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This Lemon Cheesecake may be my favorite cheesecake that I’ve eaten in recent history.
Which is a bold statement, because I make a LOT of cheesecake.
Not only that, but I would usually choose chocolate over lemon any day.
But the bright, fresh, tart lemon flavor complements the tangy cream cheese and sour cream in the filling so well that it’s truly a match made in culinary heaven.
I hope you’ll give this cheesecake recipe a try. I think your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors will LOVE it!
How to Bake a Perfect Lemon Cheesecake
Below are all of my best Cheesecake tips and tricks. I suggest reading this over before you head into the kitchen. I’ve tried to answer every question in advance so you can make the best cheesecake EVER!
Do I Need to Use a Springform Pan?
Yes. Cheesecakes are traditionally baked in a springform pan, which is a deep pan with a removable bottom. This makes easy work of removing the cheesecake from the pan and cutting beautiful slices. I do not recommend using any other pan for this Lemon Cheesecake – or any other cheesecake recipe.
I like this Nordic Ware 10-cup springform pan. I highly recommend hand washing these pans to preserve their nonstick surface and spring mechanism.
How to Make a Graham Cracker Crust
The crust is probably the simplest part of any cheesecake, and this lemon cheesecake is no exception! If you don’t have a food processor to grind the crackers, place them in a ziptop bag and use a mallet or rolling pin to grind them up. The finer the crust is ground, the less crumbly it will be once you go to slice the final cheesecake.
You can always buy prepared graham cracker crumbs. You’ll need 1 3/4 cups or 230 grams of graham cracker crumbs from about 15 whole graham cracker (whole meaning one rectangular cracker).
Do I Have to Use Graham Crackers for This Lemon Cheesecake?
No! If you live somewhere they aren’t available, feel free to use digestive biscuits instead. You could also use the same amount of ground vanilla wafers, gingersnap cookies, Biscoff cookies, or any other similarly-textured cookie with flavors to compliment your lemon cheesecake.
How to Prevent Cracks in Cheesecakes
Perfectly smooth cheesecake with zero cracks requires 4 precautions. I’ve listed them below. But even if a crack occurs, this cheesecake is topped with lemon curd, so you might be able to disguise any imperfections. You could also top with whipped cream if you’d prefer!
1. Ingredients (and Their Temperatures) Matter
- Be sure to use high-quality full-fat cream cheese bricks. It really makes a difference!
- Don’t use cream cheese that’s for spreading on a bagel.
- The cream cheese should be completely softened to room temperature. If it’s too cold, it won’t mix thoroughly and you’ll end up with little bits and pockets of unblended cream cheese.
- Make sure your eggs are at room temperature too.
2. Don’t Overbeat Cheesecake Filling
- One of the absolute KEYS to making perfectly smooth and creamy cheesecake is to blend the cream cheese and sugar to oblivion.
- THEN once the eggs are added, only beat until they’re incorporated.
- If you overbeat the batter once the eggs are added, you run the risk of causing all sorts of problems, like large cracks on the cheesecake surface.
- Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl frequently.
3. No Quick Temperature Changes
- Gentle and slow heat and then slow cooling.
- Don’t open the door often while baking.
- Once the cheesecake is baked, turn off the oven, crack open the oven door, and allow the cheesecake to slowly and gently cool for an hour inside the oven.
- Bake the cheesecake in a water bath to ensure gentle baking. Tips for that below.
- Run a thin knife around the edge of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.
- Only after chilling in the fridge should you remove the springform ring.
4. Don’t Overcook Cheesecake
- The oven’s residual heat will continue to cook the cheesecake.
- If your cheesecake looks slightly wobbly or jiggly in the center when the baking time has ended, that’s perfectly okay.
- Err on the side of underbaking as opposed to overbaking.
- It should look slightly dry on the surface.
How to Prepare a Water Bath for Cheesecake
There are two essentials to preparing a water bath.
- Make sure you have a baking pan that’s deep enough and wide enough for the springform pan to fit inside. A roasting pan is ideal, but I’ve used a large cake pan or a large skillet. Get creative if you need to!
- Protect your springform pan from the water. You don’t want any water to seep through the cracks of the pan and make your cust mushy. Even if your springform pan says it’s “leakproof” – it’s probably not.
