Why You Should Always Use Fresh Lemon When Making Cheesecake

Whether you're making a New York-style cheesecake or a cheesecake with baked ricotta, lemon pairs perfectly with your cream cheese-based dessert. If you're adding citrus, however, the real deal is always better than the artificial version. Sure, bottled lemon works well in a pinch, but the freshly-squeezed stuff enhances both the taste as well as the texture of your cheesecake. 

Fresh lemon juice works so well because it tends to be more acidic than the artificial version. It therefore acts as a better thickener for your cheesecake; the acid reacts with the fat in your cake's ingredients and keeps your cake thick, rather than runny. Plus, lemon juice helps prevent your cheesecake from clumping. You know that silky, smooth, and creamy texture of your favorite cheesecake? Yeah, fresh lemon juice does the job. 

Granted, fresh lemons vary in levels of acidity, so using real juice may not always be consistent across your cakes. Bottled lemon juice is, after all, more standardized than your ripe-and-ready lemons, so you always know what you're going to get. In baking with fresh lemon, however, the acidity is well worth the risk. Luckily, it's easy to incorporate fresh lemon across your cheesecake recipes. All you need to do is squeeze. 

Squeeze fresh lemon directly into your cheesecake batter

When life gives you lemons, you make cheesecake. To incorporate fresh lemon juice into your next baking foray, grab lemons from the produce aisle, and get to squeezing. While lemons can add flavor in a multitude of ways, it's the juice that mixes best into the batter — and acts as a thickener. As such, you'll want to beat your lemon juice together with your remaining cheesecake ingredients. Treat the citrus as you would butter or condensed milk.

As for how much lemon juice to use, the ratios vary. Some recipes call for as little as a teaspoon or a tablespoon of lemon juice, while others up the content to a quarter cup. Some even increase the acidity to a half cup. Clearly, the proper amount of lemon juice varies, so you should experiment with your citrus until you find the best amount for your preferred flavor — and thickened texture.

Of course, if you're looking for even more lemon flavor, consider utilizing other parts of the citrus. You can grate or zest fresh lemon into your batter, which enhances the taste all the more. Or, to make your cheesecake look the part, consider adding a lemon peel as a garnish. The latter will make your cake look as pretty — and bright — as it tastes.