Learn the tricks to making a perfectly rich and creamy crack-proof New York cheesecake.
Nothing comes close to the decadent creaminess of a New York-style cheesecake. From the sweet almost sand-like graham cracker crust to the subtly tangy cream cheese filling, this cheesecake recipe is the epitome of delicious. There are tons of cheesecake recipes out there but going to show you how to make a truly picturesque one.
What is a New York-style cheesecake?
New York-style cheesecake is made with cream cheese, heavy cream or sour cream, and eggs to create that extra rich filling. Other cheesecake recipes use ricotta, some mascarpone cheese. There are recipes that call for gelatin and other fillers. A true New York cheesecake needs no filler and is made strictly with cream cheese
Three important things to know about making New York cheesecake:
- Start with room temperature ingredients. Softened ingredients will make mixing them together quickly much easier. The main reason being: it avoids over mixing. Over mixing will cause air pockets that can lead to cracks in the cheesecake.
- Never ever poke the cheesecake to see if it’s done! The center is supposed to giggle a little at the end of baking. The rest time in the cooking oven will continue to form the center. Do not, under any circumstances, “test” a cheesecake.
- It is not mean to be eaten on the day that it is baked! You must allow the cake to set under refrigeration for at least 8 hours before serving. It needs proper time to settle into the thick dense goodness that is New York cheesecake.
What do you need to make a NY cheesecake?
For this recipe, we are keeping it traditional and using cream cheese and sour cream as the base. I’m flavoring the cheesecake with vanilla and a little lemon zest for tanginess. I’m also using a little more sugar than most recipes. I like my cheesecake to be more sweet than tangy.
For the crust, you will need an entire box of graham crackers, butter, and granulated sugar. Browned butter is amazing in this crust but you can use plain salted butter if you aren’t familiar with browning butter.
Why do cheesecakes crack during baking and how do you prevent it?
Before we get into making the cheesecake, let’s understand why they tend to crack or in some cases literally split open during the baking process
Over mixing– I mentioned this earlier in the post. Over mixing can cause air pockets within the batter that could crack the cheesecake. Mix the batter quickly using room temp ingredients and moderate speed
Lack of moisture– Saying that the oven is hot is a no-brainer but the heat causes the cheesecake to overheat or cook too quickly. Adding moisture by way of a water bath during baking combats that. The second way is to bake at a lower temperature for a longer time
Temperature fluctuations– Opening and closing the oven door during cooking will cause the temperature to rise and fall. This causes instability in the forming cake structure. Keep the oven door closed; no peeking!
What is a water bath in baking and how is it used to bake cheesecake?
A water bath or bain-marie is a cooking method that adds moister using water surrounding the thing being cooked. A doubled boiler used to melt chocolate, for example, is a type of water bath. To bake a cheesecake, the springform pan is insulated with aluminum foil and placed in a large roasting pan. The roasting pan is them filled partially with boiling water before being placed into the oven.
Tips for preparing the springform pan for a water bath:
- There are two parts to the springform pan. Line the round insert with both wax paper and aluminum foil. The wax paper under the foil allows for a full release of the cheesecake after baking. Lining the insert with foil alone makes it difficult to lift the cheesecake off of the insert. The foil sticks to the insert and it’s harder to remove the cake. The was paper is a buffer.
- After the crust and batter are in the pan, line the outer pan with a double layer of aluminum foil secured around the top of the springform pan. Be sure that there are no gaps. You may need extra foil to cover any spaces.
Let’s make a crack-proof New York cheesecake!
The first step is to make the crust. Finely ground a box of graham crackers or cookie of choice ins a food processor. To a bowl, add the crumbs, one stick of melted browned butter, plus 1/4 cup of granulated sugar.
Stir well until the cookie crumbs fully absorb the butter. Pour and spread the mixture into the bottom of a foil-lined springform pan. Press it evenly along the sides to form a wall. Set the pan aside
Beat the softened cream cheese in a mixer on low-medium speed until smooth. Add in the lemon zest if using then the sugar gradually until it’s creamed. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.
Add the eggs one at a time. The batter will become pale yellow and creamier. Finish the batter with the extract and sour cream.
Fill the prepared pan with the batter being careful to pour in the middle of the crust. This will allow the filling to naturally read the sides of the pan without disrupting the crust
Follow the steps above for the foil insulation method and water bath. Bake at 275 degrees in a preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. NO PEEKING! After the cooking time has passed, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake rest undisturbed for 1 hour. Do NOT open the door! Once removed from the oven allow it to cool on an open counter for at least 2 hours before refrigerating overnight.
What is the perfect topping for cheesecake?
Fruit coulis! A fruit coulis is a fruit sauce made from puréed fruit and sugar with a little acid from lemon or lime juice. It’s the perfect topping for the cheesecake because it is simple to make and you can add as little or a much as you like. Try my recipe for Cherry Almond Coulis or an easy Raspberry Coulis from my friends over at A Baking Journey.
- 14.4 oz graham crackers pulverized
- 1/2 c salted browned butter or plain salted butter melted
- 1/4 c granulated sugar
- 1 tsp lemon zest optional
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 32 oz cream cheese
- 2 c granulated sugar
- 1 c sour cream
- 4 eggs
Prepare the Crust
- To a bowl, add the crumbs, melted browned butter, plus 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Stir well until the cookie crumbs fully absorb the butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of a foil lined springform pan evenly along the sides to form a wall. Set the pan aside.
- Beat the softened cream cheese in a mixer on low-medium speed until smooth. Add in the lemon zest if using then the sugar gradually until it’s creamed. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.
- Add the eggs one at a time to fully incorporate followed by the vanilla extract and the sour cream. Scrape the sides as needed.
- Fill the prepared pan with the batter being careful to pour in the middle of the crust. This will allow the filling to naturally read the sides of the pan without disrupting the crust.
Water Bath & Bake
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Place the prepared cheesecake into a large roasting pan. Pour 5-6 cups of hot water around the cheesecake pan. Be careful not to splash the cake. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 min).
- After 75 minutes, do not open the oven door.
- Turn the oven off and let the cake sit for another hour (60 min). Once removed from the oven allow it to cool for at least 2 hours before refrigerating overnight. (The cake will need at least 8 hours to fully set and chill through.)
There are two parts to the springform pan. I line the round insert with both wax paper and aluminum foil. The wax paper under the foil allows for a full release of the cheesecake after baking. Lining the insert with foil alone makes it difficult to lift the cheesecake off of the insert. The foil sticks to the insert and it’s harder to remove the cake. The was paper is a buffer. After the crust and batter are in the pan, line the outer pan with a double layer of aluminum foil secured around the top of the springform pan. Be sure that there are no gaps. You may need an extra foil to cover any spaces.