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Recipe

Cheesecake Recipe: Create Your Own

When it comes to favorite all-American desserts, cheesecake might be second to apple pie, but it’s number one on my list. Utterly delicious and super easy to make, cheesecake isn’t technically a cake; it’s a custard baked in a crumb crust. The smooth filling is typically made with cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and the crust is a mixture of cookie crumbs and butter.

With the straightforward method here, you can also choose your crumb crust, flavorings, and toppings; just start with some of the combinations below (all rigorously tested in our kitchen), and then go on to create your own fabulous cheesecakes.

 

Master Cheesecake Recipe

Serves 10 to 12

Make the crust

Cookie crumbs and butter are pressed into a springform pan for the easy crust.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

Pulse 8 oz of your choice of cookie crumbs (see options below)  in a food processor until crushed to fine crumbs. You should have 2 cups.

In a medium bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs and 3 Tbs. granulated sugar. Mix in 3-1/2 oz. (7 Tbs.) melted unsalted butter until the crumbs are evenly moist and clump together slightly. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of the pan (to press, use your fingers or a flat-bottom measuring cup). Bake until the crust is fragrant and slightly darkened (this will be more obvious with lighter crumbs, but even the ginger and chocolate crumbs will darken a bit), 9 to 12 minutes. Let the pan cool on a rack. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F.

 

Choose a cookie for the crust

Graham crackers

Vanilla wafers

Chocolate wafers

Gingersnaps

 

Make the filling base

The key to a cheesecake’s perfect texture lies in a proper balance of eggs and dairy. As long as you maintain that balance, you can customize the filling by replacing some of the cream cheese with other ingredients (like ricotta, chocolate, or dulce de leche), and the cake won’t lose its rich texture.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine three 8-oz packages of room-temperature cream cheese, an add-in (see options below) OR an additional 8-oz. package of cream cheese, 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour, and a pinch of table salt. Beat on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle frequently, until very smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Make sure the cheese has no lumps.

 

Choose an add-in (optional)

 

Milk chocolate: 10 oz., melted and cooled

Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate: 10 oz., melted and cooled

Ricotta: 1 cup

Strawberry purée: 1 cup

Blueberry purée: 1 cup

Banana purée: 1 cup

Dulce de leche: 3/4 cup

White chocolate: 8 oz., melted and cooled

Sour cream or crème fraîche: 3/4 cup

Mascarpone: 8 oz., at room temperature

Canned pure pumpkin purée: 1 cup

Flavor the filling

 

Add 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar and continue beating until well blended and smooth. Add 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract and your choice of flavorings (see options below) and spices (see options below), if using, and beat until blended, about 30 seconds. Add 4 large room-temperature eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended. (Don’t overbeat once the eggs have been added or the cheesecake will puff too much and crack as it cools.) Pour the filling into the cooled crust and smooth the top.

 

Choose up to two flavorings (optional)

 

Creamy peanut butter: 1/3 cup

Finely chopped crystallized ginger: 2 Tbs.

Instant coffee: 2-1/2 tsp. (or 2 tsp. espresso powder)

Finely grated lime zest: 2 Tbs.

Finely grated lemon zest: 2 Tbs.

Finely grated orange zest: 2 Tbs.

Mini chocolate chips: 1/3 cup

Amaretto: 3 Tbs.

Baileys: 3 Tbs.

Chambord: 3 Tbs.

Kahlua: 3 Tbs.

Grand Marnier: 3 Tbs.

 

Choose up to four spices for a total of 2 tsp. (optional)

 

Ground nutmeg (up to 1/2 tsp.) Ground ginger
Ground cloves (up to 1/2 tsp.) Ground cinnamon

Bake the cheesecake

 

Bake at 300°F until the center jiggles like Jell-O when nudged, 55 to 65 minutes. The cake will be slightly puffed around the edges, and the center will still look moist. Set on a rack and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. The cake can also be frozen for up to 1 month. (To freeze, put the unmolded, cooled cake on a rimmed baking sheet in the freezer, uncovered, until the top is cold and firm; then wrap it in two layers of plastic and one layer of foil. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.)

Top and serve

Unclasp and remove the side of the springform pan and run a long, thin metal spatula under the bottom crust. Carefully slide the cake onto a flat serving plate. Add your topping (see options below) and/or garnishes (see options below). To cut, run a thin knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and cut the cake into slices, heating and wiping the knife after every slice.

 

Choose a topping (optional)

 

Caramel sauce: see recipe below

Chocolate ganache: see recipe below

Burnt sugar: Sprinkle 2 Tbs. granulated sugar evenly over the top and slowly pass a hand-held kitchen torch over the sugar until melted and caramelized.

Glazed fresh fruit: see recipe below

Lemon curd

 

Choose up to three garnishes (optional)

 


Chopped toasted nuts


Chocolate-covered espresso beans

Cocoa powder (sift over cake)

Crushed amaretti cookies

Whipped cream

Confectioners’ sugar (sift over cake)

Chocolate shards

Toasted pecans

Chocolate Ganache Topping

In a small bowl, melt 3 oz. chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate and 5 Tbs. unsalted butter. Add 1 Tbs. light corn syrup and whisk until smooth. Pour on the cheesecake and spread evenly.

 

Caramel Sauce Topping

In a 2-quart saucepan, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 3 Tbs. water and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear, 2 to 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high and cook without stirring until the sugar begins to turn golden-brown around the edges. Gently swirl the pan over the heat to even out the color, and cook until the sugar turns golden-amber, 3 to 5 minutes. Off the heat, carefully add 1/2 cup heavy cream, 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, and a pinch of table salt. Cook, whisking constantly over medium-low heat, until well blended and smooth. Set aside until the caramel has cooled slightly, 15 minutes. Pour on the chilled cheesecake and spread evenly.

 

Glazed Fresh Fruit Topping

In a small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup seedless jam (such as strawberry, raspberry, or currant) with 1 Tbs. water, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth; strain. Arrange 1-1/2 quarts halved strawberries or 4 cups other berries or sliced fruit of your choice on top of the cake. Brush the fruit with the melted jam mixture.

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