This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Look no further for a creamy and ultra smooth classic cheesecake recipe! Paired with a buttery graham cracker crust, no one can deny its simple decadence. For the best results, bake in a water bath.

Perfect cheesecake on a pink cake stand

Not a Plain Cheesecake Recipe

As much as I love cheesecake, I’ve never published a classic cheesecake recipe. There’s always been peanut butter cheesecake, blueberry swirl cheesecake, Snickers cheesecake, pumpkin swirl cheesecake, or Amaretto cheesecake. Plus more cheesecake in my published cookbooks. That’s a lot of cheesecake recipes without a single nod to where it all originates: classic cheesecake.

To me, classic cheesecake is creamy, rich, and smooth. My cheesecake recipe is not as dense as New York cheesecake, but it’s just as special. It’s thick, it’s velvety, and there’s no denying its decadence. When I imagine what Chandler and Rachel’s stolen cheesecake tastes like, it’s this!

While there’s a glaring absence of chunks, swirls, and sprinkles in this ivory crowned jewel, there’s nothing plain about it.

slice of cheesecake on a spatula

Preparing my cheesecake recipe is rather simple—it’s baking the cheesecake that could result in a flop. Many factors are at play like the springform pan leaking, the surface of the cheesecake cracking, under-baking, over-baking, etc. I have plenty of tricks that will help guarantee classic cheesecake perfection, including determining when the cheesecake is done and everything you need to know about a cheesecake water bath.

2 images of cream cheese blocks in a glass bowl and filling in a glass stand mixer bowl.

How to Make Classic Cheesecake

You only need a few basic staple ingredients for this cheesecake recipe.

  1. Block cream cheese: Four 8-ounce blocks of full-fat cream cheese are the base of this cheesecake. That’s 2 pounds. Make sure you’re buying the blocks of cream cheese and not cream cheese spread. There’s no diets allowed in cheesecake, so don’t pick up the reduced-fat variety!
  2. Sugar: 1 cup. Not that much considering how many mouths you can feed with this dessert. Over-sweetened cheesecake is hardly cheesecake anymore. Using only 1 cup of sugar gives this cheesecake the opportunity to balance tangy and sweet, just as classic cheesecake should taste.
  3. Sour cream: 1 cup. I recently tested a cheesecake recipe with 1 cup of heavy cream instead, but ended up sticking with my original (which can be found here with blueberry swirl cheesecake!). I was curious about the heavy cream addition and figured it would yield a softer cheesecake bite. The cheesecake was soft, but lacked the stability and richness I wanted. It was almost too creamy. Sour cream is most definitely the right choice.
  4. A little flavor: 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and 2 of lemon juice. The lemon juice brightens up the cheesecake’s overall flavor and vanilla is always a good idea.
  5. Eggs: 3 eggs are the final ingredient. You’ll beat the eggs in last, one at a time, until they are *just* incorporated. Do not overmix the batter once the eggs are added. This will whip air into the cheesecake batter, resulting in cheesecake cracking and deflating.

And as always, make sure all of the cheesecake batter ingredients are at room temperature so the batter remains smooth, even, and combines quickly. Beating cold ingredients together will result in a chunky over-beaten cheesecake batter, hardly the way we want to start!

How to Make a Graham Cracker Crust

Since classic is the keyword of the day, we’re sticking with cheesecake’s main squeeze: a graham cracker crust. I reduced the butter from my original graham cracker crust recipe by 1 Tablespoon. I find this crust remains a little more crunchy. Make sure you pack the crust in tight and pre-bake it to help prevent any sogginess.

You could use this Oreo cookie crust instead. No big changes necessary to the recipe below, but I do encourage you to lightly grease the bottom of the springform pan because Oreo crusts tend to stick.

I like to use the bottom of a small measuring cup to smooth the crust mixture into the springform pan. Speaking of, you’ll need a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan. A springform pan has removable sides so you can safely release the cheesecake without having to flip the pan over or struggle to cut the cheesecake inside the pan. Springform pans can leak if you’re baking the cheesecake in a water bath (more on that below!), but this particular pan is reliable. I haven’t had any leaking issues.

2 images of pressing graham cracker crust into springform pan and spreading filling on top of crust with a spatula.
cheesecake pan wrapped in foil and placed in large pan with water

How to Make a Cheesecake Water Bath

I promise a water bath is nothing complicated. All you’re doing is placing the springform pan in a roasting pan, filling it with hot water, and baking. What’s the point, you ask?

Cheesecake loves a humid environment. The steam from the hot water will lift the cheesecake up slowly and evenly, reducing the risk of cracks on the surface. Additionally, this slow and even baking method helps prevent the cheesecake from sinking back down as it cools. Taking a few extra minutes to prepare a water bath for this cheesecake recipe is well worth it.

