This cheesecake is famous in Nashville. If you attended or know someone who attended a Dillon Christmas party (ca. 1995–2008), you’ve probably heard about Jane Dillon’s cheesecake. It’s divine. The best cheesecake there ever was or will be. I am not presently receiving comments on this topic.

The final product, prepared for Thanksgiving 2021


3 c
graham crackers (crushed into crumbs)
½ c
unsalted butter (melted)
2 tsp
½ c
walnuts (chopped)
Cream cheese filling
24 oz
cream cheese
1 c
white granulated sugar
1 tsp
vanilla extract
1 tbsp
lemon juice (fresh-squeezed)
1 tbsp
lemon rind (grated)
Sour cream icing
2 c
sour cream
1 c
white granulated sugar
1 tsp
vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Prepare the crust:
    1. Line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper.
    2. Melt the butter (½ c), and use the parchment that wraps the butter to grease the bottom & sides of the springform pan.
    3. To a mixing bowl, add the graham cracker crumbs (3 c), cinnamon (2 tsp) & melted butter, and mix so the crumbs are well coated with butter.
    4. Pour about half the crust mix into the springform pan, and use another sheet of parchment paper to press the mix into the bottom of the pan.
    5. Pour the remaining crust mix along the side of the pan, and use the parchment paper to press the mix along the sides of the pan.
      The mix won't reach the top of springform, and you might not even need all the crust mix. Later, the icing will set above the crust.
    6. Bake the crust at 350° for 5min, then allow it to rest on a counter.
  3. Prepare the cream cheese filling:
    1. In a mixing bowl, add the cream cheese (24 oz) and beat until creamy (1–2min).
    2. Crack one egg and beat into the cream cheese.
      Repeat for 5 total eggs.
    3. Add white granulated sugar (1 c), vanilla extract (1 tsp), & lemon juice (1 tbsp), and beat until well blended.
      The amount of lemon juice is really to taste; 1 tbsp is a starting point. My mom quarters a lemon and squeezes all of that juice in. As always, let your taste buds guide you.
  4. Bake the crust & filling:
    1. Gently pour the the cream cheese filling onto the baked crust, starting at the edge and circling in.
      Use this circular technique and pour slowly so you don't break the crust. The filling here should look like ribbons as you pour.
    2. Grate a bit of lemon rind (to taste, ~1 tbsp) over the top of the filling.
    3. Place the springform pan onto a baking tray, and into the center rack of the oven.
      The butter from the crust may leak during baking, and the tray is there to prevent a mess.
    4. Next to the tray, place an oven-safe ramekin filled partly with water.
      The amount of water isn't strictly important; its purpose is to keep the oven environment moist so neither the crust nor filling crack.
    5. Bake at 350° for 20min, then turn the oven off and allow the cake to continue baking for another 60min.
    6. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool on a counter for 30–45min
  5. Prepare the sour cream icing.
    Make the icing while the crust & filling are in the oven so it's also near room temperature when you top the cake with it.
    1. To a mixing bowl, add the sour cream (2 c), sugar (1 c), & vanilla extract (1 tsp).
    2. Hand mix the icing until blended.
  6. Bake the cake again:
    1. Preheat the oven to 475°.
    2. Once the crust & filling have cooled, gently pour the icing on top using the same technique as earlier—starting at the edge and circling in.
    3. Return the cake to the oven for 5–10min, keeping a constant eye out for the following:
      • A ring of bubbles will form at the edges of the icing when it's done.
      • You want the icing to set, with no jiggling.
      • You do not want the icing to brown.
      You may want to handle this by turning the oven off after 3–4min and allowing the cake to soft bake for an additional few minutes, like you did when baking the crust & filling.
  7. Serve:
    1. Allow the cake to cool 30–45min on the counter.
    2. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator overnight to set.
      leave the cake in the springform until you're ready to cut & serve it.
    3. Serve with fresh berries.
A photo of the cheesecake recipe my mom's is based on. It's on magazine paper that's yellowed & stained.
The recipe that my mom later perfected

About this recipe

  • Prepare this dessert the day before you intend to eat it. It needs to cool & settle in the refrigerator overnight; and in my opinion, is at its best after a couple days.
  • You'll notice the image of the recipe calls for 4 cups of sour cream. My mom has always made it with 2 cups because 4 seemed excessive.
  • There are endless ways to vary this recipe. My favorite is a "cappuccino cheesecake" that replaces the lemon juice & zest with a shot of espresso in the cream cheese filling. (Sub the espresso for 2 very concentrated ounces of coffee if you can't make espresso at home.)