A few weeks ago, I was an extra for a cake baking competition TV show, but sadly no cake was served during the shoot. I was so disappointed that I went home and baked a Lemon Almond Butter Cake. Disappointment turned into elation when the cake turned out to be one of the most amazing things I’ve baked. The combination of rich, tart lemon curd nestled throughout a light fluffy almond cake makes this cake dangerously irresistible. It takes a bit of extra time to make the lemon curd from scratch, but the cake itself comes together pretty quickly.
A few days later, I couldn’t stop thinking about how good the cake tasted, so I experimented with adding Nutella (instead of lemon curd) which made the Nutella fans in my life very happy. Fast forward to a few days after that, I wanted to pull together a quick dessert and used strawberry jam as the add in. Again, deliciousness ensued. It appears you just can’t go wrong with this cake recipe.
Lemon Almond Butter Cake. The globs of lemon curd make the flavors of this cake over the top in the best possible way.
Lemon Almond Butter Cake. My brother ate three slices of this.
Nutella Almond Butter Cake. How can you not get excited about a dessert that involves Nutella?
Strawberry Jam Almond Butter Cake. Another successful flavor pairing.
Lemon Almond Butter Cake
Makes 8 servings
(adapted from NY Times Cooking)
Grated zest and juice of 2 medium or large lemons
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
3/4 to 1 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (I used 3/4 cup when I baked this with the Nutella topping)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
½ cup almond flour
- In a medium sized saucepan, beat together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and eggs.
- Add the butter, and place over a saucepan over low heat until the butter melts.
- Over low-medium heat, cook the mixture while stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until it thickens into curd (I like to do this slowly over lower temperature so that the egg doesn’t cook too quickly. Depending on the heat you use, it could take about 5-12 minutes to get the curd to the right consistency. Do not let it boil! For a visual of how to tell when your lemon curd is ready, check out this page.).
- Using a fine sieve, strain the lemon curd into a bowl (this will help get rid of any cooked egg whites and ensure the curd is smooth).
- Press plastic wrap onto the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate the lemon curd until it is cool (at least 1 1/2 hours).
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Grease a 9-inch spring-form pan with 1 tablespoon of butter, and dust with 1 tablespoon of flour, shaking out the excess. Or line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment (no buttering or flouring needed).
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together 8 tablespoons of butter and 3/4 (or 1 cup with you want your cake a little sweeter) cup of sugar until light and fluffy.
- In a small bowl, stir together 1 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Stir the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture, and mix until combined (don’t overmix).
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until they start to foam. Do not overbeat or the cake will be tough.
- Add the eggs and the almond flour to batter, and mix until well combined.
- Scrape the cake batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly.
- Drop 8 individual tablespoons of lemon curd (or whatever add-in you’re using) around the perimeter of the batter, leaving a 1-inch border, and space the drops evenly. Drop 3 to 4 tablespoons of lemon curd into the center of the batter. (You will have leftover lemon curd which you can refrigerate for another use. It’s also OK to use all of the lemon curd.).
- Sprinkle the top of the cake with 1 tablespoon of sugar (optional. I did this for the lemon curd version but not for the Nutella or strawberry jam add-in versions).
- Bake the cake until it is toasty brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the cake (not the curd) comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.
- After letting the cake cool on a rack for 10 minutes, remove the sides of pan, and cool completely. Or if you’re baking in an 8×8 inch pan, remove the cake by using the parchment paper.
Note: The lemon curd version of this cake should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The Nutella and strawberry jam versions can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.
Recently I went into a huge lemon curd making frenzy after a neighbor gave me loads of Meyer lemons from her tree. Afterwards, I realized that my options for consuming thus lemon curd were fairly limited. Yes, eating it directly off a spoon is a totally reasonable option, but with the amount of lemon curd I made, I needed additional options. What’s the perfect accompaniment for lemon curd? My answer was more lemon… specifically Lemon Bread (cake). On its own, this lemon bread probably won’t garner “oh my god this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever eaten” praise, but it’s a perfect partner to lemon curd. It’s a tender and moist cake, yet dense enough to stand up to a heavy slather of lemon curd on top. Plus, it’s easy to whip together. I left the lemon glaze off to make room for every little bit of lemon curd (and to make sure things wouldn’t get too sweet).
