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, 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.)

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.

261 Comments

  1. I made this cheesecake without the crust and replaced 1 cup sugar with 1/2 cup Splenda for a low carb desert. My family loved it. Great recipe. Thank you.

    1. I used this recipe to make mini cheesecakes (removable bottom mini cheesecake pan) I had been struggling with the cheesecakes falling so this time I tried to do the mini cheesecakes in a water bath. I just covered the bottom of the pan and up the sides with tin foil then put them in a pan with water. They came out perfect!!! I also cooled them 3 ways. 10 mins in oven with the door open. 10 mins out of oven but still in the pans with water then about 20 min in pan on a cooling rack. Just thought I would share as I really struggled with this!! Thank you for the recipe. It is amazing!!!

      1 recipe made 48 mini cheesecakes!!

  2. Hi Sally, I made this Cheesecake last year and it was phenomenal. And I want to make this again for my sister wedding as a 3 tier Cheesecake. Do you think this sturdy enough as.a 3 tier? And how to modify the recipe to make it as a white chocolate Cheesecake. Please I need your help. And thanks in advance. Hoping for your answers.

    1. Hi Ana! I haven’t tried this recipe as a white chocolate cheesecake before, so I can’t be much help there. Stacking cheesecake really isn’t ideal, but if the layers are COLD enough, they could sit nicely on top of one another.

      1. Hi again Sally, I would like you to know that I stacked the 3 tier Cheesecake and modified this recipe into white chocolate successfully. So thank you so much for this phenomenal recipe. Cheers to you!

  3. Made this cheesecake today for my nephew’s Communion and got the most compliments on this cheesecake then other recipes I used before. I added fine sugar to the top and made it a brulee. So good! Thank you!

  4. Perfection! I have made cheesecake a few times before but they were always so-so. This classic recipe is fantastic! I followed all of Sally’s tips and my cheescake turned out beautiful. Received rave reviews from extended family members at our Memorial Day gathering.

  5. I have Fat Daddio’s cheesecake pans with removable bottom. Do you think this recipe would fare well in that type of pan? I don’t have a spring foam pan. Also – are there any modifications for a 6 inch cheesecake?

    1. Hi Kate! Yes, the fat daddios cheesecake pans with removable bottoms are great for this. There is too much batter for a 6 inch pan, so I recommend halving the recipe.

  6. Hi Sally. Is there a way that I can find my name in the reviews? I have made this recipe three times, and I don’t know if I wrote a review or not? This way, I don’t keep wondering if I ever wrote reviews. I love your site, made plenty of no fail recipes at your site. Thank You

    1. Hi Bonnie! You can search these comments for your name or leave a review in case you are not sure. Thank you so much for taking the time to do so! It’s very much appreciated!

  7. Well, not sure if I left my review, but I will do so now. This recipe is a big 10+ stars. I have made this cheesecake recipe three times and it turns out perfectly. So simple! I live in a high altitude and it still worked out great for me. I absolutely love the crust. It’s the best I have ever tried. I highly recommend You to try this recioe out. Good job Sally!

  8. I made this for a baby shower (with a blueberry topping to celebrate a baby boy) and it was a huge hit. My husband had a slice and insists that an entire cheesecake is what he wants for father’s day!! Trying the raspberry sauce tomorrow – thanks for an awesome recipe!!

  9. Hi Sally,
    Am obsessed with all things orange:). So if I were to give this an orange flavour, do I just add some zest or would I need to add some juice as well? Am craving for an orange cheesecake

      1. Thanks Sally:). Your recipe states 2 tsps of lemon juice. So, should it be 2 tsps of orange juice instead, or 2 tbsps as you’ve mentioned above? Concerned about the consistency. Also, if I were to half the ingredients & use a 6” pan, how long should I bake for?

      2. Hi Shanta! Yep, use 2 Tablespoons of OJ. You won’t get much flavor with only 2 teaspoons. The extra liquid won’t make a huge difference. The bake time may be a couple minutes longer.

      3. Hi Jeffery, You can absolutely try adding orange extract! I would add it in addition to the vanilla – or cut the vanilla in half. There are many ways to experiment with the flavor here. Let me know what you try!

  10. Holy smokes Sally this is THE most amazing cheesecake my friends and I have EVER tasted and I made it! And it was the first one I’ve EVER made. So grateful for the effort you put into these instructions! I used Arrnots malt biscuits here in Australia and it worked great, as we don’t have the ones described. Added a few strawberries on top and it was the perfect compliment. I already knew your recipes were infallible so I took it straight to a friend’s 40th before I even tasted it and it was by far the most discussed and fastest devoured item there. The most devoted cheesecake lovers swore it was the best they’ve had and they have no reason to suck up to me. So proud! Thanks! We’ll be trying something else on here this week!

    1. I’m so glad everyone loved this cheesecake! It’s definitely my favorite. Thank you so much for taking the time to report back, Anita!

  11. I made this wonderful cheesecake yesterday (June 22)…….ABSOLUTELY A DELICIOUS WINNER!! I had a recipe I’d been using for about 40 years and the last couple of times it just wasn’t working out well…….so, it was time for a new one. I found this recipe within the first 3 listed in my search and decided to make it, I look at ingredients and decide that way. I made a few changes…….used 2/3 of a cup of sour cream instead of a whole cup, added 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts to the crust and left out the lemon juice. I baked it for 55 minutes in the water bath and followed the cooling directions to the letter. My husband and I LOVED it…….we are now the happy new parents of a wonderful 2-ish pound cheesecake, LOL……Goodbye old recipe, welcome to the family new one…….thanks Sally for sharing such a delicious cheesecake recipe 🙂

    1. What a lovely review!! Thank you so much for taking the time to share, Cheryl. So happy this cheesecake gets a big stamp of approval!

