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Look no further for a creamy and ultra smooth classic cheesecake recipe! Paired with a buttery graham cracker crust, no one can deny its simple decadence. For the best results, bake in a water bath.

Perfect cheesecake on a pink cake stand

Not Plain Cheesecake

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

To me, classic cheesecake is creamy, silky, and smooth. My cheesecake recipe is not quite as dense as New York cheesecake, but boasts equal richness and is just as special. It’s thick, it’s velvety, and there’s no denying its decadence. When I imagine what Chandler and Rachel’s stolen cheesecake tastes like, it’s this!

While there’s a glaring absence of chunks, swirls, and sprinkles in this ivory crowned jewel, there’s nothing plain about her.

slice of cheesecake on a spatula

Preparing my cheesecake recipe is rather simple– it’s baking the cheesecake that could result in a flop. Many factors are at play like the springform pan leaking, the surface of the cheesecake cracking, under-baking, over-baking, etc. I have plenty of tricks that will help guarantee classic cheesecake perfection, including determining when the cheesecake is done and everything you need to know about a cheesecake water bath.

2 images of cream cheese blocks in a glass bowl and cheesecake filling in a glass stand mixer bowl

How to Make Classic Cheesecake

You only need a few basic staple ingredients for this cheesecake recipe.

  1. Block cream cheese: Four 8-ounce blocks of full-fat cream cheese are the base of this cheesecake. That’s 2 pounds. Make sure you’re buying the blocks of cream cheese and not cream cheese spread. There’s no diets allowed in cheesecake, so don’t pick up the reduced fat variety!
  2. Sugar: 1 cup. Not that much considering how many mouths you can feed with this dessert. Over-sweetened cheesecake is hardly cheesecake anymore. Using only 1 cup of sugar gives this cheesecake the opportunity to balance tangy and sweet, just as classic cheesecake should taste.
  3. Sour cream: 1 cup. I recently tested a cheesecake recipe with 1 cup of heavy cream instead, but ended up sticking with my original (which can be found here with blueberry swirl cheesecake!). I was curious about the heavy cream addition and figured it would yield a softer cheesecake bite. The cheesecake was soft, but lacked the stability and richness I wanted. It was almost too creamy. Sour cream is most definitely the right choice.
  4. A little flavor: 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and 2 of lemon juice. The lemon juice brightens up the cheesecake’s overall flavor and vanilla is always a good idea.
  5. Eggs: 3 eggs are the final ingredient. You’ll beat the eggs in last, one at a time, until they are *just* incorporated. Do not overmix the batter once the eggs are added. This will whip air into the cheesecake batter, resulting in cheesecake cracking and deflating.

And as always, make sure all of the cheesecake batter ingredients are at room temperature so the batter remains smooth, even, and combines quickly. Beating cold ingredients together will result in a chunky over-beaten cheesecake batter, hardly the way we want to start!

How to Make a Graham Cracker Crust

Since classic is the keyword of the day, we’re sticking with cheesecake’s main squeeze: a graham cracker crust. I reduced the butter and granulated sugar from my original graham cracker crust recipe by 1 Tablespoon each. I find this crust remains a little more crunchy. Make sure you pack the crust in very tight and pre-bake it to help prevent any sogginess.

I like to use the bottom of a small measuring cup to pack the crust tightly into the springform pan. Speaking of, you’ll need a 9 or 10-inch springform pan. A springform pan has removable sides so you can safely release the cheesecake without having to flip the pan over or struggle to cut the cheesecake inside the pan. Springform pans can leak if you’re baking the cheesecake in a water bath (more on that below!), but this particular pan is reliable. I haven’t had any leaking issues.

2 images of pressing graham cracker crust into springform pan and spreading cheesecake filling on top of crust with a spatula
cheesecake pan wrapped in foil and placed in large pan with water


How to Make a Cheesecake Water Bath

I promise a water bath is nothing complicated. All you’re doing is placing the springform pan in a roasting pan, filling it with hot water, and baking. What’s the point, you ask? I actually wrote an entire post about a cheesecake water bath years ago. I figured it’s time for an update and a video tutorial, so here goes nothing!

Cheesecake loves a humid environment. The steam from the hot water will lift the cheesecake up slowly and evenly, reducing the risk of cracks on the surface. Additionally, this slow and even baking method helps prevent the cheesecake from sinking back down as it cools. Taking a few extra minutes to prepare a water bath for this cheesecake recipe is well worth it. I can’t say enough how valuable it is!

slice of cheesecake on a white plate with lemon curd topping

Cooling & Chilling Cheesecake

Another way to help prevent cheesecake cracks is to initially cool it inside the oven. You can see me do this in the video above. When the cheesecake is done, turn the oven off, crack open the oven door, and leave the cheesecake inside for 1 hour. A drastic and sudden change of temperature isn’t ideal for cheesecake– from hot oven to cool counter– so do your best to control the environment by leaving the cheesecake inside. Does this make sense?

