This rich, velvety, and luscious cheesecake is studded with blueberries that burst with sweetness in every bite. It’s a silky-smooth dessert that sits atop a crunchy graham cracker crust and right before serving, you smother it with an elegant blueberry sauce.
Cheesecake is a perfect baking project for a lazy weekend. Come dinnertime (it needs to chill for at least 6 hours), you’ll have an impressive and rewarding treat for the blueberry lovers in your life. Serve it with a nice glass of bubbly or some tea.
Cheesecake can often be intimidating for first timers. It takes some planning and a little time to make, but there is nothing to be afraid of. Follow along here for helpful tips and support!
Blocks of Cream Cheese Are Best
As a girl from Ohio, I always make cheesecake with regular block cream cheese. I never use the whipped kind.
Block cream cheese is richer, smoother, and denser—all the things you want in a cheesecake. Lactic acid is added to whipped cream cheese during processing, which releases more water than block cream cheese as it bakes. This results in a grainy cheesecake. So save the whipped stuff for your bagels.
Why Soften the Cream Cheese?
Room temperature cream cheese is soft. It’s easier to whip, smoother, and combines effortlessly with the other ingredients. No lumps of cream cheese in the filling here!
Fresh vs. Frozen Blueberries
There’s a time and place for both in the kitchen. Fresh blueberries work well in cooked recipes that have a batter, like this one, and also in cakes and muffins. Frozen berries are best saved for compotes, sauces, and pies.
Blueberries are about 84% water. When frozen, that water expands, breaking down the cell structure. As they thaw, the blueberries lose their crispness and become mushy. They also release their juice, which turns batter into an unsightly greyish-purple color.
This recipe calls for fresh blueberries in both the batter and the sauce. If you’d like to use frozen blueberries, I have 2 tips:
- Increase the amount of cornstarch, a thickener, by 1/2 teaspoon per 1 cup of frozen blueberries. For this recipe, that means a total of 3 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch. It will help thicken the extra moisture released as the blueberries thaw.
- Adding frozen blueberries to the cheesecake may turn it purple. It’ll taste delicious, but if it’s not the look you’re going for, rinse the frozen blueberries under cold running water (you don’t want the blueberries to thaw) until the liquid runs clear. Then gently pat them dry with paper towels. For extra reassurance, toss the rinsed and dried berries with 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour before folding them into your filling.
How to Prevent a Cracked Cheesecake
There are a few reasons why cheesecake cracks. Here are some tips on how to prevent it:
- When making the filling, it is important that you do not overbeat the eggs. It will incorporate too much air into the filling causing it to rise quickly as it bakes and then sink and crack in the middle. As soon as the eggs are incorporated and the filling is smooth, turn off the machine (or drop the whisk) and be done. Resist the urge to keep mixing!
- The next culprit is overbaking. Your cheesecake is done baking when the edges are slightly puffed up and the center is still jiggly like Jell-O. At this point, turn off the oven and leave the oven door slightly ajar. The cheesecake is left in the oven to finish cooking, set, and slowly cool. Then, it goes into the fridge to fully cool. This helps because drastic changes in temperature (i.e. hot oven to cold fridge) will cause cracking.
- As your cheesecake cools it contracts and if the edges are stuck to the side of the pan, cracks will form. That is why it is important to run a dull knife around the rim of the pan before unclasping the springform.
Water Bath or No Water Bath?
A water bath is simply a pan of hot water that surrounds the springform pan and protects the cheesecake from getting too hot while baking.
Do you need to bake a cheesecake in a water bath? In my opinion, yes. It’s the best way to ensure the cheesecake cooks evenly and doesn’t crack. It distributes the heat gently, resulting in an evenly cooked and more attractive-looking cheesecake.
Technically a cheesecake isn’t a cake, it is a custard. Custards have eggs and eggs require a humid environment with gentle heat to properly cook without drying out. Without a water bath, your oven is very dry with hot and cold spots throughout. Enter the water bath.
You certainly can make a cheesecake without a water bath, but it will cook faster, puff up too high or too soon, collapse, crack, and look uneven.
Wrap the Pan
Tightly wrap the springform pan in 3 alternating layers of heavy-duty foil. Springform pans do not have a tight seal and, if not wrapped properly, water will seep in and make your crust soggy. In the event the foil rips and water gets in, you can save your soggy cheesecake.
Wanna Change Things Up?
Great! Here are some ideas:
- Berries: Blueberries aren’t your thing? Try raspberries or blackberries. Save strawberries as a bright topping only—they tend to turn a muddy color and release too much liquid when cooked.
- Crust: Switch up the crust by using equal amounts of vanilla wafers or sweetened biscuit cookies instead of the graham crackers. If you’re feeling wild, try a chocolate wafer cookie crust.
- More toppings: Instead of the blueberry sauce, drizzle some chocolate sauce or caramel over the top before serving. You can never go wrong with a dollop of whipped cream.
Get Ahead of the Game
Cheesecake is the ultimate make-ahead dessert, mostly because it has long baking and cooling times. Both the blueberry cheesecake and sauce can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored, covered tightly, in the refrigerator. Victory for this working mom of two! Just don’t spoon the sauce over it until right before serving.
