For the crust:
- 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
- 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the filling:
- 2 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 Tbs. water
- 1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
- 1 jar (13.5 oz.) cherries in syrup (optional)
To make the crust, in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and lemon zest, and process to mix well. Add the butter and process until the crumbs begin to stick together. Drape your hand with plastic wrap to form a glove, and press the crumbs evenly and firmly over the bottom and 2 inches up the side of a 9-by-2 1/2-inch springform pan. Bake the crust 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
To make the filling, in a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and granulated sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until well blended. Beat in 1/2 cup of the cream and the vanilla until incorporated.
Place the water in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let soften for 5 minutes. Place the saucepan over low heat and stir until the gelatin is dissolved, then gradually whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup cream. Add the gelatin mixture to the cream cheese mixture and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute. Spoon the filling into the cooled crust. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
To serve, run a knife around the pan sides to loosen the cake. Release the pan sides and place the cake on a plate. Cut the cake into individual slices and spoon cherries over each slice.