This Philadelphia cheesecake recipe makes a super smooth, creamy cheesecake with a crunchy graham cracker crust. This step-by-step guide shows how to make a Philadelphia cheesecake, plus plenty of tips and tricks to bake the best cheesecake.
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The best Philadelphia cream cheese cheesecake recipe
I’m a big fan of cheesecake, and this delicious Philadelphia cheesecake recipe is my favorite. A luscious, creamy cheesecake sits in a crunchy graham cracker crust. It’s out of this world delicious!
One of the best things about Philadelphia cheesecake is that you can prepare and serve it with so many different things. In fact, cheesecake is the perfect canvas for any number of toppings.
This Philadelphia cheesecake is as simple as it gets for a baked cheesecake – it’s the perfect recipe for beginners! You’ll learn all my secrets to set up a water bath, get the best texture, and avoid cracks.
Don’t wanna turn on the oven? Try our Philadelphia no-bake cheesecake or this no-bake cheesecake without heavy cream instead.
Pressed for time? Hit the Jump-To-Recipe button at the top of the page or scroll down to the recipe card to get the recipe right away.
It doesn’t take much to make this Philadelphia cheesecake recipe. You may already have most of the ingredients in your pantry and fridge. Please review the recipe card below for exact measurements.
- Graham cracker crust: To make the crust, you’ll need graham cracker crumbs, melted salted butter, and a few tablespoons of sugar. Nice and easy!
- Philadelphia cream cheese: As the name suggests, you need Philadelphia cream cheese. Be sure to soften your cream cheese at room temperature for 30 minutes to prevent a lumpy filling. I also recommend full-fat cream cheese for the creamiest texture.
- Sour cream lightens up the texture and provides a subtle tang. Again, full fat is the way to go.
- Granulated sugar gives the cheesecake the right amount of sweetness and moisture.
- All-purpose flour is my secret to ensuring the cheesecake sets up properly and has a silky texture.
- Eggs: 4 large eggs help to bind everything together. The eggs should also be at room temperature, so take them out beforehand.
- Pure vanilla extract gives the cheesecake a rich vanilla flavor. Vanilla bean paste is even better. You can find more flavor ideas in the variations section below.
How much cream cheese for cheesecake do I need?
This recipe requires three 8-oz packages of block-style full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese. That’s a total of 24 oz or 680 g of cream cheese!
How to make Philadelphia cheesecake recipe
Philadelphia cream cheese cheesecake is not complicated to make. I’ve broken the process down step-by-step and included many details and tips so you can bake the best Philadelphia cheesecake ever!
Before you start
- Give yourself plenty of time: While whipping up this Philly cheesecake is pretty easy, it takes a little time. You need about 6 hours for the cheesecake to cool and firm up after it’s baked.
- Grab a 9-inch springform pan: The removable side ring makes it so much easier to remove the baked cheesecake from the pan after it’s done baking and cooling.
- Water bath: This cheesecake needs to bake in a water bath. You need a 10-inch silicone pan to protect the springform pan from water leaks and another 11 or 12-inch baking pan for the water bath. We’ll talk about this more in a moment.
#1: Make the graham cracker crust
- Heat oven. Adjust a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F / 165°C / gas mark 3. Line the bottom of a 9-inch / 23 cm springform pan with a parchment paper circle and grease the sides with butter.
- Make crust. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Stir until the graham cracker crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan.
- Prebake crust. Bake the graham cracker crust for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.
Why use a silicone baking pan?
Springform pans aren’t waterproof; if water leaks, your cheesecake will end up soggy. You can wrap the springform pan with aluminum foil, but foil easily gets tiny tears that let water through.
Not so a silicone baking pan! It’s the perfect buffer between your cheesecake and the water bath. It’s 100% leakproof, reusable, and evenly passes the heat onto the cheesecake.
#2: Mix the cheesecake filling
- Reduce oven temperature. Turn the oven temperature down to 300°F / 150°C / gas mark 2.
- Mix filling. Using a large mixing bowl and a hand-held mixer, beat the softened cream cheese, sugar, and flour until well blended and smooth. Mix at low speed to avoid incorporating too much air into the batter, which can cause cracks. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add liquid ingredients. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Next, add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition until just incorporated. Scrape the bowl and make sure everything is well combined. Then pour the mixture over the crust.
#3: Bake the cheesecake
- Set up water bath. Place the springform pan into a larger silicone cake pan. Then put the silicone pan into an even larger baking pan. Fill the gap between the pans with warm water to reach about halfway up the sides of the silicone pan. Make sure the water doesn’t go above the edge of the silicone pan.
