For such a delightful forkful of bliss, making the perfect cheesecake can be surprisingly problematic. Not anymore. This is your foolproof guide to making the absolute best cheesecake. We’ll be covering all the basics (and then some) to get you from start to finish in the kitchen with total ease! No hiccups, no bumps — just one seriously delicious cheesecake recipe.
This Sour Cream Cheesecake has an ultra-light, extra creamy cheesecake filling with a thick, sweet and buttery graham cracker crust. The best part? There’s no need to worry about any potential cracking — this recipe comes equipped with a save-the-day sour cream topping for a no-stress, insanely scrumptious dessert so good, it’ll turn any cheesecake hater into a full-on fanatic:
Just had some of your cheesecake. It’s ridiculous. So, so good and I’m not even a cheesecake guy. Just might be now. Loved it.” – Dustin C.
You’ll also love our No-Bake Oreo Cheesecake! Bookmark it for your next baking extravaganza!
Below is everything you’ll need to make both the Sour Cream Cheesecake filling, the graham cracker crust, and the sour cream topping!
- Cream Cheese
- Granulated Sugar
- Sour Cream
- Graham Crackers
- Powdered Sugar
HOW TO MAKE SOUR CREAM CHEESECAKE
As you probably know, with any cheesecake recipe, planning ahead is required. It is best if you don’t rush the process and allow yourself plenty of time to get it right and plenty of time for the cheesecake to chill!
We will cover all of the following steps in depth further below, but for now, just to give you an idea as to where we’re headed here is a quick overview of how to make the ultimate Sour Cream Cheesecake!
- Prep the Springform Pan
- Make the Crust
- Par-Bake the Crust
- Make the Sour Cream Cheesecake Filling
- Ready the Water Bath (optional)
- Place Pan In Water Bath and Bake
- Cool and Chill
PREPPING THE PAN
The most common pan for making a cheesecake is a 9″ springform pan and it is precisely what we’ll be using for this Sour Cream Cheesecake. If you happen to have a light-colored, nonstick springform pan, you’ve chosen wisely. They’re the best for making cheesecakes!
Taking the following pan-precautions will ensure your cheesecake baking experience runs smoothly:
- Nonstick Spray – To help prevent the crust from sticking to the bottom of the pan, spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Parchment Paper – Adding a lining of parchment paper to the bottom of the pan will also help.
- Foil – To keep the water from the water bath accidentally seeping into the springform pan, you’ll cut 2 large pieces of foil and lay them down in a cross shape on a work surface. Then, wrap the foil up the sides of the pan. If you aren’t going to use a water bath, you can skip the foil altogether.
HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST
This Sour Cream Cheesecake has a thick, buttery graham cracker crust on the bottom (it does not go up the sides). It comes together easily with just four ingredients: graham crackers, sugar, butter, and salt.
- Crush – Crush the graham crackers using either a food processor fitted with a blade attachment or a gallon-sized, zip-top bag and a rolling pin. Make sure to get the crumbs as fine as possible.
- Combine – Combine the crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and salt until evenly moistened. You can do this by pulsing the ingredients together in a food processor or by adding them to a large mixing bowl and stirring together.
- Press – Add the crust to the prepared springform pan and press it down using a flat-bottomed measuring cup.
- Bake – Bake the crust at 350°F for 10 minutes. Then, remove it from the oven and allow to cool completely before adding the sour cream cheesecake filling.
You’ll need 14 full sheets of graham crackers for this crust. That’s about 1 1/2 packages out of the box and just barely under 2 cups in crumb form.
Why is there sugar in graham cracker crust when graham crackers are already sweet? Great question. When sugar melts, it gets sticky. You need that sticky quality to help bind the crust together. This recipe calls for 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar (which equals 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon); you could use brown sugar in its place if desired, but it will need to be lightly packed.
This crust recipe was developed with unsalted butter, and therefore also calls for a 1/4 teaspoon of salt. However, if you only have salted butter, feel free to use that, but you’ll need to omit the added 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
TIP: If you find yourself adjusting recipes and more specifically, ingredients like butter and sugar, to save here-and-there on calories — don’t. The butter and sugar are both necessary ingredients to help bind the graham cracker crumbs together. For a perfect Sour Cream Cheesecake with a perfect graham cracker crust (one that actually stays together), just stick with the recipe, and you’ll be golden.
HOW TO MAKE A SOUR CREAM CHEESECAKE FILLING
Before you make the filling for any cheesecake recipe, you’ll need to make sure your cream cheese is softened to room temperature through-and-through. If not, it will not blend properly and you’ll end up with lumps in your filling.
Another thing to want to keep in mind is not to overmix the filling, as it will negatively affect the texture of your cheesecake.
- Ready the Water Bath – To prepare the water bath, bring about 3 cups of water to a boil and have ready a roasting pan or casserole dish (one large enough to fit the springform pan inside).
- Mix Cream Cheese, Sugar, and Sour Cream – You can make your Sour Cream Cheesecake filling in either a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or by using a mixing bowl and a handheld mixer. Start by adding the cream cheese and sugar to a bowl and mixing it for a few minutes on medium-low speed, until it’s nice and smooth. Then, add the sour cream and mix until incorporated.