Cooling & Chilling Cheesecake

Another way to help prevent cheesecake cracks is to initially cool it inside the oven. You can see me do this in the video below. When the cheesecake is done, turn the oven off, crack open the oven door, and leave the cheesecake inside for 1 hour. A drastic and sudden change of temperature isn’t ideal for cheesecake—from hot oven to cool counter—so do your best to control the environment by leaving the cheesecake inside. Does this make sense?

After the cheesecake cools in the oven for 1 hour, place it on the counter to cool. After it’s cool, chill it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or even overnight. There’s no greater test to your willpower than those several hours you’re forced to wait as the cheesecake cools down and then chills in the refrigerator. But every minute is completely worth it when you take that first luscious bite.

For a quicker, easier alternative to making a classic cheesecake, try this cheesecake pie. Or if you want to completely skip the baking and cooling process, try my no-bake cheesecake instead.

overhead image of slices of cheesecake with various toppings
slice of cheesecake on a white plate with raspberry topping

4 Success Tips for Perfect Cheesecake

To summarize, here are some tricks I discussed:

  1. Do not over-mix the cheesecake batter
  2. Bake in a water bath
  3. Leave cheesecake in the cooling oven for 1 hour
  4. Cool completely at room temperature

Cheesecake Toppings

Enjoy your velvet-rich cheesecake as is or get a little fancy with a selection of toppings. I love cheesecake best with fruit, so I serve it with this simple raspberry sauce. Or you could top with homemade lemon curd, chocolate ganache, salted caramel, strawberry topping, or homemade whipped cream. Get creative or keep it simple. Either way, it’s going to impress. (And you’d totally eat it off the floor… Chandler and Rachel style.)

If you’re really looking to take your toppings to the next level, check out my pecan pie cheesecake or caramel apple cheesecake pie.

overhead image of slices of cheesecake on white plates with various toppings

How to Freeze Cheesecake

  1. Cool the cheesecake on the counter before freezing. No need to chill it in the refrigerator.
  2. Freeze on springform pan: Remove the outer rim from the springform pan. Wrap the cheesecake with the bottom of the pan with a few layers of plastic wrap, then a final layer of aluminum foil.
  3. Freeze without springform pan: After the cheesecake has completely cooled, run a sharp knife underneath the crust to release it from the bottom of the pan. Carefully slide it onto a parchment paper lined piece of cardboard or use a plate. Wrap it all in a few layers of plastic wrap, then a final layer of aluminum foil.
  4. Freeze for up to 3 months, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
  5. Do not freeze cheesecake with any toppings. Add toppings, like homemade whipped cream or salted caramel, when serving cheesecake.

Reader Photos!

Feel free to email or share your recipe photos with us on social media. 🙂

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
whole cheesecake on a pink cake stand

Best Classic Cheesecake Recipe

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 7 hours, 45 minutes (includes chilling)
  • Yield: serves 1216 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Look no further for a creamy and ultra smooth classic cheesecake recipe! Paired with a buttery graham cracker crust, no one can deny its simple decadence. For the best results, bake in a water bath.


Ingredients

Scale

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) graham cracker crumbs (about 12 full sheet graham crackers)
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons (71g) unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake

  • four 8-ounce blocks (904g) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (optional, but recommended)
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  2. Make the crust: If you’re starting out with full graham crackers, use a food processor or blender to grind them into fine crumbs. Pour into a medium bowl and stir in sugar until combined, and then stir in the melted butter. Mixture will be sandy. Try to smash/break up any large chunks. Pour into an ungreased 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan. With medium pressure using your hand, pat the crumbs down into the bottom and partly up the sides to make a compact crust. Do not pack down with heavy force because that makes the crust too hard. Simply pat down until the mixture is no longer crumby/crumbly and you can use the flat bottom of a small measuring cup to help smooth it all out if needed. Pre-bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the hot pan on a large piece of aluminum foil. The foil will wrap around the pan for the water bath in step 4. Allow crust to slightly cool as you prepare the filling.
  3. Make the filling: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sour cream, vanilla extract, and lemon juice then beat until fully combined. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just blended. After the final egg is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. To help prevent the cheesecake from deflating and cracking as it cools, avoid over-mixing the batter as best you can. You will have close to 6 cups of batter.
  4. Prepare the simple water bath (see note): Watch my video tutorial below; the visual guide will assist you in this step. Boil a pot of water. You need 1 inch of water in your roasting pan for the water bath, so make sure you boil enough. I use an entire kettle of hot water. As the water is heating up, wrap the aluminum foil around the springform pan. Pour the cheesecake batter on top of the crust. Use a rubber spatula or spoon to smooth it into an even layer. Place the pan inside of a large roasting pan. Carefully pour the hot water inside of the pan and place in the oven. (Or you can place the roasting pan in the oven first, then pour the hot water in. Whichever is easier for you.)
  5. Bake cheesecake for 55–70 minutes or until the center is almost set. If you notice the cheesecake browning too quickly on top, tent it with aluminum foil halfway through baking. When it’s done, the center of the cheesecake will slightly wobble if you gently shake the pan. Turn the oven off and open the oven door slightly. Let the cheesecake sit in the oven in the water bath as it cools down for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and water bath, then cool cheesecake completely uncovered at room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  6. Use a knife to loosen the chilled cheesecake from the rim of the springform pan, then remove the rim. Using a clean sharp knife, cut into slices for serving. For neat slices, wipe the knife clean and dip into warm water between each slice.
  7. Serve cheesecake with desired toppings (see Note). Cover and store leftover cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: This cheesecake can be made the day before. It has to chill for quite some time before serving. See step 5. Another way to make this cheesecake ahead of time is to freeze it. Cheesecake can be frozen up to 3 months. See instructions in blog post above.
  2. Oreo Cookie Crust: Feel free to replace the graham cracker crust with this Oreo cookie crust. Spray bottom of springform pan with nonstick spray, as Oreo cookie crusts tend to stick. Pre-bake the crust, just as you do with the graham cracker crust in step 2 above.
  3. Toppings: One of my favorite toppings for this cheesecake is raspberry sauce. Or you could top the baked and cooled cheesecake with salted caramel, lemon curd, strawberry topping, chocolate ganache, red wine chocolate ganache, fresh fruit, or whipped cream. The topping from my pecan pie cheesecake is also an option! 
  4. Water Bath: Some readers have baked cheesecakes with a large pan of hot water on the rack beneath the baking cheesecake. In this manner, the cheesecake does not bake directly in a roasting pan of water. This is a wonderful alternative if you do not own a large roasting pan or are nervous about your springform pan leaking. Simply place a large baking pan filled with 1 inch of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven.
  5. Room Temperature Ingredients: Bring all cold ingredients to room temperature before beginning. Room temperature ingredients combine quickly and evenly, so you won’t risk over-mixing. Also, beating cold ingredients together will result in a chunky cheesecake batter, hardly the way you want to begin!
  6. Non-US Readers: Don’t have graham crackers where you live? Use 200g ground digestive biscuit crumbs (about 2 cups; 13–14 biscuits), 1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar, and 6 Tablespoons (85g) melted butter. Pre-bake the crust for a bit longer, about 12–14 minutes. And from what I understand, spreadable cream cheese sold in a tub in countries outside of the US is a little different from the spreadable cream cheese in the US. It’s thicker, sturdier, and more solid and should be OK for this recipe. I have no experience with it, but this is what I’ve heard from other non-US readers. If you try it, let us know how it turns out!

Keywords: cheesecake

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I made a half batch for a six-inch springform and it was the best yet! It was very thick so I kept checking it with an instant read thermometer (I don’t trust my judgement on a jiggle test). It ended up needing just about an hour to cook.

  2. This is seriously the best cheesecake recipe. I’ve made it several times and always try new toppings with it. It is always a hit at get togethers.

  3. I made this recipe and absolutely loved it. I didn’t change anything but my springboard pan is bent and lets some water in. Has anyone tried it using a crockpot cake pan and baking it in the crockpot with water? I’m going to attempt it tomorrow. If so, how long did you cook it?
    Thanks!

    1. I cooked it for 2.5 hours in the crockpot cake pan in 1.5 inches of water on high. Then I let it sit in the unplugged crockpot for 1 hour before cooling it on the counter. Once it was cool, I put it in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. The texture was light and fluffy. It was delicious and perfectly cooked. Great recipe, very versatile.

      1. Hi! I’m going to make these in little 4 to 6 oz glass cups that my tiramisu from Costco came in. Do you recommend changing the time?
        Thanks!

      2. Hi Rita, we’re unsure of the exact bake time for smaller cheesecakes like that, but you could use this mini cheesecake recipe as a guide. Keep a close eye on them!

      1. Hi Jessica, we don’t recommend it — that would take a bit of recipe testing to properly make that swap and have the cheesecake set. It’s best to stick with the recipe as written here.

  4. Hi Sally, I love your recipes and I’ve already tried many from here. I also made this cheesecake before and it’s the best yet, not too dense like the classic NY cheesecake but I love it.
    I am planning to make one as a gift for a friend. I’m planning to box it on a cake board, but I don’t know if I can safely remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. Can I put parchment paper at the bottom before I put the crust? I wondered if it would be easier to slide it onto the cake board.
    Thank you so much for the delicious recipes.

    1. Hi Jewel, We are so happy that you enjoyed this recipe so much. You can certainly place a round piece of parchment on the bottom of you pan so that it slides off more easily. We hope your friend loves it!

