Perfect Cheesecake

It takes a bit of hubris to describe a recipe as “perfect”, especially for a recipe such as cheesecake, for which so many have their own personal favorite. But, this is simply the best, most wonderful cheesecake I have ever had, and have ever made. It is based on a master recipe, from the master of baking herself, Dorie Greenspan.

We first posted this recipe several years ago and it has become one of the most popular recipes on the site. Many thanks to Dorie for allowing us to present it here! It is a classic New York style cheesecake with a graham cracker crust and high sides.

It is dense, rich, and light at the same time, and serves a small army. But watch out—just when you think you’ve made enough for your gathering, so many people will go back for seconds that you may be left without a piece!

I was first inspired to make this cake by my young friend Audrey (now in college, we’ve been cooking together since she was 9). We’ve made it together twice and more times than we can count on our own.

Audrey has made some slight changes to Dorie’s base recipe. She’s thickened the graham crust on the bottom and doesn’t let it ride up the sides. She also tops the cake with a creamy sour cream topping and serves it with a tangy bright raspberry sauce.

Perfect Cheesecake

This is Audrey’s favorite cake, and I’ve asked her to share a few words about it. Please welcome Audrey:

The most loved, read, worn and tattered page in my Dorrie Greenspan book Baking: From My Home to Yours is page 234, the cheesecake page. I first came across this recipe Christmas day two years ago, when Elise gave me Dorie’s book. This recipe, without a doubt, makes the best cheesecake in the world. It is a perfect combination of tangy and sweet, with a velvety smooth and rich texture, which is wonderful for entertaining, but can be detrimental to waistlines. To the delight of my family I make this recipe for every special occasion, with consistently excellent results. ~Audrey

From the recipe archive, first posted 2011.

Perfect Cheesecake Recipe

  • Cook time: 3 hours
  • Yield: Makes 16 servings
Yum

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 cups (475 ml) of Graham cracker crumbs (from a little less than 2 packages Graham crackers
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 5 Tbsp (70 g) unsalted butter (if using salted butter, omit the pinch of salt), melted

Filling

  • 2 pounds cream cheese (900 g), room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar (270 g)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream (160 ml)
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream (160 ml)

Toppings

  • 2 cups sour cream (475 ml)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar (35 g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 ounces (340 g) fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100 g)
  • 1/2 cup water (120 ml)

Special equipment needed

  • 9-inch, 2 3/4-inch high springform pan
  • Heavy-duty, 18-inch wide aluminum foil
  • A large, high-sided roasting pan

Method

Prepare the crust

place springform pan on foil wrap first layer of foil around pan

wrap second layer of foil around pan finish wrapping foil

1 Prepare the springform pan so that no water leaks into it while cooking. Place a large 18-inch by 18-inch square of heavy duty aluminum foil on a flat surface. Place the springform pan in the middle of the foil. Gently fold up the sides of the foil around the pan. Make sure to do this gently so that you don't create any holes in the foil. If there are any holes, water will get into the pan and ruin the crust. Press the foil around the edges of the pan. Place a second large square of foil underneath the pan, and repeat, gently folding up the sides of the foil around the pan and pressing the foil against the pan. To be triply safe, repeat with a third layer of heavy duty foil. Gently crimp the top of the foil sheets around the top edge of the pan.

2 Preheat oven to 350°F, with rack in lower third of oven. Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor or blender until finely ground. Put in a large bowl, and stir in the sugar and salt. Use your (clean) hands to stir in the melted butter.

use your hands to press down graham cracker crumbs form even layer of graham cracker crumbs

3 Put all but 1/4 cup of the graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of the springform pan. (Save the remaining 1/4 cup for if you happen to have any holes that need to be filled in, either while you are making the crust, or after the cake has cooked and you've unmolded it.) Gently press down on the crumbs using your fingers, until the crumbs are a nice even layer at the bottom of the pan, with maybe just a slight rise along the inside edges of the pan. Be careful as you do this, as not to tear the aluminum foil. Place in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Make the filling

place cream cheese in mixer beat until smooth

4 Cut the cream cheese into chunks and place in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 4 minutes until smooth, soft and creamy. Add the sugar, beat for 4 minutes more. Add the salt and vanilla, beating after each addition. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Add the sour cream, beat until incorporated. Add the heavy cream, beat until incorporated. Remember to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl, and scrape up any thicker bits of cream cheese that have stuck to the bottom of the mixer that paddle attachment has failed to incorporate.

