pie with some candied lemon slices! This recipe was adapted from
You'll need the following ingredients:
- 2 medium-size lemons sliced ⅛ inch thick
- 1 cup granulated sugar,
- ¾ cup water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Now here's how to make them!
Step 1. Heat the sugar, water, and lemon juice until the sugar has dissolved completely.
Step 2. Add in your lemon slices, avoiding any overlapping.
Step 3. Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes or until the slices are slightly translucent and rinds are softened. Carefully flip them over with tongs every few minutes.
Step 4. Remove with tongs and add to a sheet of wax paper to cool completely.
Step 5. Once cooled, transfer to the refrigerator or freezer to chill for a minimum of 2 hours.
I made mine then let them chill for a full day in the freezer before adding them as garnish.
Helpful Tips to Read Before Starting
While not required, here are some tips that might be helpful to you before starting the recipe.
Prep your pie crust before starting. Because this pie crust needs at least a minimum of one hour to chill before rolling out, I suggest doing this either the day before or the morning of making your lemon sponge pie. I also recommend chilling the pie crust in the freezer after you've placed it into the pie plate.
Regular or deep dish. I used a regular metal 9 inch pie plate for this recipe, but you can also use a 9 inch deep dish pie plate. The pie filling will come right up to the bottom edge of your crimped pie crust using the regular pie plate. If this makes you nervous in anyway, simply use the deep dish instead.
Prep your lemon juice and zest. Before starting your recipe, it's a good idea to have your lemons juiced and zested. It will keep your recipe moving smoothly. For juicing I use my KitchenAid Citrus Juicer and for grating the zest, I use my Microplane Classic Grater.
Use a baking sheet. Whenever I bake pies I like to preheat the oven with a baking sheet or jelly roll pan on the rack. It helps to prevent a soggy bottom pie crust, catch any possible drips (though you shouldn't have any here), and makes it easy when it's time to remove the lemon sponge pie from the oven.
Check your oven temperature. Every kitchen environment is different and this includes your oven. Never assume it's preheated to the correct temperature—get yourself an oven thermometer!
Separate your egg whites. This recipe calls for your eggs to be separated. The the egg whites are used first, beating them in a separate bowl until stiff peaks begin to form. You can use either your hand mixer or, my preference, a stand mixer.
Recommended Pie Making Tools
Lemon Sponge Pie FAQs
Just one pie crust. You can easily double the recipe if you'd like to keep a second one on hand for another pie recipe.
I used one of my regular 9 inch pie plates, but you can also use a 9 inch deep dish pie plate. The pie filling will come right up to the bottom edge of your crimped pie crust using the regular pie plate. If this makes you nervous in anyway, simply use the deep dish instead.
No. Using the two different oven temperatures, a preheated baking sheet (or jelly roll pan), and keeping your pie crust chilled in the freezer while you make the pie filling will help to prevent a soggy bottom pie crust. I frequently use this method for several of my custard style pies.
Yes. If you don't have lemons, this is an okay substitute. Without the lemon zest though, your pie might come out tasting slightly different in flavor.
Cracks usually form when the pie has over baked. It's possible the pie was left in the oven for too long. Even with crack though your pie will still taste really good! If it's bothersome visually for you, cover it up with some fresh berries, candied lemon slices, or whipped cream.
See the section 'How to Make Candied Lemon Slices' above on how to make them or view the recipe card below.
This can happen when the pie isn't cooled completely before placing it into the refrigerator.
The best way to enjoy this pie is chilled. I do not recommend cutting or serving this pie after it has cooled to room temperature. It needs to be refrigerated for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
Try These Other Beyond the Butter Pie Recipes
Classic Lemon Sponge PieAuthor:
all-shortening pie crust
- 1 ¼ cups All-Purpose Flour
- ½ tsp Granulated Sugar
- ½ tsp Salt
- ½ cup Butter Flavored Vegetable Shortening, cold and cubed
- ¼ cup Ice Cold Water
lemon sponge filling
- 1 ½ cups Granulated Sugar
- 3 tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 3 Large Eggs, separated
- ⅔ cup Fresh Lemon Juice, about 4 medium lemons
- 1 cup Milk
- ⅓ cup All Purpose Flour
- ¼ tsp Salt
- 3 tsp Lemon Zest
candied lemon slices (optional garnish)
- 2 Medium Lemons, sliced ⅛ inch thick
- 1 cup Granulated Sugar
- ¾ cup Water
- 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
homemade shortening pie crust
- In a large mixing bowl whisk together the all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, and salt.
- Using a pastry blender, cut in the cold butter flavored shortening until you have small pea-size pieces. Some larger pea-size pieces are fine too!
- Add in the ice cold water, then using a bench scraper or spatula work it into the pie dough mixture. Rotate the bowl as you scrape the mixture from one side of the bowl to the other until there is not more visible signs of water.
- Using your hands, begin to scoop up the dough then press it down with your fingers. Rotate the bowl and repeat, folding the dough until it has formed. Don't forget to include any dry bits of the pieces that may have fallen underneath the dough. This dough will be soft and flaky. If it's too dry, you can add a teaspoon of cold water until the dough comes together. If it's too wet, add a tablespoon of all-purpose flour.
- Place the pie dough onto a lightly-floured, clean surface, then pat it into a 1″- 1 ½″ thick disc, then double wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place them in the coldest part of your refrigerator (usually the back) for a minimum of 1 hour. Ideally I like to chill mine overnight. Double wrapping the dough keeps any air from getting in and drying the dough out. The pie dough will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days or you can keep it stored in the freezer for up to a month. If freezing, add the double wrapped dough to a freezer safe bag.
lemon sponge filling
- Roll out your chilled pie crust to a 14 inch circle and carefully place it into a 9 inch pie plate (I like to transfer mine by rolling it up using a rolling pin). You can also use a 9 inch deep dish pie plate for this recipe. Trim any wonky edges then fold them under. Crimp to your desired style. Place in the freezer, uncovered, to chill while you make the lemon sponge filling.
- Adjust your oven rack to the second level position (just above center) with a baking sheet or jelly roll pan on top, then preheat the oven to 450ºF.
- Using your hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks just begin to form. Set to the side.
- In a separate mixing bowl, beat the granulated sugar and unsalted butter together on medium-high speed until well blended. Add in the egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, milk, all-purpose flour, and salt, mixing until fully incorporated.
- Gently fold the egg yolk mixture in with the egg whites until there are no more egg whites visible. Then pour the lemon sponge filling into the prepared pie shell.
- Place the pie onto the preheated baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 450ºF.
- Then (keeping your oven door closed) reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF and bake for an additional 35-40 minutes. At this time, you can choose to add a silicone pie crust shield or strips of aluminum foil (or a sheet of aluminum foil with a hole cut out) to avoid over baking the crust.
- Your lemon sponge pie will be done when the top is a medium golden brown and the center still has some jiggle to it.
- Remove the pie from the oven, place on a wire cooling rack, and allow to cool completely. Then cover lightly with aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours (overnight is preferred) before cutting.
- Keep any leftover pie covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
candied lemon slices (optional garnish)
- Heat the sugar, water, and lemon juice until the sugar has dissolved completely.
- Add in your lemon slices, avoiding any overlapping.
- Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes or until the slices are slightly translucent and rinds are softened. Carefully flip them over with tongs every few minutes.
- Remove with tongs and add to a sheet of wax paper to cool completely.
- Once cooled, transfer to the refrigerator or freezer to chill for a minimum of 2 hours.