      1. The BEST cheesecake recipe ever! I have made it several times and it’s been perfect every time! I make a rhubarb raspberry jam and serve it on top.
        I always make a full size cheesecake but I would like to make two smaller ones to share as gifts. Any recommendations on splitting this recipe?

    2. I put a cardboard cake round in the bottom of the pan and bake on that. I use the Fat Daddio cheesecake pan, it is really easy to separate the cardboard from the metal plate. I highly recommend them as the pan doesn’t warp and there is no aligning the rim on the plate before buckling it together.

  5. Nice recipe. Water bath baking is new to me. Typo note: your bake time reads 7 hours and 45 minutes. Should be one hour obviously.

    1. Hi Paul, Glad you enjoyed the recipe! The 7 hours and 45 minutes is the total time from start to finish, so that includes the time it takes to prepare the recipe, bake, and chill.

  6. My tried and true recipe for cheesecake! I’ve used the recipe many times and have always had great results! I swirled fresh raspberry jam into it and it turned out to be the best-tasting cheesecake I’ve tasted anywhere. The directions and video made it so easy.

  7. This is my go to classic cheesecake recipe, and everyone loves it. I’ve been asked to make a key lime cheesecake. I’ve looked at a few different recipes and it seems to be a basic recipe with either 1/4 or 1/2 cup of key lime juice. I’ve never even had key lime pie so I’m not really sure how much to add. Would you happen to have any suggestions? Thank you

  8. Hi Sally,
    I have a question about storing this cheesecake. I am making it on Tuesday night for an event on Saturday night . Do you recommend storing it in the freezer or fridge? I am not sure if it will stay fresh in the fridge for that long.
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Jessica, the cheesecake may be nearing the end of its freshness by that point, so we’d lean towards freezing it. Full freezing directions can be found in the post. Hope it’s a hit!

  9. I love this recipe so much! I always get compliments on it any time I make it.
    Is there a way to do mini cheesecakes in a muffin tin with muffin cups? Would you just set the whole muffin tin in a water bath?

  10. Hi! I love your recipes. I’m planning on making about thirty 8oz cheesecakes in foil ramekins for a gathering. Should i adjust this recipe in any certain ways? I’m sure i will need to double or triple the recipe, but is there anything i should adjust?

    1. Hi Zoey, for best results, we recommend making individual batches rather than doubling or tripling. With cheesecake batter, you want to be very careful so as not to over mix and introduce too much air that will cause cracks in the baked cheesecake — it can be especially easy to do that with excess ingredients. We’re unsure of how many batches you will need to make for your needs, but each batch makes about 6 cups of batter. We recommend using the alternate water bath instructions (where the pans are not directly in the water) and the same temperature, but bake time will be different so keep a close eye on the cheesecakes. If you’re interested, here is our mini cheesecake recipe. Hope this helps!

  11. I have a bent pan also.. soo.. I use foil.. but what I do is roll my foil up into a ring and I set my pan on top of the foil ring and add my water bath.. it works perfectly! The foil ring keeps the pan up high enough that the water never touches the pan!

  12. Hi there, would it be possible to use soft cheese in stead of cream cheese ? It’s impossible to find cream cheese in the UK never mind cream cheese blocks.

    1. Hi Mollie! From what we understand, spreadable cream cheese sold in a tub in countries outside of the US is a little different from the spreadable cream cheese in the US. It’s thicker, sturdier, and more solid and should be OK for this recipe. We have no experience with it, but this is what we’ve heard from other non-US readers. If you try it, let us know how it turns out!

  13. Bake temp or time is off. I have made many cheesecakes and this one takes longer it has been in the oven an hour and a half at 225 after the initial 15 minutes and it’s way too jiggly. I just turned it to 250 to see if I can get it to set up.

  14. Hi. I haven’t made this yet but I’m wondering if I made this crustless would anything need to change? Maybe line the inside of the springform so that it comes off the bottom easier?
    Thank you<
    Jessica

    1. Hi Jessica, We’ve never used this recipe for a crustless cheesecake but you can certainly try it. Obviously the pre-bake is not necessary. The total cheesecake bake time should be the same though. Keep the cooling and chilling process the same as well.

  15. I use this every time and it’s amazing! I am lazy so I don’t use the water bath so it’s not always perfectly gorgeous, but even without it looks and tastes delicious.

    Once, I halved the recipe and put into a frozen flour/butter pie crust for a small batch. It was delicious and worked perfectly.

    I always increase the vanilla a little bit for personal preference.

  16. I have now made several cheesecakes using this recipe and I have friends and family beg me for more! Some have even told me that it is better than Cheesecake Factory. Love this recipe.

  17. The cheesecake baked up beautifully, but I wasn’t crazy about the flavor. I don’t know if there wasn’t enough sugar in the filling or the sour cream was too prominent, but it was too tart/sour for my liking. The crust was perfect!

Leave a Review!

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.