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Eric Akis: A lovely lemony cheesecake

Rich, sweet and creamy cheesecake, offset with the pleasing tangy taste of lemon; 30 minutes preparation, 60 minutes baking
Lemon zest, juice, extract and curd give this cheesecake a lovely lemony taste. ERIC AKIS

If you love cheesecake and the tangy appeal of lemon, you’re in luck because I’ve combined the two in a fine dessert you could serve at Easter or other special spring occasion.

Lemon zest, juice and extract are blended into the batter for the cake. Lemon curd is spooned on top just before you serve it. It all gives the sweet and creamy cheesecake a bright taste that lemon lovers are certain to enjoy.

The cake can be baked a day or two before serving. Once it’s cooled to room temperature, cover and refrigerate it, still in the pan, until you’re ready to unmould and serve.

To further enrich the taste of each serving of cake, once it’s plated and topped with the lemon curd, you could also top it with a dollop of whipped cream. For a spring-green colour, garnish it with a mint sprig.

Lemon Cheesecake

Rich, sweet and creamy cheesecake, offset with the pleasing tangy taste of lemon.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 60 minutes

Makes: 10 to 12 servings

1 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar

1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest (see Note)

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 Tbsp butter, melted

4 (250 gram) bricks firm cream cheese, at room temperature

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tsp lemon extract (see Note)

5 large eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup lemon curd (see recipe below)

• whipped cream, to taste (optional)

• mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Place 1 cup of the sugar and lemon zest in a bowl and whisk well to combine. Set aside until needed.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Place graham crackers, 2 Tbsp sugar and melted butter in a bowl and mix to combine. Spoon and press onto the bottom of a nine-inch spring-form cake pan. Bake for 10 minutes, and then remove from the oven and set aside for now.

Turn oven to 300 F. Place cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until smooth. Scrape sides of the bowl and beat again. Gradually beat in the sugar/lemon zest mixture. Beat in the flour, lemon juice and lemon extract. Scrape sides of the bowl and beat again.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream until well incorporated. Scrape sides of the bowl and beat again.

Pour batter into the cake pan. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven (The steam rising from the water should help prevent the cheesecake from cracking on top during baking.) Set the cheesecake on the rack above the water and bake 60 minutes, or until centre is almost set, but still a little jiggly.

Set cake on a baking rack, and then run the tip of a sharp, thin paring knife around the edges of the cake to a depth of one-inch. (This should also help prevent the cake from cracking as it cools and contracts.) Cool the cake to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate in the pan for at least three hours, or preferably overnight.

When you’re ready to serve the cake, dip your sharp, thin paring knife into very hot water and wipe dry. Carefully run the paring knife completely around the outer edges of the pan to loosen the cake from the sides. Remove the cake pan’s outer ring.

Slice wedges of the cake, plate them, then top each serving with a heaping teaspoon of the lemon curd. If desired, also set a small dollop of whipped cream on each serving of cake, garnish with mint sprigs, if using, and serve.

Note: I used a microplane grater to finely grate the lemon zest. One large lemon should yield the zest needed here. One to two large lemons, depending on how juicy there are, should yield the juice needed here. Lemon extract is sold in the baking supply aisle of grocery stores.

Lemon Curd

Spoon this sweet and tangy lemon curd on servings of the cheesecake. It can be made a day before needed. This makes enough to spoon a heaping teaspoon of lemon curd on each serving of cake. If you want more than that, double the recipe.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: two minutes

Makes: about one cup

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1/2 tsp cornstarch

• pinch salt

Place ingredients in a small pot and whisk until thoroughly combined. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Simmer curd until thickened, about one minute. Remove from the heat and transfer lemon curd to a bowl or jar, ensuring you get all of it. Cool curd to room temperature, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.