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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 Plain Cheesecake

As much as I love cheesecake, I’ve never published a classic cheesecake recipe. There’s always been peanut butter cheesecake, sprinkles cheesecake, blueberry swirl cheesecake, Snickers cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake, lemon cheesecake, red velvet cheesecake, or Nutella cheesecake. That’s a lot of cheesecake recipes without a single nod to where it all originates: classic cheesecake.

To me, classic cheesecake is creamy, silky, and smooth. My cheesecake recipe is not quite as dense as New York cheesecake, but boasts equal richness and is 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 her.

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 cheesecake 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 and granulated sugar from my original graham cracker crust recipe by 1 Tablespoon each. I find this crust remains a little more crunchy. Make sure you pack the crust in very tight and pre-bake it to help prevent any sogginess.

I like to use the bottom of a small measuring cup to pack the crust tightly into the springform pan. Speaking of, you’ll need a 9 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 cheesecake 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? I actually wrote an entire post about a cheesecake water bath years ago. I figured it’s time for an update and a video tutorial, so here goes nothing!

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. I can’t say enough how valuable it is!

slice of cheesecake on a white plate with lemon curd topping

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 above. 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.

Want to 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 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 made a simple raspberry sauce. You can also 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.)

raspberry dessert sauce in a glass jar with a spoon

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!

Many readers tried this recipe as part of a baking challenge! Feel free to email or share your recipe photos with us on social media. 🙂

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whole cheesecake on a pink cake stand

Classic Cheesecake Recipe

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 7 hours, 45 minutes
  • Yield: serves at least 12
  • Category: Cake
  • 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 (150g) graham cracker crumbs (about 10 full sheet graham crackers)
  • 5 Tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar

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: Using a food processor, pulse the graham crackers into crumbs. Pour into a medium bowl and stir in sugar and melted butter until combined. (You can also pulse it all together in the food processor.) Mixture will be sandy. Press firmly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan. No need to grease the pan first. I use the bottom of a measuring cup to pack the crust down tightly. Pre-bake for 8 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 above; 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. Toppings: One of my favorite toppings for this cheesecake is a fresh raspberry sauce. Find those details in the next recipe Note. You can also top the baked and cooled cheesecake with salted caramel, lemon curd, strawberry topping, chocolate ganache, red wine chocolate ganache, fresh fruit, or whipped cream.
  3. Fresh Raspberry Sauce: Combine 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (do not thaw if using frozen), 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir the mixture as it begins to cook, breaking up some of the raspberries as you stir. Once simmering, continue to stir and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and press through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Allow the thin raspberry sauce to cool completely before using. Store for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.
  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: With the help of other non-US readers who do not have access to graham crackers, here is a basic crust recipe you can follow for a 9-inch springform pan. 250g digestive biscuits + 100g butter + no sugar. Grind the digestive biscuits into crumbs, melt the butter, and mix with the crumbs. Press into pan and pre-bake as directed in step 2. 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 to make cheesecake. I have no experience with it, but this is what I’ve heard from other non-US readers.

Keywords: cheesecake

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I never go wrong w this recipe. I have baked it for years and every time is delish . But sometimes I add a cup of whipping cream to the batter to add more of a rich texture & flavor.

  2. Ive made both your classic and funfetti cheesecake and while I liked the taste of your classic best I loved how the sprinkles looked in the cheesecake! The only difference between the two seems to be the amount of vanilla and having almond in the funfetti cake. Will making your classic cheesecake but adding the sprinkles work out alright?

    1. Hi Courtney, absolutely! Add 3/4 cup – 1 cup of rainbow jimmies or pastel quins (do not use nonpariels).

      1. I love this recipe so much ! , Already bake it so many times! but can i know with the same recipe can i change it to bar size ? And what size of pan should i go for ?

    2. Looks wonderful! Have you ever added a raspberry swirl? Would it sink into the batter?

      1. Hi Kathryn! Those pie tins are much smaller than a 9 inch springform pan that this recipe is written for. You’ll have extra filling and take bake time will be shorter. Let us know it you give it a try!

  3. Does this come without a huge mess I want to make it as a surprise for my mum

    1. Hi Tegan! This recipe, like most homemade baking recipes, will make a few dishes! We always find it helpful to clean as we go. Let us know if you give it a try!

  4. I love this recipe. I found a tip for the water bath. Use an oven cooking bag instead of foil. It was easier especially if you don’t have wide foil.

  5. This recipe is magnificent!! I love it! The oven I use only has hot air. Because of that the cheesecake starts to brown from the first 15 minutes. How do I adjust the baking instructions accordingly for a nice light brown and not over baked cheesecake? I dont wanna have to open the oven all the time.

    1. Hi Eva, you can tent the cheesecake with foil partway through baking to help prevent excess browning. You could also try moving it away from the heating element, down a level in your oven. So glad you enjoyed this recipe!

      1. My cheesecake was perfect! This time I cast my fears aside and tried the waterbath. Will never bake another cheesecake any other way.
        Topped it with kiwi, strawberries and blueberries with an apricot glaze.
        It was delish.

        Thanks so much Sally!!

  6. My springform pan is smaller so I use 3 packages of cream cheese and adjust the rest of the filling ingredients accordingly, I put a pan of hot water on the rack under the cheesecake instead of a water bath, bake 55 minutes, turn off the oven and leave in oven for another 55 minutes, perfect every time, serve with blueberry sauce and whipped cream, a family favourite.

  7. by far the best cheese cake I ever made, a few times water seeped into the cake from the water bath but to be honest I think It made the cake better..

  8. The recipe looks so good and I really want to try it! I was just wondering if there’s a way to customize the flavour. For example, how would I make it butterscotch flavoured?

