Rich and creamy cheesecake bars kissed with lemon and studded with sweet, juicy berries are the answer to what to serve to your favorite people this 4th of July. With a quick press-in graham cracker crust, a simple cream cheese base, and a short trip to the oven, they couldn't be easier to make. These hand-held bars are a treat fit for a celebration.
An Easy 4th of July Dessert That Will Feed a Crowd
What makes this dessert particularly perfect for the holiday (besides the red, white, and blue color palette, of course) is that it easily serves a crowd. The recipe yields a whopping 24 bars, so there's plenty to go around — even if a few extra neighbors decide to drop by before the fireworks begin. Or, if your gathering doesn't end up being quite so large, leftover bars will last in the fridge for almost a week (although I doubt it will take that long to finish them off!).
A small squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of lemon zest bring out the sweet flavor of the berries (at their peak this time of year), without turning the bars into a deeply lemon-flavored situation. The berries are scattered over the filling just before baking, so they sink right in and nestle into all the creamy goodness. For a festive touch, we finished the bars with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Red, White, and Blue Cheesecake Bars
Makes 24 bars
Prep time: 15 minutes ; cooking time: 45 minutes
- For the crust:
Cooking spray or butter, for coating the baking dish
whole graham crackers, broken into 1-inch pieces, or 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 7 1/2 ounces)
(1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- For the cheesecake:
4 (8-ounce) packages
cream cheese, at room temperature
finely grated lemon zest
freshly squeezed lemon juice
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 325°F. Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil or parchment paper so that it hangs over the two long sides, then coat with butter or cooking spray; set aside.
Place the graham cracker pieces in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process into fine crumbs, about 30 seconds. Slowly add the butter and pulse to combine. (If using graham cracker crumbs, just mix together with the butter in a bowl.) Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and press into an even layer with the bottom of a measuring cup.
Bake until fragrant and beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool while you make the filling.
Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar and salt until incorporated, about 1 minute more. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
With the mixer on medium speed, beat in the eggs 1 at a time, waiting until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the lemon zest and juice and beat until just combined.
Dollop the mixture onto the crust and spread into an even layer. Scatter the berries evenly over top.
Bake until the edges are set but the center still jiggles slightly, 30 to 40 minutes. Place the baking dish on a wire rack and cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 3 hours or overnight.
Uncover the dish and dust with powdered sugar. Using the foil or parchment overhang, remove the cheesecake from the baking dish and place on a cutting board. Cut into 24 pieces and serve.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.