Vanilla Cheesecake

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This Vanilla Cheesecake is smooth, creamy, and perfect plain or with any topping! It’s easy to make and don’t be intimidated by the water bath! It’s what makes a good cheesecake!

Straight on view of vanilla cheesecake on a white plate, strawberry sauce over the top, and a bite taken out showing how creamy and smooth it is.

Baked Vanilla Cheesecake Made Simple

It’s hard to beat classic recipes and a simple classic vanilla cheesecake is one of them! I have always steered clear of baked cheesecakes because of the water bath and even tried several recipes claiming you don’t need a water bath, but guess what….you do! They would crack or not have quite the right texture.

And you know what else….it really isn’t that hard! I don’t know why they scared me away all these years. I have made plenty of no-bake cheesecakes like this No Bake Vanilla Cheesecake or even this rich and decadent Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cheesecake. But if you are looking for that traditional cheesecake this recipe is for you!

Ingredients for vanilla cheesecake: cream cheese, vanilla, eggs, sour cream, butter, sugar, graham cracker crumbs.


GRAHAM CRACKER CRUMBS, BUTTER, SUGAR: All used to make a delicious homemade graham cracker crust. Readers outside the US use digestive biscuits.
CREAM CHEESE: It is crucial to use block-style cream cheese and not the kind found in a tub. Spreadable cream cheese has extra ingredients added and not suitable for this recipe. Also, reduced fat is not recommended for this recipe! Sorry no diets here, lol!

SOUR CREAM: I like the addition of sour cream because it lightens up the cheesecake a bit so it isn’t quite as dense.
SUGAR: I found 1 cup to be plenty. It was just enough to sweeten the cheesecake but not be overwhelming.

VANILLA: Used to flavor the cheesecake. If you want to use vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste instead of extract that would be fabulous!!
EGGS: Help bind everything together.

Eight pictures showing how to make this classic dessert: 3 showing how to make the crust, 4 showing how to make the cheesecake filling, and the last showing it in the water bath.

How To Make Vanilla Cheesecake

CRUST: In a medium bowl mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter, and salt. I like to add just a pinch of salt to the crust for just a bit of that sweet and salty bite. Leave it out if you prefer. Pack this tightly into a 9-inch springform pan wrapped in foil. Bake for 10 minutes.

CHEESECAKE FILLING: Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth and creamy. Stir in the sour cream and vanilla scraping the sides often. One at a time stir in the eggs just until combined, scraping often. Spoon into prepared crust.

WATER BATH: While you are preparing the filling heat several cups of water. Place a large roaster pan in your oven, set the cheesecake in the center, and carefully pour in the hot water. The water should come halfway up the cheesecake. I know you may want to skip the water bath step but cheesecake loves a humid environment and this helps prevent cracks along with not overmixing.

COOLING: After the cheesecake has baked turn off the oven and crack the door but don’t remove the cheesecake. This allows the cheesecake to slowly finish cooking and slowly start to cool off which is another great tool to combat cracks. Drastic changes in temperature aren’t good for cheesecake.

After the cheesecake has been in the oven for about an hour remove it from the water bath and run a sharp knife around the cheesecake but don’t remove it from the form just yet. Allow the cheesecake to cool at room temperature for at least 2 hours then transfer it to the refrigerator to refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Overhead view of finished whole cheesecake with blueberries and sliced strawberries on top.



1. Not using a water bath. Baked cheesecakes prefer humid heat over dry heat.
2. Overmixing the cheesecake batter. Low speed is always recommended when mixing cheesecake so air isn’t introduced.
3. Temperature shock. When the cheesecake is done cooking don’t remove it from the oven immediately. Leave it for 1 hour to slowly cool down.
4. Not running your knife around the edge when you remove it from the oven. This is important to free the cheesecake from the side of the pan so as it cools it doesn’t pull and form a crack.


Cracks can happen and when they do, don’t despair, the cheesecake will still taste fabulous! You can cover them up with fresh fruit, fruit sauces, or a yummy sour cream topping.


1. Allow the cheesecake to fully cool at room temperature.
2. Remove the outer ring of the springform pan.
3. Wrap the cheesecake in a couple of layers of plastic wrap and then in heavy-duty foil.
4. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Overhead view of 2 slices of cheesecake on white plates and topped with fruit and sauce. Fruit scattered around.

Tips For The Perfect Vanilla Cheesecake

  1. Use block-style full-fat cream cheese and full-fat sour cream.
  2. Have all ingredients at room temperature. This is important so everything mixes easily and thoroughly.
  3. Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl OFTEN. This is also important so everything mixes well.
  4. Mix on low speed. I never go above speed 1 when mixing cheesecake so I don’t add air to the filling which can lead to cracks.
  5. Use a water bath. Water baths add moisture to the dry air in the oven. Dry air will dry out the surface of the cheesecake leading to cracks.
  6. NO sudden change of temperature. When the cheesecake is done cooking don’t remove it. Instead, turn off the oven and slightly crack the door. Leave the cheesecake there for 1 hour to slowly cool down.
  7. When you remove the cheesecake from the oven run a sharp knife around the cheesecake and the pan to loosen the cheesecake.
Straight on view of a slice of cheesecake with strawberry sauce spilling over the edge.

Cheesecake Toppings

There are countless toppings you can use with this classic vanilla cheesecake. Use a sour cream topping and this works really well if your cheesecake is cracked. Combine 2 cups room temperature sour cream, 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Spread over the top of the cooled cheesecake.

Other great options are fresh fruit or fruit sauces, Homemade Lemon Curd, whipped cream (especially good if homemade!!), chocolate ganache, or even Salted Caramel Sauce.

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Straight on view of vanilla cheesecake on a white plate, strawberry sauce over the top, and a bite taken out showing how creamy and smooth it is.

Vanilla Cheesecake

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: baked vanilla cheesecake
This Vanilla Cheesecake is smooth, creamy, and perfect plain or with any topping! It's easy to make and don't be intimidated by the water bath! It's what makes a good cheesecake!
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Chilling:: 9 hours
Total Time: 10 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 16
Calories: 304kcal
Author: Malinda Linnebur
Print Recipe Save Recipe



  • 2 cups (245g) graham cracker crumbs (about 16 full sheets)
  • ½ cup (113g) butter, melted
  • cup (65g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  • 4 (8 ounce) (226g) block-style full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature



  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap a 9" springform pan with heavy-duty foil to prevent water from leaking into the cheesecake; set aside.
  • In a medium bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt. Press into prepared pan and halfway up the sides. Pack this firmly so it doesn't crumble when slicing. Bake for 10 minutes.


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Scrape sides often.
  • Mix in the sour cream and vanilla on low speed. Scrape sides often.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed just until combined. Don't overmix. Scrape the sides often.
  • Pour filling into crust. Place a large roasting pan in the oven and set the cheesecake in the middle. Carefully pour hot water in the roasting pan. Pour enough to come halfway up the springform pan. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and crack the door. DO NOT remove the cheesecake or disturb the cheesecake for 1 hour.
  • Remove from the oven and run a sharp knife around the pan to loosen the cheesecake. Allow to cool for 2 hours at room temperature then for a minimum of 6 hours in the refrigerator. To serve remove outer ring and slice into 16 slices.


  1. STORAGE: Store cheesecake covered in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. 
  2. FREEZER-FRIENDLY: Wrap completely cooled cheesecake in plastic wrap then in heavy-duty foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. 
  3. WATER BATH: If you don’t have a large enough roasting pan place a large pan of water beneath the cheesecake while baking. 


Serving: 1slice | Calories: 304kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 256mg | Potassium: 92mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 345IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 1mg

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