This classic Philadelphia Cheesecake recipe is made with lots of cream cheese and doesn't have any fillers like sour cream or heavy cream. The buttery graham cracker crust perfectly complements the rich, creamy filling, making this the ultimate treat for any dessert lover.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
Delicious and Creamy: Made with four packages of cream cheese, this recipe produces a rich and creamy cheesecake that is slightly tangy and perfectly sweet. It is a classic cheesecake made with simple ingredients and doesn't have sour cream, heavy cream, or other mix-ins.
Perfect for special occasions: Cheesecake is a delicious dessert that is often reserved for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. This recipe is perfect for those occasions when you want to impress your guests with a decadent dessert.
Versatile: I love this traditional cheesecake by itself, but it is also easy to customize with your favorite toppings like fresh berries, chocolate sauce, or caramel sauce. If you are serving this recipe to a group you can even have several toppings for them to customize to their liking!
If you are looking for a no-bake recipe, try this No-Bake Vanilla Cheesecake, made with cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, and lots of vanilla! It's the perfect summer dessert!
Looking for the full recipe? See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full list of ingredients, including measurements and instructions.
- Graham Cracker Crumbs: I like to save time and purchase graham cracker crumbs, but you can make your own by crushing full sheets of graham crackers using a rolling pin or food processor. If you don't have graham crackers on hand, substitute digestive biscuits or shortbread biscuits, or make a vanilla wafer cookie crust.
- Philadelphia Cream Cheese: Gives the cheesecake its rich, creamy texture and tangy flavor. Leave the cream cheese out on the counter for 30-60 minutes before making the filling.
- Granulated Sugar: Sweetens the filling. Caster sugar is an equal substitution.
- Eggs: Provide structure and help the filling set. They should be at room temperature.
- Vanilla extract: Adds flavor to the filling. Because there are so few ingredients in this recipe, each one has a big impact, so use a high-quality pure vanilla extract.
- Lemon Juice: The acidity of the lemon juice helps build structure. I recommend freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Why is Philadelphia cream cheese so good?
I prefer Philadelphia cream cheese for its tangy yet creamy flavor and smooth texture that blends easily. It's also readily accessible in grocery stores.
Other brands may have more moisture, impacting how the filling sets up, so check moisture content if substituting.
How to Make Philadelphia Cheesecake
1) Prepare the crust
- Combine graham crumbs with the sugar and melted butter.
- Use a measuring cup or flat-bottomed glass to press the crust evenly into the bottom of a springform pan.
- Pre-baking the crust for a few minutes helps to set it and prevent it from becoming soggy when the filling is added later.
2) Prepare the filling
- Use room-temperature cream cheese and eggs to ensure that they blend together smoothly and evenly. Cold cream cheese and eggs may result in lumps in the filling.
- Use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and sugar together using medium speed in a large mixing bowl.
- Blend until they are completely smooth.
- Mix the eggs on low speed.
- Use a water bath to help the cheesecake bake evenly and reduce the chances of it cracking.
- Do not overbake the cheesecake. Overbaking can cause it to become dry and will also make it crack. It is done when the center is slightly jiggly but set around the edges.
- Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake cool for 30-60 minutes in the oven before removing it.
- Chill it for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator before serving.
Is it Important to Use a Water Bath?
Using a water bath when baking a cheesecake is optional, but it can help prevent it from cracking and can ensure that it bakes evenly. Here are some reasons why a water bath can be beneficial:
Even baking: A water bath helps to distribute the heat evenly around the cheesecake, which can help it bake more evenly and prevent it from overcooking or undercooking in certain areas.
Moisture: The steam generated by the water bath can help keep the cheesecake moist and prevent it from drying out or cracking.
Smooth surface: By keeping the cheesecake at a consistent temperature, a water bath can help prevent the surface from cracking or developing air pockets.
A water bath is simple to do. Just wrap the springform pan tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Make sure that there are no cracks or seams in the bottom 2 inches of the pan.
Place a large roasting pan on a rack in the lower ⅔ of your oven. Then place the filled springform pan inside the roasting pan. Carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan, filling it 1 inch deep.
- Make sure the butter is melted and cooled slightly before adding it to the crumbs. If the butter is too hot, it may cause the crust to be too greasy.
