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How to make a Cheesecake from Scratch (and a great one at that)

Do you want to learn how to make a cheesecake from scratch? I have simple instructions that will guarantee a perfect cheesecake every time.

These tips and recipes are from from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook; Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Make a basic tall and creamy cheesecake using many filling and crust ideas. You must bookmark this one. #MissHomemade

How to Make a Cheesecake


Along with chocolate chip cookies, apple pie and brownies, on dessert never wanes in popularity; the all-American cheesecake.

Cheesecake has a long and luscious lineage in Europe – in Germany and Austria, where they’re made with the native equivalents of cottage or farmers cheeses, and in Italy, where ricotta is the cheese of choice. Here in the U.S. we dig the super-creamy cakes made with American cream cheese. Now let’s learn how to make a cheesecake…

USE A SPRING FORM PAN – Good cheesecakes, even dense ones, are soft, somewhat fragile and not the type of cake you turn out of a pan. The beauty of the spring form pan is its removable sides, perfect for this kind of creamy concoction. Lift away the sides, and leave the cake on the pan’s base for serving. To learn how to make a cheesecake, you must…

PRE-BAKE THE CRUST – Most cheesecakes sit in or on a crumb crust. Although the crust will bake with the cake, don’t skip the quick 10 minute pre-baking – it’s what gives the crumbs their nice crunch. For the best results, mix the ingredients for the crust, pat them into the pan and slide the pan into the freezer while you preheat the oven.

MIX LIKE MAD – So that the finished cake has the flawlessly smooth texture that is the hallmark of a great cheesecake; a completely smooth batter. Whether you are working with a mixer or a food processor, make sure to blend the batter until it is not just lump-free but satiny – any lumps in the batter will NOT disappear during baking.

COOL THE CAKE – When learning how to make a cheesecake – Never rush it to the table. Cooling and then chilling it is as important a step in its preparation as baking it.

UNMOLD THE CAKE WITH CARE – It’s not exactly brain surgery, but removing the sides of the spring form can be a delicate operation. My preferred method is to run a blunt knife around the cake and then to warm the sides of the pan with a hairdryer.

Using a hairdryer beats dunking the pan into a sink-full of warm water – no seeps, no drips – and you have lots more control. If the sides of the cake have softened a tad during the heat spell, smooth them with an icing spatula and chill the cake briefly before serving.

If you want to learn how to make a cheesecake – this recipe is an for an all-American cheesecake. The big, beautiful, lush and creamy variety, the kind that causes gasps of delight when you bring it to the table and sighs of satisfaction when you and your guests savor bite after bite.

It’s also a cheesecake you can customize. You can make the cake milder or tangier by using all heavy cream or all sour cream, or a combination of the two. You can add fruits or nuts, swirls of chocolate or drops of extract. Learn how to make a cheesecake with this basic recipe.


The cheesecake in the image above has crushed Heath candy bar bits on top.

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Crust Ingredients
1-3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 TBS white sugar
pinch of salt
4 TBS unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Ingredients
2 lbs (four 8 oz pkgs) cream cheese, room temperature
1-1/3 cups white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream (or a combination of the two)

Butter a 9 inch spring form pan – choose one that has sides that are 2-3/4 inches high (if sides are lower, you will have batter left over). Wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of tin foil.

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees.

Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the ingredients are moist. (I do this with my fingers.)

Turn the ingredients into the spring form pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs over the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach slightly above or below the midway point on the sides.

Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to two months.)

Center a rack in the oven, and place the spring form pan on a baking sheet. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.

Reduce heat to 325 degrees.


Put a kettle of water on to a boil.

When you are learning how to make a cheesecake, working with a stand mixer is preferable fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl. Beat the cream cheese at medium speed until soft and creamy; approximately 4 minutes.

With the mixer running, add the sugar, salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes, or until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat a full minute after each addition; to get a well aerated batter. Reduce mixer speed to low and mix in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.

Put the foil-wrapped spring form pan in a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the pan with some space around it.

Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that there is nothing left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl. Scrape the batter into the pan – it should reach the rim. If you have leftover batter, bake it in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold. Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into it to come halfway up the sides of the spring form pan.

Bake for 1-1/2 hours or until the top is browned and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven and prop the door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.

After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the spring form pan out of the roaster and remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.

When it is cooled, cover the top lightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours; overnight is better.

