This recipe for Homemade Cheesecake results in a creamy, light cheesecake with a crisp graham cracker crust.
But not just any cheesecake will do! My all-time favorite cheesecake recipe from my Nana and has been in my family for over a century.
Instead of being dense and thick, like classic New York-style cheesecakes or my recipe for Instant Pot Cheesecake, this homemade cheesecake is light, creamy, and fluffy. It is a bit like a no-bake cheesecake with the same airy, cloudlike consistency, yet this recipe is made without whipped topping. It is simply perfect.
What Makes This The Best Cheesecake
Two things make this cheesecake recipe stand out from all other cheesecake recipes.
- Egg Whites: Instead of beating whole eggs into the cheesecake batter, this recipe calls for folding stiff egg whites into the batter. It makes this cheesecake so light and fluffy. Trust me on this--it is a game-changer!
- Sour Cream Topping: A slightly sweetened sour cream topping is added to the cheesecake for a tangy finish that balances out the sweetness of this recipe perfectly.
Notes on Ingredients & Equipment
- Springform Pan: A 9-inch springform pan is essential for making a cheesecake. Technically you can use a 9-inch cake pan, but it is next to impossible to slice pretty slices from a cake pan.
- Cream Cheese: Do NOT use fat-free cream cheese for cheesecake. Neufchatel or ⅓ less fat cream cheese works fine, but regular, full-fat cream cheese is best. It is also essential for the cream cheese to be at room temperature so that it incorporates evenly into the batter.
- Sour Cream: Sour cream may sound like an odd topping, but the little bit of tang helps to balance this cheesecake. Just be sure to use full-fat, not fat-free sour cream.
- For the Crust: This recipe calls for a traditional graham cracker crust mixed with butter and sugar. Feel free to use chocolate graham crackers, vanilla wafers, or even gingersnaps in place of the graham crackers.
How To Make Cheesecake
Making cheesecake is not hard, but it is more time-consuming than some other recipes. However, the effort is so worth the results. I will walk you through all my tips for making the perfect cheesecake, so you too can have perfect results.
Step One: Prepare Graham Cracker Crust
- In a food processor fitted with an s-blade, process 1 sleeve of graham crackers to create 1 ½ cups of graham cracker crumbs.
- To the food processor, add 2 tablespoons of sugar and pulse to combine.
- With the food processor running, add the melted butter through the lid, and continue to process until the graham crackers look like wet sand.
- Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
- Bake for 10 minutes. This will help the crust set up and harden before adding the cheesecake batter.
Step Two: Beat Egg Whites
As I stated earlier, folding whipped egg whites into the batter keeps this cheesecake light and fluffy--AKA the BEST cheesecake.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or using a handheld mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks have formed. You will know stiff peaks have formed when the egg whites will stick off the beaters and hold shape.
- Set the egg whites aside.
Step Three: Prepare Batter
It is crucial to beat the ingredients together until smooth and creamy. I have found the best way to do this is to add the ingredients in thirds, as this allows everything to incorporate together perfectly.
- Place 1 package of cream cheese, 1 egg yolk, and ¼ cup sugar into a large mixing bowl and mix using a handheld mixer on medium-high speed until creamy.
- Once smooth, add another package of cream cheese, egg yolk, and ¼ cup sugar to the mixer and beat until smooth.
- Add in the final package of cream cheese, egg yolk, and ¼ cup sugar and beat until creamy and smooth.
- Add in vanilla and lemon juice and mix until combined.
- Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the cream cheese mixture, being careful to not mix or deflate the egg whites.
Step Four: Bake
The trick to baking a cheesecake so that no cracks form on the surface is to bake low and slow in a moist environment. To create a moist environment, it is best to place a pan with water on the rack below the cheesecake while it bakes. The steam from the water will keep the cheesecake light and fluffy while it bakes.
- First, pour the prepared cheesecake batter into the prebaked crust and gently tap on the counter to remove air bubbles.
- Create a water bath for baking by placing a large baking/roasting pan underneath the center rack of the oven. Pour hot water into the pan until half full.
- Place the cheesecake on the rack above the pan and bake for 45 minutes.
Step Five: Prepare Sour Cream Topping
- While the cheesecake is baking, mix sour cream with the remaining sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl.
- After 45 minutes, remove the cheesecake from the oven and gently spread sour cream topping on top of the cheesecake.
- Return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the edges of the cheesecake are well set and the center has a slight wobble.
Step Six: Let Cool
- Once baked, remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- After cooling, use a butter knife to gently loosen the sides of the cheesecake from the pan.
- Cover the pan with a clean towel and plastic wrap and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.
Cheesecake is best if served after being chilled for at least 12 hours, as this gives the cheesecake time to set up fully and for the flavors to meld together.
I highly recommend removing the cheesecake from the refrigerator and allowing it to come to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. This will allow the flavors to pop.
How to Store Cheesecake
- Refrigerate: There is a TRICK to storing the cheesecake to prevent condensation from forming on the top of the cheesecake. To store, lightly drape a kitchen towel over the sides of the springform pan. Then cover with plastic wrap over the kitchen towel. Store the cheesecake this way in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days in the fridge.
- Freeze: Alternatively, you can freeze leftover cheesecake. I recommend slicing the cheesecake into individual slices, wrapping each slice in plastic wrap, and then placing the wrapped slices into a freezer-safe bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Place a slice in the refrigerator for 6-12 hours before enjoying.
More Favorite Dessert Recipes
- Mini Cheesecakes
- Blackberry Crisp
- Banana Cake
- Peach Cobbler
- Hot Milk Cake
- Homemade Peanut Butter Cups
- Instant Pot Lava Cakes
If you tried this Homemade Cheesecake recipe, I would love for you to leave a review and comment below!
The Best Cheesecake Recipe
Cheesecake Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
- 3 tablespoons butter melted
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 eggs separated
- 3 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese at room temperature
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice optional, but encouraged
Sour Cream Topping
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Position one rack in the center of the oven and another rack below that.
- In a food processor fitted with an s-blade, process 1 sleeve of graham crackers to form 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs.
- Add in 2 tablespoon sugar and pulse to combine. With the food processor running, add the melted butter through the lid. Process until graham crackers look like wet sand.
- Press the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes on the center rack in the oven.
- While the crust is baking, whip the egg whites using a stand mixer or handheld mixture until stiff peaks have formed. Set aside.
- In a separate large mixing bowl, combine 1 package of cream cheese, 1 egg yolk, and ¼ cup sugar until creamy, using a handheld mixer. Add in another package of cream cheese, egg yolk, and ¼ cup sugar and beat until smooth. Add in the final package of cream cheese, egg yolk, and ¼ cup sugar and beat until creamy and smooth.
- Add in 1 tablespoon of vanilla and lemon juice and mix until combined.
- Gently fold egg whites into cream cheese mixture, being careful to not over mix or deflate egg whites.
- Pour cream cheese mixture into prepared crust. Gently tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles.
- Place a shallow baking dish on the rack positioned below the center of the oven. Pour hot water into the pan until it is halfway full. Place the cheesecake on the center rack, above the baking dish filled with water, and bake for 45 minutes.
- While cheesecake is baking, mix together the sour cream, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and ½ teaspoon of vanilla in a small mixing bowl.
- After 45 minutes, remove the cheesecake from the oven and gently spread the sour cream mixture on top of cheesecake. Return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool the cheesecake for 30 minutes in springform pan. After 30 minutes, use a butter knife to gently loosen the sides of the cheesecake from the pan. Cover with a clean towel (to absorb condensation), and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 12 hours before enjoying.
- Cheesecake is best if served after being brought to room temperature for 20-30 minutes.