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.

596 Comments

  1. Is the baking time the same whether a 9 inch or 10 inch springform pan is used?

    1. Yes. Either size pan may take 55-70 minutes.

  2. Hi Sally,

    Any thoughts about why the cheesecake would start browning on top before the 55 minutes is up?

    1. Hi Heather! Try moving down the oven rack or tenting the cheesecake with aluminum foil halfway through baking if you decide to try it again. The cheesecake will still taste wonderful even if it’s brown on top!

  3. I made it and it was great! No cracking, no soggy crust! The only challenge was keeping my family away from it until it cooled! Your recipes and blog are the best!

  4. Thank you for this challenge, Sally! This was the first cheesecake that I had baked and it was creamy, not too sweet, not too heavy and absolutely scrumptious!

    For anyone who is interested in halving the recipe:
    1) I used my 6” cake pan as I don’t have a springform. It is a 3” deep pan which is necessary as the cheesecake will bake up to almost 2.5” tall.
    2) I buttered the bottom and sides, lined the bottom with parchment and buttered it again.
    3) To remove, slide a knife around the sides, turn it over onto a cutting board, then flip it upright onto your serving plate. Tapping the cake pan on the cutting board released to cheesecake in my hot climate
    4) Just halve all the ingredients for a 6” cheesecake that serves 8.

  5. Paula C Jarrett says:

    Hi Sally!! I have baked many many cheesecakes over the years, but never tried a Classic Cheesecake until I came across your recipe the other day, and my boyfriend said that looks good!! The next day I tried your Classic Cheesecake recipe, and every single person that tried a piece said that it was hands down the BEST cheesecake that they had ever had!! :-O So thank you for sharing yet again, a fantastic recipe!! Your tips and tricks work great!! I too am a huge fan of the water bath method ;-). To be honest, I’m really not a fan of Classic Cheesecake without some type of topping on it at least….but even I LOVED it plain as well :-O. Just turned the oven off a few minutes ago…just baked another one tonight because I was getting so many requests for another already!! Thanks again!! Love your recipes and tutorials!!

  6. This was so amazing!!!! I am tempted to eat the whole thing but really would like for my pants to button. The only thing that I have a question about is the crust. On the bottom it was breaking up a little bit so I feel like maybe there was too much moisture or I added to much of something. It tasted delicious but it just didn’t all come out in one piece. It also may just be that it needed chilled more?

    1. Hi Stephanie! Could have needed a little extra chill time OR you can try reducing the butter in the crust. That should help! I’m so glad you love the cheesecake. Thank you so much for trying my recipe!

      1. Awesome, I will try that next time. Thank you so much and keep doing what you’re doing? Ever since I found your blog, I have been on it every single day anticipating which recipe to make next. Thank you for making it so easy for us to feel like we can achieve even the hardest desserts!

  7. Could I make this recipe but use a glass pie dish instead of a springform pan?

    1. Hi Mae! No, cheesecakes are best baked in springform pans.

  8. Can I mix in chocolate chips for a chocolate chip cheesecake?

    1. Yes! Yum!

  9. Hi Sally,

    I baked this cheesecake for Thanksgiving and got so many compliments! It was absolutely perfect and surprisingly easy to make, especially with all of your tips. They were so incredibly helpful and I would have been lost without them! I just have a question about baking time and how to tell when the cake is done. I baked it for 75 minutes and it wiggled in the middle so I assumed it was done but it was a bit under cooked in the very center of the cake. Any other recommendations about how to tell if it’s done? I don’t want to bake it much longer because it was already starting to brown. I appreciate any recommendations and thank you for the amazing recipe!

    1. Hi Becky! I am SO happy that this cheesecake was a hit!

      The BEST way to determine if a cheesecake is finished baking is to jiggle the pan. That’s really the secret! If the edges are set and the center slightly jiggles– you’re golden. If you like it slightly more “set” then you can bake until the center no longer jiggles. You can tent the top of the cheesecake with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning. 🙂

  10. Hello Sally,
    I just wanted to ask, if I wanted to add a little to the cheesecake,with lemon juice and lemon zest, what would the measurements be, if you recommend it at all?

    1. Hi Diana! For a lemon cheesecake, I recommend adding 3 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice and 1-2 Tablespoons of lemon zest. The bake time should be about the same.

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

  12. 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!!!!

  13. 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!!

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. Donna M Brant says:

    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?

    1. This crust is excellent with crushed vanilla wafers. Use the same amount of vanilla wafer crumbs.

      1. Donna M Brant says:

        Thank you. Making it today for Easter.

  20. 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?

  21. Denise Spahr says:

    Made this today for Easter tomorrow. No cracks!

  22. 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.

  23. Christina Kurtz says:

    I made this for Easter and it came out perfectly! I only had non-fat sour cream but it was still super rich and creamy. Also, I didn’t do the water bath but I followed the note about placing a pan of water on the lowest rack and it came out with no cracks. I will definitely make this again!

  24. This recipe is phenomenal! Pleased my aunt who compliments no one on their baking. A perfect simple cheesecake. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  25. Amazing. I just made this for a birthday celebration at work. Rave reviews. I will definitely make this again. The toppings were a hit too. I made your salted caramel sauce and fresh raspberry sauce.

  26. Sally, hands down the best cheesecake I have ever made. Your step by step directions are wonderful. I’ve made many cheesecakes but this one “takes the cake”. I made it for a lunch with my parents who are in their mid 80’s and everyone raved about it. It’s creamy but not too creamy – just perfect. It beats the Cheesecake Factory cheesecake! Thank you for this and all of your wonderful recipes with all of your helpful tips.

  27. I am going to make this recipe on in 2days for a birthday 🙂 🙂 pretty excited. However I have a few questions before I even start 🙁
    — Which rack would you suggest to put the pan on?
    –Would it not affect the cake if I open the oven in the middle of the baking time and try to tent it with foil?
    –Is there a magic number between 55-70mins that worked for people ?

    Sorry its my first time baking a cheesecake, and Im nervous

    1. Hi Arie, place the cheesecake on the center rack of your oven. I usually make the tent while the oven is closed and then quickly open the oven door and place it on top – if you don’t leave the oven open for too long it will be fine! And with cheesecake you really have to go by the look rather than the time since every oven is slightly different – so just keep an eye on it beginning at 55 minutes! I hope you love it!

  28. Rebecca Head says:

    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!!

  29. 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!

  30. 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!

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