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How to Make Cheesecake

Perfectly creamy cheesecake can be intimidating for the home cook. The Taste of Home Test Kitchen is here to help! We teach you how to make cheesecake from scratch with a simple, trusted recipe. Plus, find plenty of tips and recipes—even a no-bake option.

By Elizabeth Harris, Contributing Editor

How to Make Traditional Cheesecake from Scratch

A slice of homemade cheesecake with a graham cracker crust.


What you’ll need:

Time

  • Prep: 20 min. Bake: 55 min. + chilling

Equipment

  • Small bowl
  • 9-in. springform pan
  • Baking sheet
  • Wire rack
  • Large bowl
  • Mixer

Ingredients for Crust

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter

Ingredients for Filling

  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

For Serving


Process

Step 1: Make a Crumb Crust

Using a rolling pin to crush graham crackers for a cheesecake crust.


Place crackers in a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag. Seal the bag, pushing out as much air as possible. Press a rolling pin over the bag, crushing the cookies or crackers into fine crumbs. Or, process the crackers in a food processor.

In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs and sugar; cut in butter until crumbly.

Press this into a crust. Use a flat-bottomed measuring cup or glass to firmly press the prepared crumb mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a springform pan.

Pressing graham-cracker crust into springform pan with the flat bottom of a measuring cup.


TIP: Your springform pan should not be warped and should seal tightly. If in doubt, tightly wrap heavy-duty foil around the outside of the pan to prevent butter in the crust from leaking.

Bake the crust until it sets. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

TIP: Before you preheat, arrange your oven racks so that the cheesecake will bake in the center of the oven.

Now, make the cheesecake filling. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in lemon juice and vanilla. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Stop the mixer every now and then to scrape batter down from the sides of the bowl.

TIP: Use regular cream cheese and sour cream, unless a recipe specifically calls for reduced-fat or fat-free products.

To bake the cheesecake, pour filling onto the baked crust. Return the pan to your baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 45-55 minutes or until center is almost set. The cheesecake will keep cooking after it comes out of the oven, so be careful not to let it overbake.

Cool the cheesecake on a wire rack in a draft-free location. After 10 minutes, carefully run a table knife or a small metal spatula between the cheesecake and the inside of the pan. This helps to prevent cracks during cooling.

Carefully running a table knife around edges of cheesecake in a springform pan.


Cool at room temperature for another hour. Then refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 3 to 4 hours. When the cheesecake is cold, cover it with a piece of foil or plastic wrap across the top of the pan and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. Don’t remove the sides of the pan yet!

Why do you have to wait to cut and serve cheesecake? The cheesecake will set completely after an overnight in the fridge, making for the ideal texture and a clean slice.

After all that waiting, you’re ready to slice and serve the cheesecake! Loosen the latch of the spring form and carefully lift the rim of the pan straight up. Slice the cheesecake while it's cold, but for maximum flavor, let your slices warm a little at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

TIP: Use a straight-edged knife to cut a cheesecake. Warm the blade in hot water, dry and slice. Clean and rewarm the knife the after each cut. This ensures clean slices.

Top with Raspberry Sauce and Sour Cream Topping if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes: 12 servings


How to Bake a Cheesecake in a Water Bath

Baking in a water bath ensures even, gentle heat.

Using a double thickness of heavy-duty foil, make an 18-inch square. Center springform pan on foil, then tightly mold foil around pan.

Forming foil around a springform pan before placing in a water bath.


Place springform pan in a larger pan, such as a larger shallow baking dish or roasting pan. Set dish on rack in oven. Using a large kettle or large measuring cup, carefully pour hot water into larger pan to a depth of 1 inch.

Pouring hot water from a kettle into a baking sheet for a cheesecake water bath.


