What do you talk to your hairdresser about? Claudia, my parruchiere (hairdresser), and I have often end up talking about food. (Bet you’re shocked, aren’t you!) She’s as thin as a rail but she loves to eat!  As a child, she visited an Italian uncle who emigrated in the States and still remembered eating cupcakes, cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies, among other things, during her visits. When I told her I sometimes taught cooking classes, she jumped at the chance to learn to make these things herself. So we set a date and last week she came over. Along with her boyfriend, her mom and two girlfriends. We  made a night of it…

Claudia and her boyfriend are on either side of me.

We made Grilled Pizzas for our supper, and for dessert, we enjoyed a Limoncello Cheesecake and Moist Chocolate Cupcakes with Fudge Frosting. Since I’ve blogged about all the other recipes we made, I thought you might like to see how to make the Limoncello Cheesecake.

Italy is famous for it’s big, bright yellow lemons. Last summer my husband took this photo of a lemon tree in Cinque Terre…

Don’t they look luscious? We got it in our heads last year to make our own Limoncello, a sweet Italian liquor especially popular in the Liguria and Campagnia areas of Italy. I didn’t blog about the liquor-making process because it was our first time making it and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out…but it turned out great! We added some cream and milk to half of the mixture to make Crema di Limoncello, or what I like to describe as a softer-tasting Limoncello. And that’s what I used to make this cheesecake.

If you don’t have any Limoncello in your cabinet at home, you might find it in your local grocery store as it’s becoming quite popular these days. You’ll want to look for bottles similar to these…

You can see that the regular Limoncello (this brand is called Limonce) is a brighter yellow than my Crema di Limoncello…either one works for this Limoncello Cheesecake. And, if you prefer, this cheesecake can be made with several other flavor options instead of Limoncello. (I’ve list some variations at the end of this post.)

So let’s start with the crust. You just need three basic ingredients: cookie crumbs, melted butter and sugar…

If I were in North America, I would use graham cracker crumbs, but being in Italy, I chose these simple, plain square cookies (called Butterkeks in Germany or Petit Beurres in France):

Usually I just crush them into crumbs in my food processor, but if you don’t have a food processor, just put them in a plastic bag and roll them into crumbs with a rolling pin or wine bottle.

I combine the crumbs with the melted butter and sugar and then, since this is a Limoncello Cheesecake, I decided to add some lemon zest…

If you’re making another flavor of cheesecake, you might add some unsweetened cocoa or finely crushed nuts…

I stirred everything together…

…and pressed it into the bottom and up the sides of a springform pan…

I’m not a perfectionist here. I’ve found that after it’s baked, it’s not obvious if the sides are all an even height. However, the crust should be a fairly even depth all over so that it bakes evenly.

I usually do not pre-bake the crust because I’ve found it doesn’t stay crunchy even if it’s pre-baked. The moisture from the creamy filling moistens the crust either way. However, when Claudia came over, the crust was a little dry and I found it was hard to keep it pressed into place, so I baked it while we fixed the filling. This helped to bind the crust ingredients together, so it didn’t collapse on itself when we poured in the filling. Do whatever works for you. You can either pre-bake it or just let it bake with the filling in it.

Now, to make the filling…we processed the cream cheese, sugar and some lemon zest together…

…until it was oh-so-smooth…

If you don’t have a food processor, you can use an electric mixer. But if you do have a processor, this is the time to use it. I find it gets the mixture so nice and creamy.

Next I added three eggs, one at a time…

…processing briefly after each addition…and scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula…

Lastly, I added 2 cups (500 ml) of yogurt cheese. (Greek yogurt, sour cream or ricotta can be used instead.)

And, of course, the Limoncello…since this is a Limoncello cheesecake!

We processed it again until it was all well-incorporated…and poured it into the prepared crust-lined pan…

Now it’s ready to go in the oven…

The cheesecake needs to bake for one hour at 350° F (180° C) for 1 hour, then turn the oven off and leave the door closed for one more hour. The reason for this last step is that drastic changes in temperature can cause cheesecakes to crack on the top.

Another way to help avoid deep cracks on the top of the cake is to bake it in a hot water bath. It’s isn’t absolutely imperative that you use a hot water bath but having hot water-instead of hot air-around the cake keeps the temperature more consistent. Otherwise, oven temperatures vary a lot depending on whether the flame or coils are on or not. Just place the springform pan in a larger cake pan and our in boiling water until it is about 1-inch/2.5 cm deep. (I wrap foil around the bottom to help seal the edge.)

After removing the cheesecake from the oven, allow to cool completely, and chill it at least four hours. I’ve found cheesecakes are best if made the day before serving.

Loosen the sides with a knife before opening the spring and removing the cake from the pan. You can serve it “as is”, or garnish with whipped cream, a twist of lemon or some berries…






No matter how you cut it, or how you garnish it, this is a great cheesecake! The complete recipe is below, along with some variations you might want to try.



Limoncello Cheesecake Recipe

Yield: Serves 12-15


  • 1 1/2 C. (150 g) cookie crumbs (graham crackers, Butterkeks, Petit Beurre)
  • 1 T. lemon zest
  • 1/4 C. (65 g) sugar
  • 1/3 C. (75 g) butter, melted
  • Filling:
  • 3 (8 oz./200 g.) pkgs. cream cheese
  • 1 C. (250 g) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 C. (65 ml) Limoncello
  • 2 C. (500 ml) Greek yogurt (or sour cream or ricotta)


  1. Combine all ingredients and press onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9 or 10-inch (23-26 cm.) springform pan.
  2. You can bake it at 375° F (190° C) for 8-10 minutes. I've found the crust never stays "crunchy" as the moisture from the cream cheese filling softens it. Baking can, however, firm up and solidify your crust making it easier to pour in the filling.
  3. Filling:
  4. Cream together cream cheese lemon zest and sugar until smooth.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
  6. Add Limoncello and salt.
  7. Blend in the Greek yogurt until the mixture is smooth. Pour into crust-lined pan.
  8. Putting the cheesecake into a hot water bath will help to keep the temperature around the cheesecake constant so that it is less likely to crack. However, if your oven is fairly stable, this isn't necessary. I've done it both ways with success.
  9. Bake at 350° F (180° C) for 1 hour. Turn oven off and leave the door closed for one more hour.

Cheesecake Variations

Amaretto Cheesecake: For the crust, replace the cookie crumbs with Amaretto cookie crumbs and omit the lemon zest.

In the filling, use Amaretto instead of Limoncello and omit the added lemon zest.

Bailey’s Cheesecake with Chocolate: For the crust, use chocolate cookie crumbs or add 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder to the plain cookie crumbs. Omit the lemon zest.

In the filling use Bailey’s Irish Cream instead of the Limoncello and omit the lemon zest.

For this option I often frost the top of the cooled cheesecake with a combination of 1 package of cream cheese (8 oz./200 g) with 4 oz./100 g melted white chocolate. I melt the chocolate slowly, over low heat, and then stir in the cream cheese until smooth.

Pure Vanilla: For the crust, omit the lemon zest. In the filling, omit the lemon zest and in place of the Limoncello, use heavy cream and 2 tsp. of good quality vanilla.

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