Cheesecake is probably one of my favorite things to eat. Have you ever seen that Friends episode where Chandler and Rachel steal a cheesecake and then (spoiler?) end up eating it off the floor? I totally relate to it! Bonus: it also happens to be one of my favorite things to bake, especially around holiday time! Cheesecake is great for thanksgiving and Christmas. So today, I’m sharing with y’all my Creamy Citrus Cheesecake recipe!
It’s taken me years to perfect this recipe! And I’m not even sure I’ve got it all the way down yet. But it is good enough to share for now. Before we start, I feel like I should explain something: I’m a cheesecake purist. I don’t really like anything to top (i.e., strawberries) or mix into (i.e. chocolate swirl) my cheesecakes. The only real exception is those fantastic Cheesecake Factory concoctions. If you’ve never tried their tiramisu cheesecake, fix that right now. This moment. (And then come back to this post, duh!)
Okay, moving on. Three things make a great cheesecake, in my opinion.
- The crust has to be homemade. No store bought stuff! If you’re in a rush, in a jam, or just not feeling the Martha Stewart vibes then by all means go the pre-made route.
- The filling must be creamy. This is non-negotionable. There is nothing worse than a stiff, dry cheesecake that tastes like egg. If any of this does happen, you’ve overbaked it.
- It must be pure. Why cover up a perfectly good dessert with other unnecessary flavors? Why disrupt the texture? Again, purist here.
Once you’ve got all of those things down, you’re ready to bake! Unfortunately cheesecake–and usually all baking in general–is quite laborious. In comparison to other cakes, however, it’s really one of the easier ones. You don’t need many ingredients, a lot of time, different baking materials, or a lot of expertise. Basically, you’re looking to dip your toe into the baking pool, my citrus cheesecake is for you!
Now, my roommates were all pretty happy to know that I enjoy cooking a baking when I moved in. Sunday dinners quickly became a thing and one of them specifically requested that I make a cheesecake. (She’s also a fan of the aforementioned Friends episode!) Anyways, I was all too happy to oblige. It had been ages since I made my citrus cheesecake–since last Christmas to be exact! In fact, when I started to buy new things for my kitchen, a springform cake pan was at the tippy top of my list.
So, once I was all unpacked and settled in, I dusted off the old recipe card and had at it! First there’s the crust. This part is actually pretty fun (and mildly cathartic). Open a whole box of graham crackers–flavors are entirely your preference. Crush enough crackers to fill two whole cups. How you do that is up to you–by hand, with a hammer, rolling pin, cutting board or in a food processor. I live in scant conditions baking-wise so I mine by hand. You want the crumbs to be pretty fine. Not quite powder, but pretty close. Mix it with melted butter, cinnamon, and a little salt.
Then, using your fingers press it into the bottom and up the sides of the springform. MAKE SURE YOUR SPRINGFORM IS LOCKED!! And spray it lightly with some cooking spray. I find the easiest way to do it is to press from the bottom into the sides, so your sides are covered first. That way you can just pour the remaining crumbs into the bottom and flatten with your knuckles. Here’s the secret: bake your crust for 5 min before setting it aside! It helps keep the crust together and formed before you pour in the filling.
Speaking of filling! My filling starts off pretty basic: cream cheese. Give it a quick mix just to soften it a bit. Then add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Next, alternate adding the sugar and heavy cream (sugar, cream, sugar) slowly, mixing until fully incorporated each time. Add a little vanilla extract for sweetness and mix again.
Now that we’ve taken care of the creamy comes the citrus part of my cheesecake. Using a zester, zest one whole lemon and approximately one tablespoon of orange zest into the mixture. Mix again slowly to allow the flavor to mix throughout. I like to add the lemon and organge zest to give the cheesecake a bit of tartness and a tiny bit of sweetness. It all meshes like a dream in the end!
Each bite is a little bit sweet, sour, and a lot of creamy! All together with the crunchy crust, it makes for the perfect fall dessert. It’s light enough that eating it won’t fill you up. But it’s decadent enough that it’s still like a cheat day! In my opinion, you don’t need a reason to indulge a little ever. I promise, won’t even the extra unnecessary bits of toppings. In the fine (modified) words of Joey Tribbiani, what’s not to like? Crunchy crust? Good! Creamy center? Good! Citrusy kick? Gooooooood!
How do you like your cheesecake?
Creamy Citrus Cheesecake
- 2 cups graham crackers finely crushed
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 stick unsalted butter melted
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 20 oz cream cheese at room temp
- 5 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 medium lemon zested
- 1 tbsp orange zest
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl pour in the graham crackers, cinnamon, salt, and melted butter. Mix using a fork until evenly wet.
Lightly coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Press the crumb mixture into the sides (1-inch up) and bottom of the pan. Bake for 5 minutes. Set aside.
In another large bowl whisk the cream cheese until softened and smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated each time.
Alternate adding the sugar and heavy cream, mixing until fully incorporated with each addition.
Add the vanilla extract, lemon zest, and orange zest. Mix again. Pour filling on top of crust in the springform.
Fill a baking sheet with water and place in the oven. Place the cheesecake on top of the water-filled baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.