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  • Writer's pictureMolly

Vanilla-Lemon Custard Shortbread Mini Tarts

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

Our household had two of our friends over for dinner over the weekend, so I decided to try a new dessert recipe. It's been warm here in Seattle lately, so I made these shortbread mini tarts filled with vanilla-lemon custard because they had a bright, summery feel.

These were pretty easy to make, assuming you're generally comfortable making custards. At the step where you add the milk and vanilla into the egg mixture, I initially thought my mixture was too foamy, but it turned into a great custard once it was back on the stove, so I think it was just fine!

You can use regular sugar instead of lemon sugar in the custard if you don't want the lemon taste (or don't have lemon sugar.) But if you don't have lemon sugar, think about making some! It's super easy, and adds an unexpected something special to a wide variety of recipes.

The mini-tarts can be garnished with any kind of fresh fruit. We've had some great strawberries lately so I used those, but these would work just as well with blueberries, blackberries, or even kiwi, or cherries, depending on what's in season. I garnished these with fresh mint from our garden, but I think basil would have been a great choice if ours had been growing yet.

You can add vanilla bean paste to the custard, but I've been stingy with my vanilla bean paste since the price of vanilla started skyrocketing. If you have vanilla beans to spare, though, they always add a nice look and texture to custard or any baked goods.

Dive in and give these a try this summer! They make a wonderful treat for parties. It doesn't hurt that they are such an impressive presentation.


  • You can substitute the vanilla in the custard for the paste from the inside of one vanilla bean

  • If you don't have vanilla sugar (cookie cups) or lemon sugar (custard), you can just use plain sugar.

  • If you have a stand mixer (such as a Kitchen Aid), it takes a little of the edge off all the whisking in this recipe. Your wrists will appreciate the small break you can give them.

  • Keep an eye on the cookie cups. My oven is gas and bakes a little more slowly than electric ovens, but you don't want to let these burn so I recommend checking them at 10 minutes and deciding from there how much more time (if any) they need.

  • While you're creaming the butter and sugars for the cookie cups, you may need to scrape down the sides and mix some more in order to get everything incorporated. Same when you add the eggs.

  • To make the cup shape, you can press a well into the center of the baked cookie dough using a small jar or container. A spice jar is a perfect size. I tried a spice jar, but found that my tart tamper did the best job.


Vanilla Custard Cookie Cups

Bite-sized sugar cookie cups filled with a creamy vanilla custard and topped with fresh berries.

Course: Dessert

Type: Tart

Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes

Servings: 24 mini tarts


Vanilla Custard:

  • 4 c. milk (divided)

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (or paste from the inside of one vanilla bean)

  • 1/2 c. cornstarch

  • 1/3 c. lemon sugar

  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar

  • 4 large egg yolks

Cookie Cups:

  • 2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 1 c. unsalted butter (room temperature)

  • 1/2 c. vanilla sugar

  • 1 c. granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)

  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract


Vanilla Custard:

  1. Place 3 c. milk and vanilla bean paste into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often until it just starts to simmer. Remove from heat.

  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl, if whisking by hand), whisk remaining 1 c. milk, egg yolks, vanilla sugar, regular sugar, and cornstarch.

  3. While whisking vigorously, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture.

  4. Return the new mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and comes to a boil.

  5. Pass through a strainer and into a small bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on top of custard to prevent a skin from forming. Place in refrigerator to cool completely.

Cookie Cups:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 2 regular sized muffin tins with cooking spray.

  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt, set aside.

  3. Beat butter and sugar(s) on med-high until pale and fluffy (approx. 2-3mins). Reduce speed and add eggs (one at a time), and vanilla. Beat until combined.

  4. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. (If using a stand mixer, switch from your whisk attachment to your paddle attachment.)

  5. Using a large cookie scoop (3 Tbsp.), scoop dough into muffin tins, press down to flatten slightly.

  6. Bake for 10-15 mins, or until lightly browned and mostly set.

  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool for NO MORE than 3 minutes. Spray your jar or tart tamper with cooking spray. Working quickly, press the jar or tamper firmly down in the center to create a well. Cool in pans for 10 mins, then place on wire rack to cool completely.


  1. Remove custard from fridge, and whisk to a smooth texture.

  2. Fit a wide nozzle on a piping bag and fill with custard.

  3. Pipe custard into cooled cookie cups.

  4. Top with fruit and garnish.

  5. Store in fridge and serve within two days.

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