Fresh Thyme Cheesecake with Lemon

This lemon thyme cheesecake pops with lemon flavor and just a hint of savory thyme along with a crunchy graham cracker crust.

Lemon and fresh thyme pair so well in this cheesecake. I love incorporating fresh herbs into my desserts. I have recipes for Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies, Blueberry Thyme Scones, and Fresh Mint Brownies.

Making a cheesecake at home may sound intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. Cheesecakes are made with simple everyday ingredients and just a little technique and attention to detail. I’ve created step-by-step instructions to help you create a delicious perfect cheesecake every time.

slice on lemon thyme cheesecake on a white plate

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Ingredients

All ingredients should be at room temperature to create a smooth creamy batter. Cold ingredients will result in a lumpy overbeaten cheesecake that may crack as it cools.

graham cracker crust ingredients

Crust

Graham Crackers: I recommend crushing whole graham crackers rather than buying graham cracker crumbs which I think can taste a bit stale.

Melted Butter: Melted butter helps to hold the crust together and adds a rich buttery flavor.

Fresh Thyme: Thyme has an herbal, grassy, earthy flavor that pairs beautifully with the lemon in this cheesecake. I prefer to use fresh thyme over dried thyme in this recipe. Dried thyme is too hard and tough and interrupts the creamy cheesecake filling.

Sugar: You will need just over one cup of white granulated sugar. This cheesecake isn’t too sweet allowing the tanginess of the cream cheese and tartness of the lemon to shine through.

Salt: I add at least a pinch of salt to all of my dessert recipes. Salt complements and intensifies the other flavors. For all of my recipes, I use Morton Kosher Salt which is saltier than Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. If you are using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt you will want to double the amount of salt you add.

cheesecake filling ingredients

Cheesecake Filling

Cream Cheese: You will need four 8 ounce blocks of cream cheese. I prefer the full-fat variety. Baking a cheesecake isn’t the time to start counting calories. Make sure you are buying block cream cheese not the whipped cream cheese that is sold in a tub.

Sour Cream: Once again use the full-fat variety. The sour cream creates a smooth texture and boosts the cream cheese tang.

Lemon: Both lemon juice and lemon zest help to brighten the heavy flavor of the cheesecake.

Vanilla Extract: Most desserts call for at least a little vanilla. It complements so many flavors. I prefer pure vanilla extract over imitation vanilla extract.

Eggs: The eggs are the last ingredient to be added to the cheesecake. Be careful to not overmix the batter once the eggs have been added. Overmixing will incorporate too much air into the batter causing the cheesecake to crack as it cools.

Equipment

Kitchen scale: Kitchen scales make baking faster and neater. Accuracy matters in baking. Scales are more precise than measuring cups. Too much flour or not enough sugar can dramatically change a recipe. The most accurate way to bake is to measure your ingredients by weight rather than volume.

A kitchen scale also reduces the number of dishes you will need to wash because you are measuring each ingredient directly from the container into the mixing bowl without the use of measuring cups.

This scale from OXO is the one I use after it was recommended by Alton Brown. What makes this scale great is the display pulls out to make viewing measurements easier when using a large bowl.

Stand Mixer: I have a stand mixer from KitchenAid. My mom and brother bought it for me for my birthday almost 15 years ago. I use it weekly and it still works just like it did when it was brand new. It makes so many kitchen tasks easier and comes with a variety of attachments.

Rubber spatula: For folding batters together, I prefer a stiffer spatula like this one from OXO. It fits comfortably in my hand, is dishwasher safe, and is heat-resistant up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Both the handle and head are silicone coated which makes it easy to clean and safe to use with my non-stick cookware and bakeware.

9-Inch Springform Pan: A springform pan is a type of cake pan that is made of two parts, a round base and a removable ring that clamps around the base creating the sides of the pan. This feature makes removing a cheesecake easy without having to flip the pan over or struggle to cut the cheesecake inside the pan.

Springform pans can sometimes leak if you’re baking the cheesecake in a water bath. This is why I recommend wrapping the bottom of your pan with foil before placing it in the water bath. All of my springform pans are made by Wilton. So far I have had pretty good luck with them not leaking.

Large Roasting Pan: You will need a large pan that is big enough for your springform pan to fit inside. I typically use this large roasting pan from OXO. I like that it has large handles that have been bolted in an upright position. These handles make it easy to transfer the roasting pan in and out of the oven. Even if you are wearing thick oven mitts.

Directions

How to make a graham cracker crust

Move your oven rack to the middle of your oven with no racks above it and preheat your oven to 325 degrees Farenheight.

Crush the graham crackers into crumbs using either a food processor or by placing them into a zip-top bag and smashing them with a rolling pin. This is my toddler’s favorite way to help.

graham cracker crumbs in pan

Stir in the melted butter, sugar, thyme, and salt until it resembles wet sand. Pour the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Press the graham cracker mixture into an even layer using a flat-bottomed glass or measuring cup. Cover the bottom of the pan and about 2 inches up the sides.

Bake the graham cracker crust for 10-12 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and allow the crust to cool while you make the filling.

