The Best Kind of Cream Cheese to Use
Let’s talk for a minute about the cream cheese — a very important ingredient in cheesecake. Some people have brand loyalty to Philadelphia, and I won’t deny that this cream cheese makes a particularly silky and lush cheesecake. I’ve also made cheesecakes with local brands and off brands and been perfectly happy.
No matter what, buy full-fat cream cheese. Cheesecake is not the time to skimp.
A Cheesecake Needs More than Cream Cheese
But as delicious as cream cheese is, it needs some helpers to become a tasty cheesecake. Most recipes either use heavy cream or sour cream; either will do the job of softening the texture of the cheese and adding some moisture. Personally, I prefer sour cream because I like the extra hit of sour tang it adds to the cake.
You also need a few eggs to hold the cake together. Three whole eggs do the trick quite nicely. I also add an extra yolk, which enhances the cake’s velvety texture. (Whites tend to lighten the cake, which is actually fine — if you don’t feel like separating that fourth egg and don’t mind some extra airiness in the texture, just add in the whole egg.)
Starch Adds Insurance
A little bit of cornstarch or flour in the cheesecake batter is insurance against cracking and makes the cake easier to cut into clean slices, though it does change the texture of the cheesecake a bit. Starch makes the cheesecake more firm and sturdy, while a cheesecake that relies on eggs alone has a softer, super-creamy texture.
I have tried both and love both. I feel like the texture difference is actually quite slight — it might be noticeable in a side-by-side comparison, but it would take a true cheesecake connoisseur to distinguish one on its own. Go whichever route makes you happiest.
A Water Bath Makes Cheesecake Extra Creamy
A water bath isn’t strictly needed if you use starch in your recipe, and there are some methods for cooking even a starchless cheesecake on its own, but I still stand by this method. A water bath helps cook the cheeseake oh so gently while also creating a steamy environment so the surface doesn’t get too dry. It’s like a day spa for the cheesecake, and makes it supremely smooth and creamy.
A water bath is also not that hard. Just set the cheesecake in a roasting pan or other large baking dish, fill it with a few inches of water, and put the whole contraption in the oven. Wrapping the cheesecake pan in foil also helps keep any water from seeping through the cracks of the pan.
Preventing Cheesecake Cracks
There are two main reasons why your cheesecake might form cracks: Overcooking and too-fast cooling. Both are entirely preventable. Cook your cheesecake until the outer ring of the cake is slightly puffed and fairly firm, but the inner circle still jiggles like barely set Jell-o. A few toasty golden spots are fine, but if you see any small cracks forming, immediately move on to the cooling step.
When cooling, do it gradually. Let the cheesecake sit in the turned-off oven with the door cracked for about an hour, then remove it from the water bath and let it cool completely on the stovetop. When you remove it from the waterbath, also run a thin-bladed knife around the edge to make sure the cake isn’t sticking to the pan, which can also cause cracks as the cake settles.
An easy topping for that homemade cheesecake. Watch the video!
Always (Always) Chill a Cheesecake
A cheesecake is a make-ahead cake in the sense that you have to make it ahead. After all the careful baking and slow cooling, the cheesecake still needs to chill in the fridge and finish setting up for at least four hours or (ideally) overnight.
If you cut into the cheesecake before chilling, it will have a firm custardy texture, like flan, and you will think that you’ve done something terribly wrong. But afterchilling, it will have transformed into that velvety, creamy, lush cheesecake that we all know and love. It’s like magic.
4 Things You Shouldn’t Worry About
There are a few moments in this process when you may think that all is lost. I want to set your mind at ease.
1. Tiny bits of cream cheese in the batter: Sometimes you get some little specks of cream cheese in the batter that won’t go away — either because your cream cheese was still a bit chilly or because of the cream cheese itself (cream cheese with fewer additives tends to incorporate less easily into the batter, surprisingly). You don’t want large lumps, but these tiny speckles are fine. They will melt into the cheesecake as it bakes and won’t affect the finished cake.
