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.

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, 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.

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 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.

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 when serving cheesecake.
Print
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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

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 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. 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. 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.

776 Comments

  1. I have researched a lot of cheesecake recipe, starch is usually used, bu you didn’t use starch. Why didn’t you choose to use starch or flour?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hilal, There are various theories about flour adding density and stability to cheesecakes. If you follow the above recipe without making any ingredient substitutions you won’t need any starch or flour. Happy baking!

  2. Have made this twice and it came out great each time – and I had never made a cheesecake before. Last time I had no lemons so subbed lime juice and it was equally delicious.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Wow this was too sweet. Now I have to throw the batch away. 1 cup of sugar for 8oz of cream cheese was just too much. The other recipe I use is 1 cup of sugar to 16 oz of cream cheese. I didn’t notice until everything was baked and set. Seems like a ate sugar and cream.

    1. its supposed to be 1 cup of sugar to FOUR 8 ounce cream cheese so thats 32 ounces you didnt read recipe correctly.

    2. The recipe calls for four 8-oz blocks of cream cheese.

    3. It’s 1 cup sugar to (4) 8oz blocks of cream cheese- a total of 32oz.

    4. Susan this recipe calls for FOUR 8oz blocks of cream cheese, not one.

      1. Just followed this recipe to make my first ever cheesecake and it turned out perfect!! Thank you!

      2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        So glad you enjoyed this recipe, Amanda!

    5. It’s one cup of sugar for the whole recipe.

    6. Christopher Cupp says:

      You should probably delete your comment. It’s a bad look to give someone two stars because you made a mistake.

    7. Susan – did you use four 8-oz bars of cream cheese, or was your post a typo? I agree 1 cup of sugar would definitely be too much for 8 oz cream cheese!

  4. I made this cheesecake for the first time the other day and was delicious. Just as long as you follow this recipe to the letter it will turn out. The water bath was a must and after an hr of baking then another hr of letting it sit in the oven ensured it was cooked thoroughly. I will definitely use this recipe again.

  5. Sharon Kay Pressnell says:

    I’m wondering how many calories are in piece of cheesecake

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sharon, we’re unsure of the nutritional info of this recipe, but there are many great online calculators like this one: https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp

  6. Looking forward to trying this. Just wondering if I can turn this into a 6” cheesecake. Would I half the recipe and reduce the cooking time only or what do you suggest? Thanks Sally!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cindy, We haven’t tested it this way but you can try cutting this recipe in half and make it in a 6 inch pan (I’m unsure of the exact bake time needed). Or try this small batch cheesecake that uses a loaf pan. Enjoy!

  7. If you take all of the advice and follow the recipe this cheesecake tastes as close to Carnegie Deli cheesecake as one can possible hope for. Silky, slight tang, great crust – sheer perfection.

  8. I made this recipe (substituted chocolate cookies for crust) and shared with friends. My friends were so impressed, they asked if for their birthdays, I would make them a cheesecake as their birthday gifts! It was perfect!

  9. I’m wondering if I should choose a 9” or 10” springform pan. I have both. The recipe doesn’t indicate different cooking times if you choose one or the other, but I would think that the 9” would take slightly longer to bake. Can you offer more specific baking times for either the 9” or the 10”? I don’t want to be opening the oven too much to check it towards the end. Thank you! Hoping to make this today!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi R.J., sorry we didn’t see your question earlier! We love the 9 inch pan linked in the blog post, and that’s the pan Sally tested this recipe with. The baking times will be very similar for both. Hope you love this cheesecake.

  10. 1st time attempting a cheesecake, rich, creamy, smooth. It came out awesome, no cracked top. I followed recipe as written. If you ever wanted to try one this is it.

  11. Annie Kobylakiewicz says:

    Making this tomorrow! Sounds wonderful! Calories be damned!

  12. My go to cheesecake recipe

    1. Agreed! I’ve made this a handful of times now and was just requested to make it again. They don’t have to twist my arm! I’ve followed the directions to the letter and it turns out perfect!

  13. I made it twice now, turned out perfect, didn’t crack, was balanced in terms of sweetness, had a wonderful texture. Not once have I made a recipe of yours that didn’t turn absolutely great! Thanks Sally ❤️❤️

  14. Giselle Ouellette says:

    Every single recipe I use from Sally’s is always amazing! This was the first classic cheesecake I ever made and it was beyond perfect. I was so amazed I made it!

  15. I have made this recipe several times, substituting the sour cream for 8oz of goat cheese (try it sometime, change nothing else). What would you suggest if i wanted to make this into a chocolate cheese cake? How much chocolate/what form of chocolate would you use/what stage would you add it?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We haven’t tested a chocolate version, but you can try to slightly reduce the sour cream and add 3 or 4 ounces of melted (and slightly cooled) unsweetened chocolate. Let us know how it turns out!

