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Lemon Curd and Cherry Compote

This lemon curd dessert is layered with cherry compote and topped with buttery shortbread pistachio crumble. Every velvety bite is deliciously sweet and tart with the perfect crunch. 

Lemon curd and cherry compite in three individual glasses.

Why This Recipe Works 

  1. Downright Delicious – This lemon curd and cherry compote is sweet, tangy, and perfectly silky. Crumbled shortbread and pistachios create the perfect crunch while the orange zest is bright and full of fresh flavor. All the parts of this recipe are delicious on their own but when put together, delicious magic is made. 
  2. Easy Make Ahead – This recipe is easy and can be made days in advanced. So, it looks like you spent all day slaving away in the kitchen when in reality you made the dessert a few days ago and it only took 30 minutes. I love recipes like this. 
  3. Festive and Beautiful – Visually, this dessert is an absolute stunner and perfect for holidays, parties, and other special occasions. Plus, it can be made ahead of time and is very portable making it the perfect dessert to bring to family and friends. 

Ingredients You Will Need

This recipe uses a surprisingly small number of ingredients which include frozen cherries, sugar, an orange, butter, eggs, lemons, shortbread, and pistachios. 

Ingredients to make lemon curd and cherry compote on a marble surface.

Ingredient Notes

Frozen Cherries

  • Varieties – There are many varieties of cherries, but don’t overthink it. Just stick to cherries that are red and dark red in color. Frozen cherries from the grocery store are almost always a common variety of red/dark red cherries.  
  • Pits – Frozen cherries are usually already pitted. Therefore, there is no need to remove any pits before using them. They are ready to go right from the package. 
  • Substitute – Can’t find frozen cherries? No worries. You can substitute frozen cherries for a variety of frozen berries such as raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries. 

Lemons & Oranges: 

  • The recipe calls for specific measurements of lemon and orange juice and zest. However, if you want to keep it easy, skip measuring and simply use the zest/juice of two medium lemons and the zest/juice of one orange. 

Shortbread

  • Shortbread is a delicious, buttery, crumbly cookie. You can find shortbread in the cookie/cracker aisle or the baking aisle. 

Pistachios

  • Buy pistachios pre-shelled to save yourself time.

Eggs: 

  • The recipe calls for 2 eggs and 4 egg yolks (6 eggs total). See below for how-to separate egg yolks from egg whites.

Step-by-Step Instructions

This recipe is really quite easy. It has three main parts; cherry compote, lemon curd, and assembly. 

Part 1 – Cherry Compote

Combine frozen cherries, sugar, orange juice, and orange zest in a pan. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer to thicken. Stir in butter at the very end and that is it!

Cherry compote thickening in a pan.

Part 2 – Lemon Curd

Combine sugar, eggs, egg yolks, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small/medium pot before turning on the heat. Then turn the heat on and whisk constantly until the lemon curd thickens. Stir in butter at the end. 

A whisk in a pot with lemon curd cooking.

Part 3 – Assembly

Layer the lemon curd and cherry compote in individual dishes, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Top with shortbread crumbles, pistachios, and orange zest right before serving.

Lemon curd with cherry compote assembled in three glasses.
Overhead view of three lemon curd desserts in glasses.

Expert Tips

Tip 1 – Don’t stop whisking! The lemon curd is easy to make as long as you don’t stop whisking from start to finish. If you do not whisk continuously, the eggs may cook too quickly and curdle making your lemon curd chunky and eggy instead of velvety and delicious. 

Tip 2 – Avoid zesting and juicing mistakes. 

  • Zest your orange and lemons before juicing them. They are impossible to zest once you squeeze out the juice. 
  • Only zest the yellow/orange skin. Do not zest the pith (the white part of the peel just below the yellow/orange skin). The pith is very bitter. 
  • Press and roll your citrus back and forth on the counter with your palm. This helps breakdown and loosen the inside of the citrus making it easier to squeeze out all the juice. 

