Lemon Posset

Lemon Posset

Both tangy and creamy, lemon posset is a delightful dessert that takes just three ingredients and 15 minutes of cooking. This popular British dessert is a wonderful anytime treat, something you can serve in the afternoon with a cup of coffee or tea, or at the end of a heavy meal.

Just be sure to plan ahead. Posset needs at least four hours in the refrigerator to set, so prep it in the morning or the night before so it has time to chill until it is time to serve.

What Is Lemon Posset?

Posset is a cold cream-based dessert found throughout the United Kingdom. Originally a drink made from hot milk and honey that was spiced and laced with ale or wine, posset was very popular in the Middle Ages as a remedy for colds and minor ailments, and as a sleep aid.

Later, it became a thickened cream dessert, usually flavored with honey or sugar and lemon, which is the most common recipe used nowadays. This is a great vegetarian dessert, as the mixture sets and thickens thanks to the acid in the lemon juice and not by the addition of gelatin as other, similar desserts do.

Tips for the Perfect Lemon Posset

  • It's important to cook the heavy cream over low heat so you don't burn it. Keep a close eye on the pot since the mixture can go from simmering to a rolling boil quite suddenly. The simmering process removes water from the cream, leaving the fat, which will then react with the lemon juice and thicken into the posset.
  • Straining the lemon syrup to remove the zest is optional, but recommended for the smoothest, cleanest posset.

How to Serve Lemon Posset

This simple dessert is delicious as is, but you can certainly add some finishing touches for extra flavor and texture:

  • Top with berries or berry jam right before serving and decorate with a light sprinkle of confectioners’ sugar.
  • Toast some almond slivers and add them along with a mint leaf as a decoration.
  • Scottish shortbread pairs wonderfully with lemon posset and is one of the most common ways of eating this cream. You can use any vanilla cookie you have at hand and layer crushed cookies with cream and fruit as if you were building a parfait.

What’s the Difference Between Posset and Panna Cotta?

Both posset and panna cotta are cream-based desserts, but there is a key difference between the two. Whereas panna cotta uses gelatin to thicken and set, posset relies entirely on the citric acid found in lemon juice and other citrus fruits.

“Lemons truly shine in this sweet and tart posset. It was super easy to make and turned out incredibly luscious and creamy, but not too rich at all because of the citrus flavor. I can definitely see myself making it again for a dinner party.” —Patty Lee

Perfect Lemon Posset Tester Photo A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 2 large lemons

  • 2/3 cup superfine sugar

  • 2 cups double cream, or heavy cream

  • 1 cup raspberries, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Lemon Posset Recipe

      The Spruce Eats

  2. Finely grate the zest off of the lemons and juice the fruit, removing all seeds. You should get about 4 teaspoons of zest and 1/2 cup juice.

    Lemon Posset Recipe

      The Spruce Eats

  3. Pour the 1/2 cup of lemon juice into a small saucepan. Add the grated zest and superfine sugar. Stir well to combine and bring the mixture to a slow, gentle simmer, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

    Lemon Posset Recipe

      The Spruce Eats

  4. In a medium-sized pot, bring the cream to a gentle boil over low heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Make sure to cook the cream slowly, as a fast boil will spoil the cream and split it. Remove from heat.

    Lemon Posset Recipe

      The Spruce Eats

  5. Slowly whisk the lemon syrup into the hot cream. Strain the mixture into a clean measuring cup.

    Lemon Posset Recipe

      The Spruce Eats

  6. Let the posset cool slightly and pour into small ramekins or glasses. Bring to room temperature.

    Lemon Posset Recipe

      The Spruce Eats

  7. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. The cream will become silky and thick.

    Remove from the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for at least 5 minutes before serving.

    Lemon Posset Recipe

      The Spruce Eats

  8. Decorate with fresh berries and serve.

    Lemon Posset Recipe

      The Spruce Eats

Recipe Variations

Here are a few ideas on how to use our recipe as the base for other types of posset:

  • Citrus: Change the citrus flavor by using lime or orange juice instead of lemon. Mix different citrus flavors like lemons with clementines or limes and oranges. (Note that the posset may not set as firmly with less-acidic citrus fruits.)
  • Vanilla: Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the cream and syrup mix. Be sparing because the vanilla can overpower and spoil the delicate lemon flavor.
  • Spices: Try a light grating of nutmeg or a pinch of ground ginger. For an autumnal feel, add a tiny pinch of pumpkin spice.
  • Liquor: Add a dash of sweet wine, Madeira, or mead. Add the alcohol when whisking the syrup into the cream.
  • Chocolate: Add 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) of semisweet chocolate chips into the cream once you turn off the heat. Mix well until the chocolate is melted. Skip the lemon syrup but do make a simple syrup with water. Decorate with shaved chocolate.

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