Rich, creamy, and satiny smooth, this is my go-to easy cheesecake recipe. It’s simple to make but yields amazing results. Top it with chocolate, berries, or whipped cream!
This creamy cheesecake recipe is made of very basic ingredients. I love serving it for special occasions or holidays, and topping it with fresh berries and chocolate sauce!
Sometimes, simple is best, as cliché as it sounds, and this recipe is the perfect example of that. Heavy cream adds richness and makes for a delightfully creamy texture. And while it’s optional, I like to top the cake with a tangy sour cream topping that compliments the sweetness of the cheesecake wonderfully. I also like to bake the cheesecake in a water bath, which gives it an exceptional texture, but if you really want to skip that part, I’ve included instructions on how to bake the cake without it.
How to make cheesecake
Make the crust
Traditional cheesecake uses graham crackers for the crust, but feel free to use vanilla wafers or biscuits.
- Grind up the cookies. Do this in a food processer. If you don’t have one, place the cookies in a large plastic bag and use a heavy object to break up the cookies.
- Combine with melted butter. The cookie mixture should feel like wet sand.
- Bake. Press the crumbs firmly into the base of a 9-inch springform pan and bake for 8 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool completely.
Prepare the cheesecake filling
- Beat the cream cheese. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat room temperature cream cheese until light and fluffy.
- Add the sugar. Combine completely.
- Add eggs. Add each egg and emulsify one at a time.
- Pour in cream, vanilla extract, and lemon zest. Combine these ingredients and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that all ingredients are incorporated.
- Bake. Pour filling into the pan over your cooled crust.
If using a water bath: Line the bottom half of the outside of the pan with aluminum foil to prevent water from leaking in. Place the pan into a larger baking dish and fill the dish up with hot water so it comes up halfway of the springform pan. Gently place both pans together in a 325°F/160°C oven and bake for 60-70 minutes, until the center is just slightly wobbly.
If baking without a water bath: I highly recommend baking with a water bath to ensure the smoothest consistency, but if you want to skip this step here’s how to bake the cheesecake without a water bath for the best results.
After baking the crust, increase oven to 425°F/220°C. Bake cheesecake for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 225°F/110°C and continue baking for about an hour, or until the sides are set but the center is still slightly wobbly.
- Cool and top with sour cream topping. Allow the cheesecake to cool for 15 minutes, and then top with sour cream topping. Allow cheesecake to cool to room temperature and then place in the refrigerator to set for a minimum of 4 hours.
When ready to serve, gently run a knife around the edges of the cheesecake before removing the sides of the springform pan.
What does a water bath do?
Water baths are used for baking custard-based desserts. Because custards are liquid and contain eggs, they need to be baked extra carefully so the eggs don’t curdle when they get hot (think of what happens when you cook an egg in a frying pan). However, using a water bath allows the heat from the oven to distribute more evenly and at a slower pace. This produces an ultra creamy texture with no curdled egg or cracks on the top of your cheesecake.
Tips for making perfect cheesecake
- Use room temperature ingredients. Let the cold ingredients in the cheesecake batter to warm up by removing them 30 minutes before you plan to use them. It’s more difficult for cold ingredients to emulsify evenly, so warming them a bit helps create a smooth and lump-free texture.
- I highly recommend baking your cheesecake in a water bath. If you want ultra satiny-smooth cheesecake free of cracks, bake it in a water bath if you can. Otherwise, be sure to adjust the oven temperature accordingly as mentioned in the instructions.
- Use full-fat ingredients. Cheesecake isn’t the place to reduce your calories. Use the real, full-fat stuff to ensure rich, creamy, thick cheesecake.
- Line the bottom of your springform pan with foil. If baking your cheesecake in a water bath, don’t skip this step. It helps prevent any water from leaking into your pan and ruining your cake.
- Don’t use a knife to test when your cheesecake is done. This can cause your cheesecake to crack. Instead, test the doneness by giving your cheesecake a gentle shake. You’ll know it’s done when the sides are set but the center is still wobbly.
More of my favorite cheesecake recipes
- New York Cheesecake: Ultra rich and decadent, this recipe requires no water bath to bake.
- No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake: No oven required for this insanely delicious Nutella cheesecake.
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake: Made with creamy peanut butter and a crunchy Oreo cookie crust.
- Salted Caramel Cheesecake Mousse: Rich and satiny smooth, this individually portioned dessert is another amazing no-bake option.
- Pumpkin Cheesecake: The perfect fall cheesecake and a great alternative to traditional pumpkin pie.
Simple Classic Cheesecake
- 1 ½ cups (150g) vanilla wafer crumbs (pulse in a food processor or blender until finely ground, then measure)
- ¼ cup (55g) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 pounds (900g) full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs , room temperature
- ½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
- 1 ½ teaspoonds pure vanilla extract
- Grated lemon zest from 1 lemon , optional
- 1 cup (240 ml) sour cream
- ¼ cup (30g) powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.
In a medium bowl, stir crumbs and melted butter together until combined and moistened. Put mixture in a 9-inch springform pan and press with your fingers (or use the bottom of a glass) to form an even layer of crumbs. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-low speed until smooth and lump-free, about 1-2 minutes. Add sugar and beat until blended. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until fully combined. Add cream, vanilla extract, and lemon zest and beat just until combined and smooth. Pour batter over cooled crust and spread evenly.
If baking in a water bath: After baking the crust, reduce oven temperature to 325°F/160°C. Wrap the bottom and sides of the pan with one large piece of foil, then repeat with another piece. This will ensure that water from the bath doesn’t seep into the cake. Place the pan inside a large roasting pan, then pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides. Place gently in the oven and bake for 60-70 minutes or until the sides are set but the center is still slightly wobbly.
If not baking in a water bath: After baking the crust, increase oven to 425°F/220°C. Bake cake for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 225°F/110°C and continue baking for about an hour, or until the sides are set but the center is still slightly wobbly.
Allow cake to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then prepare the topping by whisking together sour cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth, and pour it over the warm cake. Let cool completely to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably more, until completely set.
Cover cheesecake with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.