This sweet and tangy lemon cheesecake is made with fresh lemon juice and zest, then topped with bright, citrusy lemon curd! It’s the perfect balance of creamy, tart, and sweet flavors that makes this the best lemon cheesecake!
This lemon cheesecake is full of bright lemon flavor and includes three whole lemons for the recipe! Freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest are added to this creamy New York cheesecake, which is then topped with a tart and citrusy lemon curd and decorated with lemon slices and whipped cream.
Lemon cheesecake is a bright and tangy dessert that's fantastic for Easter, birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas! It's great for the winter when citrus is in season but also terrific for the summer when you need a refreshing dessert.
If you're a fan of lemon, do not skip the lemon curd. I highly recommend it for a boost of bright lemon flavor which perfectly complements the creaminess of the cheesecake. You can serve the lemon cheesecake without the curd, but the lemon flavor will be more subtle and delicate.
Lemon Cheesecake Toppings:
- Lemon curd - Lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, eggs, butter.
- Whipped cream - Heavy cream, sugar.
- Lemon slices - Cut slices in half or quarters for easy decorating.
Step by Step Photos
- Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor to get crumbs. Add the melted butter, sugar, and salt and pulse a few more times. The texture should resemble wet sand.
- Prep the springform pan with a bottom parchment round and double-line with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Press the graham cracker crumbs into the pan along the bottom and sides, then bake for 10 minutes.
- Add the cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest into a large bowl. Beat with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer until smooth and creamy.
- Beat the batter on the lowest setting for 2 minutes to remove large air bubbles. Then, bang the bowl a few times on the counter to push up any air bubbles. This will help prevent cracking.
- Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust and once more, bang the pan a few times to remove air bubbles.
- Set the springform pan into a larger roasting pan and fill it with about 1 inch of hot water to create a water bath.
- Bake for 75 minutes and then turn off the oven, leaving the cheesecake inside to slowly decrease in temperature.
- Crack open the oven door slightly to let out the heat for 1 hour. Afterward, remove the cheesecake from the water bath and remove the foil. Allow it to come to room temperature, then cover lightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to overnight.
Removing air bubbles and baking the cheesecake in a water bath should (fingers crossed) get you a smooth, crack-free cheesecake. But if your cheesecake cracked, don't worry! We'll cover it with luscious, bright lemon curd and whipped cream so no one will know.
Lemon curd topping
While the cheesecake is resting in the oven, prepare the lemon curd:
- Fill a saucepan with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add the eggs, lemon juice, and sugar to a bowl and set on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler. Continually whisk until the curd thickens and starts to bubble.
- Turn off the heat and remove the bowl from the saucepan. Add the lemon zest and whisk in a few pieces of butter at a time. Transfer to a container and cover with plastic wrap so it touches the surface to prevent skin from forming. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.
Assemble lemon cheesecake
- Spread an even layer of lemon curd on the surface of the cheesecake. Use as much or as little as you'd like, depending on preference.
- Pipe whipped cream around the edges and place thin slices of lemon on top.
To serve, place a thin knife in hot water and then wipe it dry. Warming the knife will get you clean slices. Be sure to wipe off any excess cheesecake from the knife and place it back into the hot water. Wipe it dry before each slice. Enjoy!
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs - See Note 1
- 2 ½ tablespoons butter - melted
- 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 8oz packages cream cheese - softened, see Note 2
- 2 eggs
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ⅔ cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest - packed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons butter - cut into small pieces
- ½ tablespoon lemon zest - packed
- whipped cream
- lemon slices - for garnish
- Use a food processor to make graham cracker crumbs. Alternatively, crush them in a resealable bag using a rolling pin or kitchen mallet. Mix the crumbs with the melted butter, sugar, and salt. It should resemble wet sand and hold its shape when pressed. Add the crumbs to the pan and firmly pat down to get an even layer on the bottom and sides. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside.1 cup graham cracker crumbs, 2 ½ tablespoons butter, 1 ½ tablespoons sugar, pinch of salt
- Make the batter: Reduce the oven to 325°F. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer, beat the softened cream cheese, eggs, sugar, sour cream, lemon juice and zest, and salt until smooth and creamy on medium-high speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom halfway through. Lastly, remove large air bubbles by reducing the speed to the lowest setting for 1 to 2 minutes.2 8oz packages cream cheese, 2 eggs, ⅔ cup sugar, ⅔ cup sour cream, 2 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Water bath: Pour the batter into the springform pan and remove any air bubbles by banging the pan onto the kitchen counter lined with a kitchen towel. Put the springform pan into a larger roasting pan and add hot water a few inches up the side to create a water bath.
- Bake: Bake at 325°F for 75 minutes. Turn off the oven and use a wooden spoon to crack open the oven door. Let the cheesecake slowly reduce in temperature for one hour then remove it from the oven.
- Chill: Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and remove the foil. Once it reaches room temperature, loosely cover and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours to overnight.
- Double-boiler: Fill a saucepan with about 2 to 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add the eggs, lemon juice, and sugar to a non-reactive, heat-safe bowl and set on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Continually whisk until the curd thickens and starts to bubble, about 10 to 13 minutes. See Note 3.3 eggs, ½ cup lemon juice, ½ cup sugar
- Add butter and zest: Turn off the heat and remove the bowl from the saucepan. Strain while still hot if you see cooked pieces of egg. Add the lemon zest and whisk in a few pieces of butter at a time, letting it melt into the curd to create a silky texture. Transfer to a container and cover with plastic wrap so it touches the surface to prevent skin from forming. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.5 tablespoons butter, ½ tablespoon lemon zest
Add toppings and serve
- Spread the lemon curd on the cheesecake, reserving some for serving on the side. Top with lemon slices and whipped cream (see Note 4). Cut slices using a thin knife that's been dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each slice. Serve and enjoy!
✎ Recipe Notes
- Graham cracker crust - Reduce the amount by half if you only want a bottom crust with no sides.
- Cream cheese - Use full-fat cream cheese for best results. To soften, leave at room temperature or microwave for 20 seconds at a time at half power until soft (my preferred method).
- Lemon curd - Whisking is essential to avoid cooked pieces of egg. If this happens, simply strain the curd through a sieve while it's still hot.
- Whipped cream - Add 1 cup of heavy whipping cream to 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy.
- Crust: Use a flat-bottomed measuring cup with straight sides to easily press down the graham cracker crumbs.
- Crack-free cheesecake: Cracks can form in cheesecakes due to air bubbles, over-mixing, and improper temperature. Avoid opening the oven during baking to keep the temperature consistent.
- Once it's finished baking, allow the cheesecake to rest in the oven with the door cracked for an hour to let the temperature decrease slowly. This prevents the cheesecake from collapsing and cracking.
- Once the cheesecake comes to room temperature, cover it loosely to prevent any condensation from dripping onto the cheesecake.
- Chill overnight for best results.
- Make-ahead for the holidays - Lemon cheesecake can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the fridge.
*Nutritional information is an estimate, calculated using online tools.
Yes, you can make lemon cheesecake up to 2 days ahead. Cover it with plastic wrap and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It's great for holidays, special occasions, and get-togethers.
Lemon cheesecake freezes exceptionally well. Pre-slice for individual servings or freeze the entire cheesecake. I recommend wrapping it in plastic wrap and then placing it inside a freezer-safe container to avoid frost. Thaw it in the fridge overnight before serving.