Tangy lemon curd and billowy meringue top a rich, lemony cheesecake for an unforgettable experience. No one will be able to resist a lemon meringue cheesecake like this.
Why you'll love it
If you're looking for a delicious dessert that will impress your guests, you should consider making lemon meringue cheesecake. This dessert combines the tangy flavor of lemon with the rich and creamy texture of cheesecake, topped with a fluffy and sweet meringue topping. Lemon meringue cheesecake is not only visually stunning, but it also has a deliciously unique flavor that sets it apart from other desserts.
The lemon is bright and tangy and sweet. It is like your tastebuds dance when you take a bite. The cheesecake itself is both swirled and topped with fresh lemon curd. And the billowy meringue is like a soft cloud that melts in your mouth. Plus, who doesn't love a graham cracker crust? It's always the best part of a cheesecake. There is no way to resist.
There are a few important ingredients that need to be reviewed before making this cheesecake. The full ingredient list is in the recipe card below along with the measurements.
- Lemon - You should use fresh lemons for this recipe, especially when making the lemon curd. Standard lemons are perfect here, but you can also use Meyer or pink lemons. You should zest the lemons before you juice them. In order to get the best juice from the lemons, squeeze them while they're room temperature, and roll them against the counter for a few seconds before cutting and juicing.
- Sugar - The recipe is primarily made using granulated sugar, however, if you wish to use my favorite graham cracker crust recipe, I highly recommend using brown sugar for the crust for added flavor.
- Graham crackers - My favorite graham cracker to use is the cinnamon version, however, for this specific cheesecake, I recommend using honey or plain crackers.
- Cream cheese - When making a cheesecake like this, you should always use block full-fat cream cheese. Any other type will not have the right amount of fat or water content to create the perfect texture.
- Sour cream - Like the cream cheese, you should only use full fat sour cream. You can substitute half the sour cream with Greek yogurt.
- Eggs - The best eggs are large room temperature eggs. When you are separating the egg whites for the meringue, I recommend separating them in a separate bowl just in case one of the egg whites doesn't separate fully from the yolk. One drop of yolk can prevent the meringue from forming.
- Cream of tartar - You only need a small amount for the meringue, but it is very important to stabilize the egg whites as you beat them. If you do not have it for any reason, however, you can omit it.
Tools you'll need
If you do a bit of baking, you will probably already have all of the tools needed to make this super easy birthday cake cheesecake.
- Mixer - You can use a stand or hand mixer. But if you don't have either, some elbow grease will get you where you need to be.
- Food processor - This is optional to break up the golden Oreos. You can also use a blender, or even keep them in a bag and crush them with a rolling pin.
- Springform pan - I recommend using an 8-inch or 9-inch pan.
- Aluminum foil - This is to wrap around the outside of the springform pan. I do this because otherwise water can leak into the pan when you use a water bath.
- Oven - To bake your cheesecake.
How to make
This showstopping cheesecake requires a few important steps to make this incredible dessert, but it is definitely worth the time and effort!
- Start with the lemon curd. Make the lemon curd and allow it to cool completely to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator to cool fully.
- Make the graham cracker crust. Mix together the ingredients for the crust and press it into the sides and bottom of the springform pan.
- Mix the cheesecake batter. Beat together the ingredients for the cheesecake, then stir in some of the lemon curd.
- Bake the cheesecake! Wrap the bottom of the springform pan and place it in a baking pan filled with an inch of water. Pour the cheesecake batter into the springform pan and bake until the edges are set, but the center is still slightly jiggly. Leave the cheesecake to cool to room temperature in the oven before removing.
- Make the meringue. Whip the egg whites with the other ingredients until it is a fluffy meringue.
- Assemble. Spread the remaining lemon curd on top of the cheesecake, then pipe on the meringue. Toast the meringue and serve.
Expert baking tips
- Use room temperature ingredients - In order to get the smoothest birthday cheesecake and get everything blended to a perfectly velvety consistency, you need all your ingredients to be at room temperature.
- Do not over bake - Over baking leaves you with a tough, rubbery cheesecake that is just a bummer to eat. Your cheesecake is done when the sides are set, but the middle is still jiggly like jello!
- Don't skip the water bath. It allows for even, slow heat distribution which gives you a creamy, smooth final texture. The steam also helps prevent the top from drying out and cracking.
- Don't keep checking in on the cheesecake - Opening the oven door will drop the temperature of the oven which can ruin the texture of the cheesecake as it cooks.