How to make the cheesecake filling

beaten cream cheese in metal bowl

Using a handheld or stand mixer and the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on low speed until creamy, about 1 1/2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl after about 1 minute.

Add the sugar and mix on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy about 1 minute.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sour cream, thyme, lemon juice and zest, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy about 1 minute.

Scrape down the bowl if there are lumps continue mixing until smooth.

cream cheese filling and egg in metal bowl

Add the eggs one at a time, beating at low speed after each addition until just blended. When the final egg has been mixed in turn the mixer off.

How to make a bain-marie or water bath

A bain-marie is simply a fancy term for a hot water bath. Hot water baths are used to cook delicate custards like cheesecake or creme brulee. The insulation and steam from the water provide a gentle heat that cooks the cheesecake slowly and gently. This slow gentle cooking helps to prevent cracking and sinking as the cheesecake cools.

cheesecake in water bath

To create a hot water bath, boil at least 4 cups of water. You can either boil the water in the microwave, on the stove-top, or my favorite way in an electric kettle. You will need 1 inch of water in your roasting pan for the water bath. I typically use an entire kettle full of hot water.

Wrap the bottom of your springform pan with several layers of heavy-duty foil. Wrapping your springform pan in foil will help prevent water from seeping into your cheesecake.

Pour the cheesecake filling over the cooled crust. Use a rubber spatula to smooth it into an even layer. 

Place the filled springform pan in the larger cake or roasting pan.

Set the pans on the middle rack of the oven. Carefully pour the boiling water into the larger pan until it is about 1 inch deep. Close the oven door.

How to bake and cool a cheesecake

Bake the cheesecake for 50-55 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. The top of the cheesecake should look set but not browned. When you wiggle the pan the cheesecake should wobble not jiggle. To me wobbling means the whole cheesecake moves together when wiggled. Jiggling is when individual ripples move across the top of the cheesecake.

To prevent cracking, we want to cool the cheesecake slowly. Turn the oven OFF and allow the cheesecake to continue baking for 15 minutes.

Crack open the oven door about an inch (holding it open with a wooden spoon if needed) and allow the cheesecake to cool slowly for 45 minutes.

baked cheesecake

Remove the cheesecake from the oven and set it on a cooling rack. Remove the foil and run a thin knife around the edge to release the cheesecake from the pan.

Allow the cheesecake to cool at room temperature for an hour. Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.

When you are ready to serve, unlatch the springform pan and remove the sides. Cut the cheesecake into 12 slices. For neater slices wipe the knife clean and dip into warm water between each slice.

lemon thyme cheesecake on a dark surface

Topping

This fresh thyme and lemon cheesecake is delicious on its own. But I also love it topped with my homemade blueberry jam. The flavor combination of blueberries, lemon, and fresh thyme complement each other well.

Another delicious topping option is a simple drizzle of honey.

How to store

Cheesecake needs to be stored in the refrigerator. To refrigerate reattach the springform ring to the base and cover the top with aluminum foil. Cheesecake can be refrigerated for 5-7 days.

How to freeze

Allow the cheesecake to cool completely before freezing.

To freeze a whole cheesecake:

  1. Remove the outer rim of the cheesecake. You can either leave the cheesecake on the bottom pan or carefully transfer it to a cardboard cake round or large plate.
  2. Do not freeze cheesecake with any toppings. Add the toppings later when serving cheesecake.
  3. Wrap the cheesecake and base with several layers of plastic wrap. Wrap in a final layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  4. Cheesecake can be frozen for up to three months. Thaw cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight.

To freeze individual cheesecake slices:

  1. Slice the cheesecake and transfer each slice to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer until the cheesecake slices have frozen solid, about one to two hours.
  2. Do not freeze cheesecake with any toppings. Add the toppings later when serving cheesecake.
  3. Wrap each slice of cheesecake with several layers of plastic wrap. Place the cheesecake slices in a zip-top bag labeled with the date and contents.
  4. Cheesecake can be frozen for up to three months. Thaw cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight.
slice on lemon thyme cheese cake being lifted

Frequently asked questions

What makes cheesecake creamy?

Creamy ingredients like cream cheese and sour cream create a creamy cheesecake. It is also important for all of the ingredients to be at room temperature. Room temperature ingredients will be easier to incorporate creating a smooth batter without overmixing.

What happens if you overmix cheesecake?

Overmixing a cheesecake incorporates too much air into the batter causing it to expand and puff as it bakes. As the cheesecake cools, all of those air bubbles will burst causing the cheesecake to fall and crack

How do I know when a cheesecake is done baking?

The top of the cheesecake should look set but not browned. When you wiggle the pan the cheesecake should wobble not jiggle. To me wobbling means the whole cheesecake moves together when wiggled. Jiggling is when individual ripples move across the top of the cheesecake.

What do I do if my cheesecake does crack?

The good news is even a cracked cheesecake still tastes amazing. If your cheesecake does crack simply cover the cracks with a delicious fruit topping like this blueberry jam or top with some freshly made whipped cream.

