Making a cheesecake at home seems a lot more complicated than it actually is. This foolproof cheesecake recipe will become your favorite dessert!
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Cheesecake is one of those things that I’ve never made, for a few reasons. For one thing, there’s the whole needing-a-unique-pan-I-would-rarely-use-otherwise thing. I also knew making cheesecake takes a bit of time and effort outside the usual required to bake a cake.
Also, when I’m looking at a dessert option, cheesecake is usually the backup thing I want. You know, when you pick something and they’re out, so you have to quickly come up with another choice? Cheesecake is a consistent decent option that rarely rises to the top of the list.
All of that to say that I never really bothered with cheesecake. But as I expand my baking comfort zone, I knew cheesecake needed to make the list! So after a lot of research and a few experiments, I came up with one I loved and knew I had to share it with you!
Everyone who makes homemade cheesecake has a Very Strong Opinion on the exact way to do it. Waterbath? Egg yolks vs whole eggs? Flour, cornstarch or neither? Everybody will tell you that their way is the only way.
So after trying a few variations, I’m sharing what worked best for me – and what actually seemed to make a difference! But the important part is that cheesecake is surprisingly simple to make, it just requires time.
To make the cheesecake itself, you essentially make cream cheese frosting and then add sour cream and eggs. Easy enough, right?
I’ve included a bit of cornstarch here. It essentially helps prevent cracks. The critique of this method is that it changes the texture, but if you’re paying attention and don’t overtake, I don’t taste a difference.
Many people advocate for a water bath, meaning to bake the cheesecake while sitting within a larger dish of water. Best case scenario is to have the water sit most of the way up the height of the cheesecake, to ensure a more even application of heat than you’d get from the oven heat distribution.
I found that you don’t have to do it in a full-tilt water bath. I like baking mine while setting it in a jelly roll pan filled with water- this helps a bit with heat distribution as well as making the oven humid enough to help prevent cracks on top, but without having to have the perfect configuration of pans that nest well within your oven. A jelly roll pan is
I use a 9-inch pan here because I like the thickness of cheesecake it creates, but you can use whatever side you already own. Just adjust your baking time accordingly.
Baking time is crucial here, to get the texture and color right and to prevent cracks. I’ve listed the bake time as 40-50 minutes, but the reality is that you should start checking on it at the 35-minute mark and keep close tabs every few minutes. My oven tends to run a bit hot and I took mine out at 42 minutes.
For a classic cheesecake like this, you’re going to want toppings. I love the contrast that chocolate cake offers, but fruit is another winner – either fresh or compote!
- 13 rectangles graham crackers (about 6.5 oz)
- 5.5 Tbsp unsalted butter plus more for greasing the pan
- 2 lbs cream cheese
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 eggs
- Make sure the oven rack is on a lower rung oven and preheat to 350°F. Set the eggs, sour cream, and cream cheese aside to come to room temperature.
- Coat a 9-inch springform pan with butter generously. Cut two pieces of foil, each at least 11 inches long and lay one on top of the other in an X shape. Place the pan on top of the foil and wrap the edges of the foil around the outside of the pan.
- To make the crust, melt the butter and crush the graham crackers. You can crush them by hand in a bag and beating with a meat tenderizer or throw them in a food processor to pulverize it.
- Combine the butter and graham cracker crumbs, stirring until the mixture is wet sand. You know you have the right texture then they hold together if you squeeze a clump. If it doesn't, add more melted butter.
- Press the crust into the bottom of the springform pan and use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to flatten it out evenly. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust shows just a touch of brown at the edge. Let cool completely before adding the batter, but the time it takes to mix the batter should be enough to cool.
- Mix together the cream cheese, cornstarch, salt, and sugar in a mixer on medium or medium-low until thick. It should look like cream cheese frosting at this point. Tiny lumps are okay, but try to avoid too many. Scrape down the sides to make sure things are combining evenly.
- Add sour cream and vanilla to the mixture and beat on low, scraping down the sides again.
- Add the egg yolk and mix on low until just combined, then scrape the sides. Repeat with the eggs, one at a time.
- Fill a pyrex measuring cup with water and set aside. Place the cooled springform pan onto a jelly roll pan and pour in the batter. Carefully transfer everything back into the oven. When it's in the oven, pour the water into the bottom of the baking sheet. I typically add 1 1/2 cups of water into the size I use, but the amount isn't critical.
- Bake for 40-55 minutes, paying close attention after about 35 minutes. It's done when the top is set and the edges are slightly pulling away from the sides, but the center still has a bit of a jiggle to it. If it starts to brown or crack definitely start to cool it right away.
- Turn the oven off and prop the oven door open an inch or two. Let the cheesecake cool for an hour in the cooling oven.
- After an hour, remove from the oven and set the springform pan on a cooling rack. Run a knife along the edge of the pan to loosen the sides and let cool until room temperature, roughly another hour. At that point, transfer to the fridge and store uncovered and in the pan for at least 3 hours or until ready to serve.
- 30 minutes before you're ready to serve, remove from the fridge. When it's time, remove the springform sides and top with whatever topping makes you happy!
It’s way simpler than I thought to make an amazing cheesecake! Are you up for trying it?
Want more dessert options? Try more from Teaspoon of Nose dessert archives!