After the cheesecake cools in the oven for 1 hour, place it on the counter to cool. After it’s cool, chill it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or even overnight. There’s no greater test to your willpower than those several hours you’re forced to wait as the cheesecake cools down and then chills in the refrigerator. But every minute is completely worth it when you take that first luscious bite.

Want to skip the baking and cooling process? Try my no-bake cheesecake instead.

overhead image of slices of cheesecake with various toppings

slice of cheesecake on a white plate with raspberry topping

4 Tips for Perfect Cheesecake

To summarize, here are some tricks I discussed:

  1. Do not over-mix the cheesecake batter
  2. Bake in a water bath
  3. Leave cheesecake in the cooling oven for 1 hour
  4. Cool completely at room temperature

Cheesecake Toppings

Enjoy your velvet-rich cheesecake as is or get a little fancy with a selection of toppings. I love cheesecake best with fruit, so I made a simple raspberry sauce. You can also top with homemade lemon curd, chocolate ganache, salted caramel, strawberry topping, or homemade whipped cream. Get creative or keep it simple. Either way, it’s going to impress. (And you’d totally eat it off the floor… Chandler and Rachel style.)

raspberry dessert sauce in a glass jar with a spoon

overhead image of slices of cheesecake on white plates with various toppings

How to Freeze Cheesecake

  1. Cool the cheesecake on the counter before freezing. No need to chill it in the refrigerator
  2. Freeze on springform pan: Remove the outer rim from the springform pan. Wrap the cheesecake with the bottom of the pan with a few layers of plastic wrap, then a final layer of aluminum foil.
  3. Freeze without springform pan: After the cheesecake has completely cooled, run a sharp knife underneath the crust to release it from the bottom of the pan. Carefully slide it onto a parchment paper lined piece of cardboard or use a plate. Wrap it all in a few layers of plastic wrap, then a final layer of aluminum foil.
  4. Freeze for up to 3 months, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
  5. Do not freeze cheesecake with any toppings. Add toppings when serving cheesecake.

Reader Photos!

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

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

Scale

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (150g) graham cracker crumbs (about 10 full sheet graham crackers)
  • 5 Tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar

Cheesecake


Instructions

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  2. Make the crust: Using a food processor, pulse the graham crackers into crumbs. Pour into a medium bowl and stir in sugar and melted butter until combined. (You can also pulse it all together in the food processor.) Mixture will be sandy. Press firmly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan. No need to grease the pan first. I use the bottom of a measuring cup to pack the crust down tightly. Pre-bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the hot pan on a large piece of aluminum foil. The foil will wrap around the pan for the water bath in step 4. Allow crust to slightly cool as you prepare the filling.
  3. Make the filling: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sour cream, vanilla extract, and lemon juice then beat until fully combined. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just blended. After the final egg is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. To help prevent the cheesecake from deflating and cracking as it cools, avoid over-mixing the batter as best you can. You will have close to 6 cups of batter.
  4. Prepare the simple water bath (see note): Watch my video tutorial above; the visual guide will assist you in this step! Boil a pot of water. You need 1 inch of water in your roasting pan for the water bath, so make sure you boil enough. I use an entire kettle of hot water. As the water is heating up, wrap the aluminum foil around the springform pan. Pour the cheesecake batter on top of the crust. Use a rubber spatula or spoon to smooth it into an even layer. Place the pan inside of a large roasting pan. Carefully pour the hot water inside of the pan and place in the oven. (Or you can place the roasting pan in the oven first, then pour the hot water in. Whichever is easier for you.)
  5. Bake cheesecake for 55-70 minutes or until the center is almost set. If you notice the cheesecake browning too quickly on top, tent it with aluminum foil halfway through baking. When it’s done, the center of the cheesecake will slightly wobble if you gently shake the pan. Turn the oven off and open the oven door slightly. Let the cheesecake sit in the oven in the water bath as it cools down for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and water bath, then cool cheesecake completely uncovered at room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  6. Use a knife to loosen the chilled cheesecake from the rim of the springform pan, then remove the rim. Using a clean sharp knife, cut into slices for serving. For neat slices, wipe the knife clean and dip into warm water between each slice.
  7. Serve cheesecake with desired toppings. 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.

Keywords: cheesecake

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I have baked this so many times with absolutely a wonderful outcome every time!!!

    1. I’d love to try this recipe but I only have an 8″ pan. Any suggestions for modification?

      1. Hi Annie, without changing the recipe, you could try using a slightly smaller, 8 inch pan for a taller cheesecake. Just keep in mind that if you change the height, the bake time will change so be sure to keep an eye on it in the oven.

