Lemon Meringue Cheesecake Is the Ultimate Holiday Showstopper

updated Dec 21, 2020
christmas
How To Make Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

A step-by-step recipe for making a creamy cheesecake topped with tart lemon curd and toasted meringue.

Serves8 to 10

Makes1 (10-inch) cheesecake

Prep30 minutes

Cook55 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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lemon meringue cheesecake sits on a plate with one slice missing from it.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

If you’re searching for a unique, showstopping holiday dessert that will delight everyone in your household, look no further than this lemon meringue cheesecake. Each layer is delicious in its own right — creamy cheesecake, tart lemon curd, and toasted meringue — but combining them into one creates nothing short of a masterpiece. It’s rich, bright, and packed with flavor, with a buttery graham cracker crust to serve as its crunchy base. If you love cheesecake and lemon meringue pie, this is the perfect dessert for you.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Step 1: Make the cheesecake.

The base of this recipe is a classic cheesecake with a crisp graham cracker crust. To prevent it from sticking to the sides of the pan (or water from the water bath seeping in), make sure to spray the springform pan with cooking spray and wrap the outside in aluminum foil.

Once your cheesecake is done baking, turn the oven off, prop open the door, and let it slowly cool off in the oven for one hour. This prevents the cheesecake from cooling off too quickly, which can lead to cracking on top. As it cools, you can start the lemon curd.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Step 2: Top with lemon curd.

The second layer of this masterpiece is a homemade lemon curd, which you’ll pour directly overtop of the baked cheesecake. The curd is a simple combination of eggs, sugar, lemon, and butter, and while it may look a bit looser than your typical lemon curd, it will firm once it cools to create a thin, ultra-tart layer that perfectly contrasts the sweet cheesecake.

To save time, you can use store-bought lemon curd instead. You’ll need about 1 2/3 cups, so make sure to buy a large-enough jar. To make it easy to spread in a thin layer, heat it up in the microwave for a few seconds just until it’s pourable.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Step 3: Finish with meringue.

When you’re ready to serve, you’ll make a meringue out of just two ingredients: egg whites and cream of tartar. Cream of tartar helps stabilize the meringue to ensure it whips up properly, and also helps it stay nice and fluffy in the refrigerator. This way, you don’t have to worry about leftovers deflating or weeping.

An over-whipped meringue will become dry, grainy, and separated — so don’t whip it longer than needed. As soon as it forms stiff and glossy peaks (about three to five minutes) it’s done. Spread on top of the cooled curd layer and toast it under the broiler or with a blow torch. The toasted meringue complements the tart lemon curd and ties the whole thing together.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk
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Here's how to make a lemon meringue cheesecake.

How To Make Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

A step-by-step recipe for making a creamy cheesecake topped with tart lemon curd and toasted meringue.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 55 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes

Makes 1 (10-inch) cheesecake

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • Cooking spray

  • 8 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 20

    whole graham cracker sheets (about 10 ounces or 2 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs)

For the cheesecake:

  • Cooking spray

  • 2 pounds

    full-fat cream cheese

  • 1

    large lemon

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon

    cornstarch

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup

    full-fat sour cream

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 3

    large eggs

For the lemon curd:

  • 6 tablespoons

    cold unsalted butter

  • 4

    large lemons

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 3

    large egg yolks

  • 1

    large egg

For the meringue:

  • 3

    large egg whites

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    cream of tartar

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

Equipment

  • 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan

  • Aluminum foil

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Mixing bowls

  • Food processor

  • Stand mixer or electric hand mixer

  • Spatula

  • Roasting pan or other dish big enough to hold the springform pan

  • Saucepan

  • Whisk

  • Rubber spatula

  • Baking sheet

  • Kitchen torch (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven and soften the cream cheese. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Place 2 pounds cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use a large bowl and electric hand mixer.) Let sit at room temperature to soften while you make the crust.

  2. Prep the pan. Generously coat the bottom and sides of a 9- or 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Arrange 2 large pieces of aluminum foil on top of each other to form a a cross. Place the springform pan in the middle of the cross and fold the edges of the foil up and around the sides of the pan.

