Someone asked me for my favorite cheesecake recipe. It’s hard to pick, so here are my TWO favorite cheesecake recipes. One exemplifies the category of baked cheesecakes; the other the category of unbaked cheesecakes. I included variations for each.
Absolutely Classic NY Style Cheesecake
1 C vanilla wafer crumbs
3 Tbsp sugar 4 Tbsp butter, melted
4 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1 C sugar
3 Tbsp four
1 C sour cream
1 Tbsp vanilla
Cherry pie filling or whatever you like
The easiest way to make vanilla wafer crumbs is with a food processor. Quite fine crumbs are desirable. Combine crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press onto bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325 F for 10 minutes. Set aside and raise the oven temp to 450 F degrees (yes, really).
Combine cream cheese, sugar, and flour, mixing at medium speed until well blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in sour cream and vanilla on low speed. Pour over crust. Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes. Lower oven temp to 250 degrees and continue baking for one hour. Remove from oven, run a knife around the edge to loosen the cheesecake from the rim, and cool completely. Chill thoroughly before removing rim of pan and serving. Serve with cherry pie filling, raspberry sauce, or whatever.
- Is the cheesecake done?
If you followed the directions, probably! But oven temperatures vary, so it’s hard to be sure. A largish area of the center should be wobbly and appear not quite set when you take the cheesecake out of the oven. That is perfectly normal.
- How can I prevent cracks?
If the cheesecake cracks, that means it’s a little overdone. It will be perfectly fine, just a little unsightly. Cherry pie filling is good for disguising cracks.
Baked cheesecakes are actually super thick custards. To be sure they don’t overbake, they can be baked in a water bath, like any other custard. You put a big pan of water in the oven to heat, then wrap the springform pan REALLY TIGHTLY with waterproof aluminum foil, and set the springform pan into the water bath for the entire time it bakes. This will probably prevent cracking. It is a certain amount of trouble and I once had the aluminum foil leak, so I mostly don’t bother, especially since I don’t care that much if the cheesecake cracks.
- Can I make variations on the theme of classic cheesecakes?
The basic proportions for a baked cheesecake are one 8-oz package cream cheese, ¼ C sugar, and one egg. Those ingredients 3x makes a typical cheesecake. You then add flavorings and variations as desired.
The flour in the above recipe is to compensate for the large amount of sour cream. A smaller amount of sour cream can be added without additional flour, or the sour cream left out and a couple Tbsp of lemon juice added plus some lemon zest could be stirred into the batter. A cup of pumpkin can be added to half the batter and then the pumpkin batter swirled with the plain batter in the pan. Raspberry sauce can be swirled into the cheesecake batter in the pan.
You can combine one pkg cream cheese, ¼ C sugar, one egg, and as many miniature chocolate chips as you like and then use that as a filling for chocolate cupcakes, which are really, really great and you should try that.
Exceedingly Easy No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake
1 C chocolate wafer cookie crumbs, OR 1 C vanilla wafer cookie crumbs plus 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp cocoa powder.
4 Tbsp melted butter
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
¼ C cold water
2 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened
¾ C sugar
1/3 C cocoa powder
½ tsp vanilla
2 C miniature marshmallows
1 C heavy (whipping) cream, whipped. Don’t add extra sugar as you whip the cream. It’s an ingredient, not a topping.
Combine the crumbs, or crumbs plus sugar and cocoa, and the melted butter. Press into bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a little bowl. Microwave for thirty seconds or so, until warm. Stir. Microwave 30 seconds or so, until very warm. Stir. Set aside.
Combine cream cheese, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla. Mix with electric mixer until well blended. Add gelatin mixture in a thin stream while mixer is running. (No need to be obsessive. I never have any problem with the gelatin failing to get mixed in properly.) Fold in miniature marshmallows. “Fold in” means gently, with a spoon. Fold in whipped cream.
Pour cheesecake filling over crust. Smooth out. Decorate with extra miniature marshmallows or grated chocolate or both. The easiest way to grate chocolate is just to run a vegetable peeler down the edge of a chocolate bar. Chill. Remove rim of pan and serve.
Alternately: skip the crust and spoon into little glass dessert dishes.
For unbaked cheesecakes, the basic proportions are 1 envelope gelatin, ¼ C water, 2 pkg cream cheese, ½ C sugar, 1 C whipping cream, whipped. The extra sugar in the above recipe is because the cocoa powder is bitter. You can therefore use the basic ingredients and swirl in raspberry sauce or some other fruit sauce, caramel sauce, whatever you like. You could use make half the recipe without cocoa powder and add cocoa and extra sugar to the other half, then swirl the two batters together in the springform pan or alternate them in dessert dishes.
Although the marshmallows can obviously be left out, they’re pretty great in this cheesecake and I keep miniature marshmallows around just for this use.