Tips

  • Use room temperature ingredients. They will blend together more easily and create a smoother cheesecake.
  • Once the eggs have been added, do not overmix the cheesecake filling. Overmixing will incorporate too much air causing the cheesecake to deflate and crack as it cools.
  • Wrap your springform pan with foil. I’d like to believe my springform pans will never leak but I am not willing to risk a soggy cheesecake crust to find out. You can also try this foil free method for protecting your cheesecake from Cook’s Illustrated.
  • Bake the cheesecake in a water bath. A water bath creates gentle heat which bakes the cheesecake slowly and evenly.
  • Baking times for all recipes are only suggestions. The actual baking time will vary depending upon your oven. It is helpful to know your oven and worth purchasing an inexpensive oven thermometer. Oven temperatures can vary as much as 50 degrees plus or minus.
  • Allow the cheesecake to cool slowly. Going from a hot oven to a cool kitched could cause the cheesecake to crack.

More dessert recipes

slice of lemon thyme cheesecake on a white plate

Fresh Thyme Cheesecake

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Additional Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 7 hours 20 minutes
This lemon thyme cheesecake pops with lemon flavor and just a hint of savory thyme along with a crunchy graham cracker crust.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 sleeve of graham crackers
  • 5 tablespoons (70g) butter - melted
  • 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Cheesecake

  • 32 oz of cream cheese - room temperature
  • 1 cup (198g) granulated white sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup (303g) sour cream - room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon - zest and juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs - room temperature

Instructions

Crust

  1. Move your oven rack to the middle of your oven with no racks above it and preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Crush the graham crackers into crumbs using either a food processor or by placing them into a zip-top bag and smashing them with a rolling pin.
  3. Stir in the melted butter, sugar, thyme, and salt until it resembles wet sand. Pour the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
  4. Press the graham cracker mixture into an even layer using a flat-bottomed glass or measuring cup. Cover the bottom of the pan and about 2 inches up the sides.
  5. Bake the graham cracker crust for 10-12 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow the crust to cool while you make the filling.

Cheesecake Filling

  1. Using a handheld or stand mixer and the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on low speed until creamy, about 1 1/2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl after about 1 minute.
  2. Add the sugar and mix on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy about 1 minute.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sour cream, thyme, lemon juice and zest, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy about 1 minute.
  4. Scrape down the bowl if there are lumps continue mixing until smooth.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating at low speed after each addition until just blended. When the final egg has been mixed in turn the mixer off.

Baking

  1. Boil at least 4 cups of water. You will need 1 inch of water in your roasting pan for the water bath. I typically use an entire kettle full of hot water.
  2. Wrap the bottom of your springform pan with several layers of heavy-duty foil.
  3. Pour the cheesecake filling over the cooled crust. Use a rubber spatula to smooth it into an even layer. 
  4. Place the filled springform pan in the larger cake or roasting pan.
  5. Set the pans on the middle rack in the oven. Carefully pour the boiling water into the larger pan until it is about 1 inch deep. Close the oven door.
  6. Bake the cheesecake for 50-55 minutes until the top of the cheesecake looks set but not browned. The cheesecake should wobble slightly when jiggled.
  7. Turn the oven OFF and allow the cheesecake to continue baking for 15 minutes.
  8. Crack open the oven door about an inch (holding it open with a wooden spoon if needed) and allow the cheesecake to cool slowly for 45 minutes.
  9. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and set it on a cooling rack. Remove the foil and run a thin knife around the edge to release the cheesecake from the pan.
  10. Allow the cheesecake to cool at room temperature for an hour. Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.
  11. When you are ready to serve, unlatch the springform pan and remove the sides. Cut the cheesecake into 12 slices. For neater slices wipe the knife clean and dip into warm water between each slice.

Notes

How to store

Cheesecake needs to be stored in the refrigerator. To refrigerate reattach the springform ring to the base and cover the top with aluminum foil. Cheesecake can be refrigerated for 5-7 days.

How to freeze

Allow the cheesecake to cool completely before freezing.

To freeze a whole cheesecake:

  1. Remove the outer rim of the cheesecake. You can either leave the cheesecake on the bottom pan or carefully transfer it to a cardboard cake round or large plate.
  2. Do not freeze cheesecake with any toppings. Add the toppings later when serving cheesecake.
  3. Wrap the cheesecake and base with several layers of plastic wrap. Wrap in a final layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  4. Cheesecake can be frozen for up to three months. Thaw cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight.

To freeze individual cheesecake slices:

  1. Slice the cheesecake and transfer each slice to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer until the cheesecake slices have frozen solid, about one to two hours.
  2. Do not freeze cheesecake with any toppings. Add the toppings later when serving cheesecake.
  3. Wrap each slice of cheesecake with several layers of plastic wrap. Place the cheesecake slices in a zip-top bag labeled with the date and contents.
  4. Cheesecake can be frozen for up to three months. Thaw cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 371Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 155mgSodium: 343mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 0gSugar: 8gProtein: 7g

This information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from an online calculator. Although raspberriesandkohlrabi.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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