  3. Make the crust. Place 8 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave on HIGH in 10-second increments until fully melted, about 40 seconds total. Break 20 whole graham cracker rectangles (about 20 ounces) into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process into fine, even crumbs, about 30 seconds.

  4. Drizzle with the melted butter and pulse until combined, 5 to 10 pulses. (If using graham cracker crumbs, just mix 2 1/4 cups crumbs together with the melted butter in a bowl.)

  5. Press the crust into the pan. Transfer half of the graham cracker mixture into the prepared pan and use your hands to press it evenly up and against the sides of the pan, going a little more than halfway up the sides of the pan. Transfer the remaining graham cracker mixture into the pan and press it evenly into the bottom of the pan, making sure to seal the sides and bottom together.

  6. Par-bake the crust. Bake the crust until fragrant and just barely starting to brown around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. If the crust starts to bubble up during baking, gently press it down using a spoon. Let the crust cool on a wire rack while you prepare the filling.

  7. Prepare the filling ingredients. Finely grate the zest of 1 large lemon into the bowl of cream cheese (about 1 tablespoon). Juice the lemon (about 3 tablespoons) and add the juice to the bowl. Add 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.

  8. Mix the filling. Beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add 1/2 cup sour cream and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and beat on medium speed until combined and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, beat in 3 large eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is fully mixed into the batter before adding the next. Increase the speed to medium and beat until completely smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.

  9. Place the cheesecake in a waterbath. Pour the filling into the cooled crust. (It’s ok if it does not fill the crust completely.) Place the pan in a roasting pan or other baking dish big enough to hold it. Bring about 8 cups of water to a boil. Place the roasting pan into the oven, then pour the boiling water into the roasting pan so it goes about halfway up the sides of the springform pan, being careful not to splash any water onto the cheesecake.

  10. Bake the cheesecake. Bake until the top is just starting to brown, the center jiggles slightly when moved, and an instant-read thermometer placed into the center of the cheesecake registers 145° to 150°F, 50 to 55 minutes for a 10-inch pan and 60 to 90 minutes for a 9-inch pan.

  11. Cool the cheesecake in the oven. Leave the cheesecake in the oven, turn it off, and crack the door open or prop it open with a wooden spoon. Let the cheesecake cool in the oven for 1 hour. After is has cooled for 30 minutes, make the lemon curd.

  12. Prep the lemon curd ingredients. Cut 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Zest the lemons until you have 1 tablespoon zest. Juice the lemons until you have 1 cup juice. Place the lemon zest and juice in a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 3 large egg yolks, and 1 large egg, and whisk until smooth.

  13. Cook the lemon curd. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and is the consistency of thin pancake batter, 8 to 10 minutes. Do not rush this step. Remove from the heat and add the diced butter. Stir with a rubber spatula until fully melted and incorporated.

  14. Pour the lemon curd onto the cheesecake. Carefully remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and remove the foil. (The foil will be wet and may drip.) Pour the lemon curd through a fine-mesh strainer directly onto the cheesecake while still warm. Smooth into an even layer if needed.

  15. Chill the cheesecake. Refrigerate the cheesecake uncovered at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

  16. Make the meringue. When ready to serve, place 3 large egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and let sit until room temperature. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and beat on medium-high speed until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase the speed to high and gradually add 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Beat until the meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks, 2 to 3 minutes.

  17. Assemble the cheesecake. If browning with the broiler, arrange an oven rack 7 inches below the broiling element and set the oven to broil on high. Place the cheesecake on a baking sheet and slowly release the clamp on the springform pan. Remove the ring but keep the cheesecake on the base of the pan. Dollop the meringue on top of the lemon curd, spread it to the edges of the cheesecake, and use a rubber spatula to create dramatic peaks and swirls.

  18. Toast the meringue. Broil just until the meringue is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Alternatively, toast the meringue with a kitchen torch so the peaks are lightly browned. Place the cheesecake on a serving plate and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Lemon curd: Store-bought lemon curd can be used in place of homemade. Warm 1 2/3 cups lemon curd in the microwave until pourable before pouring onto the cheesecake.

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator loosely covered in plastic wrap for up to 3 days.