Classic Cheesecake Recipe

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.

Look no further for a creamy and smooth classic cheesecake recipe! Paired with a buttery graham cracker crust, no one can deny its simple decadence! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Not Plain Cheesecake

As much as I love cheesecake, I’ve never published a classic cheesecake recipe. There’s always been peanut butter, sprinkles, blueberry swirls, Snickers cheesecake, pumpkin, lemon, red velvet, or Nutella. 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.

Look no further for a creamy and smooth classic cheesecake recipe! Paired with a buttery graham cracker crust, no one can deny its simple decadence! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Preparing cheesecake is rather simple, it’s baking 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.

How to make the best cheesecake with blocks of real cream cheese on sallysbakingaddiction.com

How to Make Classic Cheesecake

You only need a few basic staple ingredients for cheesecake.

  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 cheesecake with 1 cup of heavy cream instead, but ended up sticking with my original (which can be found here with blueberry swirls!). 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.

This is the best cheesecake recipe! Recipe and video on sallysbakingaddiction.comHow to prepare a water bath for cheesecake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 your cheesecake is well worth it. I can’t say enough how valuable it is!

Look no further for a creamy and smooth classic cheesecake recipe! Paired with a buttery graham cracker crust, no one can deny its simple decadence! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

Look no further for a creamy and smooth classic cheesecake recipe! Paired with a buttery graham cracker crust, no one can deny its simple decadence! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Look no further for a creamy and smooth classic cheesecake recipe! Paired with a buttery graham cracker crust, no one can deny its simple decadence! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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, salted caramel, strawberry compote, 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.)

Homemade raspberry dessert sauce recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Look no further for a creamy and smooth classic cheesecake recipe! Paired with a buttery graham cracker crust, no one can deny its simple decadence! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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. Prepare toppings for serving cheesecake.
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Look no further for a creamy and smooth classic cheesecake recipe! Paired with a buttery graham cracker crust, no one can deny its simple decadence! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Classic Cheesecake Recipe

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 9 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

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


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.
  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. (Note: if you notice the cheesecake browning too quickly on top, tent it with aluminum foil halfway through baking.) Bake cheesecake for 55-70 minutes or until the center is almost set. 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 at room temperature. Then 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. 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. 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.
  3. 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. I have never tried this method, but many report back with great reviews! 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.

208 Comments

  1. Hi Sally! I am hoping to make this cheesecake for guests tomorrow night but was wondering if there is another variation of topping I can make besides fruity? I thought perhaps your red wine ganache?

  2. Hi Sally! Do you think I could use a 9″ pan even if I cut the ingredients into half? will it cause any changes in the baking time or anything else? I don’t have a smaller springform pan! 🙂

  3. Just made this today. It’s on the counter cooling. It looks just beautiful. No cracks!! Can’t wait to taste it tomorrow.

  4. Hi Sally! One thought about wrapping the pan for the water bath: I’ve never succeeded in preventing water from leaking into the springform pan and messing up my crust, especially if using smaller sheets of foil and crimping them together. (Your video shows you using a large enough sheet of foil that you don’t have to do that, which helps.) I recently had a thought about how to do the foil. See if this makes sense to you: 1) spread the foil over the bottom of the s-f pan before putting on the side piece, 2) attach the side, being careful not to tear the foil, so that the foil ends up being crimped between the bottom and the side, 3) then go ahead and wrap the foil up the outside. If done properly, there should now be a continuous foil shield that will make it impossible for any water to get into the pan. Probably best to use heavy-duty foil.
    See what you think!

    1. Hi Sally, I never had any luck with wrapping the pan with foil then one day I thought of using an oven or crock pot bag. I roll down the sides of the bag ,put the cheesecake into it, place it in a larger pan and add water. No leaks!!

  5. Hi Sally, Instead of putting the cheesecake directly into a water bath, can I put a pan of water right underneath the cheesecake? I haven’t had good luck with doing this in the past and the water seems to seep into my cheesecake. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

  6. Made 2 times now, 1st, no water bath. Second, water bath. 1st one was absolutely wonderful! Never thought I could do it. Second one, I do not know only because I’m giving as a birthday present. Hope I get a taste!!!!

