Crème Brûlée Cheesecake

Do you love crème brûlée, but you also love cheesecake? Get the best of both worlds with this luscious crème brûlée cheesecake! A buttery graham cracker crust balances the light and creamy cheesecake, then it’s finished with the satisfying crack of brittle sugar.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with brittle sugar topping on a slate board wtih a slice cut out and fruit and forks nearby.

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Cheesecake is a favorite dessert in my family. I mean, what’s not to love about a dessert made of cheese?

This cheesecake is a classic version of a vanilla cheesecake, only I combined it with the best part of classic crème brûlée—the brittle sugar top. There’s just something about tapping the sugar shell and listening for that crack of brittle, caramelized sugar. The satiny filling is speckled with vanilla bean seeds, and the whole thing comes together when you scoop up the crunchy, buttery base.

How to Make the Best Cheesecake

For your cheesecake to turn out rich, creamy, and crack-free, follow a few simple steps.

  • Always beat your cheesecake batter on low speed. Cheesecakes often crack because too much air is beaten into them—either by whipping or beating on high. Slow and steady wins the race.
  • Use room temperature cream cheese and scrape down the bowl often. Fat (aka cheese) likes to stick to the sides and bottom of the bowl. For a creamy, silky cheesecake without lumps, get comfortable with your spatula, and let your cream cheese sit out for a couple of hours. All this low beating and scraping down the bowl might seem tedious, but it makes a big difference in the end result.
  • Use a water bath. I know they feel a little risky, but you’ve got this. Water baths really do create the creamiest cakes with the most level tops.
Creme Brulee Cheesecake batter in a springform pan wrapped in foil and set in a roasting tin.

Alison Bickel

What Is a Water Bath?

A water bath, also known as a bain-marie, is simply a pan with water in which another pan, dish, or pot is set.

In the case of cheesecake, triple wrap the springform pan in foil, add the cheesecake filling, and set the cake in the center of a roasting pan. If you don’t have a roasting pan, a large, wide-bottomed Dutch oven will also work. Fill the roasting pan with water halfway up the sides of the springform pan and place it in the oven.

How to Keep Water Out of Your Cheesecake

  1. Wrap it well using three layers of extra-long, heavy duty aluminum foil. I use a 9-inch springform pan, and a standard roll of foil isn’t long enough to go up all sides of the pan.
  2. Sara Bir, one of our editors at Simply Recipes, has a great trick. Skip the foil and use the oven-safe nylon bags used to brine turkeys. The good news is you can wash and reuse the bag and keep it as your cheesecake pan bag.
A knife slicing through the brittle topping of the best creme bruelee cheesecake

Alison Bickel

What If I Don’t Have Sour Cream?

If you don’t have sour cream for this cheesecake, you can leave it out. The cake won’t be quite as fluffy, but it will still be rich and delicious. You can also replace the 1/2 cup sour cream with 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream.

How to Tell When Cheesecake Is Done

Cheesecake is basically a custard. It likes slow, even cooking, and time. All ovens are different, so it’s best to peek in on your cheesecake every now and then to make sure baking is going according to plan. Your cake is done when it looks smooth across the top and has a slight jiggle, but not a slosh in the center.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with brittle sugar topping on a slate board wtih a slice cut out and fruit nearby.

Alison Bickel

How to Brûlée the Top

Once the cheesecake has baked and chilled, it’s time to brûlée the top. This involves sprinkling the surface of the chilled custard with a little sugar and using a creme brûlée torch to melt the sugar into a solid, brittle crust.

If there’s too much sugar, the crust will start to burn before it melts evenly. Too little, and you will toast the top of the cheesecake.

I've found that sprinkling the sugar in 2 steps leads to a more uniform melting of the sugar granules and a nice even caramel color. It also lowers the risk of overheating the sugar as it caramelizes, which can lead to bitter, burnt sugar.

Culinary torches are really the best route. They are easy to use, affordable, and take up little space in your kitchen. It’s worth the investment. The one I like is this Micro Butane Torch from JB Culinary.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with brittle sugar topping on a slate board wtih fruit and caramel nearby.

Alison Bickel

Can You Make This Cheesecake Ahead of Time?

Once you’ve baked the cheesecake, but before you’ve torched the top, it will keep uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours (after you’ve cooled it for 24 hours).

Once you've brûléed the sugar topping, cheesecake is at its best served within 20 minutes. If you wait longer, you risk the sugar absorbing moisture and the brittle top softening. Unfortunately, it doesn't work well to torch the top again to try crisping it back up.

If you've waited longer than 20 minutes, all is not lost! The top will still be hard, just not quite as hard as it was, and the brûléed sugar will have a quieter crack when tapped with a fork.

How Long Does Cheesecake Last?

Cheesecake lasts about 3.7 seconds after you cut the first slice. Kidding!

I find that the crust begins to weep after about day 3. It’s still fine to eat, but the crust isn’t what it used to be. Just make sure you keep it in the fridge.

