Prepare to Pucker Up for These Half-Baked Lemonade Cheesecake Bars

Prepare to Pucker Up for These Half-Baked Lemonade Cheesecake Bars

I have a salty tooth, so for me, it’s always mozzarella sticks over chocolate cake. But even though I’m not personally obsessed with dessert, I’ve always loved to bake for other people. In the ’90s, I brought my Easy-Bake Oven to my dad’s office to make him a cake “from scratch.” In the 2000s, I experimented with extravagant cupcakes before creating desserts with a savory edge, like my Korean-ish Brown Butter Blondies. Nowadays, I keep a “Food-rensic File” in my Notes app with my loved ones’ taste preferences. The best compliment I can get in return for baking for someone is, “Wow, this is so me!”

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The Lemonade Bars you see here are for all my salty-sweet tooths out there. They’re actually a mashup of two confections: cheesecake (my mom’s signature) and lemon bars (Ina Garten’s specifically). But because both of those happen to be notoriously difficult to bake (cheesecakes need a water bath and I’d rather take a bubble bath), I’ve simplified the process by removing the oven…for most of it. Here, “half-baked” means baking just the crust to create a sturdy base for the filling. And the lemon part is an ode to the classic bars, using lemonade concentrate to make a super-quick faux curd.

doing the least with alyse

Chelsea Kyle

If you’re like me and you’ve always used food as a love language, I hope you’ll love these edible gifts that feel like an instant celebration. Giving them out is simply the zest (sorry!).

Half-Baked Lemonade Cheesecake Bars

Makes 12 squares

Salted Pretzel Graham Crust

  • 1 stick salted butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 cups pretzel crumbs

Fluffy as Hell Cheesecake Filling

  • 2 (8-ounce) bricks cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons lemonade concentrate (from 12-ounce frozen tube, thawed)
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • Pinch of salt, preferably kosher
  • 1½ cups heavy cream

Lemonade Glaze

  • Remaining lemonade concentrate (about 1½ cups)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut two 9-x-12-inch pieces of parchment paper and press into a plus-sign formation in a 9- or 10-inch baking dish (preferably metal). This will act as a “sling” to lift your bars out later!

2. To make the crust, melt the butter and sugar together in 30-second increments in a medium microwave-safe bowl, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove and mix in the graham cracker and pretzel crumbs. Press the mixture into your parchment-lined pan. Bake for 12 minutes, or until evenly golden brown. Set aside for 15 minutes, then move to the fridge to chill.

3. Now the filling: In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), add the cream cheese, 2 tablespoons lemonade concentrate, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Mix until combined. Add the heavy cream and whip some more. After a few minutes, it should be fluffy and airy—now’s the time to spread it evenly across the cooled crust. Pop the whole thing in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 4 hours.

4. For the glaze, add the remaining lemonade concentrate to a small saucepan. Whisk in the cornstarch while the concentrate is cold (otherwise it can get clumpy) and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, 30 seconds or less. Pour into a bowl and let cool for 15 minutes, then pour over the cheesecake in an even layer, using a spoon to spread to the edges. Set in the fridge for at least an hour before cutting.

5. When you’re ready to serve, lift the bars out of the pan with the “slings.” Place on a cutting board and slice into 12 squares. For clean cuts, run your knife under hot water and carefully wipe off between each slice. Store bars in an airtight container for up to a week in the fridge. Serve with iced tea for a unique take on an Arnold Palmer!

Want more of Alyse’s “omg-that’s-good” recipes? Highly recommend following her on Insta.

Prop Stylist: Cate Geiger Kalus
Food Stylist: Nick Torres
Hair and Makeup: Caitlin Krenz
Manicure: Marina Tahari
Styling: Lisa Rose

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Contributing Food Columnist

Alyse Whitney (she/her) is Cosmopolitan’s first-ever food columnist. In “Doing the Least with Alyse,” she shares excitingly easy recipes that require the least effort for the most impressive meals. She’s been an editor at Bon Appétit, Rachael Ray Every Day, and Cravings by Chrissy Teigen, and she has written about everything from plus-size fashion to mushroom maximalism at publications that include New York Magazine, Glamour, and Apartment Therapy. She’s a Korean American adoptee, TV host (co-host and judge on Easy-Bake Battle and critic on Pressure Cooker, both streaming on Netflix), Dip Queen, karaoke fanatic, and you can follow her on Instagram @alysewhitney.

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