Cheesecake Bars

I started making these cheesecake bars twenty years ago. They’re beautiful, wildly decadent, and the perfect special treat. Pools of citrus curd blend into a vanilla flecked cream cheese filling. A shortbread cookie crust provides crunch and structure as the base. With each bite you’re hit with a blast of citrus intensity, and the swirl top is dramatic and beautiful.
slice of a cheesecake bar on a small plate with a fork

Cheesecake Bars: The Inspiration

There was a moment in the early 00s where ripple-topped cheesecake bars were having a real moment. I clipped a number of versions from newspapers and magazines including one from Food & Wine magazine and another from the Spring 2004 issue of Donna Hay. These bars were typically lemon flavored but I found over the years that I really love making zesty grapefruit versions, or my absolute favorite (pictured here) – blood orange. I include instructions in the recipe below.
cheesecake bars served on a marble table on plates

The Ingredients

The ingredient list for these cheesecake bars is quite straight forward. If you keep cream cheese on hand, you might have the rest of the ingredients in your pantry. A couple notes related to key ingredients.

  • Cream Cheese: Go for the real deal, full fat version here.
  • Citrus: I call for a blend of orange and lemon juice in this version of the recipe, but you can play around with whatever citrus you have on hand. I’ve had it on my list to experiment with a key lime version (or makrut lime!) for ages.
  • Sugar: Opt for a fine, granulated sugar here.

cheesecake bars baked in a glass baking dish

How To Make Cheesecake Bars

There are three main components to these cheesecake bars. The shortbread base, the cream cheese filling, and the citrus topping swirl.

  1. Make the cookie base: You can see the concept pictured here (below). Press and bake cookie dough into your pan and bake until golden.
    cookie dough crust as first layer in glass baking dish
  2. Make the citrus curd swirl mixture: This is done in a saucepan using egg yolks citrus juices, sugar, cornstarch, heat, and patience.
    curd ingredients in stainless steel saucepan
  3. Make the cream cheese filling: This step is a breeze. You basically whip up a lot of cream cheese, then sweeten and flavor it.
  4. Assemble and bake. One of the keys here is avoiding baking too long. You want to bake these bars until they’re just set in the center.
    cheesecake bars baked in a glass baking dish

Cheesecake Bars: Variations

As mentioned above, the first way you can switch things up here is to play around with the shape of the pan you bake in. You can make individual tarts or mini-tarts, or bake in a long pan and slice into strips.

  • Lemon Cheesecake Bars: Use freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest. Bonus points for using Meyer lemons – extra special!
  • Orange Blossom Cheesecake Bars: This version is beautiful. Use a small splash of good quality orange blossom water in place of the vanilla in the recipe. It accentuates the orange in the recipe and perfumes your entire kitchen as the bars are baking.
  • Rose Citrus Cheesecake Bars: This is the same idea as the orange blossom version above, substitute a splash of rose water for the vanilla in the recipe. Or! Leave the vanilla in. Rose, vanilla, and orange are a beautiful combination.

cheesecake bars baked in a glass baking dish
More Baking Recipes

slice of a cheesecake bar on a small plate with a fork

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