Tip 3 – Garnish with fresh thyme. Fresh thyme adds a delicious, fresh, earthy flavor which compliments this sweet/tart dessert. It also looks beautiful and impressive making it a good trick to use when serving to guests or at a special occasion. 

Tip 4 – Cheat if you need to. Life gets busy and sometimes cutting corners is a necessity. If you’re in a pinch, use store bought lemon curd instead of making your own. No one will know! 

Overhead view of lemon curd and cherry compote loaded with shortbread crumbles, pistachios and zest.

Recipe FAQs

Ingredient FAQs

Do you have to thaw frozen cherries? 

No! The frozen cherries can go right from the freezer to the pan in this recipe. 

How to separate egg yolk?

Crack the egg in half, keeping the egg within the shell. Transfer the egg back and forth between the two shells, keeping the yolk in the shell and allowing the white to drip out of the shell until all the egg white is removed. Two hands separating egg yolks from whites.

How much zest is in one orange? 

One orange makes about 2-3 tablespoons of zest. 

How much juice is in one orange?

One orange makes about 4-5 tablespoons of orange juice. 

Can I use orange juice instead of zest?

Yes. If needed, 2 tablespoons of orange juice can be substituted for 2 tablespoons of orange zest. 

How much zest is in one lemon?

One medium lemon makes about 1 tablespoon of zest. 

How much juice is in one lemon?

One medium lemon makes about 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice. 

Can I use lemon juice instead of zest?

No. Generally, every 1 teaspoon of lemon zest can be substituted with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice plus a couple pinches of sugar. However, substituting zest for juice in this particular recipe will not work because it will impact the consistency of the lemon curd. 

Can I substitute the shortbread?

Yes! Shortbread is a crumbly buttery cookie. The purpose of the shortbread in this recipe is to add a delicious crunch. So, good substitutes could include crumbled sugar cookies, butter cookies, graham crackers, or even granola. 

Instruction FAQs

How do you know when lemon curd is done?

The lemon curd will start out thin and bright yellow in color. After a couple minutes, it start to get a little foamy. Then suddenly it will get very foamy and thicken. The color will also be a pale yellow. 

A whisk in a pot with lemon curd cooking.

When you can draw a line down the back of a wooden spoon, the lemon curd is done!

A hand drawing a line down the back of a wooden spoon.

Why is my lemon curd lumpy?

This means the eggs have started to cook and curdle (like scrambled eggs). This can happen if the lemon curd is not whisked continuously or if the lemon curd gets too hot. To avoid this, whisk continuously from start to finish and use medium heat. 

How do you fix lumpy lemon curd?

If there are only a few very small lumps, you can put the lemon curd through a sieve to remove the lumps. However, the lemon curd may have a slightly eggy taste. So, trying again might be your best bet! 

Why does my lemon curd taste eggy?

This likely means the lemon curd was not whisked constantly or it got too hot causing the eggs to cook and curdle. 

Why is my lemon curd bitter? 

When zesting your lemons, be sure to only zest the yellow skin of the lemon. Do not zest any of the pith, or the white part of the peel just under the yellow layer. The pith is bitter and what causes lemon curd to become bitter. 

Why is my compote not thickening? 

It isn’t thick enough because it hasn’t cooked long enough. The cherry compote will thicken gradually. The compote is pretty forgiving. So, if you remove it from the heat too soon, simply put it back on the stove and continue cooking until you can draw a line down the back of wood spoon. A wooden spoon dipped in cherry compote.

Lemon curd topped with cherry compote in a glass.

Looking for other sweet treats to try? 

My Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars are my personal favorite of all time. Raspberry Lemon Mini Cheesecakes are super easy, beautiful, and perfect for special occasions. Easy Strawberry Rhubarb Pieis a classic go-to to show someone you care! 


