One of my favorite cheesecake recipes is the Italian Cheesecake recipe that I posted previously. However, that cheesecake recipe calls for specialty ingredients (mascarpone cheese + ricotta cheese) which can be somewhat expensive and a little bit harder to find – so I don’t make it all the time. Most of the time, I use this recipe instead – a basic New York style cheesecake recipe with the more economical ingredients of cream cheese and sour cream. It’s very easy to make, and can be altered in many ways to make interesting flavor variations.
The simplest version of cheese cake is just flavored with vanilla, and you can use either a graham cracker, shortbread, or oreo cookie base to make the crust with the ratio of about 1 1/2 c. cookie/graham cracker crumbs + about 5 – 6 T. melted butter + up to 1/4 c. sugar if needed. (The ratio for oreo cookies is a bit different, as the oreo cookies are pulverized whole with the cream filling included – so you don’t need as much added fat to make the crumbs stick together.) You can use either vanilla extract from the bottle – or step it up a bit and use real vanilla bean pods (just split the bean in half along the length of the bean, and scrape the insides with the sharp tip of a knife to add to your batter). Vanilla bean pods can be somewhat expensive depending on where you buy them – but I have found them really cheap at Cost Plus World Market, or you can buy them in bulk online.
Feel free to customize your cheesecake to your liking! Here are some flavor variation ideas:
Tiramisu cheesecake: Line the springform pan with ladyfingers, soak with 1/4 cup of espresso or strong coffee. Add 3 T. kahlua to the cheesecake batter in place of the vanilla extract.
Lemon Cheesecake: Use a shortbread of graham cracker crust. Use 1 tsp. lemon extract + the zest of two lemons in the batter in place of the vanilla extract. Garnish with whipped cream and thin sliced lemons.
Apple Pie Cheesecake: Use a shortbread or graham cracker crust. Use 1 tsp. cinnamon + 1 tsp. vanilla extract in the batter, in place of the sour cream topping use 1 c. apple pie filling.
Candy Bar Cheesecake: Use any flavor crust you prefer. Use 1 tsp. vanilla + 1 c. coarsely chopped candy bars (snicker’s, reese’s PB cups, etc.). Garnish with chopped candy bar bits.
Strawberry Cheesecake: Use a graham cracker base for the crust (1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs + about 1/3 c. melted butter). Slightly warm 3/4 c. strawberry jam and spread over the crust before filling with the cheesecake batter. Top with fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream.
Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake: Use an oreo base for the crust. Add 3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder to the cheesecake batter. Slightly warm 3/4 c. raspberry jam and spread it over the crust before filling with the cheesecake batter. Top with fresh raspberries and whipped cream. Drizzle with chocolate syrup, or sprinkle with shaved chocolate.
- 14 oreo cookies
- 2 T. canola oil or melted butter
- 24 oz. cream cheese (three 8 oz. packages)
- 1 c. sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract (or use 1-2 whole vanilla beans)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 c. sour cream
- 3 eggs
- 1 c. sour cream
- 3 T. sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Make sure all your ingredients are room temperature before starting. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Crush the oreo cookies in a food processor until fine crumbs. (You can substitute with vanilla wafers or graham crackers by using 1 1/2 c. cookie crumbs + about 5-6 T. melted butter + up to 1/4 c. sugar if needed.)
2. Pulse the cookie crumbs a few times with the canola oil or melted butter, then press the crumbs into the bottom and up 1/2 the side of a 9″ springform pan. (The crumbs do not need to go all the way up the sides).
3. Mix the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, salt, and sour cream until fully blended. (The black bits in the photo below are the insides of a scraped vanilla bean.)
4. Add the eggs into the cream cheese mixture, one at a time. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next egg.
5. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the prepared pan.
6. Set a baking dish of hot tap water into the bottom of the oven, and place the cheesecake on the rack above the water bath. Bake for about 1 hour. (You can see on the bottom of the oven floor – I have my ceramic pizza stone. I always leave it in the bottom of the oven when baking because it keeps the temperature of the oven more constant.)
7. The cheesecake will be a bit puffed up in the center, and will jiggle a bit when it is done. (If the center is caved in, you may need to bake it a bit longer -add 10 minutes extra if needed.) The center does not need to be fully set because the cheesecake will continue to cook while cooling, but you don’t want it to be too liquid like in the center before you turn off the heat. It will be quite “jiggly” though.
8. Turn off the heat, and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven about 1 hour with the door slightly ajar. The cheesecake is going to shrink back a bit while cooling – this is normal.
9. Remove the cheesecake from the oven. Mix the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla for the sour cream topping. Spread the sour cream mixture into the depression on the top of the cheesecake.
10. Refrigerate several hours (or overnight) until completely chilled.
11. Serve and enjoy!