This cheesecake recipe makes a creamy, ultra-smooth cheesecake with vanilla wafer crust. It’s seriously the best! Learn how to make a classic cheesecake, plus simple tricks for using a water bath to bake your cheesecake.
An Easy Cheesecake Recipe for Beginners
I’m a big fan of cheesecake and it’s no secret around here. I have a ton of cheesecake recipes, but not a classic, easy one like this. Why? I don’t know, but we are fixing that today!
This simple cheesecake recipe is as straightforward as it gets for a baked cheesecake. I daresay it’s the best recipe for beginners! The vanilla cheesecake filling sits in a vanilla wafer crust and is the perfect base for any number of toppings. In fact, one of the best things about this cheesecake is that you can make it and serve it with so many different things. Everyone can pick their favorite topping and everybody’s happy!
How to Make a Cheesecake
I’ve broken everything down step-by-step and included tons of detail so that you can make the best cheesecake ever!
Step 1: Assemble Your Tools and Ingredients
You’ll want to make sure you have a springform pan handy. The removable sides make it much easier to remove the cheesecake from the pan after it’s done baking and cooling. Unlike a regular cake, you aren’t going to want to flip this baby upside down.
You should also have another pan that’s larger than the springform pan handy. This cheesecake is going to need a water bath (which we’ll talk more about later), so you’ll need a bigger pan to put the water into.
Also, leave yourself plenty of time. While putting everything together is pretty easy and simple, it can take a little time and you do need about five to six hours for the cheesecake to cool and firm up once it’s baked.
Step 2: Make the Vanilla Wafter Crust
Every great classic cheesecake recipe starts with a great crust and in this case, we are using a vanilla wafer crust. I personally love the flavor of the vanilla wafer cookies, but if want to use a graham cracker crust, I’ve got you covered there too. This Graham Cracker Crust recipe is easy to swap out.
Regardless of what you use, the process is the same. Grind up those cookies so you have fine crumbs. You don’t want any big chunks or it’ll disturb the ability of your crust to hold together well.
Next, you’ll add a touch of sugar and some melted butter to the crust and stir everything together. Add the crust to your springform pan and press it into the bottom and up the sides. You can make the sides as tall as you like. There’s really no wrong way to do it. There’s plenty of crust here to make a nice bottom and sides. I like to use a cup with straight sides or a measuring cup to press the crust in firmly and get good corners.
Once your crust is in the pan, you’ll want to bake it for about 10 minutes. That will ensure that it stays sturdy when you slice into it later.
Step 3: Make the Cheesecake Filling
Next up is the filling of the cheesecake. You want to use room temperature cream cheese to prevent a lumpy cheesecake. I also recommend the full fat stuff for the creamiest cheesecake!
Add some sugar and a little bit of flour to the cream cheese and combine it all together. The flour is a nice little touch to give you a creamier textured cheesecake that isn’t quite so dense. Then you’ve got your sour cream, vanilla and eggs. The sour cream adds great flavor and creaminess and is a must!
When mixing all the ingredients together, you want to be sure to use a lower speed setting and not over mix. It can add more air to the batter, which can lead to cracks. One of cheesecake’s biggest enemies is cracks, so let’s avoid them and steer clear of excess air bubbles.
Add the batter to the crust and it’s time to bake it!
Step 4: Bake Your Cheesecake
I know water bath can seem intimidating with cheesecakes, but it really is the best way to go. You’re going to get a more creamy cheesecake that doesn’t crack, brown around the edges or fall in the center while it cools. When you put so much time into a dessert, you don’t want any of those things to happen.
One of the biggest problems people encounter with water baths is leaking. Springform pans are unreliable and aluminum foil easily gets tiny little tears it in when you’re wrapping it around your pan. I have a fantastic little trick I use to keep water out of my cheesecake and it works every time. I use a crock pot liner bag! The best! See exactly how I set it up in my tutorial for a leak-proof cheesecake water bath.
Once you have your water bath set up, pop the cheesecake in the oven. It should bake for a little over an hour. You can tell when it’s done because the edges will be set, but the center few inches will still be jiggly. It might not seem like it’s fully baked, but that’s ok! One of the other important parts of a perfect cheesecake is to let it cool gradually (and finish baking).
Step 5: Let Your Cheesecake Cool
After that hour plus of baking, you’ll leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door closed for another 30 minutes. During that time, the cheesecake will continue to bake, but also begin to gradually cool. At the end of that time, it’ll be perfectly baked! Cool, right?!
You’ll continue to cool the cheesecake in the oven for another 30 minutes, but this time the door is cracked to let it cool even more. This slow cooling process helps to prevent cracks, so be sure not to skip it!
Finally, you’ll pop the cheesecake into the fridge to cool completely and firm up, about 5 to 6 hours. When it’s ready, take it out of the springform pan and serve it with your favorite toppings! I’ve got several listed in the recipe, but the options are endless!