2. A few cracks: Yes, sometimes you’ll get cracks in your cheesecake. It happens — usually if you accidentally cooked the cheesecake a little too long or cooled it too quickly. But a few cracks don’t mean you failed or that your cheesecake is ruined. Just cover it with topping and carry on.
3. A little water in the pan: Oh, no! Did a little water work its way through the foil and leak into your pan? Don’t worry about it. The outside edge of your crust will look a bit soggy at first, but it will set up in the fridge overnight with none the wiser. Promise.
4. Wrong pan size: If you only have a 10-inch pan and you want to make a recipe for a 9-inch cheesecake, it’s fine to use the pan you have. Changing the pan size when making cheesecake will affect the height of the cheesecake and its cooking time (thinner cheesecakes will cook a bit more quickly), but not its flavor or texture.
Go Forth to Cheesecake Bliss
You are now armed with the knowledge you need to make the best cheesecake ever. Use the recipe below, or just apply these steps and techniques to your next cheesecake — either way, cheesecake bliss awaits.
To make cheesecake, you will need 2 pounds cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch or 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (optional), 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3 large eggs, 1 large egg yolk, 12 whole graham cracker rectangles (6 ounces), 5 tablespoons butter, plus extra to grease the pan
How to Make the Ultimate Cheesecake
Serves 8 to 10
What You Need
For the cheesecake:
2 pounds cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch, or 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
For the crust:
12 whole graham cracker rectangles (6 ounces)
5 tablespoons butter, plus extra to grease the pan
9-inch or 10-inch springform pan
Stand mixer or handheld mixer
Measuring cups and spoons
Roasting pan or other dish big enough to hold the springform pan
1. Preheat the oven and warm the cream cheese: Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Take the blocks of cream cheese out of their boxes and let them warm on the counter while you prepare the crust, about 30 minutes.
2. Rub the pan with butter: Use your fingers to rub a small pat of butter all over the bottom and sides of the pan.
3. Wrap the pan in foil: Cut two large pieces of foil and lay them on your work surface in a cross. Set the springform pan in the middle and fold the edges of the foil up around the sides of the pan. The foil gives you extra protection against water getting into the pan during the water bath step.
4. Prepare the crust: Crush the graham crackers in a food processor (or in a bag using a rolling pin) until they form fine crumbs — you should have 1 1/2 to 2 cups. Melt 5 tablespoons of butter in the microwave or on the stovetop and mix this into the graham cracker crumbs. The mixture should look like wet sand and hold together in a clump when you press it in your fist. If not, add extra tablespoons of water (one a time) until the mixture holds together. Transfer it into the springform pan and use the bottom of a glass to press it evenly into the bottom. (For step-by-step instructions of this step, see How to Make a Graham Cracker Crust.)
5. Bake the crust: Place the crust in the oven (be careful not to tear the foil). Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the crust is fragrant and just starting to brown around the edges. Let the crust cool on a cooling rack while you prepare the filling.
6. Mix the cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch, and salt: Combine the warmed cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld mixer). Mix on medium-low speed until the mixture is creamy, like thick frosting, and no lumps of cream cheese remain. Scrape down the beater and the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
7. Mix in the sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla: Add the sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla to the bowl and beat on medium-low speed until combined and creamy. Scrape down the beater and sides of the bowl with a spatula.
8. Mix in the eggs and yolk one at a time: With the mixer on medium-low speed, beat in the eggs and the yolk one at a time. Wait until the previous egg is just barely mixed into the batter before adding the next one. At first, the mixture will look clumpy and broken, but it will come together as the eggs are worked in.
9. Stir a few times by hand: Scrape down the beater and sides of the bowl with a spatula. Stir the whole batter a few times by hand, being sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl, to make sure everything is incorporated. The finished batter should be thick, creamy, and silky. Don’t worry if you see a few specks of un-mixed cream cheese here and there; they will melt into the batter during baking and won’t affect the finished cheesecake.