  7. I want to try your cheesecake recipe. I love your website and have made a lot of your recipes. One of my favorites is your Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake. I am a fan of good New York cheesecake. Do you have a recipe for it?

      1. Sally,
        I will try it. My daughter told me about your website a couple of years ago. I look forward to your recipes each week. I have made a number of your recipes that I mail to my grandsons that are in college. They enjoy the SBA goodies. I must also let you know that I live in Garrett County. I have seen your pictures of the Deep Creek area. Small world.

  8. Hey Sally,
    First of all, My mother and I absolutely adore your recipes,
    I wanted to try a cheese cake but, cream cheese isn’t available in our town, and I would love it if you did a post on making cream cheese at home!!
    Cheers!!

  9. Hey Sally, I didn’t try this recipe, but mine combines milk and sour cream. I tried the whipping cream and sour cream too, however BOTH times I ended up with a syrup like oozing from my cheesecake cake.. what do you think I’ve done wrong?

  10. Hello Sally,
    I hardly ever write a review, but I just have to tell you this. I made your cheesecake for the first time for my middle daughter’s birthday and I think it was the best cheesecake I have ever baked . Everyone in my family loved it. Thank you for this recipe. It is definitely a keeper and I will make it from now on. So delicious!
    I was looking for a cheesecake recipe that included sour cream and lemon juice and came across yours. I used my German springform pan ( 26cm) and the cake came out great.Also I put a pan with hot water on the lower rack and will do this again next time.
    You should have named this cake” Heavenly Cheesecake” , because it is simply superb.
    I made a homemade cherry topping, but this cake really needs nothing else and luckily I just had the topping for anyone to add,because most of us enjoyed the yummy cake without the cherries.
    So thank you again and thank you for all the hints.

  11. Sally, love this recipe and the cheesecake is delish!!! I was wondering this is my second time making the cheesecake and it gets brown around the edges. I did tent with foil half way through baking. Can you help me out?

    1. Hi Nancy! Did the oven rack position change from the 1st time you made the cheesecake? The best way to prevent super brown edges on the cheesecake is to tent it with foil. You can even tent with foil the whole time in the oven, if desired!

  12. This looks delicious! Have you ever made a coffee flavoured version? I’m thinking of adding some espresso powder, using Oreo crumbs and topping with your chocolate ganache. Any recommendations for the amount of espresso powder?
    PS I love your recipes and your website!!

    1. Hi Melissa! YUM! I recommend 2 teaspoons of espresso powder. Give the batter a taste, then add a little more if desired. Oreo crumbs and chocolate ganache would be over the top good. I need to try it sometime. I love coffee flavored desserts!

  13. I was tasked with the job of making a classic cheesecake for a wedding shower (I’ve made plenty of other flavors but never plain). I increased the crust a little as my pan was 10.25 inches but otherwise followed the recipe to the letter. Perfect – rave reviews from the newlyweds and guests!

  14. If I wanted to use already made graham crust, would I still have to do the water bath? If yes, how would I do it? Thank you!

    1. Hi Awo, is the graham cracker crust in a springform pan or a pie dish? A pie dish won’t be large enough– this is a lot of cheesecake batter! If it’s in a springform pan, follow the water bath instructions as listed.

  15. Hi Sally, Love your recipes. I would like to make this cheesecake with Vanilla Wafers instead of the graham crackers. Do you think this will taste okay?

  16. Everyone love my chessecake when I use this recipe but I have a problem. My spring for pan have a lip and I can never get the cheese cake off the bottom with out ruining the crust .. any advice?

  17. Baking for Easter: Cheesecake #1 (not your recipe) came out looking like the Hayward Fault after a 6.0 quake; lots of cracks. Cheesecake #2 (your recipe) is perfect. I added orange peel and a little Fiori di Sicilia extract to your recipe for a citrus-flavored cheesecake. Thank you! The recipe is so well written and demonstrated that it is impossible to fail.

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