Makes one 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf
(from Fine Cooking)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup (6 ounces) buttermilk (I used reconstituted dried buttermilk powder) or yogurt
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
(I didn’t make this because I topped my bread with lemon curd)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. I used baking spray with flour and my cake came out of the pan easily.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk (or yogurt), lemon juice, and lemon rind, and set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
- In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until well combined. It will look a bit crumbly.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture.
- Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. [NOTE: since I didn’t make the glaze, I stopped at this step.]
- While the bread is baking, whisk together the glaze ingredients (1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar) to dissolve the sugar.
- Remove the bread from the oven, and poke it all over with a cake tester, skewer, ice pick, or other long, thin tool.
- While the loaf is hot, drizzle it gradually with the glaze, stopping periodically to allow it to soak in. Set it aside, and let it cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the bread from the pan, and allow it to cool completely before slicing.
Note: The bread can be stored in an air tight container on the counter for up to 5 or frozen for up to 3 months.
Of the many versions of lemon curd that I’ve made, Ina Garten’s seems to be the easiest and most foolproof to make. Typically making lemon curd requires some slightly fussy steps like separating the egg yolks from the whites, but this version uses the whole egg. This version also does not require straining the curd through a sieve to remove any egg white residue. The only change I would make is to reduce the sugar by 1/8 to 1/4 cup as the curd is quite sweet. I like to pair my lemon curd with a crisp, thin gingersnap, but I’ve heard of people who eat it straight from the spoon (I’m not naming any names).
Lemon Curd (Ina Garten’s version)
From Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
My notes are in [ ] below.
1 1/2 cups sugar [This lemon curd is quite sweet, so next time I’ll reduce the sugar to 1 1/4 cups]
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
4 extra-large eggs [I happened to have extra-large eggs on hand which doesn’t occur very often. I’m not sure what the equivalent would be if you use large eggs.]
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. [I used a microplate lemon zester to zest the lemons instead of using the carrot peeler.].
- Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.
- Cream the butter [I did this using a stand mixer].
- Beat in the sugar and lemon mixture.
- Add the eggs, 1 at a time and mix well.
- Add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.
- Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes) [it took about 15 minutes until my curd thickened, and I had to adjust the heat to low-medium], stirring constantly [stirring constantly is important because it keeps the egg from turning into scrambled eggs]. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer.
- Remove from the heat and cool. Store in the refrigerator.
My little citrus tree is a few years away from producing a solid crop, but luckily I have fantastic neighbors who keep me stocked with lemons from their backyard tree. This flavorful lemon and orange pound cake has a dense and tender texture, and the glaze creates the most crave worthy, chewy, slightly caramelized top . Since I had lemons to spare, I also made some lemon curd and slathered it on top of a slice of toasted citrus butter cake for an extra decadent breakfast.
Citrus Butter Loaf Cake
(from Johnny Iuzzini’s Sugar Rush: Master Tips, Techniques, and Recipes for Sweet Baking)
Makes one 41⁄2 × 81⁄2-inch loaf cake (or one 9-inch round cake); serves 8 to 10
1⁄2 pound (2 sticks; 226 g) cold unsalted butter, diced, plus more for the pan
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1 1⁄2 cups (300 g) sugar
Grated zest of 2 lemons
Grated zest of 1 orange
5 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons (45 g) buttermilk, at room temperature (I rarely have fresh buttermilk on hand so I use dried buttermilk powder)
3 tablespoons (45 g) fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons (45 g) fresh orange juice
1 1⁄2 teaspoons (6 g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (4 g) kosher salt
2 tablespoons buttermilk (30 g)
1 tablespoon honey (20 g)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Butter and flour a 41⁄2 × 81⁄2-inch loaf pan. Using this combination of butter and flour ensures that the sides will brown nicely.
- Stir together (by hand) the butter, sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer until the butter is coated.
- Attach the bowl to the mixer and using the paddle, beat the butter-sugar mixture on medium speed until it is well combined, and no lumps of butter remain, 5 minutes.
- Mix in the eggs, one at a time, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula between additions.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the buttermilk, lemon juice, and orange juice.
- In another bowl, sift together the 2 cups (250 g) flour and the baking powder in a bowl. Sprinkle the salt over the top.
- With the mixer on low speed, alternate between adding the dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 additions (begin and end with the dry ingredients).