10. Pour the batter over the cooled crust: Check to make sure the crust and the sides of the pan are cool — if they’re cool enough to comfortably touch, you can go on. Pour the batter over the cooled crust and spread it into an even layer against the sides of the pan.
11. Transfer the pan to the water bath: Transfer the pan to a roasting pan or other baking dish big enough to hold it. Bring a few cups of water to a boil and pour the water into the roasting pan, being careful not to splash any water onto the cheesecake. Fill the pan to about an inch, or just below the lowest edge of foil.
12. Bake the cheesecake: Bake the cheesecake at 350°F for 50 to 60 minutes. Cakes baked in a 10-inch pan will usually cook in 50 to 55 minutes; cakes in a 9-inch pan will cook in 55 to 60 minutes. The cheesecake is done when the outer two to three inches look slightly puffed and set, but the inner circle still jiggles (like Jell-o) when you gently shake the pan. Some spots of toasted golden color are fine, but if you see any cracks starting to form, move on to the next step right away.
13. Cool the cheesecake in the oven: Turn off the oven and crack the door open. Let the cheesecake cool slowly for one hour.
14. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and cool the cake completely: After an hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven and from the water bath, unwrap the foil, and transfer it to a cooling rack. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the cake to make sure it’s not sticking to the sides (which can cause cracks as it cools). Let the cheesecake cool completely on the rack.
15. Chill the cheesecake for four hours in the refrigerator: Chill the cheesecake, uncovered, for at least four hours or up to three days in the refrigerator. This step is crucial for letting the cheesecake set and achieving perfect cheesecake texture — don’t rush it.
16. Top the cheesecake and serve: Take the cheesecake out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to serve. Unmold the cake and top the cheesecake just before serving. You can serve the cake right from the bottom of the springform pan, or use a large off-set spatula to gently unstick the crust from the pan and transfer it to a serving platter. Leftovers will keep, uncovered and refrigerated, for several days.
• Store leftovers uncovered: Store cheesecake uncovered, both the whole cake as it chills and any leftovers. This avoids condensation building inside the container, which can make the top of the cheesecake mushy.
• Alternate crusts: Substitute the graham cracker crumbs with 1 1/2 – 2 cups of any other crushed cookie, including gluten-free cookies. Gingersnaps, chocolate wafers, and butter cookies all make great crusts for cheesecake.
Ideas for Topping Your Cheesecake
• Spread the top with a thin layer of sour cream or whipped cream
• Pour soft chocolate ganache over the top of the cheesecake
• Add chopped fresh fruit, either all on its own or tossed with a fruit syrup
• Warm some peanut butter with a little cream to form a sauce and pour this over the cheesecake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch fine salt
2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups sour cream
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla paste (see cook’s note) or extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
ADD CHECKED ITEMS TO GROCERY LIST
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.
For the crust: Melt the butter, covered in the microwave, in a medium microwave safe bowl, or a saucepan. Brush a 9-inch springform pan with some of the butter. Stir the remaining butter together with the crumbs, sugar, and salt. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom of the pan, taking care to get the crust evenly into the edges. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool. Wrap the bottom and up the sides of the pan with foil and put in a roasting pan.
For the filling: Beat the cream cheese on medium speed with a hand-held mixer until smooth. Add the granulated sugar and beat just until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl and beaters as needed. Slowly beat in the sour cream, then eggs, vanilla and both citrus zests; take care not to over whip. Pour into the cooled crust.
Bring a medium saucepan or kettle of water to a boil. Gently place the roasting pan in the oven (don’t pull the rack out of the oven). Pour in enough hot water to come about halfway up the side of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes—the outside of the cake will set but the center will still be loose.
For the topping: Stir together the sour cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Spread over the top of the cooked cheesecake and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Turn the oven off, cook the cheesecake in the residual heat in the oven for about1 hour. This gentle finish minimizes the risk of the dreaded crack in your cheesecake.