To seal off the pan, place a large square of heavy-duty aluminum foil underneath the pan. You want the heavy-duty stuff for bigger sheets of foil to completely encompass the base of the pan. Gently fold the edges up and around the pan. Repeat twice so there are three sheets of foil, to ensure a waterproof seal. Gently fold the top of the foil around the edge of the pan. I’ve even used duct tape to seal the foil, to prevent water from leaking through.
Reader Holly shared a wonderful tip for keeping the water out, “I use a turkey roasting bag, then put a layer of foil around the bottom and sides of the pan to hold it in place. I don’t close the bag over the top. Keeps the water out and the crust dry.”
How to Serve Lemon Cheesecake:
- This part requires the most patience! You must let it chill in the fridge for 5 hours before serving! I usually like to let it chill overnight, just to make sure it’s completely set and I’m able to cut clean, pretty slices.
- Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. You can leave it on the removable bottom, or move it to a serving platter.
- Top evenly with lemon curd.
- If time permits, let the cheesecake sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving, for best taste and texture.
- Use a fairly big sharp knife like this one to cut slices. Run the knife under hot water and carefully wipe off the blade between each slice, so they’re clean and pretty. Then slide a metal server underneath the graham cracker crust to ensure it doesn’t crumble.
How to Store Lemon Cheesecake:
- Store the lemon cheesecake in the fridge for up to 2 days after you top it with the lemon curd.
- You can also freeze the cheesecake (without the lemon curd). You can place the whole cheesecake (or individual slices) on a baking sheet inside the freezer until firm. Wrap the cheesecake or each individual slice in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Freeze for up to 2 months.
- To serve, defrost a whole cheesecake in the fridge overnight. You can also defrost individual slices in the fridge overnight, or at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Can You Put Lemon Curd on Cheesecake?
Yes! Lemon curd tastes delicious on top of classic cheesecake recipes, and this Lemon Cheesecake recipe wouldn’t be complete without lemon curd on top.
More Cheesecake Recipes
- Ultimate Classic Cheesecake
- Ultimate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
- No Bake Mini Blackberry Cheesecakes
- Oreo Cheesecake
- No Bake Mini S’mores Cheesecakes
For the crust:
- 1 3/4 cups (230 gramgraham crackers crumbs (about 15 whole graham crackers)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
- 32 ounces (907 grams) cream cheese, completely softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup (173 grams) sour cream, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
For baking and finishing:
- Boiling water, for the water bath
- Prepared lemon curd, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Prepare a 9-inch springform pan for a water bath. Place a large square of heavy-duty aluminum foil underneath the pan. Gently fold the edges up and around the pan. Repeat twice so there’s three sheets of foil, to ensure a waterproof seal. Gently fold the top of the foil around the edge of the pan. Spray pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Make the crust:
- In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter until the mixture is moistened. Press firmly into the bottom and a quarter way up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool. Maintain oven temperature.
Make the filling:
- In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese on medium speed until completely smooth and free of lumps, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the sugar and beat until combined. Add in the sour cream, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour. Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, and beat until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.
- Pour the batter into the foiled-wrapped springform pan. Tap the pan against the counter a few times to release any air bubbles in the batter.
Prepare the water bath:
- Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan.
Bake the cheesecake:
- Bake at 325°F for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the top looks slightly dry. If the middle is slightly wobbly, that’s fine. Err on the side of underbaking rather than overbaking.
- Turn off the oven heat and open the oven door open just by 1-inch. Let the cheesecake cool inside the oven for 1 hour. This will prevent cracks from forming.
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven and from the water bath, unwrap the foil, and transfer it to a cooling rack. Run a thin-bladed flexible knife around the edge of the cake to make sure it's not sticking to the sides (which can cause cracks as it cools). Let the cheesecake cool completely to room temperature on the rack.
- Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 5 hours or up to 3 days. Store the cheesecake uncovered to avoid creating condensation, which will create a mushy texture.
- Release the cheesecake from the pan onto a cake stand or serving plate and top with the lemon curd. Slice using a big sharp knife, wiping it off under running hot water in between cuts. Serve.
Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.