  16. Made this for my god son’s birthday last January 6 and everyone loved it! I had to substitute sour ream to greek yogurt though because I’ve been to 4 supermarkets and I couldn’t find any sour cream (I’m from the Philippines). But it still turn out good. Thanks for this recipe!

  17. Olivia Burgess says:

    Hi Sally! Made once before and I don’t think I have sour cream at the moment, can I use heavy cream instead? Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Olivia, heavy cream won’t have the right consistency. Try using plain Greek yogurt instead. The cheesecake may taste a little heavier, but not much. Same flavor though!

  18. Planning to make this next week. I happen to have some raw vanilla beans to make extract for next year. How many vanilla beans would you recommend adding to the cheesecake for flavor, and should I include the extract as well?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tanya, try the seeds of two vanilla beans. You can leave the extract out. Sounds delicious!

  19. So good! Great recipe. It tasted even better the next day when it had more time to set up. Next time I would cut the sugar in half for the graham cracker crust though. A little too sweet for my taste. Overall, highly recommend!

  20. Hi Sally,
    just wanted to ask you at what temperature to bake the cheesecake?

    Thank you a lot!

  21. Jasmine davis says:

    This is absolutely delish! One question can I use this batter to make mini cheesecakes?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can, Jasmine. You can use our recipe for Mini Cheesecakes for a smaller amount – or use this quantity if you need a lot of mini cheesecakes and use the baking directions in the mini post 🙂

      1. Jasmine Davis says:

        Thank you so much! I did come across the mini cheesecake recipe as well. I just loved the way this cheesecake taste and was unsure if the mini recipe was the same. And besides I need about 30-35 mini or so.

  22. Every recipe from Sally has been a show stopper for me. This cheesecake is without a doubt the best I’ve ever made. I’ve made it 4 times now and this time I made it with lemon curd as the topping. The lemon curd recipe is also fool proof. I am now our family baker thanks to Sally. But now my wife wants me to bake her a chocolate mocha cheesecake.
    SALLY HELP! Do you have a recipe for one?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Del, so happy you love this one! We haven’t tested a mocha version, but you can try to slightly reduce the sour cream and add 3 or 4 ounces of melted (and slightly cooled) unsweetened chocolate and a tsp or so of espresso powder. Let us know how it turns out!

  23. Hi Sally,

    I made this today and it’s absolutely delicious! Your directions are so easy to follow and I want to thank you for including the UK tips. Although I was born and raised in the USA, I’m currently living in London and was confused for about a full year why I couldn’t find graham crackers, LOL. I recently bought a kitchen scale and it definitely makes measuring ingredients (especially butter) so much faster and easier.

    We’re making your homemade soft pretzels tonight for the game…another family favorite!!!

    Thank you for your wonderful recipes, tips, pictures and helpful videos

  24. Hi Sally! I’ve tried a bunch of your recipes and they are ALL delicious! I’m going to make this cheesecake for my (very small) inauguration celebration on Wednesday with raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries to celebrate our country. Thanks for the recipes!

  25. Sally, this recipe is perfection, thank you. I made half the amount in a 7” form (using 2 small eggs) and decreased the baking time to 50 min. I failed at cheesecake once before using a different recipe, so I was concerned, but this recipe seems bulletproof. The filling is soft and airy, not dense like most commercial cheesecake. Excellent level of sweetness (ie not too much). I used an apple crumble topping, made with homemade apple filling and traditional oatmeal crumble. It was a perfect birthday cake for my apple crumble loving husband.

  26. Steven R. Taylor says:

    Just took the cheesecake out of the fridge after cooling overnight (had to try an edge, tho. It’s fantastic! No cracks, but I probably should have used the foil over top as its a tiny bit browned.

    This was my second attempt at a cheesecake. My wife was always the baker, but she passed away 2 months ago, so I’m trying to take over her mantle. My first attempt, never having used a springform pan before, I misread the directions I found in a magazine. I took the springform sides off 10 minutes after it came out of the oven, instead of just removing the foil!! You can imagine the soupy mess I had to scrape up off the stove top!

    Love Sally’s site. Everything clear and concise; she makes me look like an experienced baker. The first thing I made from the site were two pies for Thanksgiving dinner. Talk about pressure to get it right…

  27. Hands down absolute best cheesecake I have ever made or eaten in my life.

  28. Hi there! I have made this cheesecake before and it was absolutely amazing!!! I got so many compliments and everyone said it was the best cheesecake they have ever had 🙂 One question: Can I use real vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract? If yes, how many pods? Thank you!!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Reese, you can try the seeds of two vanilla beans. We’re so glad you love this one!

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