Proposal Lemon Cheesecake Recipe

Aside from my sugar cookies, this is my most requested dessert. Every time there is a potluck at my husband's office they beg him to have me make this. I call it my proposal cheesecake because I receive no less than 3 marriage proposals when I make it. Now I can't promise a marriage proposal, but I can tell you that people will love it. And if they don't, well you probably didn't like them in the first place so it's just fine.

What makes this cheesecake special is the subtle but distinct lemon flavor. I also prefer the Nilla wafer crust to the traditional graham cracker crust because the graham cracker crust usually has a burnt flavor in my opinion.

A couple of notes to make it extra tasty:

  • Don’t use low-fat cream cheese or sour cream, you want this to be thick and creamy and it won’t be if you use the low-fat or fat-free options.
  • I only use fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. This is the absolute best way to get that fresh authentic lemon flavor because, well, it is authentic! This recipe uses about 3-4 fresh medium sized lemons.


2 cups Nilla Wafer crumbs (this is almost a full box so try not to sample them too much!)

1/4 cup Sugar

1/3 cup butter (melted)


4 - 8 oz Packages of Cream Cheese

1 1/4 cup Sugar

4 Eggs

3 TBSP Lemon Juice

1 TBSP Lemon Zest (about 2 medium size lemons worth)

1 tsp Vanilla Extract


2 Cups Sour Cream

1/4 cup + 1 TBSP Sugar

2 tsp Lemon Juice

1 tsp Vanilla extract



I use this totally amazing old school juicer that was my great grand-father’s. NOTHING you can get today works as well as this one I swear. I can only get about half as much juice from my mother-in-laws electric citrus juicer. If you can find one of these at a thrift store or antique store I would highly recommend purchasing it.

Completely wonderful old-school juicer.

Completely wonderful old-school juicer.

To zest the lemons, clean them well and zest them using a zester. If you have a six-sided grater, you should have a zester on one side. It is the smallest one. If you use anything bigger you will get stringy pieces of lemon zest in your cheesecake. To get the zest you need, you will use about 2 lemons.


Once you zest the lemons, cut all the lemons in half and juice them. 

Quick Tip: Freeze juiced lemon peels and throw them in the garbage disposal every couple of days. This will not only give you a great fresh smell, but the frozen peels will help keep your disposal blades sharp!

Next, fill a quart size ziplock bag with half of the Nilla wafers. I know my picture shows generic Nilla wafers but I highly recommend getting the real deal. That’s a brand that can’t be replicated.

Using your rolling pin, smash the Nilla Wafers into fine crumbs. We like a little more texture in our crust so I don’t make it as fine as I could but make it as course or fine as you like. Empty crumbs into bowl and repeat with the second half of the Nilla Wafers until you have 2 cups of crumbs. 

Then mix the crumbs in with the sugar.

Once the sugar and crumbs are combined, add the melted butter and combine so all the crumbs are wet. 

Press the crumb mixture into an ungreased springform pan. Press a little up the sides of the pan as well.

Bake the crust at 350 for only about 5 minutes. The crust will bake the rest of the way with the filling so do not overcook the crust.

Place the cream cheese and sugar in the mixing bowl and mix until smooth. To get this extra smooth, put the cream cheese in the microwave for just a few seconds to help soften it up. I keep mine out all day and the put two blocks at a time in the microwave for about 30 seconds then repeat with the other two blocks. You don't want to melt it, just soften it so keep an eye on it.

Add eggs one by one and beat on a low speed until just combined. 

Next add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla until just blended. If there are chunks, blend just a little more until the chunks are gone. You want to be careful to not over-mix as over-mixing can cause too much air to become trapped and will result in a cracked cheesecake. Once mixed, pour the filling over the crust smoothing out the top. Place the cheesecake in the oven (preheated to 350) with a deep baking dish of hot water on the rack below. While this is not a conventional water bath, it will still help keep the moisture in your cheesecake.

The cook time for me is about 50 minutes. Cook times, especially for cheesecakes, can vary greatly by oven so I would set your timer to about 30 minutes and check it often using your oven light. Once it looks done (starting to brown just around the edges and just jiggly in the middle) remove the cheesecake. Because it will continue to bake once removed from the oven, you need to take the cheesecake out while the center is still slightly moist. Let the cheesecake cool for about five minutes while you mix the topping. The five minutes is important because it allows you cheesecake to 'deflate'. When I bake this, it comes out of the oven with about 3/4 of an inch over the sides of the pan. I let it cool until it has shrunk to about 1/2 an inch below the rim of the pan to allow room for the topping.

For the topping, mix 2 cups sour cream with 1 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup + 1 TBSP of sugar, and 2 tsp of lemon juice. Evenly spread over top of cheesecake and return to oven for 10-15 minutes (or until topping has firmed, it won't brown). Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Place in fridge overnight.

When ready to serve, dip a butter knife in hot water. Slide hot, wet knife around edges of pan to separate from cheesecake. Slowly remove sides of sprin-form pan. Slice up and serve!