Lemon posset: a no-fuss pudding


Lemon posset is the no-fuss pudding you need in your life

By G. Daniela Galarza

Updated May 7, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. EDT|Published May 6, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. EDT

Lush but light, lemon posset is a creamy dessert that sidesteps all of the usual requirements of a custard. It contains no eggs nor starch nor gelatin. It takes mere minutes to mix up on a stovetop, and then sets into a silky, spoonable pudding after a spell in the fridge.

Get the recipe: Lemon Posset.

I learned about the British recipe while working as a pastry cook in Paris. The first time I was tasked with making it, I was almost sure someone was playing a trick on me. All I had to do was boil cream and sugar, mix in some lemon juice, pour it into glasses and put those in the refrigerator? I tried to question the chef, but he waved me away. Nervously, I made the recipe as instructed. I went back to check on the possets a few hours later. To my surprise, they were no longer liquid and had taken on the texture of a baked custard.

Later, I learned more about this chemical magic trick. Anyone who has made cheese knows that when you add acid to dairy, it starts to clump. The fat in heavy cream prevents the casein proteins in the dairy from forming curds, so it simply thickens. Sugar, dissolved into the cream before the acid is added, encourages the cream to thicken evenly.

Posset recipes don’t vary much, because too much sugar will throw the ratio of acid to dairy off. Adding too much sugar makes an overly sweet posset, but if you don’t add enough it will taste like cream that’s gone sour. You might think more lemon juice would help the posset set faster, but lemon juice contains a lot of water, and that will actually impede thickening.


Today’s posset bears only a passing resemblance to those made in their heyday in the 16th century. Back then, possets were warm, boozy drinks. “A well-made posset separated into three layers: a frothy cream called the ‘grace’ floated on top, a smooth custard occupied the middle tier and warm ale or spirits lay below,” writes Jeri Quinzio in “Dessert: A Tale of Happy Endings.” Potters even made special posset cups, which featured a drinking spout so that a diner could sip the liquid at the bottom while spooning out the cream and custard from above.

In this recipe, adapted from one I used when I worked in restaurants, I suggest you add a little crème fraîche in with the heavy cream and sugar. It’s not necessary, but I like the density it gives the finished puddings. The longer you let the posset sit in the fridge, the firmer it gets. Lots of recipes suggest serving it with cookies, but I like my posset with fresh, macerated or jammy berries on top.

Get the recipe: Lemon Posset.


Lemon Posset

By G. Daniela Galarza

This classic British pudding is a simple mix of cream, sugar and lemon juice. A touch of crème fraîche gives it a firmer texture, which is nice if you want to top the pudding with fresh or stewed fruit.

Storage: Refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Make Ahead: The posset needs to be refrigerated for 2 to 3 hours before serving.

From staff writer G. Daniela Galarza.


Servings: 6

  • 2 cups (480 milliliters) heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (112 grams) crème fraîche (may substitute additional cream)
  • 2/3 cup (134 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)
  • 1/3 cup (100 milliliters) fresh lemon juice (from 2 to 3 large lemons)
  • Fresh or cooked fruit, such as berries or rhubarb, for serving


Total: 10 mins, plus 2 to 3 hours chilling time

Step 1 In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the heavy cream, crème fraîche, sugar and lemon zest. Bring mixture to a gentle boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. 

Step 2 Maintain a steady simmer, adjusting the heat as needed, and cook, letting the cream reduce slightly for another 2 minutes.

Step 3 Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup with a spout. 

Step 4 Pour the mixture into six (1-cup/240-milliliter) ramekins or glasses/tea cups. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 2 to 3 hours, and up to overnight, before serving plain, or with fresh or cooked fruit on top.

Nutritional Facts

Per serving (scant 2/3 cup)

  • Calories440
  • Carbohydrates27 g
  • Cholesterol136 mg
  • Fat37 g
  • Fiber0 g
  • Protein2 g
  • Saturated Fat23 g
  • Sodium38 mg
  • Sugar24 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

From staff writer G. Daniela Galarza.

Tested by Kara Elder.

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