- Scrape down the bowl several times, and mix the batter just until smooth.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a spatula. On the middle rack of the oven, bake for 15 minutes (this step helps ensure a browned top). (For a 9-inch cake, bake at 375°F for 40 minutes, brush the top of the cake with the glaze, and then bake for an additional 5 minutes.)
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F, and bake for an additional 35 to 40 minutes until the cake is golden brown, and a tester inserted into the thickest part comes out clean. Make sure not to underbake the cake, otherwise it will get even mushier as it cools. Rotate the pan halfway through to ensure even baking. Leave the oven on (as you’ll need to bake an additional few minutes after adding the glaze).
This glaze is absolutely delicious and creates a great texture for the top of the cake, so don’t skip this step.
- In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and honey until well combined.
- When the cake is done, brush the glaze evenly over the surface. Put the cake back into the oven, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove the cake from the oven, and let it cool completely in the pan on a rack before turning it out of the pan. Slice and serve.
I’ve made nearly every iteration of lemon bars, and this recipe for Easy Lemon Bars lives up to its name. The crust is super thin and crispy with a hint of lemon from the lemon zest, and the lemon topping is smooth and slightly tangy. The original recipe provided fairly vague directions so I’ve rewritten it to reflect how I made these. I also added extra lemon juice and lemon zest to ensure a slight mouth puckering experience.
Easy Lemon Bars
(from King Arthur Flour)
Makes one 9×9 inch pan
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) cold butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup (1 ounce) confectioners’ sugar
lemon zest from one medium size lemon (you’ll use the lemon juice for the topping)
2 large eggs
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
Juice from one medium size lemon
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
a pinch of salt
confectioners’ sugar, optional; for topping
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
To make the crust
- Stir together the flour and confectioners’ sugar in a medium size bowl.
- Using a stand mixer (or hand held mixer), beat together the butter cubes and the flour and confectioners’ sugar mixture until well combined (but do not overmix to ensure a tender crust)
- Press the mixture into an ungreased 9-inch square pan. The crust will be very thin, but make sure to spread it all the way to the edges. (You could also press the crust into an 8-inch square pan to have a slightly thicker crust. I will probably do that next time I make this recipe.)
- Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until it’s light brown.
To make the topping
- Whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, lemon juice, flour, and a pinch of salt.
- When the crust has finished baking and still hot, pour the topping over it.
- Return the pan to the oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the lemon topping appears set (or nearly so). Check the make sure the edges don’t burn.
- Remove the bars from the oven, and cool them on a rack. When cool, sprinkle the top of the bars with confectioners’ sugar and serve.
Note: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Do not sprinkle the confectioners’ sugar on the bars if you won’t be eating them immediately.
Originally this Coconut-filled Lemon Cake was supposed to be a play off of a twinkie with a coconut-cream filling nestled in the middle of a tender, tangy lemon cake. Unfortunately some time during baking, the coconut meringue filling was absorbed into the cake batter and totally disappeared from view. But I didn’t dwell too long on the case of the missing meringue because this cake was so delicious with it’s tender, light crumb, bright tangy lemon flavors, and slightly crispy top. Plus, the coconut meringue flavor did reveal itself in each bite in a subtle, “I’m not quite sure what I’m tasting but it’s delicious” way.
I wasn’t as accurate as I should have been when portioning my cake batter, so I didn’t have quite enough cake batter to fully cover all of the coconut meringue that was supposed to sit in the middle of the cake. But when the cake baked up, the top had some nice swirls and patches of light, crispy texture due to the exposed meringue. So luckily my little “ooops” became an “ooooohhh”.
At first I was disappointed to see that my tunnel of coconut-meringue filling had disappeared into the cake batter during baking, but even though I couldn’t see the coconut meringue, I could taste it in each delicious bite.
Coconut-filled Lemon Cake
(From King Arthur Flour)
Makes 16 servings
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon coconut flavor OR 2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups shredded or flaked sweetened coconut (if you only have unsweetened coconut, see this link for substitution instructions)
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) all-purpose flour
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon salt*
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 (8 ounces) cup milk
finely grated rind of 2 lemons OR 3/4 teaspoon lemon oil
*Use just 1/2 teaspoon salt if you’re using salted butter.
1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces) freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
- Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a large bowl till the mixture is soft and fluffy.
- Add the confectioners’ sugar, and beat at high speed till the mixture forms fairly stiff peaks. When you scoop some up in a spoon, it should hold its shape easily.
