Looking for the perfect cheesecake recipe? It takes a bit of hubris to describe a recipe as “perfect”, especially for something like 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.
Video! How to Make Perfect Cheesecake
Homemade New York Cheesecake
This 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!
How I Adapted Dorie Greenspan’s Recipe
My young friend Audrey and I worked together on this cheesecake and have made some slight changes to Dorie’s base recipe. We’ve thickened the graham cracker crust on the bottom and don’t let it ride up the sides. We also top the cake with a creamy sour cream topping and serve it with a tangy bright raspberry sauce.
Many thanks to Dorie for graciously allowing us to share her recipe with you!
(For more information about making graham cracker crusts, check out this post!)
Why Cook Cheesecake in a Water Bath
This recipe has you wrap the cheesecake very well in aluminum foil and then bake it inside a water bath — which simply means setting the wrapped cheesecake in a roasting pan or other large dish and adding a few inches of steaming water into the outer pan.
Why go to all this fuss? Here’s why:
- Humidity: Your oven is a very dry environment, which creates a crust on the outside of whatever is being baked. This is normally a good thing, but with cheesecake, we want the top to stay soft — not to form a crust. The water bath adds moisture to the air, creating a humid environment and preventing the cake from drying out or forming cracks.
- Even, steady heat: To get that perfectly creamy, velvety cheesecake texture, we want to control the rate of cooking as much as possible. We don’t want the eggs and dairy to cook too fast or too slowly. Submerging the pan in a water bath helps us achieve that goal.
Great Tip! Instead of wrapping your pan in layers of foil, which occasionally tear and cause leaks, try this tip from Simply Recipes reader Quantina: Buy a cheap disposable aluminum pan and mold that around your cheesecake instead.
What if you don’t want to use a water bath? Sure, that’s fine! However, you risk more cracks in the top of your cheesecake and a somewhat drier texture.
Still not convinced? Check out our guide to baking cheesecake in a water bath.
How to Know When Your Cheesecake is Done Baking
When finished baking, the outer ring of your cheesecake should look slightly puffed and set, but the inner circle should still jiggle just a little bit, like Jell-O after it has set.
- Underdone cheesecake: Continue baking if the outer ring is still jiggly or if the middle ring gives you more of a wobbly slosh (as if there’s still liquid beneath the surface) than a jiggle. Continue to bake and check the cheesecake every five minutes or so.
- Over-baked cheesecake: If the center starts to look puffed or if you start to notice cracks, then immediately move on to the next step of cooling the cheesecake. Some golden spots or small cracks won’t affect the flavor of your cheesecake.
What To Do If Your Cheesecake Cracks
Cracks that show up as soon as the cheesecake is done cooking are a sign that your cheesecake is a bit over-baked or that you skipped the water bath. Cracks that show up after cooling are a sign that your cheesecake cooled a little too quickly.
But cracks aren’t a sign of failure, nor do they mean that your cheesecake won’t taste good. They’re mostly cosmetic, and covering the surface of the cheesecake with sour cream or another topping will do a fine job of hiding them.
Serve Your Cheesecake Chilled or Room Temperature
Cheesecake is meant to be served chilled or room temperature, primarily because it’s only after chilling and fully setting that it gains its velvety, silky texture.
If you cut into a cheesecake while it’s still warm from the oven, the texture will be very firm and somewhat custard-like, and you’ll despair that you’ve done something wrong. Really, it just needs time to chill!
Serve your cheesecake straight from the fridge, or let it come up to room temperature before serving. If you prefer your cheesecake warm, then I suggest either serving it with a warm sauce or warming individual slices in the microwave.
How Long Cheesecake Lasts
You can prepare the cheesecake up to three days before you plan to serve it. Keep it in the springform mold, covered, and refrigerated until you plan to serve. Wait to add the sour cream topping or any other toppings until serving.
Leftovers will keep in the fridge for about five days.
You can also freeze cheesecake. For more information on freezing cheesecake click on How to Freeze Cheesecake for a step-by-step guide.
Ways to Top Your Cheesecake
Try a drizzle of warm caramel sauce or chocolate sauce over your slice of cheesecake. Or go fruity — cook down a few cups of frozen berries with a few tablespoons of sugar until it makes a jammy sauce.
More Favorite Cheesecake Recipes
Perfect Cheesecake Recipe
Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. Published with permission from author.
For the crust:
- 1 3/4 cups (230g) of Graham cracker crumbs (from about 15 Graham crackers)
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- Pinch salt
- 4 Tbsp plus 1 teaspoon (60g) unsalted butter (if using salted butter, omit the pinch of salt), melted
For the filling:
- 2 pounds cream cheese (900g), room temperature
- 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar (270g)
- Pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 2/3 cup sour cream (160 ml)
- 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream (160 ml)
For the sour cream topping:
- 2 cups sour cream (475 ml)
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar (35g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the raspberry sauce:
- 12 ounces (340g) fresh raspberries
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
- 1/2 cup water (120 ml)
- 9-inch, 2 3/4-inch high springform pan
- Heavy-duty, 18-inch wide aluminum foil
- A large, high-sided roasting pan
Prepare the crust
1 Process graham crackers, mix with sugar, salt, butter: 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. Stir in the melted butter.
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C), with rack in lower third of oven.
2 Press the graham cracker crumbs into the bottom of the springform pan: 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.
3 Bake the crust: Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. While the crust is cooling, you can skip ahead and start on the filling. Wait until the crust has cooled to wrap the pan in foil in the next step.
4 Triple wrap pan in heavy duty foil: 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.
Make the cheesecake
1 Beat cream cheese, then sugar: 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.
2 Add salt, vanilla, then eggs, then sour cream: 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.
3 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.
4 Prepare pan and boiling water: Place the foil-wrapped springform pan in a large, high-sided roasting pan. Prepare 2 quarts of boiling water.
Heat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
5 Pour filling into pan: Pour the cream cheese filling into the springform pan, over the graham cracker bottom layer. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
6 Place in oven: Place the roasting pan with the springform pan in it, in the oven, on the lower rack.
7 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.)
8 Bake at 325°F (160°C) for 1 1/2 hours.
9 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.
10 Chill 4 hours: 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.
Finish and Serve the Cheesecake
1 Prepare the sour cream topping: 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.
2 Prepare the raspberry sauce: 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.
3 Prepare the cheesecake to serve: 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 drizzle individual slices with raspberry sauce.
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