Lemon Cheesecake is a bright and beautiful dessert that’s perfect for both spring and summer! Each layer packs a lemony punch and it pairs so nicely with the luscious cheesecake filling. The homemade frosting is a simple cream cheese whipped frosting with a twist of lemon flavor.
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Warm weather is the perfect time for all of those citrus and berry desserts. Zesty, fresh lemon is one of my favorite flavors to use in desserts! Sweet and sour is such a pleasing flavor combination and so delightfully refreshing. I also love the way lemon tastes when combined with creamy ingredients, like cream cheese or custard.
My vegetable crisper is usually full of lemons and I have an extra jar of lemon curd. And you always want to have extra lemons and curd for those perfect Sunday mornings when you have an urge to whip up some Lemon Cream pastries or Lemon Filled Donut Holes. For a special holiday though, you want to make a Lemon Cheesecake!
This gorgeous lemon cheesecake has lemon infused into the crust, the luscious cheesecake filling, and the smooth whipped cream cheese frosting. This beauty is even decorated with homemade candied lemon peels. Candied lemon peels take about an hour to make and a bit of work, but it’s so very worth it. Plus, you can always make them ahead of time.
Sugars – You’ll need brown sugar, white granulated sugar, and powdered sugar for this homemade cheesecake recipe. If you end up making the candied lemons, you’ll also need extra fine sugar.
Cream Cheese – Be sure to use full fat cream cheese and remember to pull it out of the refrigerator 30-45 minutes before using so it’s nice and soft.
Eggs – Remember to take the eggs out of the fridge 30-45 minutes before baking to let them warm up to room temperature.
Heavy Whipping Cream – DO NOT substitute this with any other dairy product, or your cheesecake won’t have the right consistency.
Sour Cream – Full fat sour cream needs to be used for the best decadent consistency.
Vanilla Extract – I always recommend using 100% pure vanilla extract, not imitation.
See recipe card for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
Prepare the springform pan by wrapping outside of it in foil. This will help keep the water out of the pan.
Make the crust by combining the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, lemon extract, lemon zest, and brown sugar. Spray the inside of your springform with some non-stick spray, and get a little up the sides as well. Spread the crust mixture in the bottom of the prepared springform, evenly pressing it over the bottom and a little up the sides.
Start making the filling by beating the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer. Pour in the white granulated sugar while beating and add eggs, one at a time. Beat it until smooth. Stop to scrape bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.
Finish up the cheesecake filling by beating in sour cream, vanilla, lemon extract, and heavy whipping cream until fully incorporated. Lower the speed and beat in the cornstarch and lemon zest. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl and mix for a few more seconds to make sure everything is evenly mixed. Spread the batter evenly into your springform pan.
Preheat your oven to 325°F. Place a large roasting pan in the oven and place your springform inside of that. Carefully pour hot water into the roasting pan, about half way up the side of the springform.
Bake for 85-90 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the oven door half way, then let the baked cheesecake rest for 10-15 minutes and take it out of the oven. Take the foil wrap off the pan.
Next, let it rest for about 10 minutes at room temperature before gently run a butter knife between sides of the cheesecakes and the springform to carefully separate it. Keep in mind that you don’t actually have to take the cheesecake out of the pan until you’re ready to serve it.
Cool the cheesecake for an hour, then cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
Whisk together the softened cream cheese and powdered sugar on medium-high speed for about 1 minute. Pour in the heavy cream while it mixes, then add lemon extract. Keep whisking until the frosting is whipped into stiff peaks.
PRO TIP: The frosting doesn’t take long to whip. Don’t walk away too far!
Lower the speed and mix the lemon zest into the frosting. Turn off the mixer, then transfer the frosting to a piping bag and decorate your cheesecake to your heart’s desire!
How To Make Lemon Peels
This is an optional step, but candied lemon peels really send this dessert over the top! Peel the skin off the lemon and try not to get the white part. Slice the peels into thinner strips. Add the peels into the small pot and cover it with water. Bring it to boil and boil for just about 30 seconds. Drain the peels and rinse with cold water. Repeat two more times.
Combine 1 cups of water and 1 cup of white sugar in a pot over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is melted. Add the peels and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes. Drain off the lemon simple syrup into a container and save it for another use. Toss the peels in fine sugar and lay them out to dry.
Tips for the Best Lemon Cheesecake:
- You can prepare the candied lemons ahead of time and store in the fridge until ready to make the cheesecake.
- You’ll have some lemon simple syrup leftover from cooking the candied lemons. Save it and use it for other delicious recipes, like as a substitute for simple syrup in my favorite Lemon Drop Martini recipe!
- If you don’t have graham cracker crumbs for the crust, substitute Nilla wafers. Pulse about 40-50 wafer cookies in the blender until it’s crumbs and use it in the recipe. You may want to omit or use less brown sugar in the crust if substituting Nilla wafers.
- I highly recommend that you wrap outside of the springform pan in heavy duty aluminum foil to prevent water seeping in from the water bath.
- That brings up to the water bath. DO use water bath to bake the cheesecake! The texture difference really is amazing, it’s well worth the extra step.
Yes, you can but make sure to freeze it WITHOUT topping or frosting. Frostings can be added after the cheesecake has been thawed.
You can freeze cheesecake right on the bottom of the springform pan or you can take it off the pan and transfer it onto an aluminum foil covered cardboard.