5 Tips for the Best Cheesecake
In addition to these tips, you might also like this tutorial with 10 Tips and Tricks for Perfect Cheesecake. If this is your first time making homemade cheesecake, this recipe and that tutorial pretty much guarantee success.
Ok, so what do we need to keep in mind for our cheesecake?
1. Use a springform pan
This is not 100% necessary. However, using a springform pan makes it so much easier to remove your cheesecake and achieve a perfect crust.
2. Use room temperature ingredients
Making sure your cream cheese is at room temperature is probably the most important step. Room temp cream cheese blends easier and ensures that your cheesecake filling is smooth with no lumps.
3. Mix the filling on low speed and don’t over mix it
Over mixing your filling (including over-beating your eggs) will ruin the cheesecake and cause cracks. Make sure to keep your mixer set to low speed, and to only mix your ingredients until they are just combined. Pause between adding ingredients to scrape down the bowl and make sure everything gets incorporated.
4. Use a water bath and use my secret trick for no leaks!
I get it, water baths can seem intimidating! But if you follow a few simple steps, using a water bath to make the best cheesecake of your life is actually very doable. Here is a tutorial on how to use a water bath and avoid any leaks!
5. Cool the cheesecake slowly
You can’t rush cheesecake and your patience will be rewarded, I promise! Letting your cheesecake cool properly allows the filling to firm up and will give you that creamy cheesecake texture you’re craving.
One of the best things about a classic vanilla cheesecake is how many options you have when it comes to toppings. I love to drizzle chocolate or salted caramel on top, then add whichever berries are in season. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries – you name it. A dollop of whipped cream to top it all off is never a bad idea either.
How to Store Cheesecake
Cheesecake should be stored in the refrigerator. I usually leave the springform ring on the cheesecake, then cover it with saran wrap. I also add the ring back to the cheesecake if a few slices have been eaten. The springform pan ring prevents the saran wrap from sticking to the surface of the cheesecake and ensures that everything looks pretty next time you want to grab a slice!
Cheesecake will keep in the fridge for 5-6 days.
Can I Freeze It?
Generally speaking, cheesecake should be fine when frozen. This is a great cheesecake to freeze since it’s simple and there aren’t any toppings or anything complicated about it.
Just make sure you’ve cooled it completely before freezing. Cover it well with a couple layers of clear wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil. When you’re ready to use it, pop it in the fridge to thaw overnight. If you freeze this cheesecake, it should be fine for at least a month.
Read transcript Print
This cheesecake recipe is the best place to start if you’ve never made cheesecake and want to learn how to do it.
VANILLA WAFER CRUST
- 2 ¼ cups (302g) vanilla wafer crumbs
- ½ cup (112g) salted butter, melted
- 3 tbsp (39g) sugar
- 24 ounces (678g) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup (207g) sugar
- 3 tbsp (24g) all purpose flour
- 1 cup (230g) sour cream
- 1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
Make the Crust
- Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C). Line a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan with parchment paper in the bottom and grease the sides.
- Combine the crust ingredients in a small bowl. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan.
- Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.
- Cover the outsides of the pan with aluminum foil so that water from the water bath cannot get in (see how I prepare my pan for a water bath). Set prepared pan aside.
Assemble and Bake
- Reduce oven temperature to 300°F (148°C).
- In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and flour on low speed until well combined and smooth. Be sure to use low speed to reduce the amount of air added to the batter, which can cause cracks. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the sour cream and vanilla extract and mix on low speed until well combined.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly to combine after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is well combined.
- Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust.
- Place the springform pan inside another larger pan. Fill the outside pan with enough warm water to go about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. The water should not go above the top edge of the aluminum foil on the springform pan.
- Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. The center should be set, but still jiggly.
- Turn off the oven and leave the door closed for 30 minutes. The cheesecake will continue to cook, but slowly begin to cool as well.
- Crack the door of the oven for 30 minutes to allow the cheesecake to continue to cool slowly. This process helps prevent cracking.
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven and water bath wrapping and refrigerate until firm, 5-6 hours or overnight.
- Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan and place on a serving dish. Refrigerate cheesecake until ready to serve.
- Serve with your favorite toppings. Cheesecake best for about 5 days.
- Serving Size: 1 slice
- Calories: 357
- Sugar: 19.2 g
- Sodium: 239.3 mg
- Fat: 27.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 22.8 g
- Protein: 6.2 g
- Cholesterol: 125.4 mg
Keywords: best cheesecake recipe, how to make cheesecake, cheesecake water bath, homemade cheesecake
This is a simple, easy cheesecake recipe that you can use over and over. Change up in all kinds of ways and serve with a multitude of toppings.
And once you’ve mastered this recipe, you can venture out to other fun versions. Here are a few favorites you could try:
- Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake
- Banana Cream Cheesecake
- Kahlua Coffee Brownie Cheesecake
- Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake
- Caramel Cheesecake
- S’mores Cheesecake
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