Can You Freeze Cheesecake?

You absolutely can freeze cheesecake. I prefer to freeze it whole, but you can freeze individual slices and enjoy them as needed. You can read all about how to freeze cheesecake here:

For this cake, freeze it before you brûlée the top. When it’s completely thawed and you’re almost ready to serve it, add the sugar, and torch it.

Slice of Crème Brûlée Cheesecake

Alison Bickel

Looking for More Cheesecake Recipes?

Crème Brûlée Cheesecake

Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 60 mins
Total Time 105 mins
Servings 12 servings
Yield 1 cheesecake


For the crust

  • 8 graham cracker sheets (1 1/4 cups of crumbs)

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • Pinch kosher salt

  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature

  • 1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar

For the crème brûlée topping

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

Special Equipment

  • Food processor
  • Springform pan
  • Roasting pan or large Dutch oven
  • Culinary torch


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Make the crust:

    In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal s-blade attachment, add the graham crackers. Pulse until they are ground fine like sand; you should have 1 1/4 cups. Add the sugar, salt, and nutmeg (if using). Pulse 3 or 4 times until combined.

    Pour melted butter around the bowl in a circle; pulse 4 or 5 times to combine. The mixture should clump a little bit but may still look a little dry.

    Simple Tip!

    If you don't have a food processor, you can put the graham crackers in a zip-top bag and smash them with a rolling pin. Pour the crumbs into a bowl, add the sugar and salt, then pour the butter into the bowl and toss with a fork to combine.

    Dump the mixture into the bottom of your springform pan. Use your fingers or the underside of a cup to press the mixture into the bottom of the pan, making it as even as possible. Place the crust in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven to cool.

    Graham Crackers crumbs in a food processor
    Alison Bickle
    Graham Cracker crust in a food processor.
    Alison Bickle
    Pressing a graham cracker crust into a springform pan.
    Alison Bickle
  3. Reduce the oven temp:

    Once the crust has baked, reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

  4. Make the filling:

    In a small bowl, gently beat the eggs, vanilla extract, and salt together with a fork. Set it aside.

    Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a large bowl and a hand mixer set to low), add the cream cheese.

    Beat the cream cheese on low speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the vanilla bean seeds and beat again on low for about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

    With the stand mixer on low add the sour cream, beat for a minute, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the sugar. Stop the mixer. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Beat for another minute or 2 until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture in 2 additions, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Beat on low until fully combined.

    Eggs in a liquid measuring cup.
    Alison Bickle
    Whipped cream cheese in a standmixter.
    Alison Bickle
    Woman scraping the seeds off a vanilla bean pod.
    Alison Bickle
    Woman adding sugar to cream cheese to make the best creme brulee cheesecake.
    Alison Bickle
    Woman adding eggs to creamcheese to make creme brulee cheesecake batter
    Alison Bickle
  5. Prepare the water bath and add the filling:

    Wrap the outside of your springform pan in 3 layers of aluminum foil. Be careful not to tear or puncture the foil. Bring the foil all the way up the sides. Set it inside a roasting pan or a large Dutch oven. Pour the filling into the springform pan.

    Fill the roasting pan with hot water about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Be careful not to splash any water into the cheesecake pan or inside the foil.

    Put the pan in the oven and bake until the cheesecake is just barely set in the center, 55-65 minutes. It will still jiggle slightly, but shouldn’t slosh in the center when moved.

    Creme Brulee Cheesecake batter in a springform pan wrapped in foil and set in a roasting tin.
    Alison Bickle
  6. Let it cool:

    Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Let the cake cool in the water bath for about an hour, then remove it from the water bath and transfer it to a cooling rack on the counter for another hour. Finally, keep the cake in the springform pan, and let it cool, uncovered, overnight in the fridge.

  7. Brûlée the top:

    Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. About 10 minutes before serving, sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar evenly across the surface of the cake.

    Use a culinary torch to caramelize the sugar on the surface. Place the torch flame about 4 inches above the cake and apply direct heat to the sugar. Constantly move the torch in small circles until it takes on an even, golden color.

    Wait about a minute, then sprinkle on the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and repeat the torching process.

    Creme Brulee cheesecake with granulated sugar dusted over the top. waiting to be bruleed.
    Alison Bickle
    A Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with a brittle sugar creme brulee topping.
    Alison Bickle
  8. To serve:

    Serve the cake within 20 minutes once the top has been brûléed. To remove the cake from the base of the springform pan, gently run a long knife between the crust layer and the bottom of the pan. Then slide it carefully to your serving platter.

    A Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with a brittle sugar creme brulee topping.
    Alison Bickle
    A woman transferring a Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with a brittle sugar creme brulee topping.
    Alison Bickle
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
494 Calories
34g Fat
41g Carbs
8g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 494
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 34g 44%
Saturated Fat 19g 97%
Cholesterol 154mg 51%
Sodium 338mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 41g 15%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 35g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 101mg 8%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 152mg 3%
*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.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.