Before we talk about cheesecake, if you aren’t on my social media, check out my new eCookbook link above. I have created a great mini eCookbook with 5 amazing cookie recipes for fall, available for purchase to download and print. Hope you like it!
We love pretty much any and all cheesecake in our household. I grew up eating the no bake from a box grocery store stuff and I loved that. For my birthday as a teenager my mom used to take me to a local cheesecake place for my birthday lunch/dessert. Once the Cheesecake Factory restaurant opened near us, we were always stopping in to pick up a slice.
My kids often ask for it and it is fun to make so I’m always happy to do it. This is great basic recipe for a vanilla cheesecake that you can embellish. Or use as a starting point for other flavors. In this case I had some homemade fudge sauce (recipe here) left from another project. This seemed the perfect thing to swirl into the top. You can also add chocolate chips, melted chocolate, berries over the top, and on and on. It is great by itself too though.
This recipe uses the typical graham cracker crust, which I love. It does not call for any sugar added to the crust. I don’t add extra sugar if I’m going to serve it topped with fruit or sauce. If I am serving it plain, I add 2 tbsp sugar. This is a personal preference on how sweet you like it and totally up to you.
There are a few tricks to getting a really smooth cheesecake that is perfectly baked and does not crack. First, make sure your ingredients like the cream cheese, sour cream and eggs are all at room temp. Trying to mix even slightly cold cream cheese results in lumps and it just doesn’t come together smoothly. Secondly, you want your ingredients well mixed. Mix on low and don’t overdo it, so too much air doesn’t get into your batter.
I also strain my batter through a fine mesh strainer into the crust so that if there are any lumps they get removed. Finally, use a water bath when baking the cheesecake, and allow it to cool in the oven for 30 minutes with the oven off and door cracked before removing it. Make sure to wrap your pan bottom in two layers of foil first to prevent crust getting wet.
An instant read thermometer is a huge help too in not overbaking. Cheesecake is ready for the oven to be turned off when it reaches 150 in the center. It is still fairly jiggly looking at that point so it is easy to think it needs longer. The filling will set up more as it cools. It goes really quickly from 150 to overbaked, so I test mine well before the suggested length of baking time. I have found that many recipes give too long of a baking window for my oven.
Hope these tips help you make a creamy, rich, delicious cheesecake your family and friends will love.
Vanilla Cheesecake (with Fudge Swirl)
For the crust:
- 2 cups finely ground graham crackes about 30 squares
- 1 stick unsalted butter melted
- 2 tbsp sugar optional
For the filling:
- 2 8 oz blocks cream cheese fully room temp
- 3 eggs room temp
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 pint sour cream 16 oz
- lemon zest from one lemon (optional)
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- sauce, fruit, whipped cream, or other additions optional
Make the crust:
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the ingredients with a fork until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- Pour the crumbs into the pan and, using the bottom of a measuring cup , press the crumbs down into the base and 1-inch up the sides. Bake for about 6-8 minutes until you can start to smell the crust. Don't over bake. Cool completely.
For the filling:
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute until smooth and free of any lumps. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat slowly until combined. Gradually add sugar and beat until creamy, for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. The batter should be well-mixed but not over-beaten. Pour the filling through a fine strainer into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
- Set the cheesecake pan on a double layer of aluminum foil and fold up the sides around it. Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan; the foil will keep the water from seeping into the cheesecake. Bake for 30-45 minutes. The cheesecake should still jiggle (it will firm up after chilling), so be careful not to overcook. It is done when the center is 150 degrees. Let cool in pan in the oven with the door cracked for 30 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack until room temp. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. Loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the inside rim.