New York Cheesecake is super-creamy, soft, and has a lovely tang, thanks to a generous helping of sour cream in the batter. Sour Cherry Topping is the perfect bright accent for the rich and creamy cake. The crunchy graham cracker crust adds texture and ties the entire dessert together for a perfect slice of heaven.
First thing I want to say about this New York Cheesecake is that it’s not a cake at all. All baked cheesecakes are custards and should be treated as such. (“No-Bake” cheesecakes are something entirely different.)
So, what is a custard anyway? A custard is simply a liquid that is thickened with eggs. Creme Anglaise is a custard sauce made with milk or cream. Lemon curd is a custard made with lemon juice. Cheesecake is a custard made with cream cheese and, in this recipe, sour cream.
The key to a smooth and creamy custard, as opposed to a curdled and watery custard, is even and slow cooking. The way to ensure that your cheesecake bakes evenly and slowly is to submerge the pan in a water bath. Since the temperature of the water cannot go above the boiling point of 212°F, the cake will will bake at an even and low temperature. Your cheesecake will be consistently creamy from stem to stern.
Having just said that, if you want to make a cheesecake that breaks all the cheesecake rules check out this recipe for San Sebastian Cheesecake. Anyway, back to the classic version….
Any decent baked cheesecake recipe should specify that the cake is baked in a water bath. But, I do my cheesecakes a little differently than you may be used to. First of all, I bake my cheesecakes in an ordinary cake pan, not in a springform pan.
Commercial bakeries often bake 20 or 30 cheesecakes at a time. When you’re working at that volume, you don’t have time to fuss with springform pans wrapped in foil.
Even if you’re baking one cheesecake at home, I honestly think it’s simply easier to bake in a regular cake pan. First of all, this means you don’t need to buy another pan if you don’t already own a springform pan.
Second of all, almost every springform pan I’ve ever owned becomes a bit warped over time, making it almost impossible to bake in a water bath without leaking. Once you see how easy it is to bake a cheesecake in a regular cake pan you can skip the tedious and not always water-proof process of wrapping the pan in foil.
I use a regular cake pan lined with parchment paper and then use a blow torch (or hot water, but a blow torch is more fun!) to release the cold cake from the pan. I’ve never had a problem with a cake sticking.
You can see how to do this in the video in this post.
Many recipes recommend that you leave the baked cheesecake in the oven as it cools. The reasoning on this is that the cake will cool very slowly so it won’t shrink and crack.
But there another way to minimize the risk of a cracked top on the cake as it cools without tying up your oven for an hour. I remove the cake from the oven as soon as it’s ready and then run a thin knife around the sides of the warm cheesecake to separate the sides of the cake from the pan. As the cake cools the sides are free so if the cake shrinks a bit there’s less chance of cracking.
Here are some other tips for cheesecake success–
- To avoid lumps of cream cheese in the batter, make sure the cream cheese is softened to room temperature before mixing. Thoroughly scrape the bowl after mixing the cheese, after adding the sugar and after each addition of eggs to the batter.
- Do not over mix the batter or mix on high speed, especially after the eggs are added. Over mixing aerates the batter, causing it to puff up and crack as it bakes.
- Do not use the convection setting of your oven. I love convection baking, but not for custards.
- Remove the cake from the oven when the center 3″ or so still “jiggle” when you tap the pan. It will continue cooking as it cools.
- Chill the cake completely in the refrigerator before unmolding. As long as the cake is completely chilled it will be firm enough to flip out of a regular cake pan without cracking.
Watch the video to see how to make a New York Cheesecake with Sour Cherry topping!
For the Crust
- 1 1/2 cups (8oz, 224g) graham cracker crumbs (about 14 crackers)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup (2 oz, 56g) granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons (3 oz, 84g) butter, melted
For the Batter
- 3 8-oz packages (24 oz, 672g) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (12 oz, 336g) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups (16 oz, 448g) sour cream, room temperature
- 4 large eggs plus 2 yolks, room temperature & whisked together
Cherry Topping (see note)
- 16 oz (448 g) fresh or frozen pitted sour cherries and their juice (see note)
- 2 cups (16 oz, 448g) granulated sugar
- 5 tbsp (1.25 oz, 35g) corn starch
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup (4 oz, 120ml) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9 round cake pan with https://amzn.to/2K3b8YK, or use a springform pan lined with parchment. Wrap the outside of the springform pan with aluminum foil.
Make the Crust
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add the melted butter and toss to combine. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until fragrant and lightly browned, about 10 minutes, set aside to cool. Reduce oven to 325°F
Make the Batter
- Combine the cream cheese & sugar and mix on low speed until well combined with no lumps of cream cheese. Scrape the bowl and mixer attachment to make sure there are no lumps of cream cheese. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix to combine. Add the sour cream and mix to combine.
- With the mixer running on low speed add the eggs in 3 batches, scrape the bowl and paddle attachment between additions. Pour batter into the pan. Set the pan into a larger pan and pour warm water into the larger pan until it comes ½ way up the sides of the cake pan.
- Bake in the water bath until the cheesecake is mostly set, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The center of the cheesecake will still jiggle a bit. Set the pan on a cooling rack. Run a thin paring knife around the sides of the cake and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate several hours or overnight until completely cool and firm.
Make the topping
- Combine the cherries, juice, granulated sugar, corn starch and salt in a small saucepan.
- Cook over medium heat until the juice begins to boil. Cook for 1 minute until the juice begins to thicken. Transfer the topping to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature. Chill until ready to assemble the cake.
Assemble the cake
- If you used a springform pan, run a paring knife around the cake to separate it from the pan, release the spring and remove the pan. If you used a regular cake pan, dip the bottom of the pan in a bowl of very hot water, run a knife or spatula around the sides of the cake and flip it out onto a flat plate or cake circle, then flip right side up onto the serving platter. Alternately, if you have a propane torch you can flip the pan over and run the torch over the bottom and sides of the pan to loosen the cake.
- Whip the cream with the confectioner's sugar until full peak. Scoop the cream into a piping bag with a star tip and pipe a border of whipped cream around the top of the cake.
- Scoop the cherry filling onto the top of the cake, spreading the filling to the whipped cream border.(see note)
- Refrigerate until serving.
If you don't have access to fresh or frozen sour cherries, use any fruit topping of your choice or use pre-made sour cherry pie filling or preserves.
(save the pits for Cherry Pit Ice Cream)
If you don't have a piping bag to make a border you can serve the cherry topping as a sauce with the cheesecake.
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