Impress all your friends with a gorgeous layered cheesecake! Our Test Kitchen's favorite recipe is flavored with vibrant citrus and will make you feel like quite the accomplished baker.
Sunny Citrus Cheesecake Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Ever find yourself in need of a wow dessert? You know the type: One that will have all your friends asking if you picked it up from a local bakery or if you really made that yourself. Usually, those desserts come in the form of mile-high pies or layer cakes, but you can stun your loved ones with another type of treat: a layered citrus cheesecake.

That’s right: You can take your classic cheesecake to the next level by creating layers and layers of flavor and color. It takes a little patience, but the taste and the presentation are worth it. Here’s how to do it!

Bwcr21 162523 B03 09 18bTaste of Home

Citrus Cheesecake Ingredients


  • All-purpose flour
  • Sugar
  • Grated lemon zest
  • Cold butter, cubed


  • Cream cheese, softened
  • Sugar
  • All-purpose flour
  • Vanilla extract
  • Large eggs
  • Lime juice
  • Grated lime zest
  • Green food coloring
  • Lemon juice
  • Grated lemon zest
  • Yellow food coloring, divided
  • Orange juice
  • Grated orange zest
  • Red food coloring

Sour cream topping:

  • Sour cream
  • Sugar
  • Lemon extract
  • Optional: orange slices, lime slices and lemon slices


Step 1: Prep the pan

Bwcr21 162523 B03 09 1bTaste of Home

Whenever you make cheesecake, you need to properly prep the springform pan. That means wrapping the bottom of the nine-inch pan in a layer or two of aluminum foil, even around pans that claim to be leak-proof. This is just an extra measure of protection to make sure your cake doesn’t leak out. Cheesecake is hard work—you don’t want anything going wrong!

Once wrapped, grease the inside of the pan with a bit of shortening or cooking spray.

Step 2: Make the crust

Bwcr21 162523 B03 09 3bTaste of Home

In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and a teaspoon of lemon zest. Fresh zest is the best here! It’ll give you the most flavor.

With a pastry blender, cut in cold butter until the mixture is crumbly. Then press the crust mixture into the bottom of the springform pan. Use the flat bottom of a glass or measuring cup to really compress the crumbs and get an even layer.

Pop this into a 325ºF oven and bake until the edges are lightly browned—about 25 to 30 minutes. When the crust is done, let it cool completely on a wire rack.

Step 3: Make the cheesecake batter

Bwcr21 162523 B03 09 6bTaste of Home

When it comes to the cheesecake batter, start with a good quality cream cheese at room temperature. These cream cheese brands are our Test Kitchen’s favorites (you’ll find them in our fridges at Taste of Home HQ). Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until nice and smooth. You really want these ingredients well blended.

Then beat in the flour and vanilla extract. Even though this batter will be accented with citrus, it’s important to include a bit of vanilla to really give depth of flavor. Next, beat in the eggs on low speed until just blended.

Test Kitchen Tip: Do not continue to mix after the eggs are fully incorporated; this will add too much air to the batter which can cause your cheesecake to crack.

Step 4: Divide the batter

Bwcr21 162523 B03 09 8bTaste of Home

Because this is a layered cheesecake, you’ll need to divide the batter into three equal portions. You can use a kitchen scale, large cookie scoop or measuring cup to get the measurements exact.

LayerdcheesecakecolorsTaste of Home

Now it’s time to give each portion of batter its own personality and flavor. To one bowl, add lemon juice, lemon zest and a few drops of yellow food coloring. To the next, stir in lime juice, lime zest and green food coloring. And to the final bowl, add in orange juice, orange zest, a drop of red food coloring and two or three drops of yellow food coloring. Stir each of these until the zest, juice and food coloring are well distributed.

Step 5: Pour in the first layer

Directions Pour Batter Over Crust. Photo Pouring Batter Into CrustTaste of Home

This is where this layered cheesecake starts to really take shape (and you have to start exercising a little patience). Pour the lime layer of cheesecake batter onto the crust.

Step 5: Make a water bath

Bwcr21 162523 B03 09 13bTaste of Home

One important step you can take to get a crack-free cheesecake is creating a water bath. To make a water bath, place the springform pan in a flat-bottomed roasting pan (or another very large pan).

Then place the roasting pan into your preheated oven (it should still be at 325º for this recipe) and fill the pan with an inch of simmering water. Be sure not to splash any water into the batter. Then bake until the center is just set and the top looks dull—about 25 minutes.

Test Kitchen Tip: The hot water cooks cheesecake batter more gently and makes the oven more humid—the perfect environment for cheesecake.