  12. Sally,
    Thanks for all the wonderful recipes! I am looking to give this cheesecake a marshmallow flavor. Would the texture or flavor be thrown off if I mixed in some marshmallow fluff before baking?
    Thank you!

      1. Sally,
        That is a great idea! Should help me accomplish my mission of using your recipe to make a smores cheesecake.
        Thanks again!

  13. Hi Sally!
    Both my Dad and boyfriend are absolute cheesecake lovers and I am very excited to try and attempt this amazing recipe! (I’ve been baking many of your recipes lately- with just yesterday on the 4th of July baking the quarter sheet cake of the American flag- super successful AND delicious by the way!).
    I don;t own a food processor and am wondering if there is any other way to make the graham crust just as good? Any tips would be helpful!

    1. Hi Michelle! So excited you’ll try this cheesecake recipe soon (and that you made the flag cake last week!). Use a blender if you have one or place the graham crackers in a large zipped-top bag and carefully crush them with a rolling pin– or even your hands! The bag may puncture, so be careful. It can get messy!

  14. My favorite recipe ever -compliments EVERY time. How can I adjust the ingredients and time cook for a 7in spring foam pan and an instant pot????

      1. Thanks for your quick response Sally! as FYI, I did a test run yesterday with successful results. I just couldn’t find a similar recipe to yours with the balance of sour cream and eggs and the addition of fresh lemon juice and didn’t wan’t to risk sacrificing your amazing texture and flavor, so i improvised on cooking method to ensure I could use your recipe!!

        I started with half-ing your entire recipe and using a 7in springfoam pan.
        (The toughest part was splitting 3 eggs into 2 parts, but I used liquid measure after mixing the whites/yolks and my lucky dog received the leftovers as scrambled eggs to avoid waste!) I did pre-bake the crust for 8 minutes in my small toaster oven, then filled the pan with the hand mixed batter, wrapped the entire pan in foil, even the top to avoid steam condensation, created a foil handle around the pan for easier insert and removal.

        I then pressure cooked on high for 35 minutes, did a natural steam release afterward for 10 minutes, and then removed the lid and the cheesecake from the Instant Pot entirely for counter-top cooling. Let stand on a raised cookie cooling rack for 1 hour before refrigerating for 4 hours. It was DELISH and beautiful to boot.

        Noteworthy that my Instant Pot did have a bit of a chicken curry smell prior, and even after soaking in baking soda, hot water, soap suds and vinegar, there were still remnants of Indian spices in the Instant Pot… none if it however transferred to my beautiful “Sally’s Classic Cheesecake.”

        As always – i topped it with your Salted Caramel. Yum – and EASY

  15. I often look for online recipes, but I never had such great results so easily! I had to change the crust because here in Italy I can’t find Graham Crackers – I used Digestive Biscuits instead, with no sugar. I couldn’t do the water bath either because of the size of the cake I was preparing. And yet no cracks whatsoever, and the texture was just amazing, even my son who is not into cheesecakes that much says it’s super yummy! I used your salted caramel recipe as well and again it just went smoothly. So glad I gave both recipes a try for my husband’s birthday party! I got so many compliments but had to admit it was all thanks to your recipes. I’ve never posted a comment before on an online recipe but this time it’s a must. Thank you for sharing, you made both me and my husband very happy!

    1. I absolutely loved reading this, Diana! Thank you so much for your kind words- I’m thrilled the cheesecake and salted caramel sauce were a hit for your husband’s birthday! YUM! I appreciate you taking the time to share your feedback 🙂

  16. Made this for my husband’s birthday, cheesecake is his favorite, said it was the best he ever had, delicious!
    Thanks

  17. Hi,
    I really want to try your recipe. Do you think I can use the same amount of ingredients for an 8 inches pan?
    Thanks!

  18. Way too much batter for a 9 inch pan. I should have known better and froze 1/3 of the batter. It puffed up like a souffle, cracking all around the sides, and sunk in the middle… something that has never happened for me with a cheesecake. Not very impressive looking. I beat the eggs before adding them to the mix and didn’t over mix so I’m pretty disappointed! I’m sure it will taste great.

    1. Hi Alyssa, I don’t recommend beating the eggs prior to adding to the cheesecake batter. There was likely too much air suspended in the eggs, which would be the reason why your cheesecake puffed up so much. How did it taste?

  19. It was absolutely perfect. I followed the recipe and it came out without a hitch – no cracks, no dips, creamy, with a delicious crust. I don’t think I need to ever look for another recipe!

  20. I would like so say – what a great recipe. This is the first time I have cooked a cheesecake. I have an old gas oven which is falling apart. Goodness knows what temperature it cooks at! The cake came out great. What a great flavour and texture.

    I live in Australia so I had to replace the biscuit with Arnott’s Ginger Nuts. I used 250g and added the butter. I did not added any extra sugar but added some more ginger powder (Because I like ginger). I do not like overly sweet desserts. I also only added 100g of sugar to the cheesecake mixture. I bought the real cream cheese from Woolworths and avoid the spreads as explained. I place the water bath underneath the rack where the cake was.

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