Cook the cheesecake

place pan in high sided roasting pan pour cheesecake filling into pan

place pan on roasting rack in oven pour hot water into roasting pan to create a water bath for the cheesecake

5 Place the foil-wrapped springform pan in a large, high-sided roasting pan. Prepare 2 quarts of boiling water. Pour the cream cheese filling into the springform pan, over the graham cracker bottom layer. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Place the roasting pan with the springform pan in it, in the oven, on the lower rack. Carefully pour the hot water into the roasting pan (without touching the hot oven), to create a water bath for the cheesecake, pouring until the water reaches halfway up the side of the springform pan, about 1 1/4 inches. (Alternatively you can add the water before putting the pan in the oven, whichever is easier for you.) Cook at 325°F for 1 1/2 hours.

6 Turn off the heat of the oven. Crack open the oven door 1-inch, and let the cake cool in the oven, as the oven cools, for another hour. This gentle cooling will help prevent the cheesecake surface from cracking.

7 Cover the top of the cheesecake with foil, so that it doesn't actually touch the cheesecake. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.

Prepare sour cream topping

8 Place sour cream in a medium sized bowl, stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla, until smooth. Chill until you are ready to serve the cake.

Note that this recipe produces enough sour cream topping for a thick topping and some extra to spoon over individual pieces of cheesecake, if desired. If you would like a thinner layer of topping and no extra, reduce the sour cream topping ingredients in half.

Prepare the raspberry sauce

crush raspberries and sugar in small saucepan heat and whisk raspberries

9 Place raspberries, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Use a potato masher to mash the raspberries. Heat on medium, whisking, about 5 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat. Let cool.

Prepare the cake to serve

run blunt knife around edge of pan to separate cheesecake from pan remove springform pan from cheesecake

spread top of cheesecake with sour cream cheesecake is ready to serve

10 Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Remove the foil from the sides of the pan, and place the cake on your cake serving dish. Run the side of a blunt knife between the edge of the cake and the pan. Dorie recommends, and we've done with success, that you use a hair dryer to heat the sides of the pan to make it easier to remove. Open the springform latch and gently open the pan and lift up the sides. Spread the top with the sour cream mixture. Serve plain or drizzled with raspberry sauce.

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Recipe adapted from Dorrie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. Used with permission from author.

A few more words from Audrey on preparing the pan, with a moral lesson added for good measure: The first few times I tried the crust never turned out right - it was a brown, soggy goo. (This was because I was too proud to accept help from my mother when wrapping the pan.) After swallowing my pride and accepting Mom's help my crusts turned out perfect - firm enough to hold the cake, yet moist and delicate. The difference was so drastic when my mother wrapped the pan that I didn't make a cheesecake without her for months.

About six months ago, for my birthday, I got a supposedly "leak proof" springform pan to make my birthday cake (a cheesecake, of course). This was to be my first solo effort. I made my cake in the morning so that it had time to chill before dessert. At about 4:30 pm I took the springform off, only to discover the soggiest, most poached cheesecake I had ever seen. Thanks to a defective pan, I ended up with a store bought birthday cheese cake and a mediocre dessert.

The morals of this story are first, always accept help from your mother, no matter how hard it may be. Second, always wrap your pan, even if it says "leakproof."

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Showing 4 of 312 Comments

  • Michele

    Would it be terrible for the taste to use reduced fat cream cheese and/or sour cream?

    No idea. I once used reduced fat cream cheese for something and I really didn’t like the way it turned out, so I never use it. ~Elise

  • SaraH

    Elise, yours is my go-to site for any recipe I want to try, but I don’t believe I’ve ever commented. I just wanted to say that Audrey sounds like a delightful teenager. (Sometimes we need to be reminded that most of them truly are delightful.) And indeed, the cheesecake does look “perfect”.

    She is delightful! And we’ve been cooking together since she was 9. ~Elise

  • Roya

    I love this cheesecake recipe. The only thing I tweak is adding a little orange zest. It adds a lil sumpin:)

  • Rebecca Hasenauer

    Go Audrey!!!

    Really looking forward to trying your variation on a master recipe. It’s like, with classical music, all the greatest musicians have a personal style that shines through the variations they make on the original score. It’s interpretation that’s important…whether of cheesecake or a sonata.

    I had my own stock of recipes, and variations, when I was around your age too, mostly gathered from Elizabeth David’s books. My most worn and beloved book was, and is, a now out of print Australian book called Vegetables written by Lisa Lintner. In the unlikely event that you see a copy in a second hand book store you should grab it.

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