Make Ahead Lemon Cream Cheese Bars

Make Ahead Lemon Cream Cheese Bars

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These make ahead lemon cream cheese bars are bright, creamy and smooth with pockets of lemon bursts throughout! The bars feature tangy lemon curd that’s swirled into the cream cheese filling and baked onto a graham cracker crust.


Units Scale

Lemon Curd

  • 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (approx. 1 large lemon)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon rind
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter


  • 1 1/2 cups graham wafer crumbs
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


  • 2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature


Make Your Lemon Curd

  1. In a heatproof bowl add egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lemon rind and salt, whisk to combine.
  2. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Cook, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens, approx. 8-10 minutes. A trick to see if your lemon curd is thick enough is to dip a wooden spoon in the curd and see if it coats the spoon (see image above).
  3. Once the lemon mixture is thick, remove it from the heat and stir the butter in; one or two cubes at a time until smooth and well incorporated.
  4. Use a fine sieve to strain the curd to remove any lemon rind.
  5. Pour the lemon curd into a glass jar or airtight container. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until completely cooled and the lemon curd is thick enough to mound on a spoon (approx. 2-3 hours) or overnight.

Make Your Lemon Bars

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line an 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl add graham wafer crumbs, sugar and melted butter, mix to combine.
  3. Pour the graham wafer mixture into your prepared pan and using the back of a spoon or the palm of your hand press it into the bottom of the pan so it’s nice and flat.
  4. Bake the crust in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove the pan to a cooling rack.
  5. Meanwhile, make your filling. In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and continue to mix on medium speed. Add lemon juice and zest and beat for approx. 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add eggs one at a time beating well until the mixture starts to thicken, is smooth and creamy with no lumps, approx. 3 minutes.
  6. Pour the cream cheese mixture onto the baked crust and smooth it out evenly. 
  7. Meanwhile, boil water for a water bath. Using a kettle boil a large amount of water.
  8. Continue working on your bars. Add small dollops of lemon curd all over the filling. Using a flat butter knife, run swirls of the curd through the filling being careful not to hit the bottom crust. 
  9. Place out a large pan (or roasting pan) that you can fit your 8-inch pan into. Set your 8-inch pan inside the larger pan. Once the water has boiled, carefully pour the boiling water into the large pan until it reaches halfway up the smaller pan and place into the oven (or place the larger pan in the oven first, then pour the hot water in).
  10. Bake for 30-35 minutes. The bars are done when the center of the cheesecake will slightly wobble when you gently shake the pan. 
  11. Turn the oven off and open the oven door slightly. Let the lemon cream cheese bars sit in the oven (in the water bath) as they cool down for 1-2 hours or until completely cool. Then remove from the oven and the water bath. Let the bars cool completely uncovered at room temperature. Then cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or for best results overnight.
  12. Using a clean long sharp knife, cut lemon bars on a cutting board into squares, cleaning the knife as you go.
  13. Serve on their own or with dollops of whipped cream and a sprinkle of lemon zest for plating.


Store lemon cream cheese bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze the bars for up to 3 months. Thaw the lemon bars overnight in the refrigerator before serving.


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