This homemade cheesecake recipe makes a thick, rich and creamy cheesecake with a buttery graham cracker crust.

cheesecake slice on plate with strawberry sauce and fork taking bite

A good cheesecake brings people together (just ask the Golden Girls). But what makes the best cheesecake? Well, I’ll tell you. It requires a buttery, sturdy graham cracker crust and a thick, rich and creamy cheesecake filling. Here’s the best way to make a good cheesecake.

Why this recipe works: There is a generous amount of cream cheese for a rich, creamy filling. The addition of sour cream and lemon juice adds a subtle tangy taste and depth of flavor. The graham cracker crust is perfectly sturdy and stays in tact with each slice and bite.

homemade cheesecake ingredients in bowls labeled with text

Cheesecake ingredients

Start with the ingredients. For the crust, you’ll need graham crackers, sugar and melted butter. The cheesecake filling requires the following ingredients:

  • Cream cheese is the basis of a cheesecake. Use a full four blocks for the ultimate cream cheese taste.
  • Sugar helps add sweetness to the rich cheesecake. One cup is sufficient enough to sweeten the cake without taking away from the tangy flavor of the cream cheese.
  • Sour cream helps add a tangy flavor to the cheesecake. It also improves the texture. Cream cheese alone makes a gluey consistency, but sour cream helps lighten is up and make the cheesecake velvety smooth.
  • Pure vanilla extract adds flavor, without overpowering the senses.
  • Fresh lemon juice also perks up the flavor without making the cheesecake zesty.
  • Whole eggs bind the ingredients together. They also add lift and lightness to the cake.
  • Egg yolk keeps the cake from becoming too fluffy. It helps keep a little density to the cake.
photo collage demonstrating how to make graham cracker crust for cheesecake in springform pan
photo collage demonstrating how to make cheesecake filling in a mixing bowl and adding it to a 9-inch springform pan

How to make homemade cheesecake

Once you have your ingredients, the following steps will put you on track for the best cheesecake.

  1. Make the graham cracker crust. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers into fine crumbs. Add sugar and melted butter and pulse to combine. Press mixture into a 9-inch springform pan and bake at 325 F for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Wrap pan with tin foil. Use heavy duty tin foil to wrap the outside bottom and sides of the cooled pan with tin foil. This will make sense when the water bath comes into play.
  3. Beat cream cheese and sugar together. Bring cream cheese to room temperature, then place it in a bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and mix the two ingredients together on medium-high speed for 4 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.
  4. Add the sour cream, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat just until combined.
  5. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time. Mix well after each addition, but do not over mix.
  6. Transfer cream cheese mixture to pan with graham cracker crust.
  7. Place pan in water bath. Fill a roasting pan about an inch full of water. Place the tin foil-lined springform pan in the water bath.
  8. Bake at 325 F for 1 hour. The cake it done when the edges are set, but the center of the cake is jiggly when gently shaken.
  9. Cool cheesecake in the oven. Turn the oven off and prop the door open. Let the cheesecake cool for one hour.
  10. Chill cheesecake in the refrigerator. Allow cheesecake to chill for 4 hours or ideally overnight.

I LOVE this springform pan. I use it for dozens of recipes and never once has it leaked!

cheesecake in water bath in roasting pan in oven

Why use a water bath for cheesecake

A water bath prevents a cheesecake from cracking and prevents the edges of the cheesecake from over baking. The water bath controls the temperature of the springform pan. If the springform pan gets too hot, then the edges of the cake will bake too quickly. The edges of the cake will be dry and inconsistent with the texture of the cheesecake center.

The water bath also adds moisture to the oven. The water in the pan will evaporate more quickly, thus limiting evaporation in cheesecake and keeping it moist. As a result, the cheesecake will not become dry and crack.

