Calling all lemon lovers! This layered lemon dessert is the perfect combination of sweet and tart, with a cookie-like crust, tangy cream cheese, lemon pudding, lemon curd, and whipped topping.
It’s no secret that I love lemon desserts. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate, but most days I’ll choose a lemon dessert over a chocolate one.
So no one should be surprised that I had to do a lemon twist on my layered pistachio pudding dessert. Combining lemon with my current obsession with layered desserts just makes sense!
This layered lemon dessert is so good, so easy, and so fun. It’s the ideal summertime dessert!
WHAT IS MY LAYERED LEMON DESSERT?
If you have tried my layered pistachio pudding dessert, then you might have a good idea what this layered lemon dessert is about.
I used a lot of the same approach for this lemony recipe as I did for the pistachio version – I just made it a bit more summery with tart, bright lemon!
This layered lemon dessert uses the crust from my nana’s easy cheesecake recipe and tops it with a light, tangy cream cheese layer followed by a lemon pudding layer, followed by a layer of lemon curd, and finally finished with whipped topping.
The result is a bright, sweet, tangy dessert with tons of textures and lots of bold lemon flavor. And when you cut a slice, you get to see each of the layers, making it impressive to serve!
HOW TO MAKE THIS LAYERED LEMON DESSERT
Even though this dessert has several different layers, none of them are hard to make, so it’s a pretty simple dessert to make from start to finish.
This is the latest addition to what I consider to be my “low-bake” recipes. Even though you do bake the crust, like with my peanut butter pretzel dessert, all of the rest of the layers are no-bake.
Get the kids involved in making this one! It’s super fun and they’ll love seeing all of the layers when it’s cut.
Layers in this dessert
This layered lemon dessert recipe has five parts:
- Cookie crust: For the crust, I used the cookie-like crust from my nana’s cheesecake. It’s got a sugar-cookie vibe to it, so it’s lovely to pair with all of the lemony goodness we’re about to add.
- Cream cheese layer: This layer combines cream cheese, powdered sugar, and whipped topping for a layer that is very similar to no-bake cheesecake.
- Pudding layer: Instant lemon pudding mix and milk are used to make a super thick pudding layer.
- Lemon layer: I like to use my microwave lemon curd for this layer, although you could substitute in 2 cans of lemon pie filling instead.
- Topping: I finish things off with a layer of whipped topping just to keep things simple.
Make sure you know how to measure flour so that the crust for your layered lemon dessert turns out beautiful every time.
You will also need to know how to bring butter to room temperature for the crust.
The cream cheese layer uses powdered sugar. If you run out, learn how to make powdered sugar and save yourself a trip to the store.
Making this recipe
Line your favorite 13×9-inch pan with parchment paper or foil and spray with cooking spray.
Use a mixer to combine the flour, butter, sugar, and salt for the crust until the mixture is combined but crumbly. Press this into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes, then let it cool completely.
When the crust has cooled, you can go ahead and finish the dessert. Next up is the cream cheese layer.
Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Fold in the first 8 ounces of whipped topping until well combined, then spread the mixture over the cooled crust.
For the pudding layer, simply whisk together the pudding mixes and the milk. Let this rest for about 5 minutes, then spread it on top of the cream cheese layer.
Now you can spread on the lemon curd or lemon pie filling and finish everything off with a layer of the rest of the whipped topping.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.
Can I use whipped cream instead of cool whip?
If you don’t love whipped topping, that’s ok! I recommend substituting whipped cream frosting since it is stabilized and will hold up better in the layered lemon dessert over time.
I do not recommend using regular whipped cream as it won’t hold up as well.
Can you make this layered lemon dessert ahead of time?
Since this recipe needs to chill for at least 6 hours before serving, it’s perfect for making ahead.
You can easily assemble the layered lemon dessert the night before you plan to serve it. Just keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to enjoy.
How do you store this dessert?
Make sure to store the layered lemon dessert in the refrigerator.
I don’t recommend freezing this dessert. While each of the individual layers would freeze ok, I can’t promise that they wouldn’t separate from each other during thawing.
How do you get such nice, clean slices??
I get this question all of the time, so here are some tips when slicing desserts like this layered lemon dessert or banana cream bars.
Place the entire pan of the dessert in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, just to get it super cold – you don’t want to actually freeze it.
Use the parchment paper or foil to lift the dessert out of the pan and set it on a large cutting board. Grab a large chef’s knife and run it under very hot water, then immediately dry it off. The knife will be dry but still very warm.
Immediately use the hot knife to make a cut in the dessert. Between slices, wipe off the knife and run it under the hot water again as needed to warm it back up.
The process will seem a bit tedious, but it’s the best way to get super clean, pretty slices of desserts like this layered lemon dessert!
Layered Lemon Dessert
For the Crust
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
For the Cream Cheese Layer
- 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 8 ounces frozen whipped topping Cool Whip or TruWhip, thawed
For the Pudding Layer
- 2 packages instant lemon pudding mix 3.4-ounces each
- 2 ½ cups whole milk
For the Lemon Layer
- 1 batch of microwave lemon curd, OR chilled
- 2 cans of lemon pie filling 21-ounces each
For the Topping
- 8 ounces frozen whipped topping Cool Whip or TruWhip, thawed
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 9×13-inch pan with foil or parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, butter, sugar and salt until combined – mixture will be crumbly. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and use your hands or the floured bottom of a measuring cup to press the dough into an even layer in the pan. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Once the crust layer has cooled completely, prepare the cream cheese layer by beating the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Use a rubber spatula to fold in an 8-ounce container of whipped topping. Evenly spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the crust.
- Next, whisk together the pudding mixes and milk and allow the mixture to thicken for about 5 minutes before spreading on top of the cream cheese layer.
- Add the lemon curd or lemon pie filling and spread evenly over the pudding.
- Finally, top with an 8-ounce container of whipped topping. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.