With this recipe, a creamy, gorgeous, crack-free New York-style cheesecake is totally doable, even for beginners!
Truth be told, New York’s take on cheesecake can be a little intimidating to make. Though the ingredients are simple, you have to worry about the water bath leaking into the cake, the surface cracking, and over or under-cooking. But after baking umpteen cheesecakes over the years (for birthdays and such, not bribery!), I’ve found that with the right recipe and a few pointers, a creamy, crack-free New York-style cheesecake is totally doable, even for beginners.
What you’ll need to make new york-style cheesecake
Before we get to the recipe, you’ll need a nine or ten-inch springform pan and 18-inch heavy-duty aluminum foil. The springform pan features sides that can be removed from the base, so you can release the cheesecake easily without having to flip the whole pan over (this would be a disaster with a cheesecake!).
Springform pans, however, are notorious for leaking. Since a cheesecake bakes in a water bath, the foil prevents the water from seeping in during baking. Please do not attempt to use standard 12-inch aluminum foil — you can’t have any foil seams on the bottom or sides of the pan. I can tell you from experience that no matter how well (or how many times) you wrap the pan, if there are seams exposed to the water, the water will find a way in.
How to make new york-style cheesecake
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Next wrap the springform pan with one large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, covering the underside of the pan and extending all the way to the top. Repeat with another sheet of foil for insurance. Spray the inside of the pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Make the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and salt.
Stir until well combined.
Press the crumbs into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until set. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
Make the batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the cream cheese, sugar, and flour. Flour might seem like an odd addition, but a little starch prevents the cheesecake from cracking as it cools.
Beat on medium speed until just smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to be sure the mixture is evenly combined.
Add the vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt; beat on low speed until just combined.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until incorporated, scraping the bowl as necessary.
Mix in the sour cream.
Make sure the batter is uniform but do not over-mix.
Pour the batter on top of the crust.
Set the unbaked cheesecake in a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes about one inch up the side of the cake pan. The water bath (also called a bain marie) regulates the temperature and keeps the cheesecake baking at an even, low heat. The steam created by the water bath also protects the cheesecake from drying out and cracking.
Bake until the cake is just set, 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes (the cake should not look liquidy at all but will wobble just a bit when the pan is nudged; it will continue to cook as it cools).
Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Cool the cheesecake in the water bath until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator to cool for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Remove the sides of the springform pan. You can serve the cheesecake right from the base of the springform pan. Or, if you dare to transfer it to a serving platter, run a long, thin spatula between the crust and the pan bottom, and then use two large spatulas to transfer the cheesecake to a serving dish. Slice with a sharp knife, wiping the knife clean between slices. Serve with berry sauce, if you like.