Food Memories – Gramma Rhetta’s Lemon Bars

Gramma Rhetta's Lemon Bars

Today’s food memory comes from Dana of The Kitchen Witch.  If it weren’t for the fact that I live in Bawlmer and she lives somewhere in Colorado, I would swear that we’re twins.  Because not only do we manage to somehow share a brain across a continent, we both luv lemon and have a special place in our hearts for our Grandmother.

This post originally appeared on The Kitchen Witch on 20 July 2009.  My thanks to Dana for sharing her story, and her memory of Sassybritches.  She sounds like one feisty lady I would have liked to have known.

Gramma Rhetta’s Lemon Bars

My maternal grandmother, Henrietta, has been on my mind lately, probably because of the letter my mother shared with me here.

I was stunned when she died, because I never thought she would. She had more energy at 80 than I did at 13. She zipped around from task to task, shooing errant children outside NOW, because dang it, she had stuff to get done.

She didn’t like anyone bothering her in the kitchen, which is why when my mother married my father, she knew how to make one thing. Salad.

My mother never held it against her though, because Henrietta taught her something far more important: the art of femme fatale.

Gramma could charm a man like nobody’s business. Normally, she was a trouser-wearing, all-business, bossy bit of baggage. But when a man walked into the room…Viola! Suddenly the drawl got thicker, the eyelashes batted heavier and the smile got absolutely vixen-like.

Gramma had three husbands, and was probably well onto collecting her fourth when she died, quickly and unexpectedly. She died like she lived, in a flash of bright light and perfume and a little bit of fairy dust.

Besides her fried chicken (and her cornbread), which are recipes that, alas, died with her, she left this lemon bar cookie recipe. I don’t bake much, and I don’t really like sweets, but I love all things lemon. She always had a batch of these in the freezer when we visited. Yeah, that’s right, the freezer. For some reason, we loved them best that way.

So Gramma Rhetta, here’s to you. I miss you, Sassybritches.

Lemon Bars

BAH Note: I feel like I let Dana down with my attempt to make these.  Because I’m sure that the Lemon Bars that came out of her Gramma’s kitchen were much prettier to look at than mine.  I struggled to get them out of the pan despite having lined it with foil ‘slings’.  But while mine might not be much to look at, they taste damn good.  The shortbread base is rich and buttery and the lemon filling balances sweet and tart beautifully.

When I mentioned to Dana that I had issues removing these treats from the pan, she said “I usually grease the pan, line it with parchment paper, and then grease the parchment. When the bars are cool, I lift the parchment out of the pan and the bars come out with it.”  You should probably do that instead of trying to pry shortbread and lemony goodness out of a cake pan.  Your knives, spatulas, cake pan, and nerves will all thank you.


1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour

Combine and press into a 8×8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Sift together the sugar, baking powder and flour. Add 2 beaten eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest Pour over baked crust and bake 25 minutes.


Dust top with powdered sugar, cut into squares and, if you are a Ludlam, freeze and sneak several throughout the day.

{Printable Recipe}

8 thoughts on “Food Memories – Gramma Rhetta’s Lemon Bars

  1. I LOVE lemon bars… I’ll have to try this recipe soon. They always make me think of summer. The perfect thing to make in the middle of February 🙂

    1. I had never made lemon bars before this recipe and now I can’t get enough of them. Especially during these cold, snowy days, they are little bites of sunshine.

    1. TKW, it’s been my pleasure…especially as I was snacking on these lovely lemon bars. Sounds like your Grandma was a pistol and that’s my kind of gal!

  2. I’d forgotten about these (bad blogger friend!) and really need to get in there and make them. They look wonderful and I’m a sucker for anything lemon.

    1. Phoo-D, thanks for stopping by BAH.

      I think this TKW/BAH crossover is the Universe’s way of telling you to make some lemon bars this weekend. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by these lovely lemon treats. Just make sure you grease the heck out of the foil, otherwise they will be hell to get out of the pan.

  3. God has a special place for those who live in bright light and fairy dust and make lemon bars to boot!

    What a wonderful story,,,can’t wait to make these ;emon greats!

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