Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Generously grease 9 x 2-inch springform pan. Wrap outside of pan in foil to prevent leaking.
Cover cranberries in small bowl with boiling water. Let stand 5 minutes to soften; drain.
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add sugar and cornstarch; beat until blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Then beat in sour cream, lemon rind, lemon juice, vanilla and almond extract, if using. Stir in plumped cranberries. Spoon into prepared springform pan. Place in larger pan; place on oven rack. Pour enough hot water into larger pan to come 1 inch up sides of springform pan.
Bake in 300 degree F oven 1-3/4 hours or until puffed, lightly browned and almost firm in center. Turn oven off. Leave cheesecake in oven. Prop door open; let cool in water bath 30 minutes. Remove springform pan from water bath to wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. Remove side of pan.
Sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons cold water in a cup; let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Combine jelly and brandy in small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring until melted and smooth. Add softened gelatin mixture; stir to dissolve. Let cool to room temperature. Place in ice bath, stirring jelly mixture, just until it begins to thicken. Spread some glaze around side of cake. Press sliced almonds onto side of cake. Pour remaining glaze over top and spread. Garnish with whole almonds, if using. Makes 16 servings.