  2. I made the recipe exactly and its my first time attempting to make a cheesecake. Its still in the springform pan as I write this. I can tell already that I wished you had mentioned to grease the pan. I am pretty sure its going to stick. I loved all the other tips and tricks. Cant wait to taste it!

    1. Hi Jill! There shouldn’t be any need to grease the pan. Hope you love the cheesecake!

    2. Most of the time it may look as if it will stick but just make sure you release it slowly it should stay together

  3. How long do you cook it? I looked through the whole page, and never saw a cook time.

    1. Hi Marty, are you viewing the recipe? It’s in a gray box and you can get there quickly and bypass the step photos by using the Jump to Recipe button. Step 5 includes the baking time– 55-70 minutes. The center of the cheesecake should slightly wobble if you gently shake the pan.

  4. I love this recipe! I tried it for the very first time and it was a great hit. Wanted to know if I wanted to make 2 x 6” cakes (springform pan) what would the measurements be or how can I do the conversions?

    1. Hi Gladys, this batter should divide evenly between two 6 inch springform pans. We have not tested it this way so we’re unsure of the bake time.

  5. I was amazed that my cheesecake turned out like a professional, and I swear the best cheesecake I have ever tasted.
    I have never made cheesecake before so I appreciated all of the little tips. Also, I did not have sour cream available so I used heavy cream and just baked it a little longer. The cake was firm.

  6. How would you suggest making it strawberry with strawberry extract? Replace the vanilla or just add a tbs of strawberry to the current recipe. My 8 year old niece wants strawberry flavor cheese cake as her birthday cake.

    1. Hi Shaun, We would add it with the vanilla. Enjoy!

    2. I tried this recipe but it turned out sour. What could be the reason behind this?

      1. Hi Kristen, You could try to use full fat plain or Greek yogurt in the place of sour cream if you try this recipe again.

  7. I’d really love to try this recipe out for my friend’s birthday but I’m wondering what sort of adjustments I should make if I’m planning on using vegan cream cheese and vegan sour cream? Still using eggs, just no dairy. Any tips or advice would be so appreciated 🙂

    1. Hi Andrea, we’ve never tested vegan substitutes in this cheesecake recipe. Let us know how it goes!

  8. I will honestly never make another cheesecake thanks to this post. Sometimes I put another brick of cheese, sometimes I add a little more sour cream, sometimes my crust is a little thicker (depends on the level of my depression). But, none the less, this is my go-to, die hard, $50 cheesecake.

  9. This is such a good recipe. I haven’t had any trouble with cracking the few times I’ve made it. But if someone sees this and could advise…if I wanted to make a banana-flavored version of this…what would I add? I want to get a “banana pudding” vibe. I’m not confident enough to just dump banana pudding mix into the recipe. Should I get a banana extract? Any advice would be helpful 🙂

    1. Hi Erin, we’re so thrilled to hear that you love this cheesecake recipe. We’ve never tested a banana version before so can’t offer much advice. Banana extract would be the best choice to add without changing the consistency of the filling. Maybe you could do a banana pudding or fresh bananas with whipped cream as a topping. Let us know what you try!

  10. I made this baked cheesecake, followed directions but when I took it out of the oven after leaving it for the hour and removed the foil there was moisture in the foil. I made it for my granddaughters birthday today. I haven’t taken it out of the spring pan yet to decorate it so hoping it’s not ruined. What did I do wrong???

    1. Hi Leslie, It shouldn’t be ruined. The crust may taste a little moist but it’ll blend right into the cheesecake filling. Next time instead of baking the cheesecakes directly in a water bath, you could try placing a large pan of hot water on the rack beneath the baking cheesecake instead (detailed in the recipe notes). This should help any leaking issues!

  11. I thought I had ruined the cheesecake when I found moisture in the tin foil but it turned out perfect. The whole family said it was the best cheesecake ever. I will make this again with your suggestion to put a pan of hot water on rack below instead if immersing it right in the water bath. Thanks Sally you make baking easy and fun!!

  12. Hi there, so excited to try this recipe! I’m going to bake it outside of the water bath, with a pan of water underneath. In this case, should I still wrap the spring form pan in foil? Thanks!

    1. Hi Olivia! You can skip wrapping the pan in foil for the alternate water bath method.

  13. I have made this recipe many times and ALWAYS turns out perfectly!
    My go to !

  14. Great recipe. I’ve made it 3 times now… with a couple small tweaks. The pointers and attention to the details are nice too. Highly recommend.

  15. This is definitely my go to cheesecake recipe, everyone loves it. I was wondering if i could bake this in a 9×13 pan for cheesecake bars? Would i need to double it? What would be the bake time?