Step 6: Add the second layer of batter and bake

Bwcr21 162523 B03 09 14bTaste of Home

Once the first layer is done cooking, carefully remove the pan from the oven. Then slowly add the yellow lemon batter on top of the first layer. To prevent this new layer from disrupting the first be very gentle and evenly pour the batter over the back of a spoon. Bake again until the top is dull and just about set—30 to 35 minutes.

Step 7: Add the third layer and bake

Bwcr21 162523 B03 09 15bTaste of Home

Again, remove the cake carefully from the oven and layer on the final batch of batter. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the center wobbles slightly and the finish is dull—another 30 to 35 minutes. All of this layering does take patience, but it’s well worth it for the finished product!

Step 8: Top it with the sour cream layer

Bwcr21 162523 B03 09 17bTaste of Home

Finally, it’s time for the last layer of the cheesecake: the sour cream topping. To make this topper, quickly stir together 3/4 cup sour cream, a tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of lemon extract. Then, using the back of a spoon, spread the topping over the orange layer of the cake. Pop this back into the oven for a final five minutes.

Step 9: Cool

Once baked, remove the springform pan from the water bath and cool the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then loosen the sides from the pan with a knife and remove the foil. Let the cake sit out for another hour, then cover it and move it to the fridge to sit overnight.

After that overnight stay to let the flavors meld and cake set up, you can remove the collar of the pan. Decorate with fresh citrus slices, cut wedges and serve!

Citrus Cheesecake Storage

How long does citrus cheesecake last in the fridge?

Any extras will keep in the fridge for three to four days. Be sure to store leftovers in an airtight container for best flavor.

Can you freeze citrus cheesecake?

If you can’t finish the cake in a few days, wrap slices tightly in plastic wrap, and then a layer of aluminum foil. Cheesecake will keep in the freezer for up to two months. When you’re ready to enjoy, defrost for two to four hours and grab a fork!

Citrus Cheesecake Tips

Taste of Home

How do you slice and serve citrus cheesecake?

After all that work of layering and waiting and cooling, it’s time to enjoy this masterpiece! Remove the cheesecake from the fridge about an hour before you’d like to serve. Then, to get the cleanest cuts so you can really see the layers, dip a sharp knife in hot water, wipe it dry and cut.

Can you substitute the lemon extract?

Yes! If you don’t have lemon extract, you can use orange or vanilla extract instead.

Watch how to Make Sunny Citrus Cheesecake

Sunny Citrus Cheesecake

This beautiful layered cheesecake takes a bit longer to make, but the end result is so worth it! Citrus seems to be the perfect ending for an Easter meal, and the bright flavors really shine in this dessert. —Sue Gronholz, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
Sunny Citrus Cheesecake Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time

Prep: 35 min. + cooling Bake: 1 hour 25 min. + chilling


16 servings


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest
  • 3 drops green food coloring
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 6 drops yellow food coloring, divided
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 2 drops red food coloring
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • Optional: Orange slices, lime slices and lemon slices


  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Place a greased 9-in. springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square). Wrap foil securely around pan. Place on a baking sheet.
  2. In a small bowl, mix flour, sugar and zest; cut in butter until crumbly. Press onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake until edge is lightly browned, 25-30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in flour and vanilla. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until blended. Divide batter into thirds. To 1 portion, add lime juice, lime zest and green food coloring. Pour batter over crust.
  4. Place springform pan in a larger baking pan; add 1 in. hot water to larger pan. Bake until center is just set and top appears dull, about 25 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, to another portion of batter, add lemon juice, lemon zest and 3 drops yellow food coloring. Carefully remove pan from oven. Gently spoon over lime layer. Return to oven; bake until center is just set and top appears dull, about 25 minutes.
  6. To remaining batter, add orange juice, orange zest, red food coloring and remaining 3 drops yellow food coloring. Carefully remove pan from oven. Gently spoon over lemon layer.
  7. Return to oven; bake until center is just set and top appears dull, 30-35 minutes. Carefully remove pan from oven.
  8. In a small bowl, whisk topping ingredients. Gently spoon over cheesecake in small dollops; spread carefully. Return to oven; bake 5 minutes.
  9. Remove springform pan from water bath. Cool cheesecake on a wire rack 10 minutes. Loosen side from pan with a knife; remove foil. Cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight, covering when completely cooled. Remove rim from pan. If desired, top with orange, lime and lemon slices. Refrigerate leftovers.

Nutrition Facts

1 piece: 394 calories, 27g fat (16g saturated fat), 117mg cholesterol, 231mg sodium, 33g carbohydrate (25g sugars, 0 fiber), 6g protein.