Filed Under: Cheesecake | Dessert

Ultimate Classic Cheesecake

By Tessa Arias
  |  
January 1st, 2021
4.94 from 330 votes
4.94 from 330 votes

Stop right here! This is the BEST Cheesecake recipe! Buttery graham cracker crust and a perfectly smooth and tangy cheesecake with NO CRACKS thanks to the water bath. Keep reading to get my best cheesecake tips and the full recipe!

Yield: 12 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 2 hours 40 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Tangy and sweet, with a burst of freshness from the raspberry topping. Texture: Ridiculously smooth, creamy, and luscious with a nice contrast from the buttery crunchy crust. Ease: Definitely doable, and I've included a ton of extra tips in that free cheesecake guide above. Pros: It's a perfect cheesecake! Cons: Requires patience between the baking, cooling, and chilling. Would I make this again? Absolutely!

I am so excited to share the best cheesecake recipe EVER with you. Some of my all-time most popular blog posts in 10+ years of blogging involve cheesecake recipes.

slice of rich classic cheesecake with fruit garnished on top

I can see why. Cheesecake is that perfect combination of sweet and tangy flavors and smooth yet rich textures. Cheesecakes themselves can come in all shapes and sizes, and can even be incorporated into other favorite desserts (like this Cheesecake-Filled Chocolate Bundt Cake).

And while it’s fun to get creative with cheesecake recipes, I think the most basic and classic cheesecake recipe is often the most intimidating. It’s that simplicity that leaves little room for error!

overhead shot with slices of classic baked cheesecake with fruit on top

Which is why I’ve spent the last weeks meticulously testing this cheesecake recipe, and finding the best tips to make sure you can recreate it in all its perfection right in your own kitchen!

How to Make the BEST Cheesecake Recipe

Cheesecake Filling Ingredients:

  • Cream cheese – the star ingredient of any cheesecake recipe! More on this ingredient below.
  • Granulated sugar – 1 1/4 cups of sugar provides a perfectly sweet flavor without being sickly sweet.
  • Sour cream or plain full fat yogurt – for an ultra rich, slightly tangy cheesecake.
  • Lemon – There’s just enough lemon zest and juice to brighten this very rich cheesecake and enhance the tangy flavor. Don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like lemon cheesecake.
  • Eggs – helps provide a smooth and rich texture.

What is the best cream cheese for cheesecake?

First, buy the right kind. Full-fat cream cheese bricks for baking (not for spreading on bagels) must be used in this recipe.

Be sure to buy a high quality brand. Some generic brands are watery and rubbery.

The MOST IMPORTANT thing is to ensure your cream cheese is completely and totally softened to room temperature. If it’s too cold, you’ll end up with a lumpy cheesecake batter.

How to make a graham cracker crust:

  1. Grind your graham crackers finely using a food processor
  2. Add your melted butter and sugar, and mix to combine.
  3. Press firmly into a greased springform pan, using a measuring cup to press into the edges.

how to make graham cracker crust for easy baked cheesecake

What if I don’t have graham crackers?

I’ve included both the volume measurement of the graham crackers and the weight measurement so you can swap in any other crushed cracker, cookie, or biscuit. Some other cheesecake crust ideas:

  • Vanilla wafers
  • Digestive biscuits
  • Speculoos / Biscoff cookies
  • Amaretti cookies

How to make homemade cheesecake:

  1. Prepare a 9-inch springform for a water bath.
  2. Make your graham cracker crust: Combine the graham cracker crust ingredients in a  medium bowl. Then, press into the prepared springform pan. Bake and allow to cool.
  3. Make your cheesecake filling: Use an electric hand mixer or stand mixer to beat the cream cheese until smooth and free of lumps. Then, add the sugar and beat until combined. Next, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and juice and beat again. Finally, add the eggs and beat until combined.
  4. Pour the filling batter into your springform pan.
  5. Water bath: Place the springform pan in a larger roasting pan and then place onto the oven rack. Carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan.
  6. Bake at at 325°F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 150°F.
  7. Turn off the oven heat, open the oven door slightly, and let the cheesecake cool for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and from the water bath and transfer to a cooling rack. Let the cheesecake cool completely to room temperature. Enjoy!

What’s the best pan to bake cheesecake in?

This recipe requires a 10 cup, 9-inch diameter springform pan like this one.

Unfortunately not all springform pans are made equally. You want one that’s heavy duty and sturdy. Avoid dishwashers. Hand washing will extend the life of a springform pan.

Just because your pan is 9-inches in diameter doesn’t necessarily mean it has a 10 cup batter volume capacity. Every brand may vary slightly. Luckily for this recipe, the batter can stand as close to a 1/4-inch from the top of the pan since it won’t rise much in the oven thanks to the water bath.

Can this recipe be made into mini cheesecakes?

To turn this recipe into mini cheesecakes, bake in 2 standard sized muffin tins lined with paper or foil liners. Divide crust mixture evenly among cavities and bake at 325°F for 5 minutes. Fill with cheesecake batter and bake for 17 to 20 minutes. No water bath needed. Let cool completely then chill in the refrigerator overnight.

How to prevent cheesecake cracks:

side by side comparison of cheesecakes baked with and without water baths

When you follow this recipe as written, there won’t be a single crack in sight! That’s no easy feat if you’ve baked your share of cheesecakes.

The trick, of course, is gentle even baking and no abrupt temperature changes. We accomplish this by doing three things:

  1. Bake the cheesecake in a water bath
  2. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool completely in the oven
  3. Run a flexible knife around the edge of the cheesecake pan after as it cools so it can release to prevent cracks

How to prepare a water bath for cheesecake recipes:

how to make a water bath for classic cheesecake

Check out this article here on how to prepare a perfect water bath for cheesecake. The two keys? Heavy duty aluminum foil and heat safe oven bags!

