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Tangy, bright and sunny Lemon Cheesecake!
What a treat! This New York-styled lemon cheesecake has a sweet, crunchy graham cracker crust, a melt in your mouth lemony filling and a really nice zing from the tangy lemon curd topping.
To master the cheesecake, bake in a water bath.
Don’t let the thought of baking cheesecake in a water bath scare you off. It’s really easy to do, and ensures you’ll end up with a fantastic consistency and creamy smooth surface.
You’ll need two large sheets of heavy duty foil to wrap and seal the springform pan. Don’t make the mistake of using 6 layers of regular sized aluminum foil. It won’t work and you’ll end up with wet crust. Trust me on this. Been there, done that. Water always finds a way.
You’ll also need a big roasting pan that is large enough to fit the springform pan while allowing hot water to go all the way around.
Once the crust is pre-baked, the springform pan is wrapped in two layers of foil then placed inside the roasting pan. Add the cheesecake filling to the pan, then place the whole thing in the oven. Using a measuring cup or tea kettle, pour hot tap water into the roasting pan until it’s halfway up the side of the springform pan.
The cheesecake bakes gently in this nice humid environment keeping the egg proteins from drying out or overcooking. If the filling doesn’t dry out, it won’t crack!
You’ll need 1 cup of lemon curd for the cheesecake topping.
Homemade Lemon Curd is well worth the 20 minutes it takes to make on the stove top. It needs a few hours to chill before spreading on the cheesecake, but you’ve got time. The cheesecake needs to be refrigerated overnight to set up properly anyway. Make the cheesecake, make the curd and marry the two together the next day.
To ensure you make the BEST lemon curd ever to come out of your kitchen, zest only the yellow part of the lemon rind. Don’t zest any of the white pith as it can make your curd taste bitter.
We have a terrific homemade lemon curd recipe that’s perfect for topping this cheesecake. The consistency is smooth and creamy, but it still stays put when spread on top. Even sliced, our lemon curd doesn’t drip off the sides. I hope you’ll give it a try!
Should we use organic lemons for this lemon cheesecake?
I prefer using organic lemons when using a lot of zest in any recipe. The rind of an organic lemon is typically thinner and softer, and in my opinion, has a much better flavor.
I still wash organic lemons like all my citrus: in warm soapy water to remove any residual weirdness before zesting. I feel better about eating something grown without pesticides.
Can you use store-bought lemon curd in place of homemade?
Feel free to use your favorite jar of store-bought lemon curd for a topping on this lemon cheesecake. I recommend using a good quality curd, however. No skimping on the curd!
Since this is the kind of dessert that puts the few ingredients front and center, using an inferior lemon curd could alter the amazing overall flavor.
Can this lemon cheesecake be made ahead?
Once baked, cheesecake needs a few hours to cool at room temperature before being refrigerated overnight. It takes a while to chill a tall cheesecake all the way through so it’s best to make this Lemon Cheesecake recipe 24 hours in advance of serving.
Lemon curd can be spread on top of the cheesecake once it’s cooled completely, or a few hours before serving.
Can you freeze lemon cheesecake?
Yes you can! Cheesecake actually freezes very well. If you find yourself with leftovers, flash freeze the remaining slices then cover each tightly in plastic wrap. Store in an airtight container in the freezer until needed.
If you topped the cheesecake with whipped cream, it may not be as pretty once thawed, but it will still taste great.
To serve, thaw individual slices of cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator.
How to prevent cracks in cheesecake:
Besides baking in a water bath, here are a few other tips to help make your cheesecake absolutely gorgeous.
- Don’t overmix the batter. Too much air can cause bubbles which burst while baking. Those holes create voids which fall once cooled, making cracks in the surface.
- Don’t overbake the cheesecake. The middle should still jiggle a bit when the cake is done. Remember, you’ll be leaving the cheesecake in the oven for an hour after turning it off.
- Baking in a water bath also helps prevent overbaking.
- When the cheesecake finally comes out of the oven, slide a small thin knife around the top edge of the cake. This releases the cheesecake from the sides of the pan, which could pull as the cake cools and shrinks, causing cracks in the surface.