- Add Eggs, Vanilla, and Salt – In a small bowl whisk together the whole eggs and the egg yolks. Then, add the eggs to the cream cheese mixture, along with the vanilla and salt. Mix again, taking care to stop as soon as everything is combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix just once more.
BAKE AND COOL
It’s time to prepare the water bath and bake this Sour Cream Cheesecake! Water baths promote even cooking, which will help to prevent the cheesecake filling from sinking in the middle. It also makes for a nice and humid environment and prevents cracks.
- Add Filling To Pan – Pour the cheesecake filling over the cooled graham cracker crust.
- Place in Water Bath – Next, place the springform pan in the roasting pan and carefully add the hot water. Fill the pan with about an inch of water, taking care not to splash any into the springform pan!
- Bake – Bake the cheesecake at 250°F for 1 hour and 25 minutes.
- Cool and Chill – Remove the cheesecake from the oven and transfer it to a cooling rack. Run a sharp knife along the edges. Once the sides of the pan are cool to the touch, remove the foil from the sides of the pan, cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and transfer it to the refrigerator to cool completely, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days. Don’t skip this step!
CAN I MAKE CHEESECAKE WITHOUT A WATER BATH?
Yes! If you aren’t worried about appearances, by all means, skip the water bath. The cheesecake will still taste amazing and it’ll save you a few steps.
If you aren’t going to bake this cheesecake in a water bath, you also can skip lining the pan with foil.
HOW TO MAKE A SOUR CREAM TOPPING FOR CHEESECAKE
A sour cream topping for cheesecake is so, so easy to make. It comes together with a simple stir of two ingredients: sour cream and powdered sugar. That’s it!
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN IT’S DONE?
The cheesecake is done when the sides are set, but the center still jiggles (like Jell-O) when gently nudged.
HOW DO I GET CHEESECAKE OUT OF THE PAN?
To ensure you can get your cheesecake out of the pan, here are a few precautions you can take:
- Spray the entire pan with nonstick cooking spray — both the bottoms and the sides.
- Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper before packing in the crust.
- Once the cheesecake comes out of the oven, run a sharp knife with a skinny blade along the perimeter of the pan to keep the cheesecake sides from sticking to it.
- Remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to unmolding/serving.
- Run a sharp knife or large metal spatula underneath the crust to gently unstick the crust from the pan. Then, using two large offset spatulas, transfer it to a serving dish.
WHAT IF MY CHEESECAKE CRACKS?
If your cheesecake cracks, don’t sweat it — no one is going to know anyway. This Sour Cream Cheesecake comes equipped with a recipe for a sour cream topping!
Not only will it hide any imperfections, but it also adds a delicious, creamy tang to the cheesecake and cuts through the sweetness perfectly!
5 MORE DESSERTS FOR A CROWD YOU’LL LOVE
The best-ever Sour Cream Cheesecake with a light, creamy cheesecake filling, a thick, sweet and buttery graham cracker crust, and a sour cream topping!
- 14 graham cracker sheets crushed into crumbs
- 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 (8-ounce) bars cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/3 cup sour cream
- 3 whole eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F and have ready a 9" springform sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Add a round of parchment paper to the bottom of the pan, if desired. Cut 2 large pieces of foil and lay them down in a cross shape on a work surface. Then, wrap the foil up the sides of the pan.
In a large bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and salt and stir until evenly moistened. Transfer the mix to the prepared pan and using a flat-bottomed measuring cup, press down to form the crust.
Bake on the center rack for 10 minutes. Then, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Reduce the oven temperature to 250°F and once the crust has cooled, it's almost time to make the cheesecake filling. Also, have ready about 3 cups of boiling hot water and a roasting pan or casserole dish large enough to fit the springform pan inside.
Add the cream cheese and granulated sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. If you do not have a stand mixer, use a large mixing bowl and a handheld mixer. Mix on medium-low speed for 2-3 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix once more. Add the sour cream and mix just to combine.
In a small separate bowl, whisk the eggs and the egg yolk together and add to the cream cheese mixture along with the vanilla extract and salt. Mix to combine, then scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix once more. Do not overmix the filling.
Pour the contents of the bowl over the crust and set the springform pan inside of the roasting pan. Add hot water to the roasting pan (taking care not to splash into any onto the cheesecake) -- you only need about an inch of water. Transfer to the center rack of the oven to bake.
Bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes; the cheesecake is done when the sides are set, but the center still jiggles (like Jell-O) when gently nudged.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack, and run a sharp knife along the edges. Once the sides of the pan are cool to the touch, remove the foil from the sides of the pan, cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and transfer it to the refrigerator to cool completely, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
Remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to serving. Remove the band from the pan. Serve directly from the pan, or use a sharp knife or large metal spatula to gently unstick the crust from the pan. Then, using two large offset spatulas, transfer it to a serving dish.
Once the cheesecake is chilled and out of the pan, add the sour cream topping. To make it, combine the sour cream and powdered sugar in a small bowl and stir to combine. Then, pour it over the top of the cheesecake and spread to the edges using an offset spatula.