This red velvet cheesecake is a truly beautiful dessert. It has the perfect red velvet flavor, a luxuriously creamy texture and a chocolate cookie crust. Topped with tangy cream cheese frosting – you’ll amaze yourself with this restaurant-quality cheesecake.
I’ve been playing with the idea of a red velvet cheesecake for a long time – and this recipe has everything you could want. The beautiful red color, hint of chocolate, and slight tanginess (all key characteristics of red velvet) lend themselves perfectly to cheesecake. Then an Oreo cookie crust and a cream cheese topping really take it to the next level. Because you can’t have red velvet with without cream cheese frosting.
Red velvet cake is somewhere in between chocolate and vanilla in flavor and has almost a hint of tanginess. In any red velvet recipe, this flavor comes from adding a little cocoa powder for the chocolate. Then buttermilk and vinegar for the hint of tang. You’ll see all of these ingredients in this cheesecake recipe – plus, the obvious cheesecake things.
A Few Notes About Ingredients
The ingredients to make cheesecake are expensive – which is exactly why it’s so frustrating if the recipe doesn’t turn out. Therefore, do not substitute any ingredients, otherwise, the results can vary significantly.
- For the crust, we’re using chocolate wafer cookies. You’ll use both the wafers and the filling when you crush the cookies.
- Cream cheese should be full-fat, brick-style cream cheese. I always use Philadelphia. Light, spreadable or whipped (like the kinds that come in a tub) don’t work for making cheesecake because they aren’t thick enough or, in the case of low-fat cream cheese, can end up grainy.
- Sour cream makes the cheesecake silky smooth. Again – full-fat is the way to go. In Canada and the US, full-fat sour cream is typically about 14-18% MF – so something in this range is perfect. Note – since moving to Australia I’ve seen sour cream sold in a carton. You want the kind of sour cream that’s sold in a tub.
- There really isn’t a substitute for buttermilk in this recipe. Plain milk is too thin and won’t provide the necessary tanginess.
- The amount of red food coloring is a little bit up to you. I like to use 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of liquid red food coloring for red color pictured.
Important: The cream cheese, sour cream and eggs must be room temperature before getting started. Take them out of the fridge, measure out the amounts, slice the cream cheese into pieces, and leave them on the counter for about 30 minutes prior to making the base. This is pertinent so that everything mixes together properly.
Baking, Chilling and Serving Red Velvet Cheesecake
This cheesecake recipe is baked in a water bath. The water bath keeps moisture in so that the cheesecake stays creamy instead of grainy and dry. It also minimizes quick changes in temperature which can cause the cheesecake to crack. It’s like insurance for your cheesecake. To make the water bath you:
- Wrap the outside of your springform pan in aluminum foil at least 4 times so that all the edges, and all the seams are covered multiple times. (You’ll do this before making the crust).
- When you’re done making the filling, you’ll place the cheesecake pan (still wrapped in foil and with the crust prepared) in the middle of a large roasting pan. Then pour the batter over the crust and smooth the top.
- Pour about ½ to 1 inch (1 – 2 cm) of boiling water into the roasting pan.
- Then the whole contraption goes in the oven to bake.
How to Know When Your Cheesecake is Done Baking
This recipe will bake for 70-80 minutes at 350F (180C) degrees. Ovens can vary by 10-20%, which is why there is a discrepancy. I recommend checking at 60 minutes, just in case. When it’s done baking it should look just set on top, except potentially in the very middle. If you give the pan a gentle nudge, it should still wobble in the middle like jello or pudding, but not like a glass of milk.
The cheesecake must cool very slowly to minimize drastic changes in temperature (which can cause it to shrink and crack). Then once it fully cools, you’ll cover the pan and chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours (or overnight) for the cheesecake to set.
After the cheesecake has chilled in the fridge, a delicious, tangy cream cheese frosting goes on top. The topping isn’t quite as sweet as cream cheese frosting, but you can always adjust the amount of powdered sugar that goes into the recipe.
Typically, I’ll make the cheesecake the day before I plan to serve it, then chill in the fridge overnight. I’ll add the cream cheese topping sometime the next day, then pop it back in the fridge until I’m ready to serve. You could also top your cheesecake with chocolate ganache if you prefer, like I do with my chocolate cheesecake recipe.
And for more red velvet treats, don’t forget to try:
Red Velvet Cheesecake
- 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan
- large roasting pan (big enough to fit the springform pan inside)
- Aluminum Foil
- 26 Oreo Cookies wafers and filling
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
Red Velvet Cheesecake Filling
- 24 ounces full-fat cream cheese* room temperature
- 1 ¼ cup white sugar
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- ¾ cup sour cream room temperature
- ⅓ cup buttermilk*
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons liquid red food coloring I used 2 tablespoons in the photos
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- boiling for the water bath
Cream Cheese Topping
- ¼ cup unsalted butter softened
- 4 ounces full-fat cream cheese softened
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 - 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
- Wrap the outside of a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan with aluminum foil at least 4 times so that the bottom and sides are covered, and that all seams are covered as well.
- Place the cookies (wafers and filling) in a food processor and blitz until the cookies are fine crumbs. Or place the cookies in a freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin.
- Mix the crushed cookies with the melted butter.
- Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and slightly up the sides (about ¼ inch) so that there's a slight lip around the edges.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven (keep the oven turned on).
- Beat the cream cheese and sugar until soft. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.
- Beat in the cocoa powder and sour cream. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
- With the mixer on low speed, carefully mix in the buttermilk, vanilla extract, vinegar and food coloring.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs. Then carefully beat them into the cheesecake batter until just incorporated.
Baking and Cooling the Cheesecake
- Place the crust (with the pan still wrapped in aluminum foil) in the middle of a large roasting pan.
- Pour the cheesecake batter over the crust and smooth the top.
- Pour boiling water into the roasting pan so that there's about 1 inch of water (2.5 cm) in the roasting pan.
- Place the roasting pan (with the cheesecake inside) in the oven (still at 350F degrees from baking the crust) and bake for 70-80 minutes. When the cheesecake is done baking, it should look just set on the top, except perhaps in the very middle. If you give the pan a nudge, it should wobble in the middle like jello or pudding. If it wobbles like a liquid, then it's not done baking yet. I recommend checking around 60 minutes, just in case.
- Remove the roasting pan from the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool fully while still in roasting pan.
- Once the cheesecake has fully cooled, remove it from the roasting pan, cover the pan, and place in the fridge to chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Cream Cheese Topping
- Beat the butter until soft, then mix in the cream cheese.
- Add in the salt, and with the mixer on low speed beat in the powdered sugar about ½ cup at a time until the desired sweetness is reached.
- Top the cheesecake with the cream cheese frosting, leving a small perimeter around the edges. Return back to the fridge until ready to serve.
- When ready to serve, unclamp the outer ring of the springform pan. Slice with a sharp knife (such as a paring knife - not a table knife), ensuring that you slice all the way through the crust.
- Make sure to use full-fat, brick-style cream cheese. Do not use spreadable, whipped or light cream cheese (such as ones that come in a tub).
- Unfortunately, there are really no substitutes for buttermilk in this recipe.
- Nutrition information is an estimate only and based on 1 slice, assuming the cheesecake is sliced into 14 equal pieces.
- Store cheesecake covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.