    1. Hi Daliah, we haven’t tested a butterscotch version of this cheesecake, but you could certainly drizzle butterscotch on top of the completed cheesecake. Yum! Here are all of our cheesecake recipes, if you’d like to try some different flavors. If you decide to do any experimenting, keep in mind that cheesecakes can be a bit tricky when adding more liquid for certain flavorings, as it the added moisture could impact the cheesecakes ability to properly set. Hope this is helpful!

  9. Can I use a disposable (foil) roasting pan for the bath? I’d use a standard springform pan. Thank you!

    1. Can’t see why not! Just be careful as they can be flimsy.

  10. Just made this and cannot wait for 4 hours to eat some , very easy and directions were easy to follow.

  11. I saw the oven temperature as 350F. Is this the same temperature for both the base and filling?

    1. Hi Anthony! Yes, keep the oven temperature the same for both the crust and the cheesecake.

    1. Hi Sophia, Yes! Full fat plain or Greek yogurt works in the place of sour cream. It may taste a bit heavier, but not much.

  12. Adore this recipe! It has been a huge hit with my family. Quick question – I do not have a pan big enough to fit my cheesecake in for the bath. With choosing the option to put the water bath on the bottom rack of the oven, do you still need to wrap the bottom of the cheesecake in tinfoil?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Sarah! No need to wrap in foil if using the alternate water bath method. Happy baking!

  13. This recipe is great! Flavor is amazing! The only thing I do different is add a piece of parchment paper under the crust for better release, and I cook mine in a smoker at 300° for an hour and a half. The smokey flavor paired with marshmallows and chocolate drizzle is just like an over the fire s’more!

  14. I’ve made this cheesecake many times and my family loves it! To prevent water from getting in the pan I use a crock pot liner bag….works great every time! :-)(just set pan in bag and tighten side with a knot)

  15. I followed this recipe for the second time today, but this time I included the salted caramel topping. My wife thinks I’m a chef! Easy to follow instructions and the recipe is fantastic. It was tricky cutting it into slices, even after chilling it, but a little butter on the knife and it sliced perfectly.

  16. Hi! I really loved this recipe coz it’s always a success every time I use it. However, I’d like to try it with an oreo crust. Would a tangy classic cheesecake work well with an oreo crust? Thank you!

  17. I just used this recipe for the third time today and each time this has turned out wonderful! This will definitely be my go to recipe from now on! Thanks, you have out done yourself on this!

  18. Currently making this recipe for the third time. It is the best!! I made it according to instructions the first time but tried a couple alterations the second and third times. I love graham cracker crust so I used more and made brown butter for the base as well. Using cinnamon graham crackers added a nice flavor too. I added almond flavoring in addition to the vanilla because it’s my favorite.

  19. So I am very green when it comes to baking… actually cooking in general! Please bear with me and my questions I should start with I used this cheesecake recipe once before and it turned out GREAT!! but that time there were a few differences, such as, I used a toaster oven and it was much,much cooler outside. So,with that said here are my questions;
    1) can I pre-make the batter and store if I don’t have the crust ready yet(I thought I had graham crackers and I don’t)?
    2)My AC is down ATM and so inside my home, especially after using the oven, is much warmer than the usual 70-75 +/- degrees for “Rm temp” as I live in AZ and we are currently under excessive heat warning, so when it says to cool after the “1hour oven door open” step to room temp on the counter, what should I do?
    3) As I mentioned I used a toaster oven the first time but this time I have a gas oven and I noticed that it cooks much hotter and much faster… What would be the recommended temp/time adjustments I should make? Thank you in advance for any advice/tips/notes anyone can give me! Trust they will not fall on def ears

    1. Hi Bethani! I’m glad to help. (1) Yes, you can prepare the batter in advance and refrigerate it. I recommend bringing it to room temperature before using though. (2) I don’t think it should be an issue at all going from the oven to room temperature. Especially not if your kitchen is particularly warm. That’s actually a good thing because there’s less of a temperature difference. (3) For your oven, I recommend lowering to 325°F (163°C) and baking until the center is only slightly jiggly, which can really be a wide range of time, at least 70 minutes I’d say. Let me know how it turns out!

  20. I made this cheesecake and raspberry sauce first time and it was delicious!
    But next time I would add maybe 1/2 teaspoon of salt, feels like that is missing.
    Thanks for the recipe!

  21. The recipe is awesome. My first time baking a cheesecake and I have no issue with the filling. However, the crust I baked kind of crumbly n didn’t stick with the cheese filling. What had I done wrong?

    1. Hi Adam, Thanks for giving this recipe a try! The crust may be over-baked. See if skipping the crust pre-bake helps for next time.

  22. I have made this recipe 3 times now and each time it has come out perfect! Everyone who eats it swears it’s the best cheesecake they’ve ever had, so thank you! I do use more crumbs and butter for my crust because I like having the crust all the way up sides. Delicious.

    I have a question – if I wanted to make a smaller one, like in an 8″ springform pan, how do I adjust the ingredients amounts? I’m assuming I would bake it for less time too?

  23. Hi there, can i make this in a 6 inch pan? if so, could you recommend a ratio adjustment?

    1. Hi Mariah, you can try cutting the recipe in half for a 6 inch pan. We have not tested it this way so we’re unsure of the bake time. Or, you may enjoy this small batch cheesecake which uses a loaf pan.

  24. I’ve made this recipe several times and I love it! I would like to try it with a 12 in pan, any suggestions for recipe alterations to fit that size?

    1. Hi Rachael, we haven’t tried it ourselves, but that should be plenty (and if you have leftovers, you can make a few mini cheesecakes with the extra batter). We’re unsure of the exact bake time. Let us know what you try!

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