A friend of mine pointed out that I’ve used lemon zest in 33 recipes on my blog.

The question is: is that too many or not enough? I think not enough. Despite my favorite internet rant of all time, there are certain things that just deserve a healthy dose of lemon zest. And when you’re goal is to make a lemony cheesecake, well then you take no shame in zesting that lemon. No shame at all.

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake | Things I Made TodayThere are multiple reasons you may need to make a cake. If you ask Theo’s opinion—which you shouldn’t because he’s two and generally has terrible taste—he’ll tell you that you should always make cake for a party. This isn’t totally illogical, but what about personal celebrations? I’m celebrating today, which is exactly why I made myself some lemon ricotta cheesecake.

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake | Things I Made Today

For the third year in a row, you guys have voted me Best of Madison. It’s always a blast to be put in the same category as some of the most talented people in the city, and I don’t take it lightly. This year, Madison Magazine collapsed the Best Local Food Blog and Best Local Blog into a single category, and I took Silver. Thanks you guys, it means a lot.

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake | Things I Made Today

But enough about me and enough about awards. Let’s talk about cheesecake. Traditional cheesecake, made with cream cheese, is by all means lovely. But I wanted to make something lighter in texture and still as moist, so I chose ricotta.

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake | Things I Made Today

I’ve been dreaming this one up for a few months now, and then came across this New York Times Magazine recipe and yes—semolina flour—that was the lightbulb moment I needed.

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake | Things I Made TodayLemon Ricotta Cheesecake | Things I Made Today

The recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman, so you know it’s going to be good. I wanted to top mine with some candied lemons for a little extra texture, and that absolutely did the trick. I love the richness and lightness of this ricotta cheesecake. It feels like the perfect way to celebrate.

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake | Things I Made Today

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 large lemons, one sliced into thin rounds, the other zested
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 ¾ cups semolina flour
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups full fat ricotta cheese
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter a 9 inch round springform pan.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together brown sugar and water. Stir until a slurry forms. Add thinly sliced lemon and toss to coat. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat milk over medium heat in a medium saucepan until it starts to simmer. Working in batches, whisk in the semolina flour and salt, until mixture is thick but not lumpy. Continue to stir over for 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
  4. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in sugar and butter until combined. Let cool slightly.
  5. Add lemon zest in batter, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined combined. Next, beat in ricotta.
  6. Pour batter into buttered pan and gently level with a rubber spatula. Arrange lemon slices on top and pour about ½ of the brown sugar slurry on top, just to evenly coat the lemons.
  7. Bake until set and golden in places, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool, then transfer to fridge for at least an hour. Once the cheesecake is chilled, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Recipe adapted, just slightly, from New York Times Magazine.

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