How to Prevent a Cheesecake from Cracking

It happens to the best of us—sometimes a cracked cheesecake is just unavoidable. Try these steps, though, to give you the best chance at a smooth top:

  1. Let cream cheese and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before mixing.
  2. After adding the eggs, beat mixture on low speed. (If too much air is beaten into the mixture, it will puff during baking, then collapse and split when cooled.)
  3. Gently fold in by hand any additional ingredients like chocolate chips.
  4. Grease the sides of the pan so the cake easily pulls away as it cools.
  5. Keep that oven closed while baking cheesecake, especially during the first 30 minutes. Drafts can cause a cheesecake to crack.
  6. Don't use a knife to test for doneness because it may create a crack.
  7. Don’t overbake. When done, the edges should be puffed. The center of the cheesecake (about the size of a walnut) should not be completely set and will jiggle slightly. The center will firm upon cooling.
  8. Cool your cheesecake on a rack at room temperature for 1 hour before refrigerating.

How to Remove the Bottom of a Springform Pan

While you can definitely go ahead and serve the cheesecake with the pan bottom still attached, it makes a nicer presentation if the bottom is removed.

  1. Before baking, cut a piece of foil or parchment paper 2 inches longer than the bottom of the pan’s circumference. Grease the bottom of the pan, line it with the foil or parchment paper, and grease the foil or parchment paper. Clamp on the band, making sure the extra foil or parchment paper extends beyond the sides of the bottom. Before removing the cheesecake from the pan, it’s important to refrigerate it for at least 12 hours or preferably overnight to make sure it is firm.
  2. Remove the band from the pan. Run a large knife or a thin metal spatula carefully under the bottom of the cheesecake to loosen it. Hold down one corner of the foil or parchment paper and gently push the bottom of the cheesecake onto a flat serving platter.
  3. If the cheesecake is still difficult to remove, try warming the bottom of the pan. Soak a kitchen towel briefly in hot water and wring it out. Set the pan on the towel for a few seconds to warm the butter in the crust. While holding a corner of the foil, try moving the cheesecake onto the serving platter.

How to Store—and Even Freeze!—Cheesecake

Awesome news: cheesecakes can be made in advance, so there's one less thing to do when you're entertaining.

To store short-term, you can cover and refrigerate a cheesecake for up to 3 days.

For even more convenience, bake a cheesecake weeks in advance and freeze it. Here's how:

  1. Place a whole cheesecake or individual slices on a baking sheet; freeze until firm. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag. Freeze for up to 2 months.
  2. Defrost whole cheesecakes in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. Individual pieces can be defrosted in the refrigerator or at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.



How To Make Homemade Raspberry Sauce for Cheesecake

What you’ll need:

Time

  • Prep/Total Time: 15 min.

Equipment

  • Small saucepan
  • Strainer
  • Small bowl

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2-1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch; stir in water until smooth. Add raspberries. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; strain to remove seeds. Stir in lemon juice. Transfer to a small bowl. Store in the refrigerator. Makes: about 1 cup


How To Make Sour Cream Topping for Cheesecake

What you’ll need:

Time

  • Prep/Total Time: 5 min.

Equipment

  • Small bowl
  • Pastry or plastic bag

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

In a small bowl, combine sour cream and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Transfer to a pastry or plastic bag; cut a small hole in the corner of bag. Pipe desired design. Makes: 1/2 cup


How to Make a No-Bake Cheesecake

This one’s just stir, set and serve. The most (decadent) simple cheesecake recipe we’ve got.


Triple Berry No-Bake Cheesecake

Easy no-bake cheesecake topped with blueberries, raspberries and strawberry slices.


What you’ll need:

Time

  • Prep: 20 min. + chilling

Equipment

  • Small bowl
  • 9-in. springform pan
  • Large bowl
  • Mixer
  • Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • FILLING:
  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • TOPPING:
  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

In a small bowl, mix cracker crumbs, brown sugar and cinnamon; stir in butter. Press onto bottom and 1 in. up sides of an ungreased 9-in. springform pan. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Gradually add cream; beat until stiff peaks form. Transfer to prepared crust. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

In a bowl, gently toss berries with sugar. Let stand 15-30 minutes or until juices are released from berries.

With a knife, loosen sides of cheesecake from pan; remove rim. Serve cheesecake with topping.

Makes: 12 servings (3-1/3 cups topping)