Watch the How-to Video


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Lemon curd topped with cherry compote in three glasses

Lemon Curd and Cherry Compote with Shortbread Pistachio Crumble

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
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This lemon curd dessert is layered with cherry compote and topped with buttery shortbread pistachio crumble. Every velvety bite is deliciously sweet and tart with the perfect crunch. 

Ingredients
 

Cherry Compote Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups frozen cherries, (see note 1)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. orange zest, approx. 1 orange (see note 2 and 3)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, approx. 1 orange (see note 2 and 3)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, cubed

Lemon Curd Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks, (see note 4)
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon zest, approx. 2 lemons (see notes 2 and 3)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, approx. 2 lemons (see notes 2 and 3)
  • 8 Tbsp. butter, cubed

Assembly Ingredients: 

  • 1/4 cup shortbread, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
  • orange zest, (optional)
  • fresh thyme, (optional)

Instructions
 

Cherry Compote Instructions:

  • In a medium pan, combine all Cherry Compote Ingredients except the cubed butter. Stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer until thickened (see note 5) about 10-15 minutes.
    Cherry compote thickening in a pan.
  • The compote has thickened enough once you can draw a line down the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.  
    A spoon dipped in cherry compote.
  • Stir in the cubed butter until combined. Set aside to cool. 
    Cubed butter in a pan of cherry compote.

Lemon Curd Instructions: 

  • Before turning on the heat, in a small/medium pot whisk together all Lemon Curd Ingredients except the cubed butter. Turn the heat on to medium and whisk continuously (see note 6). 
    Lemon curd thickening in a pot.
  • Still whisking continuously, cook until the mixture has thickened (about 4-7 minutes) and can coat the back of a wood spoon. 
    A wooden spoon dipped in lemon curd.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the cubed butter a couple pieces at a time. Set aside and cool. 
    Cubed butter in a pot of lemon curd.

Assembly Instructions:

  • After letting the lemon curd and cherry compote cool for 10-15 minutes, distribute the lemon curd evenly into individual dishes. Add a layer of the cherry compote. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. 
    Lemon curd with cherry compote assembled in three glasses.
  • When ready to serve, top with crumbled shortbread, pistachios, and orange zest. Serve immediately. 

Notes

Note 1 – Frozen Cherries: Frozen cherries are almost always pitted. Therefore, there is no need to remove any pits before using the frozen cherries.
Note 2 – Zesting: Be sure to zest your orange and lemons before juicing them.
Note 3 – Measurements: Feel free to skip measuring orange/lemon zest and juice. Simply use the zest/juice of two medium lemons and the zest/juice of one orange. Below are general measurements for reference.
  • 1 orange = 2-3 Tbsp. zest
  • 1 orange = 4-5 Tbsp. juice
  • 1 lemon = 1 Tbsp. zest
  • 1 lemon = 3 Tbsp. juice
Note 4 – Egg Yolks: To separate egg yolks from egg whites, crack the egg in half and keep the egg in one half of the shell. Transfer the egg back and forth between the two shells, keeping the yolk in the shell and allowing the white to drip out of the shell until all the egg white is removed.
Two hands separating egg yolks from whites.
Note 5 – Cherry Compote Thickening: The cherry compote will thicken gradually. If you remove it from the heat too soon, simply put it back on the stove and continue cooking.
Note 6 – Lemon Curd Whisking: Be sure to whisk constantly. If you do not whisk constantly, the eggs may cook too quickly and curdle making your lemon curd chunky and eggy instead of velvety and delicious.
When whisking, the lemon curd will start out thin and bright yellow in color. After a couple minutes, it start to get a little foamy. Then suddenly it will get very foamy and thicken. The color will also be a pale yellow.
Lemon curd thickening in a pot.

Nutrition

Serving: 128g | Calories: 490kcal | Carbohydrates: 70g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 24g | Sodium: 33mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 66g
Have you tried this recipe? Let me know what you think! Rate this recipe and leave a comment below.

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