Find out how to make cheesecake with a sweet and crisp graham cracker crust and an incredibly silky, creamy, and rich cream cheese filling! Read below for tips on how to get a perfect, crack free cheesecake top that looks and tastes amazing.
I have never been one to turn down some good ole’ cheesecake – especially not when it’s homemade! I find that the idea of making cheesecake at home is a little daunting and intimidating for a lot of people, but it’s really quite easy to make and it’s such a stunning dessert!
And this recipe seriously rivals cheesecake factory cheesecake if I do say so myself!
It’s VERY hard to go wrong when it comes to the taste of cheesecake. The only tricky part is getting a smooth, crack free top (which I have plenty of tips on below!) But at the end of the day, as long as it’s delicious, we can ignore any surface imperfections. Eat the evidence if need be.
BUT first, let’s go over the main ingredients you’ll need to make the best cheesecake evah!
• graham cracker crumbs: You can buy pre-ground crumbs, or grind your own in a food processor. If you can’t get your hands on graham cracker crumbs, ground up digestive biscuits make a good substitute
• sugar: you’ll need a touch to sweeten up the crust and for the filling
• butter: this helps hold the crust together
• cream cheese: was there any doubt about this one? Make sure you’re using the cream cheese blocks and NOT the spread (more on that below)
• sour cream or yogurt: sour cream adds more flavor, but plain Greek yogurt does the same trick! If using yogurt, I like to mix in a teaspoon of vinegar to increase the acidity – it basically helps make it taste and act more like sour cream (kind of like why we add acid to milk to make buttermilk)
• flour: helps add a bit of structure and body to the cake. We only add a touch so that it doesn’t end up too heavy or bready
• vanilla extract: for flavor
• salt: to balance the sweetness
• eggs: for structure and to help the cheesecake set
Cream cheese block vs spread:
The recipe below calls for FOUR cream cheese blocks. The reason we use blocks instead of spread is because the blocks are firmer and are better designed for baking.
Cream cheese spread is a bit too soft for cheesecake – because it’s main purpose is to … well, spread!
What causes cracks in cheesecake & how to avoid them:
If you’ve read the post for these cheesecake bars, you’ll know my main tips! But I’m going to run through them again for sake of convenience!
But as always, I’m a firm believer in taste > appearance. So if you do get cracks, it’ll still probably taste amazing (and you can always cover it up with some blueberry sauce or melted chocolate or something!) So don’t stress!
But these are the tips I use every time I make cheesecake to ensure a perfect top!
1. Use room temperature ingredients. 99.9% of cheesecake cracks are caused by sudden temperature changes. Okay, I made that number up. But it’s usually the #1 culprit.
Suddenly shifting from cold to hot or vice versa will cause your cheesecake to contract and … you guessed it, crack! Room temperature ingredients mean the cheesecake is at a mild temperature when it hits the heat of the oven, so less contracting and less crack-a-lackin’!
2. Don’t over mix the cheesecake batter! Air is probably the second biggest cause of cracks on a cheesecake. Cheesecake was born to be dense, and incorporating air into the batter (which happens if it’s over mixed) creates bubbles that pop, expand, deflate, and just basically act unpredictably. All of this can and does cause cracks! So do the bare minimum when it comes to mixing (less work anyways, amiright?!)
3. Use a lower temperature oven. Gradual and gentle heat because cheesecake. is. fussy! The sweet zone is between 300°F to 325°F.
325°F bakes up faster, and it’s never given me problems, so that’s what I go with! I’ve seen other bakers get successfully smooth cheesecake tops at 350°F, but I found it to be unpredictable and less consistent.
4. Bake in a water bath. Now I don’t actually do this when making cheesecake bars or mini cheesecakes, just because they have a thinner cheese layer – so they’re less prone to cracking. This beautifully GIANT cheesecake on the other hand, benefits from the gentle cooking that a water bath provides.
5. Cool your cheesecake in the oven. This again has to do with gradual temperature changes. So we cool the cheesecake in the oven for a bit, then on the counter, then in the fridge. This slowly but surely brings the temperature down without shocking the cheesecake.
6. Loosen the edges of the cheesecake while warm. Run a pairing knife or offset spatula around the edges of your cheesecake after about 30 minutes of cooling in the oven. This is to prevent having the cheesecake sides stick to the pan. As your cheesecake cools, it shrinks slightly. If the sides are stuck to the pan, and it cools and shrinks, it’ll cause cracks. My springform pan is really good in terms of non-stick, but I still do this step to be on the safe side.
For the best texture, keep cheesecake stored in the fridge until ready to serve. Cover with plastic wrap, and cheesecake will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge.
Check out these other recipes!
Classic Cheesecake Recipe
For the cheesecake crust:
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
For the cheesecake filling:
- 4 (8 ounce) bricks cream cheese (32 ounces total), at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream, at room temperature * see notes
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- Preheat your oven to 325°F.
- Make the graham cracker crust: In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter. Mix together until all of the graham cracker crumbs are moistened with the butter.
- Pour the crust mixture into a 9 inch springform pan. Using the bottom of a cup, or any flat surface, pack the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1/2 inch up the sides.
- Transfer the crust to the center of your preheated 325°F oven and bake for 8 minutes. The crust won't look significantly different, just slightly browned along the edges. Take the pan out of the oven and set aside to cool slightly while you work on the cheesecake filling.
- Make the cheesecake filling: In a large bowl, combine your blocks of cream cheese and sugar. Using an electric mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat together the cheese and sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved into the cheese (about 1 to 2 minutes on medium speed). You can do this by hand as well with a wooden spoon, but it'll take some elbow grease!
- Add your yogurt/sour cream, flour, salt, and vanilla extract to the cream cheese mixture. Mix together until combined.
- Add your eggs in one at a time, mixing after each addition to incorporate the egg into the batter before adding the next egg. Take care not to over mix! Just mix until the egg disappears into the batter.
- Pour your cheesecake filling over your slightly cooled crust. It's fine if the crust is still warm. Wrap the bottom of your pan with aluminum foil (to prevent leaks), and place the pan into a large roasting pan or baking dish with high sides. Fill the baking dish with boiled water until it reaches halfway up the side of the springform pan to create a water bath.
- Bake the cheesecake in the center of your preheated 325°F oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the surface is slightly puffed up and lost it's shine, and the edges are very lightly browned. If you gently shake the pan, the center of the cheesecake should still giggle but the edges should be stiff.
- Leave the cheesecake in the oven and cool for 1 hour with the door slightly ajar. After about 30 minutes, carefully run a knife along the edges of the cheesecake to prevent sticking and cracking. Cool the cheesecake completely to room temperature, and then chill for at least 4 hours or until fully cooled and set. Slice and serve!