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Want to know the dirty little secret about cheesecake?
It’s not too complicated to make. It just takes time and a reliable oven.
The trick is keeping a close eye on the baking without opening the oven too much, then giving them enough time to cool slowly rather than pulling them straight out of the oven. Meaning: make them the day before, not at the last minute before the party!
I like serving cheesecake bars at big group gatherings. Office parties, kid events, picnics… bars are perfect. They’re smaller, handheld, and easy to bake at home and then bring somewhere without worrying about a mess.
This is my classic cheesecake recipe, with slight timing tweaks to suit the different depth of the cake.
A few tips for making the best possible strawberry cheesecake bars:
The water bath is a small but essential step. You can read up on all the details in my classic cheesecake, but the short version is: don’t skip it.
If your strawberries taste good to you, then they don’t need much additional sugar. If they taste watery, you can add a bit extra. In a pinch, you can sub strawberry jam instead of fresh, but make sure to water it down enough to make it pourable!
When pouring in the strawberry puree, thinner/slower streams are better. If you pour in big glugs, the batter rises around the puree and leaves big bubbles of it. Not a bad thing, but it’s better to have it distributed in every bite.
This can also easily be done in a traditional cheesecake springform pan. To get the baking instructions for that, use my classic cheesecake recipe and then add the strawberry mixture!
Tools you’ll need: 8×11 baking dish, mixer, blender or stick blender, & food processor (optional).
Strawberry Cheesecake Bars
- 16 rectangles graham crackers about 8 oz
- 8 Tbsp unsalted butter plus more for greasing the pan (1 stick)
- 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
- ¾ cup strawberries
- 2- 2½ tsp sugar
- 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.
- Line an 8.5×11 pan with foil, then coat with butter generously.
- 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 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 1 cup 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.
- Blend the strawberries with a blender or stick blender. You want them to be completely liquified. Then add 2 tsp sugar. If the strawberries are flavorful, that's all you need, but add more if it tastes bland or too tart.
- Place the cooled 8.5×11 pan onto a jelly roll pan and pour in the batter. If needed, use a spatula to gently spread the batter evenly on top of the graham cracker mixture.
- Slowly pour in the strawberry puree, moving evenly across the batter. Once you've added all of it, you can use the spatula to gently spread in, but the tiny streaks of strawberry are also delicious!
- Fill a pyrex measuring cup with water and set aside. 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 cup of water into the size I use, but the amount isn't critical.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, paying close attention after about 22 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. Let it sit out until it's room temperature, at least another hour. At that point, transfer to the fridge and store uncovered and in the pan for 3 hours or until ready to serve.
- 30 minutes before you're ready to serve, take it out of the fridge. Slice into bars and serve cold or room temperature.
That’s all you need for rich, creamy, delicious strawberry cheesecake!
Want more desserts that’ll impress but not take a pastry degree to make? Try red velvet chocolate chip cookies, nutella brownies, pumpkin dip or pear crisp!