Nobody can call something “The Best” without a little bit of hesitation or push-back, but when it comes to a solid, classic cheesecake recipe with a traditional graham cracker crust, this truly is The Best Vanilla Cheesecake Recipe you can find. Add a “pop” of Raspberry-Rhubarb sauce, and I promise you’ll be swooning over each creamy, tangy, vibrant bite.
A great cheesecake (in my humble option) is made up of just a few, yet solid, components: a cookie crust that snaps under the weight of the fork, a velvety, luscious filling that is slightly tangy yet far from dry, and some sort of sauce for drizzling. This recipe combines cream cheese with tangy sour cream and real vanilla bean. I’ve never had much success baking a cheesecake in a bain-marie (water bath), but find that the cheesecake stays smooth and, dare I say, moist, when cooked above a pan of water not in the water – creating a humid baking environment. And as always, do not over-bake the cheesecake. It will take literally hours to cool properly and set up, so don’t be afraid to turn the oven off while the center is still jiggly.
Wrapping the pan in foil prevents the cheesecake from browning too quickly, even if you aren’t using a bain-marie. And even though a crack-less top can be achieved with proper mixing and cooling, I still opted for a sour cream topping. Just looks how smooth and white the finished cheesecake is!
– Start with room temperature ingredients. Over-mixing the batter to try to incorporate cold cream cheese and eggs will add too much air into the mixture and may cause cracks.
– Mix and scrape diligently as you go. Refrain from turning the mixing up to high, but stop and scrape the bowl often to make sure the cream cheese stays silky smooth.
– Allow ample time for cooling. Gradually cooling the cheesecake will keep the surface from cracking. Cool in the warm oven with the door propped open (oven turned off), then at room temperature, then in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
– Wrap the sides of the pan in a double-layer of foil to keep the edges from browning.
– Slice cooled cheesecake with a warm, dry knife. Heat the metal under hot water and dry it between each slice.
The Best Vanilla Cheesecake Recipe
serves 10 to 12
For the Cheesecake
prepared graham cracker crust
2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise with the seeds scraped out
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
Increase the oven to 350 degrees. Bring 4 to 6 cups of water to a boil (enough to halfway fill a large roasting pan) and set aside. Place a large roasting pan on the very bottom rack of your oven. Place a second rack just above the roasting pan.
Meanwhile, place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese on medium-low for 4 to 5 minutes, or until completely smooth. Stop and scrape down the bowl every couple of minutes.
Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla bean seeds into the cream cheese and mix for another 3 to 4 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. Mix for another 3o to 60 seconds to smooth out any lumps.
With the mixer on low, add in the eggs and yolk, one at a time. Allow each egg to fully incorporate into the batter before add in the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
Add the sour cream. Mix on medium low for a couple of minutes or until the batter is creamy and uniform.
Pour the batter into the prepared crust. Smooth out the top as needed. Rap the bottom of the cake pan on top of the counter a few times to expel any trapped air bubbles. Wrap the sides of the pan in a double layer of foil.
Very carefully pour the hot water into the roasting pan (pouring the water into the pan while it is already in the oven may be easier than trying to carry and place a pan full of boiling water into the oven). Place the baking pan on the rack above the roasting pan and bake for 1 hour. When done, the sides should be puffed and set while the center 2 to 3 inches should jiggle when the pan is moved. If it is not ready, check again after an additional 10 minutes of baking. Once done, turn the oven off and prop the door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cake to cool inside the humid oven for about 45 minutes.
Once cool, removed the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack. Turn the oven back on to 350 degrees. As the oven heats back up, combined the sour cream and sugar for the topping (recipe to follow). Carefully spread the topping over the top of the cheesecake with a small offset spatula. When the oven is ready, return the cake pan back to the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Turn off the oven and again prop open the door with a wooden spoon. Allow the cake to cool in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes before placing it on a wire rack. Let cool for an additional 30 minutes then place in the refrigerator. Drape a piece of parchment paper over the top of the cheesecake to prevent condensation from forming and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
To unmold the cheesecake, carefully run a think knife around the edges of the cake before unlocking the spring-form pan. Warm a metal spatula under hot water, dry, the run it around the edges of the cheesecake to smooth.
For the Topping
1 1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir together until smooth.