For all you big planners out there, cheesecake keeps well in the freezer for up to 2 months. To freeze, double wrap the chilled cheesecake (with no topping) tightly in foil or plastic wrap and place it into a zip-top freezer bag. Remove all the air before sealing it tightly.
To thaw the cheesecake, loosen the wrapping and refrigerate until softened, about 24 hours, or about 6 hours at room temperature.
To freeze the blueberry sauce, cool the sauce completely in the refrigerator then transfer it into a freezer-safe zip-top bag and remove as much air as possible before sealing. Freeze for up to 2 months. To thaw, refrigerate the sauce for 24 hours or leave at room temperature for 6 hours.
How to Store Leftovers
Refrigerate leftover cheesecake for up to 5 days. Loosely cover it if the sauce is on top; tightly cover it if not. Refrigerate the sauce in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Have More Cheesecake!
It’s okay to use frozen blueberries. No need to thaw them before adding. Increase the amount of cornstarch in the blueberry sauce to 3 1/2 teaspoons to help thicken the extra moisture the berries will release.
For the crust
10 ounces graham crackers (about 18 crackers)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons (141g) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling
1 1/2 pounds (680g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (208g) sugar
1/3 cup (85g) sour cream, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Zest from 1 lemon (about 1 tightly packed teaspoon)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (308g) fresh blueberries
For the blueberry sauce
3 cups (462g) fresh blueberries
1/2 cup (104g) sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Zest from 1 lemon (about 1 tightly packed teaspoon)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup water
- 1 (8x3-inch) round springform pan
- 1 roasting pan
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven.
Make the graham cracker crumbs:
Add the graham crackers, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until fine even crumbs form and there are no large pieces of graham crackers visible. Add the butter and process until combined. The crumbs will resemble wet sand and if you pinch some of the mixture, it will stay together. You can make this in a blender.
Alternatively, place the graham crackers, sugar, and salt in a zip-top bag and crush them to smithereens with a meat mallet. Transfer the crumbs into a medium bowl and stir in the melted butter.
Press the crumbs into springform pan:
Transfer the crumbs into an 8 x 3-inch round springform pan. Press them down firmly in an even layer using your fingers or the bottom of a measuring cup. The crust should not come up the sides of the pan.
Bake the crust:
Bake the crust until lightly golden brown around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes. Set it on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Leave the oven on to bake the cheesecake.
Triple wrap the pan:
When the springform pan is cool enough to handle, tightly wrap the bottom and sides with 3 pieces of heavy-duty foil cut to about 18 inches long. The cheesecake will bake in a water bath—the foil prevents the water from seeping into the crust and making it soggy. Place the wrapped springform pan in a large roasting pan and set it aside.
Fill a kettle or a large pot with water and cover it with a lid. Bring it up to a boil over high heat while you prepare the cheesecake filling. You will use the boiling water to create a hot water bath to bake the cheesecake.
Make the cheesecake filling:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Beat on medium speed until very smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate any ingredients that may be stuck to the bowl.
You can also mix in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer.
Add the heavy cream and eggs:
Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the heavy cream until just incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, until just combined. Do not overmix the filling once the eggs are added. Too much air in the filling will cause the cheesecake to crack as it bakes. Stop mixing it as soon as the eggs are fully incorporated.
Fold in the blueberries:
Detach the bowl from the stand mixer and add 2 cups blueberries. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the blueberries into the filling, being cautious not to crush them.
Pour the filling over the crust:
Use the rubber spatula to scrape the filling over the baked crust. Place the roasting pan (with the springform pan set inside) into the oven.
Create a water bath:
Carefully pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
A kettle is easier to pour than a pot. If pouring boiling water out of a pot directly in the oven is scary, it’s okay to add the water into the roasting pan before you transfer it into the oven. Set the roasting pan right on the stovetop to do this so that it’s a close and easy transfer once filled with boiling water.
Bake the cheesecake:
Bake the cheesecake until slightly puffed up around the edges and 2 to 3 inches in the center is slightly jiggly (resembling Jell-O), about 1 1/2 hours.
Turn the oven off and open the oven door about 1 inch. You can use a wooden spoon to prop the door open. Let the cheesecake finish setting in the oven until there is barely any jiggle left in the center, about 1 hour.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Loosely cover it with a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate it until fully cooled, at least 6 hours. The cheesecake will firm up and no longer jiggle in the center.
Meanwhile, make the blueberry sauce:
In a medium saucepan, stir together 1 cup blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Add 1/3 cup water and bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce turns a vibrant purple and thickens to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Some of the blueberries will burst.
Transfer the sauce to a medium heatproof container and let it cool a little on the counter for about 30 minutes. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until chilled, about 1 hour. Stir in the remaining 2 cups blueberries. Keep the sauce chilled until ready to serve.
Serve the cheesecake:
When ready to serve, run a small knife around the outer edges of the cheesecake to separate it from the springform pan. Unclasp and remove the springform. Carefully remove the cheesecake from the base of the spring form pan using a large, flat, spatula and place onto a serving platter. It’s fine to leave the cheesecake on the base of the pan too!
Spoon the blueberry sauce on top. Slice and serve.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 10 to 12|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 38g||49%|
|Saturated Fat 21g||106%|
|Total Carbohydrate 62g||22%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||9%|
|Total Sugars 44g|
|Vitamin C 9mg||44%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|