Remove cheesecake from the roasting pan to a rack. Run a knife around the edges and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
Bring cheesecake to room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Remove the springform ring. Dip a knife in warm water, wipe dry before slicing each piece. Serve with berries, if desired.
We love vanilla bean paste. It has intense vanilla bean flavor in a convenient paste form. It’s a great way to add great flavor and distinctive vanilla flecks without having to use a whole bea
250g plain sweet biscuits
150g butter, melted
500g cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
1/4 cup lemon juice
Icing sugar mixture and double cream, to serve
Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan-forced. Grease a 6cm-deep, 20cm round springform pan. Process biscuits until finely chopped. Add butter. Process until combined. Press mixture over base and side of prepared pan. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, sugar and lemon rind together until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until combined. Add lemon juice. Beat for 1 minute. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until filling is just set (mixture may wobble slightly in centre, but will firm on standing). Cool in oven with door slightly ajar. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until cold. Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream.
350 g digestive biscuits
120 g unsalted butter , melted, plus extra for greasing
900 g light or low-fat cream cheese , softened
150 g caster sugar
5 large eggs , preferably free-range or organic
Juice of 6 limes , (approx. 125ml)
1 vanilla pod , halved lengthways and seeds scraped out, or 1 tablespoon good-quality vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
FOR THE MERINGUE TOPPING:
3 large egg whites , preferably free-range or organic (the yolks can be used for making scambled eggs)
110 g caster sugar
40 g desiccated coconut
SHARE THIS RECIPE
TAP FOR INGREDIENTS
Preheat the oven to 160°C/310°F/gas 2½ and grease a 24cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Put your biscuits into a food processor and whiz until you’ve got really fine crumbs, then mix in your melted butter. If you don’t have a food processor, just wrap your biscuits in a tea towel and bash them up with a rolling pin until fine. Spread the biscuit mixture around the base of your greased tin, making sure you get it right to the edges, then press it with your hands to pack it down. Place the tin on a baking sheet and pop it into the fridge while you make the filling.
Whiz the cream cheese in a food processor until smooth, then gradually add the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Pour in the lime juice and vanilla seeds or extract and whiz again until just combined. Again, if you don’t have a food processor, just do this by hand. Don’t worry if the mixture seems too thin – it’s supposed to be like that. Tip it over your chilled biscuit base, spread it out evenly, and bake in the oven for around 45 to 55 minutes – you want the cheesecake to still have a slight loose wobble. Remove from the oven and set aside for 15 minutes to cool slightly. Turn the oven up to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.
To make the meringue topping, put your egg whites into a clean bowl and beat until they form soft peaks – an electric whisk is quite handy here. Gradually add the caster sugar and beat until thick and glossy. Finally, fold in the coconut. Spoon this meringue mixture on to the middle of the cooled cheesecake and spread it to the edges, using the back of a spoon, so it just covers the filling. It should be about 2cm thick. I like to make a few ripples and peaks in the top so it looks impressive. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, or until the meringue is starting to turn golden in colour and is crisp to touch. Let it cool down, then place it in the fridge for a few hours (this is important) to chill before serving.
Carefully remove it from the tin, transfer it to a nice platter and sprinkle over the lime zest. Really nice served with mango, strawberries and raspberries when they’re in season.
1-1/4 cups graham crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 pkg. (250 g each) Philadelphia Brick Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. zest and 2 Tbsp. juice from 1 lemon
zest and juice from 1 lime
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 Tbsp. icing sugar
Heat oven to 350ºF.
Mix graham crumbs and butter; press onto bottom of parchment-lined 9-inch springform pan.
Beat cream cheese and granulated sugar in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add lemon zest and juice, lime zest and juice, and vanilla; mix well. Blend in flour. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.
Bake 35 to 40 min. or until centre is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate cheesecake 4 hours.
Beat cream in small bowl with mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form, gradually adding icing sugar after soft peaks form. Spread over cheesecake.