How to tell if cheesecake is done baking:

Let me say this as clearly as possible… don’t over bake your cheesecake!! The residual heat of the oven will continue to cook the cheesecake even after the heat has been turned off. That means you want your cheesecake to look dry at the edges but slightly wobbly or jiggly like Jello in the center when the baking time has ended. The internal temperature should be 150°F.

How to chill & serve cheesecake:

The cheesecake will ONLY finish setting up after it has cooled completely then been chilled in the fridge for at least 5 hours but preferably overnight. Only then should you remove the cheesecake from the springform pan and slice it.

How long does cheesecake last?

It’ll last for 3 days in the fridge. Any longer and the crust will become mushy.

Can you freeze cheesecake?

Yes! Cheesecake freezes very well. You can place a whole cheesecake or individual slices on a baking sheet inside the freezer until firm. Wrap the cheesecake or each individual slice in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Freeze for up to 2 months.

To serve, defrost a whole cheesecake in the fridge overnight. You can also defrost individual slices in the fridge overnight, or at room temperature for 30 minutes.

How to prepare raspberry sauce for cheesecake:

Simply cook some fresh raspberries in a saucepan with a little bit of sugar and a splash of lemon juice then push through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. You can use frozen raspberries, you just want to let them thaw and drain excess water. The sauce for this cheesecake isn’t super thick and syrupy, just very fresh and flavorful. If you wanted to try something else, ideas are below.

Cheesecake topping ideas:

bite taken out of classic cheesecake recipe

More Easy Cheesecake Recipes:

4.94 from 330 votes

How to make
Ultimate Cheesecake

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Inactive Time 4 hours
Total Time: 7 hours 10 minutes
Stop right here! This is the BEST Cheesecake recipe! Buttery graham cracker crust and a perfectly smooth and tangy cheesecake with NO CRACKS thanks to the water bath. Keep reading to get my best cheesecake tips and the full recipe!

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 3/4 cups (230 grams) graham crackers crumbs (about 15 whole graham crackers)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 32 ounces (907 grams) cream cheese, completely softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup (173 grams) sour cream or plain full fat yogurt, at room temperature
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

For the topping:

  • 12 ounces (340 grams) fresh raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Boiling water, for the water bath

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan for a water bath. Place a large square of heavy-duty aluminum foil underneath the pan. Gently fold the edges up and around the pan. Repeat twice so there’s three sheets of foil to ensure a waterproof seal. Gently fold the top of the foil around the edge of the pan. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Make the crust:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter until the mixture is moistened. Press firmly into the bottom and halfway up the sides of the prepared pan. Place gently on oven rack and bake for 10 minutes. Place gently on a wire rack to cool. Maintain oven temperature.

Make the filling:

  1. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese on medium speed until completely smooth and free of lumps, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the sugar and beat until combined. Add in the sour cream, lemon zest, and juice and beat until combined, continuing to scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.
  2. Pour the batter into the foiled-wrapped springform pan. Tap the pan against the counter a few times to release any air bubbles in the batter. The cheesecake won’t rise much while baking in the water bath so it’s okay if the batter fills up most of the springform pan.
  3. Place the springform pan in a larger roasting pan or deep sauté pan. Place on oven rack then carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Bake at 325°F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top looks slightly dry, especially at the edges. If the middle is slightly wobbly like jello, that’s fine. The internal temperature should read 150°F with an instant read thermometer inserted into the center. Err on the side of underbaking rather than overbaking.
  4. Turn off the oven heat and open the oven door open just by 1-inch. Let the cheesecake cool inside the oven for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This will prevent cracks from forming.
  5. 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 flexible 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 to room temperature on the rack.
  6. Refrigerate in springform pan until completely chilled, at least 5 hours or up to 3 days. Store the cheesecake uncovered to avoid creating condensation, which will create a mushy texture.

Make the topping:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the topping ingredients. Heat, stirring and breaking up the raspberries often, until the raspberries release their juices and begin to form a syrupy sauce, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Using a spatula, press the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl to remove the seeds. Let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour before using. The sauce will be on the thin side.

  2. Release the cheesecake from the pan onto a cake stand or serving plate and top with any desired toppings. Slice using a big sharp knife, wiping it off under running hot water in between cuts. Serve.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

This recipe is best made as written without substitutions. Be sure your cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs are at room temperature COMPLETELY. Don’t skip the water bath either!
Course : Dessert
Cuisine : American
Keyword : best cheesecake recipe, cheesecake, homemade cheesecake

This recipe was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2021 with recipe improvements, more recipe tips, and new photos. Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.

January Baking Challenge

This recipe was the January 2021 pick for our monthly baking challenge! Every month you can join the challenge by baking the recipe, snapping a picture, and uploading it for a chance to win PRIZES. Click here for full details. Check out everyone’s cheesecakes:

Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

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  1. #
    Dina — August 7, 2022 at 1:45 pm

    First time making a cheesecake & it was a success! It was so delicious & tasted BETTER than Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. I ended up buying a silicone baking pan for $10 on Amazon to place my cake pan in for the water bath & it worked perfect. I suggest using the silicone baking pan over wasting foil paper & a baking bag, since they can easily rip & possibly destroy this delicious cheesecake! I can’t wait to make this cheesecake again!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — August 8, 2022 at 1:47 pm

      So wonderful to hear that you loved this cheesecake so much, Dina – and such a great tip!!! 🙂

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