This better-than-the-bakery cheesecake recipe is rich and creamy – with a classic graham cracker crust. You can store this make-ahead cheesecake recipe in the springform pan and pop it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Add a swirl of whipped cream on top right before serving the cheesecake!
Best Cheesecake Recipe
Few things in life are better than sinking your fork into a slice of cheesecake! From the crunchy graham cracker crust to the silky smooth cream cheese filling… this seemingly fancy dessert is pure perfection! And actually quite easy to make at home.
And did I mention it’s the ultimate holiday dessert? Because you can make it days – or even months – in advance. Which is a good thing because although it’s an easy dessert, it’s definitely a time consuming one.
So be sure to read all of my tips and tricks for saving you time and money!
Better than The Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake?
Have you ever wondered: how are Cheesecake Factory Cheesecakes baked? You’re definitely not the only one pondering that question! I worked there for over 5 years as waitress, serving dessert to thousands of cheesecake lovers. And during that time, people asked me that exact question over and over again.
I probably consumed over 1 million calories taste-testing my way to the answer! I’d take a slice or two home almost every night… sometimes even more! And quickly it became my life mission became to learn how to bake next level cheesecakes. And after years of research, I finally created the perfect cheesecake recipe.
The Best Cream Cheese?
The most important ingredient in cheesecake is cream cheese! But with dozens of cream cheese options at the grocery store, it can be hard to know which variety works best, right? Well, I can tell you that after baking HUNDREDS of cheesecakes, the best cream cheese is brick-style cream cheese. I love Philadelphia brand, but use your favorite brand.
Just be sure your cream cheese is:
- Plain (Unflavored)
- And Room Temperature (before you begin baking)
Key Cheesecake Ingredients
Did you know you can make the best cheesecake with just 7 simple ingredients? Here’s what you’ll need:
- Cream Cheese: Our star ingredient, so be sure to read all my cream cheese tips above.
- Granulated Sugar: I don’t suggest reducing the amount of sugar in this recipe. Or using an alternative sweeteners, not even brown sugar.
- Eggs: Be sure to use large eggs, and bring them to room temperature before use. You’ll use both whole eggs and egg yolks. You can save the egg whites for another recipe.
- Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract adds so much delicious flavor. Do not use artificial or imitation vanilla.
- Heavy Cream: Aka heavy whipping cream. Do not sub milk or sour cream for this ingredient!
- Graham Cracker Crumbs: Pre-crushed graham cracker crumbs are the easiest choice, but if you can’t find them, don’t fret. You can crush graham crackers in a blender until they’re fine crumbs, then use them as called for in the crust.
- Butter: Unsalted butter works best, but in a pinch, salted butter will work just fine.
Some people ask if they can add lemon juice to this recipe to cut the richness, and you can. But don’t add more than a teaspoon.
Make the Graham Cracker Crust
- Wrap the bottom and side of the springform pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. When you place your pan in the water bath, the foil will protect the pan from water leaks.
- Spray the entire baking pan with non-stick spray. If you don’t have canned spray, feel free to grease the pan with butter. Greasing the entire pan will ensure your crust and cake don’t stick to the pan. No sticking equals perfect slices!
- Combine the melted butter, crushed graham cracker crumbs, and sugar until well combined. This is your graham cracker crust mixture!
- Press the crust down into the bottom of the springform pan firmly. A firmly packed crust will bake up nice and thick, and most importantly, won’t crumble much when sliced.
How to Make the Best Cheesecake
- Cheesecake Prep: Preheat the oven at least 20 minutes before you plan on baking. This gives the oven plenty of time to reach the proper oven temperature. Prep you baking pan by wrapping it with aluminum foil and spraying it with nonstick baking spray.
- Par-bake the Graham Cracker Crust: This extra steps ensure a crunchy graham cracker crust. Allow the crust cool as you make the cream cheese batter.
- Make the Cream Cheese Batter: Use a food processor, stand mixer, or a handheld electric mixer to make the batter. This will create the smoothest filling! Slowly pour the cheesecake batter on top of the crust. Then smooth the top.