- Be patient! - This is key for the best cheesecake. Allow the cheesecake to slowly cool down, and then wait until the cheesecake is fully chilled in the refrigerator before cutting. This will get you the most amazing consistency you can't resist.
- Plan ahead! Make the lemon curd a day in advance to make the finally baking day smoother.
Tips to prevent a cracked cheesecake top
- Don't overbeat the batter - Beating the batter, especially once the eggs are added. This is because air bubbles will form and become trapped in the batter and create cracks while baking. I recommend beating the eggs in a bowl, and mixing them in slowly at the end just before you add the cake mix.
- Don't skip the water bath - The water bath allows the cheesecake to slowly rise in temperature and stay at a nice constant temperature when baking is finished. It also creates a wonderfully steamy environment that nicely sets the top and helps to prevent cracks.
- Don't throw open the oven door - Sudden temperature drops wrecks havoc on the cheesecake and will always make the cheesecake want to crack. If you want to check for doneness, open the oven door slowly and only just enough for you to give it a little jiggle. When you are done baking, Turn off the heat, and leave the oven door open just a crack for 2 hours before removing the birthday cheesecake from the oven. I use a wooden spoon to make sure the oven doesn't accidentally close.
- Cracks aren't the end of the world! - Even if your cheesecake does have a crack, it will still be delicious! Plus, you will be covering it with the lemon curd and meringue.
Once you've added the meringue, the cheesecake must be eaten within the next four hours, or else the meringue will start weeping. If you want to store the cheesecake for longer, only add the meringue once you are ready to serve. It is also recommended to not top with the lemon curd until ready to serve as well to prevent the crust from getting soggy. The cheesecake may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to five days.
Adding water allows for slow, even baking which gives us the perfect texture. The steam from the water adds enough humidity to give us a smooth top to our cheesecake without any cracks. Covering the bottom of the springform pan fully without any spaces will prevent the water from getting into the cheesecake pan.
For the best texture, you should never freeze this cheesecake and only store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Technically, it is possible, but as the curd and cheesecake itself are best when cold, you should plan on long wait times. Patience works the best for the most delicious dessert.
Lemon Meringue Cheesecake
- 1 recipe [lemon curd]
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- ½ cup 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 16 oz full-fat cream cheese room temperature
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups sour cream room temperature
For the Meringue
- 3 large egg whites room temperature
- ¾ cups granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Make the recipe for lemon curd. This is best done the day before, or at least four hours ahead of time so it has time to chill.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cover the outside an 8" springform pan with aluminum foil.
- Add the graham cracker crumbs to a food processor. Run the food processor and drizzle in the melted butter. It should come together like wet sand.
- Add the graham cracker crumbs to the springform pan. Use the bottom and sides of a glass to press the crumbs to the bottom and sides of the pan. Make sure it is well packed together. Set aside in the refrigerator until needed.
- Add the cream cheese to a mixing bowl and beat with a paddle attachment until it is smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed and as you add each ingredient.
- Add the eggs in one at a time. Beat in each egg until adding another. Make sure each egg is completely combined with the cream cheese before you add in the next.
- Pour in the sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix until the mixture is smooth again.
- Slowly add in the sour cream one cup at a time until it is thoroughly mixed in. Do not overmix.
- Fold ½ cup of the lemon curd into the batter. You can either leave swirls of the curd in the batter or completely combine the curd into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the springform pan and bake for 45 minutes. The edges should look mostly set and the center will look jiggly still. Turn off the heat and keep the oven door cracked open with the cheesecake inside for an hour. This helps prevent the cheesecake from cracking.
- Remove the cheesecake and allow to cool completely to room temperature.
- Once the cheesecake is fully cooled (I chilled mine in the refrigerator for 30 minutes once it was cooled), top with more lemon curd.
- As the cheesecake is cooling, make the meringue. Clean a mixing bowl and whisk and thoroughly dry. Quickly rub down with lemon juice.
- Add the egg whites to the bowl and beat. While you are beating the whites, add the sugar and water to a small saucepan and heat without stirring until the sugar dissolves.
- Add cream of tartar and salt to the egg whites. Once the egg whites form soft peaks, turn up the speed of your mixer and drizzle in the sugar syrup between the bowl and the whisk. Continue to beat until the whites form stiff, glossy peaks. Beat in the vanilla.
- Fit a piping bag with a large tip and fill with the meringue (or use a spoon) and top the cheesecake with the meringue. Lightly torch using a kitchen torch.
- Serve immediately. If you are not serving immediately, save the meringue until you are ready to serve.