This 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, and 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 soon. I think your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors will LOVE it!
How to Bake a Perfect Cheesecake
Below are all of my best cheesecake baking 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.
I like this Nordic Ware 10-cup springform pan. By the way, it’s best to hand wash these pans to preserve their nonstick surface and spring mechanism.
How to Make Graham Cracker Crust
The crust is probably the simplest part of any cheesecake. 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?
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 or gingersnap cookies!
How to Prevent Cheesecake Cracks
Perfectly smooth cheesecake with zero cracks requires 3 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. Don’t overbeat cheesecake filling!
Be sure to use high quality full-fat bricks of cream cheese. It really makes a difference! And whatever you don’t, 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. For best results, make sure your eggs are room temperature too!
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 then you run the risk of causing all sorts of problems, like large cracks on the cheesecake surface.
2. No quick temperature changes!
Quick temperature changes can be caused by opening the oven door too often during or cooling the cheesecake down too quickly. You want gentle and slow heat and then slow cooling.
That’s why in this recipe once the cheesecake is done baking we actually turn off the oven heat, crack open the oven door, and allow the cheesecake to slowly and gently cool for an hour inside the oven. That’s also why we bake the cheesecake in a water bath to ensure gently baking. Tips for that are just below.
To prevent the cheesecake from cracking as it cools to room temperature out of the oven, 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.
3. Don’t overcook cheesecake!
How to tell when cheesecake is done baking? This can be a little tricky because the residual heat of the oven will continue to cook the cheesecake, especially in this recipe given the above.
So even 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 dry on the surface.
How to Prepare a Water Bath
There are two essentials to preparing a water bath. One, making sure you have a baking pan that’s deep enough and wide enough for the springform pan to fit inside. A roasting pan is usually ideal, but I’ve even used an extra large cake pan or a large skillet. Get creative if you need to!
Two, make sure the springform pan is protected from the water. You don’t want any water to seep through the cracks of the pan and make a mushy graham cracker crust. 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 that creates 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’s 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 Cheesecake
This part requires the most patience! You must let it chill in the fridge for 5 hours before you even think of slicing and serving it! 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. It’s up to you and how confident you are 🙂
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 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 Cheesecake
Store the 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.