Lemon Cheesecake Bars
These Lemon Cheesecake Bars will be the show stopping dessert for every spring and summer gathering! Plus, they’re easy to make without a water bath and make-ahead and freezer friendly. The Lemon Cheesecake Bars are made with a buttery Graham cracker crust, topped with luxuriously creamy lemon cheesecake then crowned with silky smooth, buttery sweet and tangy lemon curd. It’s an irresistible combination of bright, fresh, tangy sweetness and smooth, rich creamy decadence. I’ve included detailed instructions, tips and tricks for the best cheesecake bars of your life!
Servings 20 bars
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 18 full sheets Graham crackers crushed into fine crumbs
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup sour cream at room temperature
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 egg yolk at room temperature
EASY LEMON CURD TOPPING
- 2/3 cups lemon juice
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 4 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Whipped Cream (optional)
- 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (optional for stabilized, see notes)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons water (optional for stabilized, see notes)
- 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add cream cheese to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes (no less!). Add sugar and beat 5 additional minutes on medium speed.
Add the sour cream, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla and mix until blended. With the mixer running on low, add the eggs one at a time followed by the egg yolk, beating as little as possible, just until combined after each addition (overbeating once you add the eggs can cause cracks and the cheesecake to deflate).
Pour cheesecake on top of the COOLED crust and evenly spread to the edges.
Bake for 60-70 minutes at 325 degrees F, until the filling is set around the edges but still a little jiggly, but not runny, in the center (DON'T peak earlier because opening the door can cause cracks). An instant-read thermometer inserted into the filling about 1-inch from the edge should read between 175°-185°F. (The cheesecake will continue to cook as it cools.)
Once the cheesecake bars are done, crack the oven door and let them cool in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven to a cooling rack. Let the cheesecake cool for 1 hour before adding the lemon curd topping.
EASY LEMON CURD
Whisk the lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, eggs and egg yolks in a medium bowl until the cornstarch dissolves and most of the sugar has dissolved.
Pour the lemon mixture into a small, saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring CONSTANTLY, until thickened to the consistency of thick pudding, 4-8 minutes, and the curd registers about 175°F on an instant-read thermometer.
Immediately remove the saucepan from heat and stir in butter until melted, followed by vanilla and salt.
Strain the lemon curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Set aside to cool to warm temperature before spreading over the cheesecake.
ASSEMBLE & CHILL
Pour all of the room temperature lemon curd onto the cheesecake and spread into an even layer.
Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature, another 1-2 hours, then cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving, but preferably overnight.
Whipped Cream (optional)
Optional for stabilized whipped cream: Add unflavored gelatin to a microwave safe bowl then pour the cold water over top; let stand for 5 minutes then microwave for 10 seconds. Stir the mixture, then set aside to cool.
Add heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract to a large mixing bowl. Whip using an electric hand mixer just until soft peaks form.
Turn the mixer to low and slowly pour in the gelatin mixture. Mix until well combined then increase the speed to medium and continue mixing until stiff peaks form.
Transfer whipped cream to a piping bag fitted with a large tip. You can pipe the stabilized whipped cream onto the room temperature cheesecake with lemon curd topping before you pop it into the fridge or any time after that. The beauty of stabilized whipped cream is it will hold its shape indefinitely. If using regular whipped cream, top just before serving.
When ready to serve, use the foil overhangs to lift the cheesecake out of the pan onto a cutting board.
This next step is CRUCIAL for clean cuts. To slice, fill a tall glass with hot water. Dip a sharp knife in the hot water, wipe with a damp cloth, then make a clean slice; repeat for reach cut.
Baking Tips for Success
- Stabilized whipped cream: is heavy cream that has been whipped with sugar and gelatin in order to give it structure but it doesn’t alter the flavor – it’s magic! The stabilized whipped cream will hold its shape indefinitely and won’t deflate or weep. This means it can be piped onto the cheesecake bars hours or days ahead of time for 100% make ahead Lemon Cheesecake Bars.
- Unflavored gelatin: is a common baking ingredient and can be found next to the packages of Jell-O and pudding at your grocery store. It is what makes this “stabilized” whipped cream and not just whipped cream.
- Room temperature ingredients: allow the cheesecake to mix more easily which means you’re less likely to overbeat the eggs which causes cracking (more on that below).
- Don’t overbeat eggs: eggs trap air, which can rise up and cause cracks and/or the cheesecake to deflate, so mix the eggs/cheesecake filling as little as possible once they’re added.
- To quickly bring eggs to room temperature: fill a bowl with warm water (not hot) and add eggs and let sit 10-20 minutes.
Lemon Cheesecake Bars should be covered and stored in the refrigerator. They are at their prime 24-48 hours after making, but are good for up to 7 days.
TO FREEZE WHOLE PAN OF CHEESECAKE BARS:
- Refrigerate baked cheesecake bars for at least 8 hours.
- Remove the the cooled, uncut cheesecake bars from the pan using the foil overhang and place them on a plate.
- Freeze uncovered, until firm, about 1 hour.
- Remove the cheesecake from the freezer, wrap it twice tightly in plastic wrap followed by heavy duty aluminum foil
- Freeze for 2-3 months.
- To thaw, remove cheesecake bars from the freezer to the refrigerator. Let thaw overnight.
TO FREEZE INDIVIDUAL CHEESECAKE BARS:
- Line cut bars on a plate without touching and place the plate in the freezer and freeze until solid, about 1 hour; this prevents the bars from freezing together later when stored.
- Transfer bars to a freezer safe airtight container, and place parchment paper in between each row or freeze bars in individual freezer safe bags.
- Freeze for 2-3 months.
- When ready to eat, thaw individual cheesecake bars in the microwave at 20 second intervals or place in the refrigerator to thaw overnight.