New York City often gets the credit for being the birthplace of cheesecake, but this dairy-centric dessert actually dates back to the fifth century BC in Greece. Throughout the last 4,000 years, cheesecake has had many adaptations, transforming from a farmers’ cheese, honey-spiked treat to the classic dessert we know and love today.
While there are so many variations of cheesecake, to me, a classic version must include a graham cracker crust and a smooth, creamy filling sans cracks. In this recipe, I go hard on the dairy, combining cream cheese with sugar, sour cream, heavy cream and eggs. I find that the sour cream adds a necessary tang to the cheesecake, while cutting down on the sweetness.
I know this may seem fussy, but the most crucial step to ensure the success of a smooth cheesecake sans-crack is baking it in a water bath. Don’t worry — a water bath sounds more complicated than it is. All you need to do is place the springform pan in a baking dish and fill the dish with an inch of boiling water. The water bath helps insulate the cheesecake to create a steam bath that gently cooks it so that the filling is smooth and bakes evenly. Pro tip: make sure to wrap the springform pan in foil before placing it in the water bath to prevent any water droplets from interfering with the cheesecake filling.
Technique Tip: For an even crust, use the bottom of a measuring cup or glass to press down the graham cracker mixture. If you prefer a lighter colored cheesecake (rather than golden brown) on top, cover the pan with aluminum foil before baking.To achieve clean, picture-perfect cheesecake slices, dip a knife in hot water before each slice.
Swap Option: For a more intense vanilla flavor, you can swap extract for the seeds scraped from a full vanilla bean pod. Just add the seeds to the batter along with the sour cream.
- cooking spray, for greasing
- 1 (4.5 ounce) package graham crackers (about 9 crackers)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 32 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 cups sour cream, room temperature
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
- 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Wrap the bottom of the pan in aluminum foil.2.
Add the graham crackers, melted butter, 1 tablespoon of sugar and ¼ teaspoon of salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. With the motor running, add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand.3.
Transfer the graham cracker mixture to the prepared pan and press the crumbs into an even layer. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Let the pan cool to room temperature.4.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the cream cheese and sugar and beat on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Alternatively, this can be done in a large bowl with a hand mixer. Add the sour cream, heavy cream, flour, vanilla extract, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and beat until just combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully combined, making sure not to overmix.5.
Pour the cream cheese mixture into the pan. Transfer the pan to a large baking dish and fill with 1-inch of boiling water. Carefully place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 1 hour.6.
Without opening the oven door, turn off the heat and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 1 hour.7.
Remove the cheesecake from the baking dish and let cool completely to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill overnight.8.
When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator and release the springform pan.