- Water Bath: Place the cheesecake pan inside a large roasting pan and fill with hot water. Loads of tips on this step below!
- Bake the Cheesecake: Bake until the cheesecake is firm, but the center is just a little wiggly. Don’t over bake, it’ll firm up a good amount as the cake cools.
- Cool: This is by far the hardest part of baking a cheesecake! But be patient and let it chill at least 6 hours! I promise it’s worth the wait.
- Slice and Serve: The best way to get clean slices of cheesecake? Use a large sharp knife, and wipe it between slices. Top with a giant swirl of whipped cream right before serving! This is also delicious with homemade chocolate sauce or raspberry sauce.
- Storage: Wrap any leftovers tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Or follow my “how to freeze cheesecake” guide below and you can freeze for up to 2 months.
Do I have to make a Water Bath?
Yes, a water bath is an essential step in making the best cheesecake! The water bath helps the cake stay nice and moist! And it also ensures a crack-free presentation. But I promise, making one isn’t as hard or scary as you might think!
Learn how to make an easy water bath with this step by step tutorial! It’ll turn you into a total water bath pro.
How to Freeze Cheesecake
Baked cheesecakes freeze great, making them an incredible make-ahead dessert option! Here’s what you need to do:
- Remove the baked cheesecake from the oven cool completely at room temperature! This will take several hours, so be prepared to be patient.
- Wrap the whole cake – or slices – in two layers of saran wrap. Then wrap tightly in a piece of aluminum foil.
- Transfer the wrapped dessert into a freezer bag, tightly seal, and place in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- To defrost, simply thaw the wrapped cake in refrigerator overnight. Do not attempt to thaw in the microwave or oven!
Equipment Needed for This Recipe
- Electric Mixer: There’s no way to make this extra rich and creamy cheesecake without an electric mixer, so be sure to have a stand mixer, food processor, or electric hand mixer ready to go.
- Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil: I suggest using this heavy-duty aluminum foil because it’s extra wide and thick, which helps ensure no water leaks through to your cheesecake crust.
- Spring Form Pan: This cheesecake pan is a total workhorse and releases the cake effortlessly every single time.
- Roasting Pan: You’ll need a pan large enough to place the spring form pan inside. And while a large skillet or baking sheet with high sides might work ok, a roasting pan definitely works the best.
Extra Rich and Creamy Cheesecake
For the Crust:
- 2 cups (198 grams) graham cracker crumbs
- 1/3 cup (67 grams) sugar
- 7 tablespoons (99 grams) butter, melted
For the Creamy Cheesecake:
- 5 blocks of full-fat cream cheese (40 ounces total) room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs room temperature
- 3 large egg yolks room temperature
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) heavy cream room temperature
For the Crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Lightly spray a 9″ springform pan with non-stick spray.
- Wrap the bottom and sides of the pan with heavy duty tinfoil. I recommend doing several diligent layers here to ensure no water creeps through when you place the pan in the water bath. Set pan aside.
- In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter; stir well to combine. Firmly pat the mixture into the prepared pan.
- Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes. Place partially baked crust on a cooling rack and set aside while you prepare the filling.
For the Creamy Cheesecake Filling:
- In the body of a high power blender, food processor, stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a very large bowl using a hand held mixer, beat the softened cream cheese until completely smooth, scraping the bowl as needed.
- Add sugar and vanilla and beat smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Add in the eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add in the cream and beat until it’s just incorporated in the batter.
- Pour filling into prepared crust and, using a silicone spatula, smooth the top.
- Place the cheesecake pan into a large, deep pan. Fill the pan with 2 inches of hot water. This is your water bath and will help ensure your cheesecake comes out crack free.
- Carefully place the pan in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Turn oven off and let the cheesecake sit, undisturbed, for 45 minutes, inside the oven with the door shut. The cheesecake should be still slightly wiggly.
- Remove cake from oven and gently run a knife very around the edge of the cake. Place the cheesecake pan on a cooling rack and cool completely, then loosely cover the pan with saran wrap and chill for at least 8 hours.
- Cheesecake will keep, covered in the fridge, for 5 days. Cheesecake may be frozen for 2 months. Thaw overnight before slicing.