Once cheesecake has been cooled to room temperature, run a butter knife along the inside of the springform pan to separate the cheesecake from the pan. Place the pan with cheesecake in the freezer and freeze for about an hour.
Then, carefully take off the side portion of the springform. At this point, you can either keep the bottom of the springform with the cheesecake or transfer it onto a piece of thick cardboard cake holder covered with aluminum foil.
Wrap cheesecake with the bottom of the pan in plastic wrap, in 2-3 layers. Then, wrap the whole thing with aluminum foil. As an added protection from air, you can place the whole things in a large, zip-lock freezer bag, but that’s not necessary.
Make sure to date and label before placing cheesecake back in the freezer. Cheesecake will keep in the freezer for 2-3 months.
To thaw frozen cheesecake, make sure to do it slowly. Place cheesecake from freezer into the refrigerator and slow-thaw overnight.
You can store frosted cheesecake in the refrigerator. Note that candied lemon peels will soak up moisture from the cheesecake and moisten while stored together.
Store it in the original springform baking pan and make sure to re-wrap the pan with plastic wrap air-tight after each time you take out a slice.
Cheesecake will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
You can tell the cheesecake is baked when the edges are set and the center is slightly soft and jiggly. As it cools in the oven and on the counter, the center will continue to set more and become more firm. DO NOT insert a knife or toothpick into the center since that may cause the dessert to crack.
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- 9-inch spring form pan
- Larger roasting pan that fits the springform comfortably inside
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 4 tbsp butter melted
- 1 lemon – zest only
- 1/2 tsp lemon extract
- 32 oz cream cheese softened
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 3 eggs room temperature
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon extract
- 2 lemon – zest only
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream cold
- 1/2 tsp lemon extract
- 1 lemon – zest only
- 1 cup powdered sugar
Candied Lemon Peels – takes about an hour (optional):
- 2-3 lemons – peel only
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp extra fine sugar for coating
- Before making the cheesecake, prepare the pan by wrapping outside of the pan in aluminum foil. Many springform pans, especially ones that have been used quite a bit, have a chance of leaking some water inside. Wrapping outside of the springform in foil will help keep water out.
- Although, there is a chance that a small amount of water will leak in, this will NOT ruin the cheesecake.
- Combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, lemon extract, lemon zest, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl and mix very well.
- Spray inside of the springform pan with some cooking spray, making sure you get the sides too.
- Spread crumb mixture in the bottom of the prepared springform, evenly pressing it over the bottom and a little up the sides.
- In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese for a couple of minutes on medium-high speed, until smooth and fluffy.
- Pour in sugar while beating and add eggs, one at a time. Beat it until smooth. Stop to scrape bottom and sides of the bowl.
- Add sour cream, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and heavy whipping cream. Beat, still on medium-high speed, until all mixed very well.
- Lower the speed and beat in cornstarch and lemon zest. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl and mix for a few more seconds to make sure everything is evenly mixed.
- Transfer batter into the springform and spread in evenly.
- Preheat oven to 325°.
- Place a large roasting pan into the oven and place cheesecake springform inside the roasting pan. Carefully pour hot water to the roasting pan, about half way up the side of the springform.
- Bake for 85-90 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the oven door half way. Let cheesecake rest for 10-15 minutes and take it out of the oven. Take the foil wrap off the pan.
- Let it rest for 10 minutes on the counter and then gently run a butter knife between sides of the cheesecakes and the springform to carefully separate it. (You don’t actually have to take the cheesecake out of the pan until ready to serve.)
- Cool cheesecake for an hour and then cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
- Make sure to soften the cream cheese for about 30-45 minutes on the counter first but keep heavy whipping cream cold. Use a whisk attachment on the mixer.
- Start beating cream cheese and powdered sugar for about a minute on medium-high speed.
- Slowly pour in heavy whipping cream while it's mixing. Add lemon extract. Continue beating until frosting is whipped into stiff peaks and waves. (It won't take long so don't walk away.)
- Lower the speed back down to stir and add lemon zest. Give it just a few turns to mix it in. Turn off the mixer.
- Transfer the frosting onto a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip (I use 1M) and decorate the top of the cheesecake.
Candies Lemon Peel (Takes about an hour):
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off the lemon, trying not to get the white part. Slice the peels into thinner strips.
- Add the peels into the small pot and cover it with water. Bring it to boil and boil for about 30 second. Drain the peels and rinse with cold water. Repeat two more times.
- Combine 1 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar in a small pot. Heat up on medium heat and stir until the sugar is melted.
- Add the peels and bring the water to boil. Lower the heat to low and cook for about an 30 minutes.
- Drain off the lemon simple syrup into a container and save it for another use.
- Toss the peels in fine sugar and lay them out to dry.
- Water Bath: DO use the water bath technique, it does strongly affect the texture of the cheesecake.
- How To Tell If Cheesecake If Done: You can tell the cheesecake is baked when the edges are set and the center is slightly soft and jiggly. As it cools in the oven and on the counter, the center will continue to set more and become more firm. DO NOT insert a knife or toothpick into the center since that may cause the dessert to crack.
- Cooling: DO cool the cheesecake is three steps: 10 minutes in the turned off oven, on the counter, and chill in the refrigerator.
- Frosting: remember NOT to frost the cheesecake until it has been chilled and prepare the frosting right before you are ready to frost the cheesecake.