This homemade cheesecake recipe makes a thick, rich and creamy cheesecake with a buttery graham cracker crust.
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.
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.
How to make homemade cheesecake
Once you have your ingredients, the following steps will put you on track for the best cheesecake.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the sour cream, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat just until combined.
- Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time. Mix well after each addition, but do not over mix.
- Transfer cream cheese mixture to pan with graham cracker crust.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cool cheesecake in the oven. Turn the oven off and prop the door open. Let the cheesecake cool for one hour.
- 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!
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.
Cheesecake toppings to try
Homemade cheesecake is delicious on its own, but some toppings really make a cheesecake special. Here are my recommendations:
- Chocolate ganache is the perfect topping for chocolate lovers! It’s velvety smooth and irresistible.
- Lemon curd – A Spicy Perspective blog
- Strawberry topping – The Toasty Kitchen blog
- Blueberry compote – Wild Wild Whisk blog
- Fresh berries and homemade whipped cream
More homemade cheesecake recipes
Do you love homemade cheesecake? Here are more of my cheesecake recipes…
- Pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust
- Eggnog cheesecake with gingersnap crust
- Chocolate cheesecake bars with cookie crust
- No-bake Oreo cheesecake
- No-bake cheesecake bites
- Apple cheesecake bars
I hope you enjoy this homemade cheesecake recipe! If you try it, be sure to tag @ifyougiveablondeakitchen so I can see your creation!
Graham Cracker Crust
- 10 sheets of graham crackers
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 9-inch springform pan: The sides release from this pan making a beautifully clean cheesecake. I own this one from Sur la Table and never once has it leaked! Also available on Amazon.
- 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. I love mine from KitchenAid. Also available on Amazon.
- 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!