Today I’m sharing my ultimate guide for how to make cheesecake. It includes everything you need to know and a list of the best cheesecake recipes. So whether it’s your first time making cheesecake or want to learn more about cheesecake science – this one’s for you 🙂
I absolutely LOVE cheesecake. Creamy, tangy, perfectly rich & completely decadent. Whether it’s New York , chocolate, or an easy no-bake cheesecake recipe – I’m having a second piece. Because it’s delicious. And I have no shame.
But I also realize that making cheesecake from scratch can be pretty daunting. Especially because the ingredient list is pricey.
So today I’m sharing everything you need to know about cheesecake. Including tons of tips and tricks. Seriously, it’s way easier than you think. And way more delicious than anything store bought.
Ready to get started?
Ok, first things first – exactly what is cheesecake?
By definition a cheesecake in a dense cake made of cheese (typically cream cheese), eggs, sugar and flavorings that (usually) sits on top of a crust. Cheesecakes can be baked or un-baked, and there’s a variety of different versions from around the world.
For today, we’ll be focused on American style cheesecakes. (This isn’t to say that Japanese or German cheesecakes aren’t delicious – it’s just that there’s only so much time in the day). 😉
History of Cheesecake
According to historians cheesecake was invented in ancient Greece, then brought to Italy and the rest of Europe by Romans. Seriously, who knew? But it wasn’t until 1872 that cream cheese was invented in Chester, NY by William Lawrence. In 1912, James L Kraft invented pasteurized cream cheese that we enjoy today, and the modern day cheesecake was born.
Typically the cheesecake base is made of graham cracker crumbs, a little sugar, and melted butter. Oreo cookie crumbs, crushed sugar cookies or a brownie bottom are other options if you want to go out of the box.
The basic ingredients in the cheesecake layer are cream cheese, sugar, eggs and flavorings. Sour cream, heavy cream or Greek yogurt are often added to create a smoother, lighter, and less grainy texture. You’ll also sometimes see a little flour or cornstarch added to the cheesecake layer. This helps bind the cheesecake.
How to Bake a Cheesecake
Cheesecakes are usually baked in a spingform pan, unless you’re making cheesecake squares or bars. There’s 2 main baking methods:
- The regular, method – where the cheesecake is baked in the oven and the pan is placed directly on the oven rack. I recommend an oven temperature of 325F degrees for this method so you bake the cheesecake more slowly.
- The water bath method.
The regular method has less prep work and leads to a crunchier crust, whereas the water bath method minimizes the chance of your cheesecake cracking and ensures a smoother, silkier texture because it keeps moisture in. With the water bath method, your cheesecake will bake more evenly.
How to Bake a Cheesecake in a Water Bath
- Before making the cheesecake, wrap the outside of a springform pan in aluminium foil.
- Wrap the pan at least 3 times so that all the sides are covered.
- When ready to bake, place the springform pan inside a large roasting pan.
- Pour 1/2 to 1 inch of boiling water into the roasting pan.
- Place the entire water bath in the oven and bake for the required time.
- After the cheesecake is done baking, remove the entire water bath from the oven and cool the cheesecake in the roasting pan.
- Once the water is room temperature, remove the cheesecake from the water bath and continue cooling.
What Causes a Cheesecake to Crack?
This is probably the most common question when it comes to baking cheesecakes. Air in the batter causes the cheesecake to rise while baking, then as it cools the air is released and cracks are formed. By reducing the amount of air that’s added to the cheesecake and slowing down the cooling process, you can reduce the chance of cracks. There’s multiple ways you can do this and ensure your cheesecake stays silky smooth. I’ve listed my favorite tips below.
Tips for the Perfect Cheesecake
- Use room temperature ingredients. This makes it easier to mix everything together and reduces the amount of air that gets into the batter.
- Add a little flour or cornstarch. This helps bind your cheesecake and reduces the chance of cracks. Typically 1 tablespoon of cornstarch or flour is good for a 9 inch cheesecake. (This is only needed for baked cheesecakes).
- Don’t mix your cheesecake batter too much. After adding the eggs, be careful not to over mix. The more you beat in the eggs, the more air gets in the batter. More air = more likely to crack.
- Don’t over bake. When you take your cheesecake out of the oven it should still have a little wobble in the center. It will continue baking in its pan as it cools. If you over bake your cheesecake, it can get dry and lose that perfectly smooth texture.
- Bake in a water bath. For the creamiest, smoothest cheesecake – I always recommend a water bath. A water bath reduces drastic changes in temperature, keeps moisture in, and causes cheesecake to bake more evenly.
- Cool the cheesecake slowly. Fast changes in temperature cause air to be released from the cheesecake very quickly and can crack your cheesecake and make it sink.
- Chill. I recommend chilling your cheesecake in the fridge for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight before serving. The flavor actually improves while the cheesecake chills.
- Cut yourself a massive slice. <– This is mandatory.
Best Cheesecake Recipes
Ok, so now that we’ve gone through a ton of tips, tricks & history – here’s a collection of some of my favorite cheesecake recipes.
Everyone needs a perfect plain cheesecake recipe. Easily customizable and classic – if you’re not sure what flavor to start with – either of these recipes are the perfect option.
In my (humble) opinion – chocolate cheesecakes are the best of both worlds. With chocolate cheesecakes, it can be especially common for the cheesecake layer to dry out – so make sure to use the water bath method for baking.
- Chocolate Cheesecake
- Nutella Cheesecake from Baked by An Introvert
- White Chocolate Cheesecake
- Oreo Cheesecake Bars from Sugar Spun Run
- Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake from Buns in My Oven
- Layered Mocha Cheesecake from Marsha’s Baking Addiction
- Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes from Love From the Oven
- Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Compote
- Caramel Apple Cheesecake from Cakes Cottage
Other Cheesecake Flavors
Because options are always a good thing.
- Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars
- Pecan Praline Cheesecake Bars from the Domestic Rebel
- Pumpkin Cheesecake
No Bake Cheesecakes
If you’re in a rush – a no bake cheesecake is the perfect option. These recipes are very easy and perfect for warm weather when you don’t feel like turning on the oven.
- No Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake
- No Bake Lemon Cheesecake from the Recipe Rebel
- No Bake Cherry Cheesecake Bars
- No Bake Strawberry Cheesecake Pie from Spend with Pennies
- Mini No Bake Raspberry Cheesecakes from Oh Sweet Basil
Cheesecake Inspired Desserts
Or if you love the flavor of cheesecake but are looking for something a little different – check out these cheesecake inspired desserts!
- Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes from the Recipe Rebel
- Cheesecake Brownies
- No Churn White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream from Garnish & Glaze
What’re your favorite cheesecake recipes?