There’s a reason you’ll find a slice of cheesecake on just about every restaurant dessert menu. (Heck, there’s even a national chain dedicated to the dessert!) With its wide variety of flavors ranging from salted caramel cappuccino to swirls of jammy filling, this decadent treat is the perfect ending to almost any meal.
And while cheesecake may look intimidating to make at home, it’s actually quite simple. We’ll introduce you to our best recipes, time-tested techniques, must-have gear and more. Pretty soon you’ll be serving up slices better than any spot in town.
Classic Cheesecake Recipes
Let’s start with the classics: This traditional cheesecake recipe makes a great base for just about any topping. Next up is New York-style cheesecake. This type of cheesecake is super-dense and creamy—and often served plain or with strawberries on top, like on this Glazed Strawberry Cheesecake. Or try a chocolate cheesecake that packs a ton of rich flavor into a small package. Still not sold? Add a berry swirl to your cheesecake for a fresh, fruity taste.
- Easy cheesecakes: These simple cheesecake recipes are all sweet and no sweat.
- Holiday cheesecakes: Sure, cookies and pies might get all of the attention, but cheesecake makes for an equally delicious dessert at Christmas or Thanksgiving.
- Advanced cheesecakes: There’s no doubt about it: these cheesecakes are here to impress.
Mastered the classics? Here are our editor’s picks for what to make next:
Cheesecake Baking Tips
Whether you choose a traditional recipe or a no-bake, you’re bound to have some questions—and we have the answers! Read up on everything there is to know about whipping up the perfect cheesecake.
The Gear You Need to Start Baking Cheesecake
Unlike a standard cake (which can be made in several different pans), cheesecake requires a very specific vessel: a springform pan. But that’s not the only tool of the trade. Here’s how to stock your kitchen with cheesecake-baking essentials.
- Invest in a great hand mixer: If you don’t have space for a stand mixer, a quality handheld mixer is a great investment for cheesecake bakers as cream cheese can be hard to beat with a whisk. Our Test Kitchen prefers this hand mixer from Oster ($40).
- Have toothpicks at the ready: It seems silly, but a toothpick is all you need to swirl jaw-dropping designs into your cheesecake.
- Stock up on general supplies: No matter what treat you’re whipping up, these baking essentials will help the process go smoothly
Still a little nervous about making cheesecake? We’ve got the answers to all of your most pressing questions. We’ll walk you through everything from the water bath to tips for preventing cracks in your cake.
Q: What are the different types of cheesecake?
There are many varieties and flavors of cheesecake, in general, they can be split into two camps.
- Baked cheesecake: Traditional baked cheesecakes feature a rich, custardy filling made with cream cheese, sugar and eggs. Due to the latter, it needs to bake up in the oven before eating.
- No-bake cheesecake: This type of cheesecake doesn’t contain eggs. Instead, you pour the filling into a baked crust and let it set up in the fridge. Try our top-rated cheesecake recipes that don’t require an oven.
After that, the flavor possibilities are endless. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Ricotta cheesecake: Replace cream cheese with ricotta and you’ve got yourself a decadent, Italian-style cheesecake. Mangia!
- Red velvet cheesecake: This iconic flavor tastes even more decadent in cheesecake form.
- Savory cheesecake. Not all cheesecakes are sweet! Some are flavored with olives, herbs or cheese and served as an appetizer.
- Pumpkin cheesecake. Perfect for the holidays or just a chilly fall night, pumpkin adds a creamy richness to cheesecake.
Q: How do you make a cheesecake without a water bath?
Many cheesecake recipes call for a water bath. This method involves placing your foil-wrapped springform in a large pan, adding a few inches of water and then placing the entire vessel in the oven. A water bath creates a moist environment for your cheesecake, which helps it cook evenly and retain a silky texture. Water baths can also prevent the top of your cheesecake from cracking.
However, many bakers fear that the water will seep into their cheesecake as it cooks. Not to mention, water baths can be dangerous as you’ll eventually need to remove the bulky, steaming pan from your hot oven.
If you’d like to make a cheesecake without a water bath, we suggest taking a hard look at your recipe. Tall, filling-heavy cheesecakes like this pumpkin walnut beauty benefit from a water bath much more than a shorter cheesecake with less filling. And, of course, you never have to worry about a water bath with no-bake treats (hello, chocolate chip cannoli cheesecake).
Q: How do you cool a cheesecake without it cracking?
When it comes to cheesecake cracks, the biggest culprits are temperature changes, over-baking and forgoing a water bath when your recipe calls for one. So, to avoid cracks, try not to peek at your cheesecake while it bakes. Opening the oven door can let cool air in and disrupt the baking process.
As your cheesecake nears the finish line, utilize the wobble test to determine exactly when it’s done baking. A cheesecake that ripples when tapped with a spoon isn’t quite done, but a cheesecake that wobbles as one unit is ready to pull from the oven.
If your cheesecake does crack, don’t sweat. It will still taste delicious! Plus, you can cover up the crack with a sour cream topping, a layer of jam or fresh fruit, candy pieces, cookie crumbs, chopped nuts or any other toppings you’d like.
Bake These Next
Perfected cheesecake? Try making these other tasty treats!