- Use room-temperature cream cheese and eggs as this will help the filling blend smoothly and completely.
- Mix the eggs in on low speed and do not overbeat the mixture once the eggs are added. If you introduce too much air at this point it can cause the cheesecake to crack or become too dense.
- Letting the cheesecake cool slowly will help reduce cracks. Once it is done cooking, turn the oven off and open the door. Let it cool for an hour. Then remove to the counter for an hour to continue cooling. Finally, refrigerate for at least an hour.
- For clean cheesecake slices, dip a sharp knife in hot water, wiping it off after each dip. The heat from the water will help cut through the filling smoothly.
- Pie Filling: There's nothing more classic than cherry pie filling as a topping for cheesecake. I love homemade strawberry pie filling too!
- Fresh fruit: Top with fresh berries, sliced peaches, or other seasonal fruits for a bright and flavorful contrast to the rich, creamy cheesecake.
- Chocolate Ganache: Drizzle warm chocolate ganache over the top for a decadent and indulgent finish.
- Caramel Sauce: Caramel is great on fancy cheesecakes like this Caramel Apple Crisp, but it is perfect for a classic cheesecake too!
- Candy: Add a crunchy topping, like chopped Heath bars or M&Ms. For a festive Easter cheesecake you can even use chopped Mini Eggs!
- Whipped Cream: Dollop fresh whipped cream or a little Cool Whip and garnish with shaved chocolate or a sprinkle of cinnamon.
- Cake Filling: It's not exactly a topping, but a fun variation is to bake snack cakes in the center of the filling like in this Christmas cheesecake. Or swirl in a fruit sauce like this White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake.
Experiment with different topping combinations to find your favorite, and don't be afraid to get creative!
What's the Difference Between Philadelphia and New York Cheesecake
Philadelphia cheesecake has a simpler flavor and preparation compared to New York style, with a smooth, dense texture. New York cheesecake filling usually has sour cream or heavy cream. This makes it creamier with a slightly tangier taste. Despite their differences, both types of cheesecake are delicious in their own right.
Despite popular belief, Philadelphia Cheesecake is not named after the city of Philadelphia. It actually gets its name because it is made with Philadelphia brand cream cheese as the main ingredient, and does not have fillers mixed in.
Interestingly, Philadelphia cream cheese is not even made in Philadelphia! It is produced in Lowville, New York. So does that make both styles a New York cheesecake?
Yes, you can make the cheesecake ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator several days before serving. Just be sure to cover it tightly with plastic wrap and store it in the back corner of your refrigerator, where it is coldest. You can learn more about cheesecake storage in this post on how long cheesecake lasts.
Yes, cheesecake can be frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze, wrap the cooled cheesecake (whole or slices) tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it in an airtight container or freezer bag. Thaw the cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
I do not recommend using low-fat cream cheese as it has more moisture and will not set properly.
Give the pan a gentle shake. The outside should be firm with the inside slightly jiggly. You can also insert an instant-read thermometer into the center of the cheesecake. It is done when the center reaches 150°F (65°C).
More Cheesecake Recipes
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Philadelphia CheesecakeRecipe by:
- 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs about 12 full sheets of graham crackers
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons salted butter melted
- 32 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a medium bowl. The mixture should look like fine sand.1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs, ⅓ cup granulated sugar, 6 tablespoons salted butter
- Transfer the crumbs to a 9-inch springform pan and press them into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Then remove from the oven and allow to cool while preparing the filling.
- Reduce the oven to 325°F (165°C).
- Place the cream cheese and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed using an electric stand or hand mixture until creamy, about 2 minutes.32 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, 1 cup granulated sugar
- Add the eggs one at a time, using low speed and scraping the bowl between each addition. Keep the mixer on low at this point and do not overbeat.3 eggs
- Mix in the vanilla extract and lemon juice on low speed.2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Spread the cream cheese mixture smoothly over the graham cracker crust. See the recipe notes section if you want to use a water bath. Bake the cheesecake for 70-85 minutes, or until the center is set.
- Turn the oven off and open the oven door. Let the cheesecake cool in the oven for 1 hour, without disturbing it. Remove it from the oven and cool for an additional hour at room temperature. Then transfer to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
- Top with your favorite fruit, pie filling, chocolate, or caramel sauce, if desired.