Creamy Cheesecake

I posted this recipe waaaaay back 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.


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Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. I followed the recipe/instructions (water bath, letting it sit 20 mins after cooking, cooling, refrig. overnight) EXACTLY and still had a cheesecake that was not completely set 🙁 The edges were good, but the middle was runny. I made this for my husband for Father’s Day and was a little disappointed that it didn’t turn out perfectly. The few bites we did have were delicious though. Any suggestions on what I could have done differently?

    1. Oh, bummer! It sounds like it probably could have baked for a few more minutes. See, that’s the tricky thing with baking–those numbers are perfect for my oven and my elevation, but everyone is a little different and cheesecake is especially tricky because there’s no great way to check if it’s done other than the vague “Jello-y” center, you know? Anyway, I’d give it 5-10 more minutes (at least) next time and see if it comes out better.

  2. awesome cake I have never been a cheese cake person and I loved this. I was not able to give it a water bath but I did put a pan of water in the shelf below as it cooked, it turned out perfect

  3. I LOVE CHEESECAKE. And am so looking forward to making this one, but my husband loves strawberry cheesecake more. I want to make if for his birthday and was wondering when I should add the fruit or if you had any ideas on that? And also how much would you suggest adding? Thanks so much.

  4. I have made this recipe twice now. The first time I followed the instructions to the letter and it was great. The second time I decided to make it a little more healthy and used “Stevia in the Raw” a no calorie sweetener that is supposed to be all natural and chemical free. DO NOT DO THIS!!!! It was horrible. Suck it up and enjoy the extra calories.

  5. I have made this recipe twice now. The first time I followed the instructions to the letter and it was great. The second time I decided to make it a little more healthy and used “Stevia” in the Raw” a no calorie sweetener that is supposed to be all natural and chemical free. DO NOT DO THIS!!!! It was horrible. Suck it up and enjoy the extra calories.

  6. Trista–lowfat products affect the texture; it makes the cheesecake anything from cottage cheese-y to cracked and crumbly. I figure cheesecakes are a big splurge, so I'd rather have a small piece of really, really great high-fat cheesecake than a bigger piece of not-so-good low-fat cheesecake. 🙂

  7. Oh my goodness! I made this last night for my husband's bday dinner tonight and now it is just taunting me in the fridge. Is it tacky to serve a cake that has peices missing from it?

  8. Great post!! thanks so much for the tips! 🙂 my crappy springform pan leaks and when i made your divine pumpkin cheesecake a couple weeks ago, the crust was a tad soggy (still delish tho!) i can't wait to try the turkey bag AND this cheesecake!!
    :O) sara

  9. Looks good. I bought that little red plate at Target too. It's adorable.

  10. Kim, thank you! That means a lot coming from you! 🙂

    Jody, you'll definitely need a springform pan–you're right, that's what makes it awesome. 🙂 The good news is that you can find them for pretty cheap.

  11. I don't have a springform pan. Can I just use a deep dish pie pan for this? Or is the pan part of the secret to the awesomeness? 🙂

  12. I got another post for feed subscribers saying this wasn't going to show up in my feed, but it did, FYI.

  13. I really, really want to cry because I'm not eating dairy right now and I WANT this cheesecake. My birthday is in November though, and this is what I will be asking someone to make me for my birthday "cake." YUM!

  14. I've been looking for the perfect "plain" cheesecake recipe. Since your recipes are always perfect, I'll have to use this one! Thanks for the great tips!

  15. Thank you for the wonderful recipe and the great advice. Now I'm hungry!

  16. Anna, if you want to leave it out for allergy reasons, I would just omit it altogether. If you don't love almond extract, I would try leaving it in–it's just a tiny amount in proportion to the batter and it makes a world of difference. Hope that helps! 🙂

  17. Is there a substitution for the almond extract you can recommend? Or can it be omitted altogether?

  18. I know this was posted a LONG time ago, but I'm currently trying to find a perfect blueberry cheesecake to make for my father in law's birthday. Any suggestions for a blueberry swirl-in and topping using frozen blueberries? Thanks so much!

  19. Ok I’ve never commented on here, but I know of this site from babycenter (I’m sugarandspice). Anyway I had to comment on how awesome this recipe is! Mine did crack but I didn’t care because it tasted so good! My hubby said it was better than the Cheesecake Factory! Thanks for all the great recipes!

  20. Yeah, Heidi, it has more sour cream than cream cheese! But I think that’s what makes it so smooth and creamy… 🙂

  21. Wow, that has a lot of sour cream! I’ll have to give it a try, and just not tell my hubby : ). He has an aversion to “white salve”, which includes mayo and sour cream…but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, right?

  22. Yum! I am definitely going to try this sometime. But I also still need to make your mini-cheesecakes! What am I to do?? lol Make both! woo!

  23. Can I just say that I loove a little cinnamon in graham cracker crusts? It doesn’t make it cinnamon flavored, it just adds that perfect *something*. Looks yummy!