- Stir in the coconut flavor or vanilla.
- Toss the coconut with the flour, and add to the egg white mixture, stirring till thoroughly combined. Set it aside while you make the cake.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a a 9″ to 10″, 9- to 10-cup capacity bundt-style pan, or a 10″ tube pan.
- Beat together the butter, sugar, and salt, first till combined, then till fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl after you’ve added the first 2 eggs.
- Add the baking powder, then add the flour alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until smooth. Stir in the grated lemon rind or lemon oil.
- Spoon about 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. You want to add enough to cover the bottom, and start to come up the sides; but not so much that you don’t have enough left over to cover the filling.
- Distribute the stiff filling atop the batter, centering it within the ring of batter so it doesn’t touch the sides of the pan. Pat it down gently.
- Dollop the remaining batter on top, again smoothing it with a spatula.
- Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, make the glaze by stirring together the lemon juice and sugar. Set it aside.
- Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack. After 5 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen, and turn the cake out onto a rack. Place another rack on top, and flip it over, so it’s right-side-up.
- Poke the hot cake all over with a cake tester or toothpick.
- Stir the glaze to combine, and immediately brush it on the hot cake. Let it sink in, then brush on more glaze, continuing until all the glaze is used up.
- Allow the cake to cool before slicing.
Recently one of the long-time owners of the ballroom dance studio that I train at passed away after a lengthy illness. Since he was Scottish, I decided to make some Scottish Shortbread as a small tribute to him. This recipe is easy to make but has a long baking time (over an hour). The shortbread has an airy and crumbly texture, yet it’s solid enough to support various toppings. This recipe is great for customizing to your taste. I made a second batch where I added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the flour mixture. I also experimented with toppings and whipped up a quick orange glaze by adding a couple of tablespoons of fresh squeezed orange juice to some confectioners (powdered) sugar until the glaze reached a pourable consistency. And finally, I capped off the Scottish Shortbread making day by making an orange-lemon curd.
Basic Scottish Shortbread Basic Scottish Shortbread recipe customized with the addition of an orange glaze. Scottish Shortbread topped with orange-lemon curd.
(Adapted from Fine Cooking)
Makes 16 squares
6 oz. (1-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
3-1/2 oz. (3/4 cup) cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
8 oz. (16 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 16 pieces
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Basic – 2 Tbs. superfine sugar to be sprinkled on top after baking OR
Orange glaze- a few tablespoons of fresh squeezed orange juice and a cup of confectioners sugar OR
- Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 300°F.
- Line an 8×8-inch pan with heavy aluminum foil, letting the foil extend over two sides of the pan.
- Sift the flour, cornstarch, salt, and cinnamon (if using) into a large bowl.
- Add 1/2 cup of the sugar to the flour mixture, and, with an electric mixer on low speed, mix to just blend the ingredients.
- Add the butter pieces and vanilla and mix until large (1/4- to 1/2-inch) crumbs form, about 2 minutes.
- Gently press the dough evenly into the prepared pan. Don’t pack the dough into the pan.
- Bake until the top of the shortbread just begins to turn golden, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven.
Topping and Finishing
For Basic Sugar Topping
- After removing the shortbread from the oven, immediately sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top.
- Cut the shortbread into 16 squares (while it is still in the pan), being sure to cut through to the bottom. Don’t wait until the shortbread is totally cool before cutting as the shortbread will crumble if you try to cut it when it’s too cool. Cool completely before lifting the foil and shortbread from the pan.
For Orange Glaze
- Cut the shortbread into 16 squares (while it is still in the pan), being sure to cut through to the bottom. Don’t wait until the shortbread is totally cool before cutting as the shortbread will crumble if you try to cut it when it’s too cool.
- While the shortbread is cooling, stir a few tablespoons of fresh squeezed orange juice into one cup of confectioners sugar until the mixture reaches a pourable consistency. Wait until the bars have totally cooled before drizzling the glaze on top.
When I was in graduate school, my girlfriends and I would go out to afternoon tea, and for me the scones and biscuits mainly served as vehicles for consuming as much sweet, tart, creamy lemon curd as possible. It took me too many years to realize that homemade lemon curd isn’t that tricky to make, and this recipe ensures that you can have lemon curd any time you want. For this version, I didn’t have enough fresh lemon juice, so I substituted some fresh squeezed orange juice too. The orange juice cuts the tartness a bit and makes the curd a little sweeter.
