This Easy Cheesecake Recipe is a family favorite, and it makes an extremely creamy baked cheesecake with a smooth sour cream layer over the top and irresistible cinnamon graham cracker crust.
Today is a very exciting day because I’m *finally* sharing one of my family’s favorite desserts, my mom’s famous cheesecake.
This is the first dessert she ever made for my dad when they started dating, and it’s the one she makes on his birthday every year.
It has a very dear place in my heart AND just happens to be the best, easiest cheesecake in existence. (Also full disclosure, my mom’s famous cheesecake first appeared in Joy of Cooking. 😉 )
A Perfect and Easy Cheesecake
This easy homemade cheesecake is so extremely creamy with a smooth sour cream layer over the top, and to-die-for cinnamon graham cracker crust.
And when I say it’s easy, I’m not kidding. While the cheesecake takes a while from start to finish, that’s only because of the chilling and cooling time. The actual hands-on prep time is pretty minimal and very simple.
Oh, and bonus, that sour cream topping, it not only adds a tangy rich layer to your cake but also covers all manner of cheesecake sins. So if you’re a novice baker and worried about your cheesecake cracking, totally not a problem because no one will be able to see it anyways.
Find the full list of ingredients in the recipe card below.
- Graham cracker crumbs: The quickest way to make graham cracker crumbs is to pulse the crackers in your food processor, but if you don’t own one, you can use a large plastic bag and a rolling pin or meat mallet.
- Salted butter: I call for salted butter in the crust recipe because that’s what my mom has always used. If you’d like to use unsalted butter, add 1/8 teaspoon of salt.
- Cream cheese: For cheesecakes, I always recommend using Philadelphia cream cheese. Most importantly, you ABSOLUTELY must start with softened/room temperature cream cheese. Cream cheese that is too cold will not completely meld with the other ingredients, and you’ll end up with lumps in the finished cheesecake.
- Fresh strawberries: The strawberry sauce/glaze involves cooking strawberries with sugar and cornstarch until saucy. You can serve the glaze with the cooked strawberries or strain them out and mix the sauce with fresh, chopped strawberries if you don’t like the texture and/or look of cooked fruit. The strawberry sauce in the photos on this page was strained and mixed with fresh strawberries.
How to Make The Best Cheesecake
There are three simple stages to making this cheesecake (four if you count the strawberry sauce).
- Make the crust: Mix together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, butter, and cinnamon and press the mixture into your pie pan, reserving a few tablespoons for topping. Chill the crust while you make your cheesecake layer.
- Make the cheesecake base: Mix cream cheese, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla together, pour into the chilled crust, and bake until the edges are set. Cool for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Make the sour cream top: Mix sour cream, sugar, and vanilla and spread the mixture over the top of the cheesecake. Bake until the top is shiny, about 5 minutes. Cool for about 20 minutes on the counter and then chill the finished cheesecake for 6 to 12 hours in the fridge.
Strawberry Sauce for Cheesecake
We always serve this cheesecake with strawberry sauce in my family, so I’ve included the recipe in the recipe card below.
But if that’s not your thing, you can serve the cheesecake without topping or try something like Dulce de Leche or chocolate sauce.
Can you make cheesecake without a springform pan?
Yes! You do not need a springform pan to make a cheesecake. Cheesecakes can be baked in a regular pie dish, with a few caveats:
- If you want to use a water bath, you’ll need to use a springform pan for those high sides.
- Similarly, depending on the recipe, you might have to adjust the volume of the filling. A recipe that uses four sticks of cream cheese is probably not going to fit in a standard pie pan.
The recipe I’m sharing with you today can be made in a 9-inch springform pan or regular 9-inch pie dish (this is how my mom has always made it) with zero adjustments. So if a pie pan is what you have, a pie pan is what you can use.
Do you need a water bath for cheesecake?
Not always. Water baths are helpful when cooking larger cheesecakes with long cooking times because they (and the steam they produce) help protect the delicate custard from the direct heat of the oven.
If you’re working with a recipe that calls for a water bath, use it, but you don’t need to use one with every single cheesecake recipe.
For this cheesecake specifically, you don’t need one. Since this is not a particularly tall cheesecake and the cooking time is fairly short, it doesn’t need the extra protection (or hassle) of a water bath.
Wait, how can you tell when a cheesecake is done cooking?
You can tell that the cheesecake is done when it passes “the jiggle test.” The edges of the cheesecake should be set and no longer shiny, but the center should still look slightly undercooked and jiggle when you give the pan a (small) shake.
The center will finish cooking and firm up while the cake cools.
Can you freeze cheesecake?
Yes! Cheesecake freezes extremely well. To freeze, place cut slices of cheesecake on a plate or cutting board (that will fit in your freezer) and freeze until mostly solid, 20 to 30 minutes. Wrap each slice individually in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container or freezer bag.
Cheesecake will keep in the freezer for 2 months. Defrost cheesecake by setting it out on the counter for about 20 minutes before eating.
The strawberry sauce also freezes pretty well. The texture of fresh strawberries becomes a little softer, but not unpleasantly so. Freeze individual servings of sauce in small baggies and store with the cheesecake.
More Cheesecake Recipes
- Mini Kahlua Cheesecakes
- No-bake Cheesecake Bites
- No-bake Oreo Cheesecake Bites
- No-bake Mini Unicorn Cheesecakes
- No-bake Small Marshmallow Pumpkin Cheesecake
More of My Mom’s Recipes
- If making for an event or special occasion, make sure to give yourself enough time to bake and chill the cheesecake. It requires at least 6 hours to set, so it’s best to make it the night before when possible.
Easy Cheesecake Recipe
- 9-inch springform pan or regular 9-inch pie dish
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 ½ cups crushed graham cracker crumbs about 10 full cracker sheets*
- ½ cup (60g) powdered sugar
- 6 tablespoons (84g) salted butter melted*
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 12 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese softened*
- 2 large eggs well-beaten
- ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
Sour Cream Top
- 1 ½ cups (360g) sour cream
- 2 tablespoons (25g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
Homemade Strawberry Sauce
- 4 cups (about 24oz) hulled and chopped fresh strawberries
- ⅔ cup (132g) granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice fresh or bottled is fine
- 2 tablespoons (16g) cornstarch whisked together with 2 tablespoons water
Graham Cracker Crust
- Clear enough space in your freezer for your pie pan to fit while the crust chills.
- In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Stir until well combined.
- Set aside 3 tablespoons of the crumb mixture to use as topping later.
- Pour remaining crumb mixture into your pie pan and press into a firm layer. Chill crust in the freezer while you make the custard layer.
- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- In a large bowl, combine softened cream cheese, well-beaten eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat until well-combined.
- Pour into the chilled crust.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, until outer edges of the cheesecake look set, but the center of the cheesecake is still slightly shiny and jiggles when gently shaken. Remove from oven.
- Let cool to mostly room temperature, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Sour Cream Top
- Preheat your oven to 425°F.
- In a small bowl, mix sour cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Pour over the cooled cheesecake and smooth into an even layer
- Bake for 5 minutes, until top looks glazed and shiny. Remove from oven, sprinkle with reserved crust mixture. Let cheesecake cool at room temperature for at least 20 minutes, and then refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours before serving.
Homemade Strawberry Sauce
- In a medium saucepan, combine chopped strawberries, sugar, water, lemon juice, and cornstarch/water slurry. Stir and bring to a simmer.
- Keep at a simmer (adjusting temperature as necessary), stirring often until thickened and syrupy, about 4 to 6 minutes. Watch very closely to make sure it doesn't bubble over!
- Chill before serving.
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