How do you make a water bath

  • Use a roasting pan that is large enough to fit a springform pan with space around the edges.
  • Fill the roasting pan with hot tap water. There should be enough to go at least 1-inch up the sides of the springform pan.
  • Wrap the springform pan with aluminum foil. This will prevent any water from entering the pan. I like to do a double layer.
  • Place the roasting pan in the oven. Then place the cheesecake in the roasting pan. Bake according to instructions and let cheesecake cool one hour in the water bath in the oven.
cake plate with whole cheesecake and cake server holding cheesecake slice with strawberry garnish
slice of cheesecake topped with strawberry sauce on plate next to whole cheesecake and fresh strawberries

Cheesecake toppings to try

Homemade cheesecake is delicious on its own, but some toppings really make a cheesecake special. Here are my recommendations:

slice of plain cheesecake on plate in front of whole cheesecake and fresh strawberries

More homemade cheesecake recipes

Do you love homemade cheesecake? Here are a few of my favorite cheesecake recipes. The top of the list has to be pumpkin cheesecake since it is packed with pumpkin spices and has a flavorful gingersnap crust. When I’m in the mood for chocolate, I bake chocolate cheesecake with chocolate ganache and Oreo crust (you can also make it into chocolate cheesecake bars). Sometimes baking cheesecake is just a little too time intensive (or it’s a hot summer day). When that is the case, I make no bake cheesecake bites! They are so simple and fun to dip in chocolate.

I hope you enjoy this homemade cheesecake recipe! If you try it, be sure to tag @ifyougiveablondeakitchen so I can see your creation!

slice of homemade cheesecake with graham cracker crust on a round plate

Homemade Cheesecake

This homemade cheesecake recipe makes a rich and creamy cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. Follow these steps for the best cheesecake!
5 (16 ratings)

Ingredients

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 10 sheets of graham crackers
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

Cheesecake Filling

  • 4 blocks (32 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, room temperature

Strawberry Sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons warm water
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

Instructions 

Graham Cracker Crust

  • Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter and set aside.
  • Use a food processor to crush graham crackers until fine crumbs form. Add sugar and melted butter. Pulse a few times until combined. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and firmly press the mixture to the bottom of the pan. I like to use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the mixture down.
  • Bake crust for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Place springform pan on top of aluminum foil and wrap the outside of the pan tightly with the foil. Make sure the foil comes almost all the way up the sides of the pan. Prepare cheesecake mixture.

Cheesecake

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.
  • Add the sour cream, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. Avoid over-mixing. Transfer batter to springform pan with graham cracker crust. Prepare water bath.
  • Fill a roasting pan with hot tap water until 1 inch high. Place roasting pan in the oven and then place the cheesecake in the water-filled roasting pan.
  • Bake at 325° F for 60 minutes. The cheesecake is done when the pan is gently shaken and the center of the cake jiggles slightly, but the edges are set. Turn the oven off, prop the oven door open and keep the cheesecake in the water bath for 1 hour. Remove cake from water bath and transfer to the refrigerator to cool for 4 hours or overnight. Serve chilled and fresh fruit.

Strawberry Sauce

  • In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch, lemon juice and warm water until cornstarch is absorbed.
  • In a medium saucepan or pot over medium heat, add the cornstarch mixture, strawberries and sugar. Stir until strawberries are coated.
  • Remove pot from heat and let the mixture cool in the pot to room temperature. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Slice cheesecake and serve slices with strawberry sauce.

Notes

How to store cheesecake: Store cheesecake covered and in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
How to freeze cheesecake: Let cheesecake chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Transfer cheesecake to a 9-inch cardboard circle or cut into quarters. Wrap cheesecake in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Freeze on a flat surface for up to 1 month. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving. 
Strawberry sauce: Use the sauce warm, at room temperature or chilled. If you store it in the refrigerator, heat it up in a saucepan before using to thin it out if desired.
Recommended tools:
  • 9-inch springform pan: The sides release from this pan making a beautifully clean cheesecake. This one has great reviews and won’t leak!
  • Roasting pan: A large pan is necessary for the water bath so the cheesecake can sit comfortably while baking.
  • Kitchen scale: It’s more accurate to weigh your ingredients rather than measure them.
  • Food processor: This tool makes the graham cracker crust easy to make. 
  • Stand mixer: It’s easier to mix the cream cheese with a stand mixer than a hand mixer. I’ve owned my KitchenAid for years!
Serving: 1slice, Calories: 391kcal, Carbohydrates: 31g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 28g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 122mg, Sodium: 265mg, Potassium: 174mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 24g, Vitamin A: 1026IU, Vitamin C: 18mg, Calcium: 91mg, Iron: 1mg

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