  16. PERFECTION!!!!! I have made this recipe several times. I have done various types pumpkin, banana, coffee (just added tbsp instant coffee), pineapple (added TBSP pineapple extract to classic recipe and crushed pineapple topping),lemon (Just added Tablespoon extract), and sugar free(using monk fruit granulated as a granulated substitute. the pumpkin one I used one cup of puree of pumpkin and 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice in place of sour cream, or one cup of mashed bananas for the banana. Garnish top accordingly, I used shaved dark chocolate on the coffee. I put candy corn on top of the pumpkin. sliced pineapple and lemon and the sugar free versions used monk fruit for the various fruit syrup types.

    1. What great ideas! I can see some of these I my future! Thanks for sharing!

  17. I’ve made cheesecake a number of times. This is my first time with this recipe. I used a 10 inch pan, so I actually made a bit more crust crumbs to compensate because it looked a bit lacking and I wanted some up the sides.

    After doing this, I realized I didn’t have a large enough roasting pan for my 10 inch! So I frantically tried to figure out how to bake without a water bath. I found the tips on the pan with water and settled on that. I had already covered the pan with foil, which I left on. Btw – I use crème fraiche instead of sour cream and I understand it has a higher fat content but I do do this every time I bake a cheesecake so not sure if that’s causing the issue below.

    The cheesecake looks great, and I’m fairly certain it was fully baked. But once it cooled and I removed the foil, there was a lot of runny oil/grease in the foil and under the pan. It basically looks like melted butter or broken dairy. I’m kind of scared to cut into it since it’s for a birthday party! Any thoughts? It does look really nice, so I think it’s okay?! Hoping just from the crust and maybe this always happens but I don’t notice it due to the water bath?

    1. Hi JB! That grease under the pan is likely just butter that seeped out of the crust when baking. We hope this classic cheesecake is a hit!

  18. This recipe is fantastic. I wanted to try an orange-flavored cheesecake (think Creamsicle vibes), so I subbed one of the tsp of lemon juice with orange juice and added the zest from two large naval oranges to the batter. Followed the baking instructions to the letter and no cracks at all! I topped with with sliced of candied oranges (first time I ever made those). Everyone at our Easter dinner went nuts over it, and agreed it was the best cheesecake they had ever had. Thanks, Sally!

    1. Hi Safira, we haven’t tested a pistachio cheesecake recipe, but let us know if you give anything a try!

  19. I’d like to substitute the sugar for honey. Any suggestions on how to do this? I assume I would have to adjust the liquid to compensate? Thanks!

    1. Hi Will, we haven’t tried this recipe with honey – it may take some testing to get right. Let us know if you do!

  20. I didn’t have a spring pan. Just made this in a 9.5 inch round glass pie dish. I had left over filling i just saved however i did still use the water pan underneath the cake. I did about 45-50 mins

  21. Hi, thank you so much for the recipe. What’s the optimal oven setting that you recommend for this cheesecake? Fan on?

    1. Hi Maya! We always recommend conventional settings for baking (not convection/fan). The flow of air from convection heat can cause baked goods to rise and bake unevenly and it also pulls moisture out of the oven. If you do use convection/fan settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake.

  22. This recipe is so good and creamy! I’ve done a raspberry sauce swirl in one, a strawberry sauce swirl and an Oreo crust with some Oreos in the filling. Today I am going to make a banana pudding version and a coffee Heath bar one. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

  23. I’m making mothers day dinner and dessert. I was wondering I could make the crust the day before so that I have less work to do on mothers day. Will it taste different depending on ow long i cool the crust?

    1. Hi Chloe, that should work, but you can also make the whole cheesecake the day before! See make ahead instructions in the notes. Enjoy!

  24. Loved the recipe and turned out amazing. What’s the nutritional info on this cheesecake?

    1. Hi Veronica, We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients. Plus, many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients listed. However, there are many handy online calculators where you can plug in and customize your exact ingredients/brands. Readers have found this one especially helpful: https://www.verywellfit.com/recipe-nutrition-analyzer-4157076 We’re so glad to hear you loved the cheesecake!

  25. I just put my cheesecake in the oven. This is probably the 5th or 6th time that I have made it. I follow the recipe exactly and it always comes out perfect. Tomorrow is my son’s 21st birthday and this was the cake that he chose. Thanks so much for this amazing recipe!

  26. This came out delicious! Despite doing the water bath and in-oven cool down method mine had quite a few cracks but I don’t really care about presentation as long as it tastes good. I also overbaked mine a little since it was my first cheesecake and I wasn’t sure much jiggle it should have, but the browning on top actually looked nice and didn’t affect flavor. Will try again with a shorter bake time and perhaps more water in the water bath.

    1. Hi Caleb, using a water bath helps to prevent cracks in cheesecake. You can read more about water baths here, or see recipe notes for a water bath alternative.

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