- Allow the cheesecake to cool at room temperature. Drastic temperature changes can also cause your cheesecake to crack. Don’t put warm cheesecake in a cold environment.
If for some reason you get a crack in your cheesecake, no worries. It will still taste great!
Make this show-stopper for your next special event.
Cheesecake takes several hours to make but the steps are simple and the end result is stunning.
For beautiful slices, warm a large thin knife under hot water. Carefully dry the knife before slicing the cake. Repeat between slices for a professional looking presentation.
A few more pro-tips for making the BEST lemon cheesecake:
- Have all your ingredients at room temperature. Don’t warm your cream cheese to speed the process.
- Pulse some of the sugar with the lemon zest in a food processor to break it down so the filling will be smooth with no zesty chunks.
- Warm lemons are easier to juice. Roll the lemons under your palm applying a little pressure until softened.
- Don’t press too hard when creating the graham cracker base.
- Weigh all your ingredients if you have a kitchen scale.
- Use a good non-stick 9-inch springform pan that doesn’t leak.
- As with any new recipe, please read over the instructions a few times before beginning.
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PRINT THE RECIPE!
- Springform pan
For the crust:
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (225g) about 14 sheets
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter melted (2 ½ ounces)
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
For the filling:
- 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar divided (283g)
- zest of 2 lemons (no white pith!)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese room temperature
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- ¼ cup lemon juice (58g) about 2 juicy lemons
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup sour cream (8oz or 227g)
For the topping:
- 1 cup lemon curd (10 oz or 277 g)
Optional whipped cream topping:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
To prepare the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Invert the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan so the cheesecake can slide off onto a serving platter once chilled. Line with a round of parchment paper, if desired.
- In a food processor, process the graham crackers to fine, even crumbs, about 30-seconds. Add the sugar and salt, and pulse 2 or 3 times to combine. Add the warm melted butter in a slow, steady stream while pulsing. Process until the mixture is evenly moistened and resembles wet sand.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared 9-inch springform pan. Using the bottom of a dry measuring cup, press the crumb mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of the pan. Don't press too hard. Slightly firm is good. Bake until set and fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before filling.
- Once cooled, wrap the bottom and sides of the pan in a double layer of heavy-duty foil. Set the springform pan in a roasting pan.
To prepare the filling:
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
- In the bowl of a clean food processor, combine 1/3 cup of sugar with the lemon zest. Pulse until the sugar is pale yellow and the zest is broken down. Transfer the lemon sugar to a 2-cup measuring cup with a spout. Whisk in the remaining 1 cup of sugar and the flour. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer running on medium-low, slowly add the lemon sugar mixture. Beat until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
- With the speed set on medium, add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears before adding the next. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, beat again to blend. Be careful not to over beat.
- Add the lemon juice, vanilla and sour cream. Beat on low until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and beat again for another 5 seconds or until well blended.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Fill the outer roasting pan with enough hot tap water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
- Bake at 325F until the center jiggles slightly, the sides start to puff and the surface appears dry, about 90 to 100 minutes.
- Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open using a pot holder or wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to cool in the hot water bath for 1 hour. Transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack and remove the foil. Slide a small thin knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the sides of the cheesecake. Leave the cheesecake in the springform pan and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
- When the cheesecake is cool, spread the lemon curd on top of the cheesecake leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or up to 24 hours.
- Remove the sides of the springform pan and carefully slide the cheesecake onto a serving platter. Pipe or dollop whipped cream around the outer edges of the cheesecake and garnish with fresh lemon slices, if desired. Slice into wedges and serve.
To prepare the whipped cream topping (optional):
- In a cold medium mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat on high until firm peaks form. Dollop or pipe the whipped cream on top of the cheesecake in a decorative pattern.
- If you don’t have a food processor, you can make the graham cracker crust by crushing the crackers with a rolling pin.
- Don’t skip processing the lemon sugar. If you don’t have a small food processor, trying mixing it by hand.
- Cheesecake can be made 24 hours in advance of serving. Top with whipped cream just before serving, if using.
- Lemon cheesecake freezes beautifully. Place individual slices on a baking sheet and flash freeze. Once frozen wrap each slice tightly in plastic wrap then seal in an airtight container. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
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