My Classic Lemon Cheesecake recipe is a creamy New York Style cheesecake with a vivid lemon flavor and a yummy gingersnap crumb crust. This elegant dessert is like spring in a springform pan!
This lemon cheesecake recipe has the perfect combination of creamy cream cheese and fresh lemon flavor.
Like any native New Yorker worth her salt, I know a good cheesecake when I taste it. It’s been too long since I’ve made, or even had a bite of cheesecake and this one brought it all flooding back to me…why I love it, and why a great piece of cheesecake is one of life’s great pleasures. This one has the PERFECT texture, a zingy lemon flavor, and is all decked out for a party ~ what more could you want from dessert?
Lemon zest is the secret to vivid lemon flavor
Most lemon cheesecake recipes are sorely lacking in actual lemon flavor. But I’ve got a secret weapon ~ lemon sugar. That’s sugar that has been processed with lemon zest so the two fuse into one fragrant citrus flavor bomb. You can read all about why I love it so much in my how to make lemon sugar post. It makes the lemon-i-est of lemony cheesecakes.
Cheesecake has a reputation for being difficult and time consuming to make, and I’ve fallen for that myth over the years. But every time I actually set out to make one, I’m always surprised by how quick and easy it actually is. And man-oh-man this lemon cheesecake is so worth it.
A gingersnap crumb crust makes this cheesecake extra special
The bright lemon flavor of this cheesecake begs for something a little more special than an ordinary graham cracker crust….so it’s gingersnaps to the rescue! I’ve used gingersnaps in crumb crusts a lot, most notably in my now famous Cranberry Gingersnap Pie, but also in my No Bake Lemon Crunch Bars. Gingersnaps have such an intense spicy flavor that really perks up an otherwise bland crust. Just look at that zippy color ~ you just know it’s going to taste good.
It’s just as easy to substitute more flavorful cookies when making a crumb crust, so why not? Ginger and lemon is a time honored combination that has so many varied applications, from therapeutic tea to delicious desserts. Use any gingersnap cookie you can find at your store, the thin or thick ones will work.
So we’ve established that this lemon cheesecake is delicious, but nobody is claiming it’s a light dessert.
You’re gonna need 2 lbs (that’s 2 POUNDS) of cream cheese. You’ll want regular cream cheese, not whipped, and while you can use light cream cheese, don’t try to use the fat free stuff. And don’t worry, you won’t be eating the whole cake by yourself…theoretically 😉
The key to making great cheesecake is just 3 words…room temperature ingredients!
That’s right, it’s as simple as that. Get this right and the rest is a breeze.
Have your ingredients, aka cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs, at room temperature. Leave them out overnight if you have to.
Room temperature ingredients blend seamlessly into a smooth, creamy dessert.
Why I add flour to my cheesecake batter ~
- The little bit of flour is the key to the perfect New York Style texture in this cheesecake. It results in a slightly cake-ier consistency. It’s still plenty creamy, but with an added fluffiness that takes it from good to awesome. Ask any New Yorker 😉
How to prevent your cheesecake from cracking ~
Everybody seems to want a smooth surface on their cheesecake, and there are a few things you can do to help ensure this…
- Don’t over beat your batter, just mix to combine thoroughly.
- Don’t over cook your cheesecake, when it’s done it will still be wobbly in the center.
- Turn off the oven and let your cheesecake cool right there with the door propped open a bit. The slow cooling helps prevent cracking.
If your cheesecake cracks, no worries!
Cracks happen. I’ve never understood why people have an issue with their cheesecakes cracking. I don’t find it a problem at all, in fact I think it looks tempting. In any event it’s super easy to cover the crack with any number of topping ideas, see below for a list of suggestions.
Topping ideas for cheesecake ~
- You can serve this lemon cheesecake plain, just slice and serve. No apologies necessary, it’s fabulous, and honestly, it’s my favorite way to serve it.
- You can top it with a simple sour cream or yogurt layer, just thin down sour cream or full fat yogurt with a little cream and spread it out evenly. You can also just add a dollop of whipped cream or whipped yogurt to each slice.
- Spread a layer of lemon curd over the top.
- If they’re in season, top with fresh raw berries, either one variety like raspberries, or a mixture.
- Cook down berries with a little sugar to make a sauce to spoon over each slice as you serve. Frozen berries will work, and wild blueberries are an amazing choice. I love it with my super quick fresh raspberry sauce.
So there you have it, but all the chit chat and photos in the world can’t convey my main message ~ this is a delicious reliable cheesecake recipe, and you need to give it a try.
Reader Rave ~
“Sue – With this one recipe, I am officially a baking hero with my family and it’s all because of you, my HERO! This is the fifth lemon cheesecake I’ve been requested to make and no one can get enough. Amazing! I have never made a cheesecake in my life… yet I I followed your recipe and all your tips (really good ones BTW). and voila! Instant Baking Hero! Thank you! No cracking and they all tasted heavenly. I am making your Cherry Sauce for this one. Thanks for all your wonderful recipes and for making me look sooo good!” ~ Margie
- 9 inch springform pan
- 1 1/2 cups (or 220 grams) gingersnap crumbs process gingersnaps in a food processor until finely ground
- 1/2 cup (or 42 grams) brown sugar
- 4 Tbsp (or 57 grams) unsalted butter melted
- 4 8-ounce packages regular (not whipped) cream cheese, (900 grams) at room temperature
- 1 cup (or 215 grams) granulated sugar
- zest peeled from 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp (or 20 grams) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (or 120 grams) sour cream
- 1/4 cup (or 58 grams) fresh lemon juice
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- fresh berries
- mint leaves
- edible flowers
- Preheat the oven to 350F Line a 9 inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper on the bottom. You can also line the sides with strips of paper if you like, that's optional. Tip: lightly spray or butter the pan so the paper stays put.
- Mix together the gingersnap crumbs and sugar, making sure to get out any lumps from the brown sugar. Drizzle in the melted butter and mix until all the crumbs are evenly saturated. Press the crumbs firmly and evenly into the bottom of the pan, going up the sides about an inch.
- Bake the crust for 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Put the sugar in a food processor and process with the zest until the sugar is pale yellow and all the zest is incorporated. This will take under a minute.
- Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and flour together until well combined. I do this in a stand mixer fitted with the balloon whisk.
- Beat in the sour cream and lemon juice, and then the eggs, one at a time, beating in between each addition. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl often to get everything well incorporated.
- Turn the batter into the pan and spread out evenly. To guard against any potential leakage, you can wrap the bottom of the pan with foil, or set the pan on a baking sheet.
- Bake for about 55 minutes, or just until the outside is set and the inside still wobbles. Turn off the heat and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another hour with the door propped open.
- Cool the pan on a rack until room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.
- Remove cheesecake from pan, and decorate with fresh berries, mint, and flowers.
notes and variations
Make this classic lemon cheesecake your own~
- Use regular graham cracker crumbs for the crust, or any other cookie crumbs you like. Chocolatey Nabisco Famous Wafers or Nilla Wafers would be nice, too.
- If you only have a 10 inch pan you can use it, just be aware that the cooking time will be shorter.
- You can get the same topping effect using just one of the berry varieties that I used. If using strawberries look for small ones, and slice some of them in half for a nice visual touch.