This strawberry cheesecake is perfectly dreamy and creamy. It’s got the most delicious graham cracker crust and is topped with a luscious, homemade strawberry sauce. We've found the secret to making a perfectly smooth cheesecake that doesn’t need a water bath, won’t crack, and is perfectly milky white.
- For the Graham Cracker Crust:
- 1 box graham crackers
- 1/2 cup butter (melted)
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the cheesecake:
- 4 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese (softened)
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup sour cream (room temperature)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 eggs (room temperature)
- For the strawberry topping:
- 1 pound strawberries
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.
Prepare the Crust
Gather the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Add the graham crackers and sugar to the food processor and pulse until there are fine crumbs. Drizzle in the butter and vanilla extract and pulse until the crust comes together.
Grease an entire 9-inch springform pan. Press the graham cracker mixture into the bottom. Use the back of a measuring cup to even the mixture and let it come partly up the sides of the pan. Note that you can also line the pan with a round piece of parchment paper for easy transfer to a serving plate when baked.
Bake the crust for 7 minutes and remove from the oven to cool slightly. Turn the oven down to 200 F.
Prepare the Cheesecake Batter
Gather the ingredients.
Add the softened cream cheese blocks to a large bowl. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the top and add the sour cream, vanilla extract, lemon juice, salt, and cornstarch. Beat with a hand mixer until the mixture is completely smooth and no lumps remain.
Beat in the eggs one at a time until just combined with the cream cheese mixture. Do not over beat once the eggs are added, too much beating will aerate the batter and make it rise and fall in the oven.
Pour the batter into the prepared crust and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.
Bake for 90 to 120 minutes. Do not try and open the oven door until at least the 90 minute mark. After this time, open it a crack and then slowly open the rest of the way. Gently nudge the cheesecake pan. If there is only a slight jiggle in the middle, it's ready. If the whole cheesecake still jiggles, then leave it in for another 15 minute interval.
Open the door about 8 inches and allow the cheesecake to cool for at least 20 minutes in the oven. You can then open the door all the way and cool for an additional ten if you wish. Once the cheesecake is completely cool, wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Prepare the Strawberry Topping
Gather the ingredients.
Hull all of the strawberries. Cut half of them into a dice and the other half in halves.
Add the diced strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla extract to a small saucepan. Stir and cook on medium low heat until the strawberries are almost completely broken down, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Whisk together the cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water. Add it to the saucepan and stir to combine. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until thickened. Add in the strawberry halves and toss to coat. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Once the cheesecake has cooled completely, top it with the strawberry sauce, slice and serve. Store in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to three days.
Here are the tips we outlined above in condensed form. These are the things you need to do in order to have a smooth, creamy cheesecake that does not crack.
- Low and slow: You are going to cook this cheesecake at a very low temperature for a long time. This method helps you avoid the pitfalls of a water bath, which often causes a soggy crust and is a pain to assemble. Baking at 200 F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours in the oven are ideal.
- Don’t overmix: The more you beat the batter, the more aerated it will become. When you aerate the batter it can rise too quickly in the oven and has the potential to fall, causing the cracks.
- Cool in the oven: Once the cheesecake is done cooking, it’s important to allow it to cool with the door of the oven partially open for at least 25 minutes. This gradual cooling helps to prevent cracks as well. The cheesecake will cool slowly and won’t be shocked by temperature changes.
- Room temperature ingredients: Make sure the ingredients for the batter are at room temperature before mixing. This helps the ingredients combine easily and doesn’t leave any clumps in the batter, which will alter the texture of the cheesecake.
How to Freeze:
Allow the cheesecake to cool and chill completely. Remove the springform pan from the cheesecake (the bottom too, if you can) and wrap completely with plastic wrap. You can also wrap it in foil after the plastic wrap for extra freezer burn protection. Place it in the freezer and freeze for up to 4 months.
Allow to thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
You can also cut the cheesecake into individual pieces and freeze separately, or wrap whole and freeze for quicker thaw time.