I’VE MADE MANY cheesecakes over the years, but this one is my dad’s favorite! Perfectly smooth and creamy, with a little lemon in the batter and glistening wheels of candied lemon on top, it is both pretty to look at and delicious to eat at holiday gatherings. Made the day ahead of your event and chilled overnight, you’ll add the garnishes right before you serve.
When ready to begin, set all of your ingredients out for a half hour or so to bring them to room temperature. To speed prep, I use two mixing bowls for my stand mixer, one to beat the sour cream and eggs, the other to whip the cream cheese and butter to a perfectly smooth consistency. You’ll combine the two mixtures with a bit of cornstarch, lemon and vanilla and pour into a 9 x 3-inch springform pan. Set in a pan of boiling water, the cake takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to bake, and another 12 hours to restfully chill.
An added bonus with this recipe? Save the lemon-simple syrup after making the candied lemons! It is delicious in a cocktail, or with your iced tea.
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups (1 pound) sour cream
- 4, 8-ounce chubs of cream cheese
- ¼ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus 2 Tbsp for greasing the springform pan
- 1 ½ cups pure cane sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Juice of ½ fresh lemon, to make 2 tsp
- 2 tsp lemon zest (I use a microplane to grate)
FOR CANDIED LEMON SLICES
- 2 fresh lemons, washed and sliced into very thin wheels, seeds discarded
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- Parchment-lined sheet pan
MAKE CHEESECAKE: With oven rack in center position, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Generously grease the sides and bottom of a 9 x 3-inch springform pan with 2 Tbsp of butter. (Wrap the sides and bottom of the pan in foil to prevent any leakage while the cake bakes in water bath.) In standing mixer, with whisk attachment, whip eggs and sour cream well. Remove mixer bowl and fit stand mixer with second clean mixer bowl OR pour egg/sour cream mixture into a bowl and set aside, refitting egg/sour cream coated mixer bowl onto stand mixer. Place cream cheese in mixer bowl and whip until very smooth, using spatula to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 1 stick softened butter a few pieces at a time and continue to whip until all butter is incorporated into the cream cheese and mixture is very smooth. Turn mixer speed to medium low and add the egg/sour cream mixture, continuing to beat until very smooth, using a spatula to scrape any remaining cream cheese bits from the side of the bowl. Beat in vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour batter into prepared springform pan. Place batter-filled springform pan into a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water around the cheesecake pan to create a water bath that reaches about half-way up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 2 hours and 15 minutes. While cake bakes, make candied lemon slices.
MAKE CANDIED LEMON SLICES: In a large pot over medium heat, bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to low. Add lemon slices. Simmer lemon slices for one hour, stirring gently on occasion to move slices to different depths in the syrup. Once finished, the slices will be transparent. Remove candied lemon slices, shake off extra syrup, and place on a parchment lined drying rack. Use a fork to smooth the center fibers of the lemon. Allow to air dry for 24 hours. Slices will still be pliable.
FINISH CHEESECAKE: After 2 hours and 15 minutes of baking, remove water-filled roasting pan and cheesecake from oven and set on a wide, secure surface. Remove cheesecake pan from water bath. Remove and discard foil wrapper. Set cheesecake, still in springform pan, on a cooling rack and completely cool. Place cooled cheesecake, still in pan, in refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours (overnight is best.) To serve, remove cake from springform pan and place on serving platter. Decorate with wheels of candied lemon and some daisies or other edible flowers.
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