If you have a lemon lover in your life, you’ve gotta make them this easy lemon cheesecake recipe! So creamy, with tons of sunny citrus flavor!
Today I’m offering you my best lemon cheesecake recipe! I hope you’ll give this a try!
It’s the dreariest time of the year, and I think we could all use a little bit of sunshine.
That’s what lemon recipes are all about, right? When the summery seasonal fruits aren’t available (or just aren’t that good!) we always have lovely citrus to fall back on.
Table of Contents
- What is lemon cheesecake?
- Why this is the best lemon cheesecake recipe
- What does lemon cheesecake taste like?
- Special equipment
- How to make lemon cheesecake
- How to serve
- Expert tips
- Frequently asked questions
- A few more of my favorite cheesecake recipes
What is lemon cheesecake?
This recipe is for a wonderfully soft, dense, and creamy New York cheesecake, infused with the unmistakably zippy and cheerful flavor of fresh lemon. It sits atop a layer of crunchy lemon shortbread crust, providing a gorgeous contrast of tastes and textures.
Why this is the best lemon cheesecake recipe
- Tastes amazing: The tangy lemon flavor will make your mouth pucker!
- Few ingredients: You only need a handful of pantry staples to make it.
- Easy to make: You’ll have it in the oven in no time!
- Doesn’t crack: I’ve made this recipe countless times, and never once had a crack!
What does lemon cheesecake taste like?
You are going to love the tangy, citrusy taste of this dessert! It’s the first thing you’ll notice when you take a bite.
The puckery lemon flavor mellows out over time, and you’re left with the richness of cream cheese on your palate.
There’s also a nice contrast with the crunchy, buttery shortbread crust.
Cookies: I’ve used a whole package of store-bought classic shortbread cookies to make the crunchy crust. But if you really want to be a superstar, you can make your own. Here’s a recipe: Shortbread Cookies.
Lemons: Fresh lemons are best! You’ll need them for both the zest and the juice. Bottled juice will work in a pinch, but you won’t get quite as good a flavor.
Butter: Melted butter is used to bind the crust. I like to use unsalted butter because it lets me control the amount of salt in the dish. Different brands of butter can contain different amounts of salt, so this way you get a more consistent result.
Cream cheese: Full-fat cream cheese in brick form will yield the best results.
Sugar: Regular white sugar is fine, or sub for another type of sweetener if you like. As long as it swaps 1:1 for granulated sugar it should work.
Cornstarch: Cornstarch is a colorless, odorless, and flavorless starch that is used to thicken the filling. Make sure you’re using cornstarch, which is white and powdery, and not cornmeal, which is yellow and gritty and tastes like corn chips.
Cream: Improves the consistency and allows the flavors to linger on your palate. I like heavy whipping cream best. If you live outside the US, this product may be called “double cream.”
Eggs: You’ll need 4 whole eggs plus one additional yolk. The eggs add richness and flavor, as well as allowing the cheesecake to set up as it bakes.
- Measuring cups and spoons: Follow my guide on how to accurately measure ingredients.
- Microplane grater: Removes the zest from the lemon.
- Food processor: Grinds the cookies to fine crumbs for the crust.
- Fork: For tossing the crust ingredients together.
- Electric mixer: I like a stand mixer, but a handheld electric mixer would work as well.
- Silicone spatula: For scraping the bowl, and to help make sure you get every last bit out!
- Citrus juicer: For juicing the lemons.
- Cake pan: You’ll need a regular 9-inch diameter cake pan (I don’t like springform pans for cheesecake- they always leak! And I’ve tried every trick in the book.)
- Non-stick spray: For greasing the pan.
- Parchment: So your cheesecake can be removed from the pan easily.
- Larger pan: The cheesecake will be baked in a larger pan filled with water. This allows for slow, even cooking and is also known as a “water bath” or “bain marie.”
How to make lemon cheesecake
This easy recipe comes together in 4 simple steps.
Step 1: Make the lemon shortbread crust
Start by grinding your shortbread cookies (along with the zest of one lemon) in the food processor until you have fine crumbs.
Add the melted butter, and toss everything together with a fork until it’s well-combined.
Then just press this mixture into the bottom of the cake pan. You want a nice, even thickness, and it helps to really pack it down with the bottom of a measuring cup.
Step 2: Blend the cream cheese and sugar
Next, place your cream cheese, sugar, cream, and cornstarch in a large mixing bowl.
Stir these ingredients together just until smooth. You don’t need to whip them or work in a lot of air. That will only cause cracking.
Step 3: Add the eggs and lemon
Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, to incorporate any bits of thick cream cheese that may be clinging.
Then, start stirring in the eggs.
Add just one at a time, allowing it to fully incorporate before adding the next.
Then stir in the lemon juice.
Step 4: Bake in a water bath
Pour the lemony cheesecake batter over the shortbread cookie crust.
