I posted this recipe waaaaayback in the very, very early days of the blog and I’m posting it again today not only because it’s such an amazing, creamy, velvety smooth cheesecake, but also because I know that cheesecakes scare a lot of people, so I want to do a little troubleshooting to make sure you get a perfect cheesecake every time.
We’ve got some pretty awesome cheesecakes on here (if I do say so myself)–like this one or this one. But if you’re jonesing for that mile-high, dense, New York-style cheesecake, this is the one you’re looking for. I didn’t want to call this “plain” cheesecake because while it doesn’t have anything in or on it, it’s anything but boring! In spite of its simplicity, it is truly divine. For a party, you could have a cheesecake bar and set out slices of plain cheesecake and a variety of toppings for your guests.
I know there are some of you out there, though, who are scared of making cheesecake. Believe me, after the first time I made it (and had no idea what I was doing), I was terrified of making it again. Here are some common cheesecake questions and mistakes and how to fix them!
Question: What bear is the best bear?
Answer: Dwight, we’re going to limit these questions to cheesecake-related material. But in case you’re wondering, the brown bear is the best bear.
Okay, now, for reals…
Problem: The graham cracker crust is impossible to cut into; I hacked my beautiful cheesecake when I was trying to cut it.
Solution: When you’re pressing the crumb/butter/sugar mixture into the springform pan, be sure to do it gently. In fact, I don’t even really PRESS it in, I just lightly pat it or form it along the bottom and a little up the sides. It will firm up from the weight of the batter and from baking.
Problem: My cheesecake was too dry.
Solution: When you’re baking a cheesecake, you still want it to be quite jiggly in the middle (unlike just about anything else in real life). It should be lightly brown on top, but if you shake the pan, it should shake like Jello.
Problem: I followed your directions and took the cheesecake out of the oven while it was jiggly, but when I pulled the edges of the springform pan back, the cheesecake fell apart.
Solution: After you bake the cheesecake, you need to refrigerate it for at LEAST 8 hours and then, if there are still sides touching the edge of the pan, very carefully run a thin knife around the edges to loosen the cake. Then carefully and slowly release the sides of the springform pan.
Problem: My cheesecake was runny in the middle.
Solution: Same thing–the cake HAS to be refrigerated for 8 hours, preferably overnight, before you cut into it. I know, I know, patience when cheesecake is involved sucks.
Problem: I had small chunks of cream cheese in my batter and, thusly, found them in my cheesecake.
Solution: Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature, including the eggs. Start by beating the cream cheese until it’s smooth, regularly scraping the bottom of the bowl to loosen anything that might be sticking. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
Problem: What is a waterbath? Why do I need one?
Solution: A waterbath helps ensure that cheesecakes and other custardy treats bake evenly and avoid extreme temperatures while in the oven. You make one by placing the smaller springform pan inside a larger baking dish or roasting pan and then carefully filling the larger pan with water so it come up about 3/4 the sides of the springform pan. While not 100% necessary for this recipe, I have done it both ways and have had better, more consistent results when I’ve used a waterbath.
Problem: I have a crappy springform pan and when I place it in the waterbath, it leaks into my pan, even when I wrap the pan in foil.
Solution: I have a crappy springform pan, too, and the same thing happens to me. One year at Thanksgiving, I was making a cheesecake and realized I was out of foil (this was before I knew that even the foil would fail me). I had an extra turkey roasting bag and, in a moment of desperation, I placed the bag flat on the bottom of the larger pan, placed the springform pan on top, carefully filled the larger pan with water without getting any between the bag and the springform pan, and then tucked down the edges of the bag. It worked like a charm!
Problem: I used a waterbath, but as soon as I pulled the pan out of the oven, my cheesecake started to crack.
Solution: After your cheesecake is done baking, turn off the heat, kick everyone, especially pets and kids, out of the kitchen, and crack the oven door open. Leave the pan in there for another 15-20 minutes so the cheesecake can cool down gradually and you can avoid cracks.
Problem: I have no self control around cheesecake and I will eat inappropriately large amounts when I think no one is looking.
Solution: Maybe we should form a support group for others with the same problem. There are, after all, DOZENS and DOZENS of us!
I think that covers the major cheesecake-y questions, so let’s move onto pure evil. Or awesomeness. Or both.
Start with your graham cracker crust.I buy the graham cracker crumbs because a) I hate cleaning up from an unnecessary mess and b) I’m hopelessly loyal to Keebler graham crackers, but I can’t find the actual CRACKERS anywhere near me, so I use their crumbs instead. Then you just toss together the sugar, a hint of cinnamon, graham cracker crumbs and add the melted butter. Gently press the mixture into the springform pan and set aside.
Then you start making the batter. Mix the softened cream cheese with an electric mixer and add the eggs, one at a time, until they are completely incorporated. Keep scraping the bottom to make sure the mixture is smooth. Add the vanilla, almond extract, and sugar until completely combined and then add the sour cream. Yes, there is more sour cream than cream cheese in this recipe. Yes, it is awesome. No, I don’t think you could call it sour cream cake and get people to eat it. Beat on medium-high for 3 minutes or until the mixture is completely smooth. Pour it into the prepared springform pan.
Place the springform pan into a larger baking or roasting pan, wrapping the springform pan in foil or a turkey roasting bag. Bake until lightly browned on top and jiggly in the middle. Turn off the heat, crack the oven, and allow the cake to chill out for about 20 minutes before removing it and cooling it completely before refrigerating it.
See, look at that perfect, lightly browned, crackless top!
When the cheesecake has cooled completely, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 8 hours, closer to 12-14 if you can. Are you dying yet? It’ll be worth it in the end!
When the time FINALLY arrives, you can gently remove the sides of the springform pan. See?? Wasn’t it worth the wait?
Carefully cut it into 10-12 slices, or even more–this is about 3 1/2 inches high of solid cheesecake-y goodness, so a little is going to go a long way. You can serve it plain or with fresh berries, hot fudge, strawberry sauce, whipped cream, buttermilk syrup…the list goes on and on.
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese (NOT low-fat or fat-free), softened
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
3 c. sour cream (NOT low-fat or fat free)
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/3 c. white sugar
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375. Combine crust ingredients and very gently pat into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan. Set aside.
Beat the softened cream cheese until smooth then add the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Add in the sugar, salt, vanilla, and almond extract and beat on high for 3 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides and making sure the mixture is completely smooth. Add the sour cream and mix well. Pour batter into pan and wrap the pan with aluminum foil or a turkey roasting bag. Place the wrapped pan into a larger baking or roasting pan and fill the larger pan with water so it comes up about 3/4 of the side of the springform pan.
Bake for 35 minutes or until filling is custard-like. The center shouldn’t be completely set–it should kind of jiggle like firm Jello, but it shouldn’t be liquidy, either. Just don’t overbake. Turn off the heat and crack the oven and allow to stand for another 20 minutes or so. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 8 hours. DON’T remove springform sides until cake has set for 8 hours. Makes 10-12 (or more!) servings.