At serving time, remove the sides of the spring form pan (I use a hairdryer to do this) and set the cake on a serving platter. Now impress your family and friends on how you learned how to make a cheesecake.

Following are a few ideas for varying both the crust and the filling. You can create your own riffs on this basic as well. More ideas on how to make a cheesecake – first the crust…


Chocolate Crust
Replace the graham crackers with chocolate wafer cookie crumbs. Depending on the filling you’re using, you might want to add a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger (or a touch of all three) to the mix.

Gingersnap Crust
Replace the graham cracker crumbs with gingersnap cookie crumbs.

Graham-Coconut Crust
I like to use this crust with the Coco-Nut Cheesecake (recipe below). Add 1/2 cup toasted shredded sweetened coconut to the graham cracker mix.

Graham-Nut Crust
Add 1/2 cup toasted and finely chopped nuts – almonds, pecans, walnuts or even macadamias to the graham cracker mix.

How to make a cheesecake with various fillings…


Lemon Cheesecake
Add the grated zest to two lemons, the juice of one lemon and 1/2 teaspoon of pure lemon extract to the batter.

Lime Cheesecake
Add the grated zest of two limes, the juice of both limes and if you have it, 1/8 teaspoon of pure lime oil to the batter.

Orange Cheesecake
Add the grated zest of one orange, the juice of the orange and 1/2 teaspoon of pure orange extract to the batter.

Do you want to learn how to make a cheesecake using chocolate and vanilla filling? Here’s how…

Black-and-White Cheesecake

Add 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled, to one third of the batter. Now you have a choice: To make Marbled Black-and-White Cheesecake, pour all of the vanilla batter into the spring form pan, dollop the top of the batter with the chocolate and use a table knife to swirl the dark batter through the white.

To make a Layered Black-and-White Cheesecake, pour half of the white batter into the pan and spread it evenly with a spatula, then top with the chocolate batter, spreading it to the edges of the pan; finishing with the white batter. Both of these are wonderful served with a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

If you are learning to make a cheesecake, you MUST know how to made a Strawberry Cheesecake. (My rules.)

Berry Cheesecake
Pour half of the batter into the pan, drop in 1 cup fresh blackberries, raspberries, blueberries or a combination of berries (except strawberries-they are too watery), and top with the remaining batter. Alternatively, you can very gently fold about 1 cup of small berries into the batter, taking care not to crush them and color the batter.

Here’s a different twist on how to make a cheesecake – Coconut…

Coconut Cheesecake

Use the Graham-Coconut Crust for this. Follow the directions for the basic cheesecake, but use the following ingredients: 1-1/2 lb (three 8 ounce packages) cream cheese
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream or heavy cream or combination of both
1 cup finely chopped toasted almonds
1 cup toasted shredded coconut

By now I’m certain that you will be able to show someone else on how to made a cheesecake…a perfect, refreshing cheesecake.

Gel Glaze Fruit Topping

1 pkt unflavored gelatin powder
2 TBS cold water to dissolve the gelatin
1 can 7up, for clear topping 
1 drop red food coloring for red gel topping 

In a small bowl add the 2 tablespoons of cold water and then sprinkle the gelatin over the water and mix well.  Let it sit for five minutes.  

Meanwhile pour the soda in a small pan and heat on low stirring constantly.  Then add the softened gelatin and continue stirring until completely dissolved.  Let simmer for 3-4 minutes and then pour into a very fine strainer over a measuring cup for easy pouring later on.  This removes the bubbles that are ugly looking when the gelatin sets.  Let this mixture cool to room temperature.

Slice strawberries (or whatever fruit you are using) and let sit until gel mixture has cooled.

Remove the chilled cheesecake that is still in the springform pan out of the refrigerator and arrange the sliced fruit over the top.  Pour the gelatin mixture over the fruit and smooth.  Place back in the refrigerator to chill. 

Recipe Note

You may use colored soda instead of food coloring for the topping.  Any red colored soda like strawberry will color the gel to match the fruit (strawberries) you are using.  It is pretty to have sliced fruit in the clear gel too.

You can have 1/2 inch of gel topping, just double the recipe but you need to apply it in layers so no bubbles form.  

  • Layer 1 – arrange fruit on top of chilled cheesecake
  • Layer 2 – add a thin layer of gelatin and smooth – place in refrigerator until it has set.
  • Layer 3 – add more fruit or just add another layer of gelatin. Chill again.

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