Almost every year, I throw an annual dessert party where all my friends and family gather to eat the 20 to 25 desserts that I bake.
It’s really an excuse for me to bake with abandon, test out new recipes, and return to old favorites. The one recipe that I can never take off the menu and that all my guests demand, is this tart and sweet lemon shaker pie.
It’s one of the first desserts to be demolished by the crowd. And though it takes some planning, as the lemons in the pie filling need to macerate in the sugar overnight, it is also one of the easiest desserts to make!
What is Lemon Shaker Pie?
The classic lemon shaker pie is a juicy, simple lemon pie that uses the entire lemon, including the peel, pith, and inner flesh in the filling.
It’s a frugal recipe developed by the Shakers, a religious group that formed in the 18th century, that minimizes waste and maximizes flavor.
The filling, composed of just thinly sliced whole lemon, sugar, and eggs is a cross between lemon marmalade and lemon curd. And though it takes minimal effort, the lemons do need to macerate in sugar for at least 4 hours or overnight (preferred) to get the best flavor and texture, so be sure to plan accordingly.
What is Macerating and How Long Should You Do It?
Macerating is just a fancy culinary term for letting fruit sit in sugar. The longer the fruit sits in the sugar, the more juices extract from the fruit itself and the softer the fruit becomes.
Lemon pith, the white rind of the citrus fruit, is extremely bitter. To combat this bitterness, the lemon is sliced paper thin. If you have a mandoline, this is the time to use it, but a sharp pairing or utility knife will work just fine.
Toss the lemon slices in the sugar, cover, and let sit on the counter for a minimum of 4 hours and the sugar will soften the rind and extract any bitterness. Letting the lemon and sugar sit overnight (up to 12 hours) is actually recommended, as that leads to a softer and less bitter filling.
If time gets away from you, and you don’t make your pie the next day you can go ahead and refrigerate the covered bowl of lemon and sugar for up to 2 days.
Meyer Lemon as an Alternative
If you are short on time and in a hurry to make this pie, look for Meyer lemons in the grocery store.
This citrus fruit is a natural hybrid between citron and a mandarin/pomelo fruit. The fruit is sweeter than regular lemons and has a smaller amount of pith which makes it significantly softer and less bitter.
Slice the Meyer lemons paper thin, like you would the regular lemons, then toss in sugar as directed. Let macerate for 1 hour, the amount of time it takes to let the pie crust chill in the refrigerator, and then proceed with the recipe.
Lemon Shaker Pie Variations
The beauty of the lemon shaker pie is the clean simplified filling, of just lemon slices, sugar, eggs, and a pinch of salt. There are other versions that have flour in the filling to thicken, but I find it unnecessary and the flour dulls the pure citrus flavor.
That said, you can certainly jazz up the pie by adding in other fresh or dried fruit, herbs or extracts:
- Fresh berries
- Fresh rhubarb (I have a version of the pie on my own blog, a Meyer lemon strawberry rhubarb shaker pie.)
- Dried cranberries
- Dried cherries
- Replace the lemons with blood or navel oranges
- Vanilla extract
- Fresh mint or thyme
I would not recommend using limes or grapefruit in this recipe. The pith is too bitter in limes and grapefruit, and no matter how long you macerate the citrus, the pie will still be too bitter for most folks to eat! Trust me, I tried it.
How to Store and Freeze Shaker Pie?
As with most pies, the lemon shaker pie is best eaten the day it is baked, but you can make and store the pie for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Just cover it with plastic wrap tightly after it has cooled completely and store in the fridge.
Let the pie come to room temperature, about 30 to 60 minutes on the counter, before serving.
To freeze Lemon Shaker Pie slices: Slice the pie into individual servings, if you wish, and freeze the slices between layers of parchment or wax paper in an airtight container.
To freeze the whole pie: Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place in a large 2-gallon resealable freezer bag. The pie will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge before serving.
More Pucker-Worthy Lemon Desserts
- Lemon Meringue Pie
- Lemon Icebox Pie
- Lemon Tart
- Classic Lemon Bars
- Easy Lemon Pudding
- Lemon Pound Cake
Lemon Shaker Pie
- 2 pie crusts (a top and bottom)
- 2 medium lemons
- 2 cups (400 grams) sugar, plus more to sprinkle on the crust
- 4 large whole eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg yolk
Prepare the pie crust:
You will need both a top and a bottom crust for this pie. If using our Perfect Pie Crust recipe, make sure you double it so you will have enough.
Prepare the pie crust as directed, keeping each dough disk individually wrapped. Chill for an hour in the fridge, or overnight.
Slice the lemons:
Slice the lemons in half lengthwise, so they will lay flat on the cutting board. Then slice the halves into 1/8-inch (or thinner) slices. You will use the whole lemon (without the seeds) in this pie filling.
If you have a kitchen mandoline, this is the perfect time to use it so you’ll achieve paper thin slices. If you don’t have a mandoline, use a very sharp knife to get the slices as thin as possible. Remove any seeds from the lemon slices.
Transfer the lemon slices:
Place all of the lemon slices and any accumulated juice in a medium sized glass, plastic or stainless-steel bowl. Do not use an aluminum bowl, as the acidic lemon juice will react with the metal.
Macerate lemon slices in sugar:
Pour the sugar over the lemon slices and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap (or a plate) and let sit on the counter at room temperature for a minimum of 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
You’ll notice the sugar will dissolve, the lemons will start to look wilted and more translucent, and the filling will extract liquid as it sits.
As it sits, use a spatula to toss filling once or twice. If there are any seeds, they should float up to the top of the liquid. Remove them.
Whisk whole eggs and add to lemon slices:
Once the lemon has macerated in the sugar for the required time, get to work on the eggs. In a small bowl, add the whole eggs and salt. Beat with a fork until thoroughly combined and uniform in color.
Add the beaten eggs to the lemon and sugar mixture and stir until the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is cohesive.
Roll out bottom crust and fill:
Using a rolling pin, roll out one of the disks of pie dough onto a clean surface dusted with flour. Roll the dough using a rolling pin, working from the center of the dough out to the edge of the dough.
Rotate the dough slightly and repeat, rotating the dough all the way around, until you have a 10-inch circular disk. If, at any point, the dough starts to stick to the surface or the rolling pin, add a little more flour underneath or on top of the dough.
Line a 9-inch pie dish with the dough. Pour the filling into the dough, distributing the lemon slices evenly in the pie.
Roll out the top crust and assemble pie:
Using a rolling pin, roll out the second disk into a 10-inch round. Brush the edges of the bottom crust with a little water and add the rolled-out pie dough on top.
Press the dough together to seal the pie. Trim away any excess crust with a kitchen scissor, then crimp the pie edges all the way around the pie.
Chill the pie and preheat the oven:
Place the pie in the fridge for 45 minutes to chill and let the pie dough firm up. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Make and brush egg wash on pie:
Once the pie has chilled, place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet.
In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the top of the pie with a thin layer of egg wash. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar. (If you have decorating sugar or sugar in the raw that works great here too.)
Cut some decorative vents into the top of the crust.
Bake, cool, and serve the pie:
Bake the pie, on the baking sheet, until the top of the crust is golden brown, and the filling is bubbling out of the vents, about 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and allow the pie to cool and the filling to set before serving, about 2 hours.