Then place the unbaked cheesecake in a larger pan, filling it about 3/4 of the way with water.
The cheesecake will bake until it’s set around the sides but still just a little bit wobbly in the center.
It will cool very slowly and during this time it will continue to firm up quite a bit.
How to serve
You can enjoy this treat as a dessert or snack.
It can be served chilled or at room temperature.
I like to add some swirls of lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream and sprinkle it with additional lemon zest. The lemon zest curlicues you see here can be made with a channel knife.
Bash the cookies: If you don’t have a food processor, you can turn the cookies into crumbs by placing them in a large zip-top bag, and bashing them with something heavy. I’d suggest using a meat mallet (smooth side!).
Use room temperature ingredients: It’s best if you allow all your ingredients to come to room temperature first. Especially the cream cheese. This helps to create a smooth, lump-free batter.
Add eggs slowly: It’s really important not to add too much liquid at once. If you do, you could end up with lumps in the batter.
Don’t overwhip: Try not to incorporate too much air into this batter. It will expand in the oven as it heats, and could cause cracking.
Use a cake pan: Springform pans are great for no-bake cheesecakes, flourless chocolate cake, and tiramisu cake, but I do not like them for baking cheesecake. They always, always leak. I’ve tried wrapping the pan in foil, plastic, etc., but the water always finds a way in and then you have a soggy crust. I prefer a regular cake pan, with no seams that could allow unwanted moisture in. If you prep the pan well and chill your cheesecake, it will unmold without a problem.
Make lemon cheesecake bars: If you prefer, you can bake this same recipe in a square pan and cut it into bars. Just keep an eye on it- you may need to adjust the bake time slightly.
Bake in a water bath: Baking cheesecake in a larger pan filled with water allows it to come up to temperature slowly, so it doesn’t crack.
Cool slowly: You also want to cool it slowly. Cheesecakes like to be treated gently! Leave it in the oven (turned off) for an hour to cool, before chilling it in the fridge.
Frequently asked questions
After your cheesecake comes out of the oven, place it in the fridge so it can chill really solid.
Then, invert it onto a plate, and place your serving dish on top (which would actually be the bottom of the cheesecake) and flip it over, removing the plate.
If you have any trouble, it could be because the butter in the crust has solidified from the cold. Run a dishtowel under very hot water, wring it out, and bundle it around the bottom of the pan. After a few minutes, the cheesecake should release easily.
This could happen for one of two reasons.
Either you added the eggs too fast or you forgot to scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.
It’s also helpful if all the ingredients are at room temperature.
It’s a good idea to plan ahead when you’re making any kind of cheesecake.
While the active work time is minimal, they do need a long time to bake and cool.
I usually try to make them the night before I plan to serve them, so they have plenty of time to chill in the fridge.
For what you see here, I divided it into 12 equal (generous!) slices.
The nutritional info in the recipe card below is for 1/12th of the whole cheesecake. It does not include whipped cream.
This lemon cheesecake can be left at room temperature for several hours.
After that, it should go into the fridge. Wrap it tightly so it doesn’t pick up any weird odors.
It should last (chilled) for a week or two, or (frozen) for a few months. Thaw it in the fridge or at room temperature.
A few more of my favorite cheesecake recipes
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- 11.2 ounces (317.52 g) shortbread cookies
- 1 tablespoon (6 g) lemon zest, (zest of one lemon)
- 5 tablespoons (70 g) unsalted butter, melted
- 24 ounces (680.39 g) cream cheese, (3 8-ounce bricks), softened
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (59.5 g) heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons (24 g) cornstarch
- 4 (176 g) eggs, large
- 1 (18 g) egg yolk, large
- 1/4 cup (61 g) lemon juice, (juice of 2 lemons)
- sweetened softly whipped cream, (optional garnish)
- additional lemon zest, (optional garnish)
- Place the shortbread cookies and zest in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to fine crumbs.
- Pour in the melted butter and toss with a fork to combine.
- Transfer the mixture to a greased, parchment-lined 9-inch diameter cake pan.
- Press the crust into an even layer over the bottom of the pan.
- Using an electric mixer fidded with the paddle attachment, stir the cream cheese, sugar, cream, and cornstarch together on low speed until smooth (approx. 2 to 4 minutes).
- Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, then stir in the eggs one at a time, allowing each one to fully incorporate before adding the next.
- Stir in the lemon juice, then pour the batter over the crust.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and place the cake pan inside a larger pan filled 3/4 of the way with water.
- Bake the cheesecake for 15 mintues, then turn the oven temperature down to 300 degrees F and continue to bake until the sides are set but the middle is still slightly wobbly (approx. 65 to 75 minutes).
- Turn off the oven, open the door slightly, and allow the cheesecake to cool slowly for one hour.
- Garnish with 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream whipped to soft peaks with 1/4 cup powdered sugar, and more lemon zest, if desired.*