Cheesecake. Decadent, rich, and oh so versatile. It also happens to be pretty easy to make yourself even if you don’t have a lot of fancy equipment. In this post, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about how to make a homemade cheesecake! While this post does contain a lot of great information, in order to make a cheesecake from here you’ll need a recipe. I’ve included a few links to cheesecake recipes in this post to get you started!
Cheesecake From Scratch
Cheesecake is a magical dessert. There are so many ways to prepare it, ingredients to use, and flavor profiles to experiment with, that you really can make this your own over and over again in a countless number of ways.
Even if you are a novice baker, cheesecake is not as hard to make as you might think. Why make a cheesecake from scratch? Well, I have found the vast majority of store bought or restaurant cheesecakes to be one note, with a texture that isn’t as smooth as homemade. In fact, many restaurants that have cheesecake on the menu don’t even make it themselves anyway. They buy it pre-made.
Also, the graham cracker crust has that refrigerator flavor (you know what I mean) from sitting too long. It has no flavor, and it’s soggy. No thanks!
I highly recommend making cheesecake from scratch from here on. It’s easy and the variations are more numerous than you find in a store.
Baked Cheesecake vs No Bake Cheesecake
There are two main types of cheesecake, baked and no bake. I’ll be covering both of these in this post. They have some similar basic ingredients, but the methods for making each are quite different.
Your basic baked cheesecake is going to contain cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and sour cream or ricotta cheese. Sometimes it will have all of these. It is baked most often in a springform pan, with or without the use of a water bath (more on that later).
No Bake Cheesecake
No bake cheesecake is going to have many of the same ingredients as a baked cheesecake with one big difference: no eggs. Why no eggs? Well, we aren’t baking it, so that means no way to cook the eggs. Eggs are replaced by things like whipped cream or gelatin to help the cheesecake set up and have a firm texture. If you’d like to try a no bake cheesecake recipe, these No Bake Mojito Cheesecakes in a Jar are fantastic!
Ingredients For Homemade Cheesecake
This ingredient list covers both baked and no bake cheesecake. These ingredients are the most common that are used and it is by no means comprehensive. Almost all cheesecakes will have at least some of the ingredients listed here.
This is a pretty obvious one, as most cheesecakes contain at least some cream cheese. It is usually the primary ingredient. There are a number of recipes out there which will use ricotta or mascarpone as well.
Best Cream Cheese For Cheesecake
Definitely use full fat, don’t use low fat cream cheese. You are not going to be happy with the result.
Use a product labeled cream cheese, not neufchatel. It is not something I have ever used personally or seen it used in other cheesecake recipes.
Also, be sure to check the ingredient list. There are some cheaper alternatives that will have ingredients like palm oil in them, and these will not produce a good result.
The moral of the story? Stick with full fat cream cheese, organic if you can (I think it tastes better).
If you are going to use ricotta, get the best quality you can find. Again, full fat not low fat! For a great cheesecake recipe using ricotta cheese, check out this Dark Chocolate Orange Cheesecake.
Typically, large eggs are the way to go. Remember, you won’t need them if you are making a no bake cheesecake.
White granulated sugar is the most common, but you could try raw turbinado or even brown sugar. As far as sugar substitutes go, you can try using anything ok to bake with for a baked cheesecake. Your options might be a little more broad for a no bake cheesecake. You can even use powdered sugar in no bake cheesecake to help stiffen the mixture.
I know I’ve said this already, but use the full fat version. You could use Mexican Crema, plain Greek Yogurt, or creme fraiche in place of sour cream if you choose. Just use full fat!
Gelatine is commonly used in the no bake variety of cheesecakes to help the cheesecake batter set and create a firmer texture. You could use powdered gelatine or gelatine sheets.
This can be used as is for a baked cheesecake. It is a pretty important ingredient for no bake, because whipping your cream into stiff peaks in combination with the cream cheese creates a fluffy yet firm texture.
Equipment Needed For Making Cheesecake
While you don’t necessarily need a springform pan for cheesecake, it’s honestly going to make the whole experience easier. A springform pan allows you to remove the sides of the pan after cooking, making it much easier to slice and serve the cheesecake.
I have used both a stand mixer and a hand held mixer when making cheesecake. I find a stand mixer to be much easier, but a hand mixer will do the job if that’s what you have!
Large Roasting Pan
This is only going to be needed if you are using the water bath method to bake your cheesecake. You need to make sure that it is large enough to old the springform pan and for the water to come up the sides of the springform pan about halfway.
How To Make Cheesecake Filling
The process for making cheesecake filling is similar whether or not you bake it. For baked cheesecake, always make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. There is an exception to this with a no bake cheesecake, though. For that, you will want your cream cold so it whips nicely, and your cream cheese to be room temperature.
Why is that?
- It helps prevent cracks in the top of your baked cheesecake because the ingredients are properly incorporated.
- Your stand mixer or hand mixer will be happy because it does not have to work as hard fluffing up a bunch of rock solid cream cheese.
- Room temperature cream cheese means more air can be incorporated into your cheesecake batter. This means a smooth cheesecake batter with a lovely texture.
Baked Cheesecake Filling
For a baked cheesecake, you are going to start making the filling by whipping your cream cheese and sugar in either a stand mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer until it’s light and fluffy.
If you are using any additions like ricotta, lemon zest, chocolate, or vanilla this is the time to add them once the cream cheese and sugar are incorporated.
Next, the eggs are added one at a time and mixed after each.
Once the filling is ready, you can pour it into your prepared pan with the crust of your choice.
At this point, you place it in the oven if you’re baking it, or in the refrigerator to set if it’s no bake.
No Bake Cheesecake Filling
No bake cheesecake utilizes whipped cream to help create your filling. When making no bake cheesecake, I always make my whipped cream first. Then, I scrape it into another bowl to store in the refrigerator while I whip the cream cheese and sugar together in the same bowl I used to make the whipped cream.
How to Bake A Cheesecake
There are two ways to bake a cheesecake: with a water bath, and without a water bath. I’ll cover some basic need to know information on both here.
Water Bath Baking
Water bath baking is done with the springform pan placed inside a roasting pan that is big enough for the springform pan to fit inside it. Boiling water is then poured into the roasting pan around the springform pan and the cheesecake is baked.
Baking A Cheesecake Without A Water Bath
This is exactly how it sounds. You put your cheesecake in the oven and bake it with no water bath. For more on this technique, visit my post for Cheesecake With Blackberry Lavender Swirl.
How To Make A No Bake Cheesecake
No bake cheesecake is simply cream cheese and sugar whipped until fluffy with whipped cream gently stirred in. This forms the basis of the cheesecake batter. Gelatine is sometimes used as well. Citrus zest, citrus juice, chocolate, or other things can be added just as you would to a baked cheesecake.
You may not necessarily need to use a springform pan for a no bake cheesecake, as shown above with my recipe for no bake cheesecake in a mason jar.
If you tried making a cheesecake from scratch after reading this post, I’d love to hear how it turned out! Just leave a comment below, or take a picture and tag me @thecoppertable on Instagram, or pin to a board on Pinterest. If this post helped you learn how to make a homemade cheesecake, please share it with your friends on social media! If you have not signed up for my newsletter, you can do that below. I have all sorts of exclusive content just for newsletter subscribers, and I’d love for you to join. Happy Cooking!