Orange-lemon curd is an especially good topping for Scottish Shortbread.
(Adapted from Fine Cooking)
Makes 2 cups
3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup fresh orange juice (if you want to make lemon curd, omit the orange juice and use a total of 2/3 cup of fresh lemon juice)
Fine Cooking provides a really useful picture tutorial of the curd making process. You can find it here.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, about 2 minutes.
- Slowly add the eggs and yolks. Beat for 1 minute.
- Mix in the orange and lemon juices. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.
- In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until it looks smooth. (The curdled appearance disappears as the butter in the mixture melts.)
- Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly. Don’t let the mixture boil. Cook until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. It should leave a path on the back of a spoon and will read 170°F on a thermometer.
- Remove the curd from the heat. Strain the curd to remove any egg solids that may have formed, and transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the curd to keep a skin from forming, and chill the curd in the refrigerator.
- The curd will thicken further as it cools. Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.
I baked and cooked a lot before I started blogging. So, I’ll be using Thursdays (aka TBT or Throwback Thursday) and Fridays (aka Flashback Friday or FBF) to share some of my favorite baking and cooking projects from the past.
A few years ago when I started expanding my baking repertoire beyond cookies, brownies, and cakes, I was always intimidated by making a cheesecake. So, I eased myself into the world of cheesecake making by making Lemon Curd Cheesecake Squares. This recipe does not require the water bath often used for baking cheesecakes, and since it’s baked in an 8×8 pan, it’s easy to cut and serve neatly. Convenience aside, the rich and flavorful combination of the buttery honey graham cracker crust piled high with smooth, creamy cheesecake and topped with tart, bright lemon curd puts this recipe at the top of my must-bake list.
Lemon Curd Cheesecake Squares
(From Fine Cooking)
Makes sixteen 2-inch squares.
Crust and Cheesecake
9 graham crackers (about 5 oz.)
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 lb. cream cheese or Neufchatel (1/3-less-fat cream cheese), at room temperature and cut into approximately 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 or 2 lemons)
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 or 2 lemons, preferably using a rasp-style grater)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 or 3 lemons)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 ounce (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- Cut two 8×16-inch pieces of parchment. Put the strips in an 8×8 baking pan (preferably straight-sided) so that they cross each other and the excess hangs over the pan’s sides. Push the parchment into the bottom and corners of the pan.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 325°F.
- Break the graham crackers into a food processor, and process until finely ground.
- Add the melted butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand.
- Transfer the crumbs to the lined pan, and press them firmly and evenly into the pan. Set aside.
- Rinse, dry, and reassemble the food processor. In the cleaned bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Process until smooth, about 30 seconds, stopping halfway to scrape the sides of the bowl.
- Add the eggs, and process until the mixture is perfectly smooth and blended, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary, about another 20 seconds.
- Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared pan.
- Bake until the sides are slightly puffed and the center is dry to the touch, about 40 minutes.
- While the cheesecake is baking, make the Lemon Curd for topping the squares.
- Set a fine strainer over a medium bowl.
- In another medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice, sugar, and eggs until thoroughly combined and most of the sugar has dissolved.
- Pour the lemon mixture into a small, nonreactive saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, until the curd is steaming (but not boiling) and thickened and registers about 175°F on an instant-read thermometer, 3 to 7 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if you see tiny egg clumps forming as you’ll strain those out later..
- Take the curd off the heat, add the butter, and stir until the butter has melted.
- Pour the curd through the strainer to get rid of any lumps.
- Set aside, but use to top the cheesecake while still warm (it will be more difficult to spread on top of the cheesecake if it cools down too much).
- When the cheesecake comes out of the oven, pour all of the curd onto the cheesecake, and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.
- Let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight. You can refrigerate it uncovered, as no detectable skin forms on the curd.
- When the cheesecake is thoroughly chilled, carefully lift it out of the pan using the parchment “handles” and onto a cutting board. Slide the parchment out and discard it. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the cheesecake into quarters, and then cut each quarter into four equal squares. To make clean cuts, wipe the knife blade with a damp paper towel between each slice. I like to put the squares in cupcake liners so that they’re easy to hand out and eat (no plate and fork needed for this cheesecake!).