- Bake cheesecake. Transfer the pans to the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the center is almost set.
Why use a water bath?
Baking cheesecake in water baths may seem complicated, but it really isn’t. A water bath ensures your cheesecake doesn’t crack, burn, or fall in the center as it cools. You don’t want any of these things to occur when you put so much effort into a dessert.
#4: Let the cheesecake cool
- Turn off oven. Turn off your oven. Leave the oven door closed for 30 minutes. The cake will continue to bake but also begin to slowly cool.
- Open oven door. Crack the oven door to allow the cheesecake to continue cooling down slowly. This process helps to prevent cracks.
- Refrigerate cheesecake. Remove the springform pan from the oven and water bath. Chill in the fridge until firm, at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Release cake. Remove your cheesecake from the springform pan and transfer onto a serving dish. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
10 Tips for the perfect Philadelphia cheesecake recipe
If this is your first time making cheesecake, this Philly cream cheese cheesecake recipe pretty much guarantees success. As always, I have some tips and tricks to help you achieve the results you are looking for.
- Use a springform cake pan. While this isn’t 100% necessary, baking in a springform pan makes it so much easier to release the cheesecake and get the perfect crust.
- Room temperature ingredients: Making sure your eggs and cream cheese are at room temperature is probably the most important tip. Room temp ingredients blend easier and ensure that your cheesecake filling is smooth and free of lumps.
- Add flour: A little flour creates a creamier texture and helps prevent cracks. Substitute cornstarch if you need a gluten-free cheesecake.
- Mix on low speed and avoid overmixing: Overmixing the filling can ruin your cheesecake and lead to cracks. Instead, keep your mixer set at low speed and stop mixing when the ingredients are just combined.
- Scrape the bowl: Pause between adding the ingredients and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. This ensures everything gets evenly incorporated.
- Use a water bath: Water baths may seem intimidating and extra work, but your cheesecake will turn out so much better! The water acts as a buffer for the heat and helps your cheesecake bake gently and evenly. The result is a perfectly smooth texture without cracking.
- Avoid leaks: To avoid water leaking into the cheesecake, I like to place my spring pan into a silicone baking pan and then place the whole thing into a large baking pan that holds the water. Zero leaks. Alternatively, place the spring form pan into a crock pot liner bag, wind up the excess bag, and wrap it in a layer of aluminum foil for double coverage.
- Don’t overbake: Overbaking can dry the cheesecake out and generate cracks. You can tell the cheesecake is ready when the edges are well set and the center is set but still slightly jiggly.
- Cool your cheesecake gradually: Please don’t rush cooling your cheesecake – I promise, your patience will be rewarded. Allowing your cheesecake to cool slowly lets the filling set up properly and gives you the best texture.
- Run a knife around the edge: Just before putting the cheesecake in the refrigerator, run a knife around the edge to ensure the cheesecake doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan.
One of the best things about baked Philadelphia cheesecake is the many options when it comes to toppings. Here are some ideas that I think you’ll love:
- Fresh berries: Try whatever berries are in season. From strawberries to blueberries, to blackberries – you name it.
- Pie filling: Top the cake with your favorite cherry, blueberry, apple, or peach pie filling.
- Sautéed fruit or compote: Spooning cherry sauce, roasted peaches, or sautéed apple slices on top of a slice of cheesecake is so delicious.
- Whipped cream: A swirl of sweetened cream on top is always a good idea.
- Fruit sauce: Blueberry sauce, strawberry sauce, or raspberry sauce are lovely with cheesecake, and add a fruity punch.
- Hot fudge sauce: Chocolate sauce or this thick hot fudge sauce go great with cheesecake.
- Caramel sauce and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt are a decadent finish for this dessert.
- Crushed cookies or candy: Chocolate chips, Oreos, Nutter butter cookies, heath bras, or snicker bars make fun and tasty toppings.
Variations & mix-ins
This Philadelphia cheesecake recipe is a great building block to come up with all kinds of variations. Here are some fun ways to change up the flavor profile of your cheesecake.
- Lemon cheesecake: Add 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice and the finely grated zest of 2 lemons.
- Other citrus flavors: You can also try limes, oranges, or grapefruit to give your cheesecake a bright, zesty flavor.
- Chocolate cheesecake: Prepare the crust with Oreos and add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to the filling.
- Grasshopper cheesecake: Use chocolate wafers to make the crust and add mint extract + green food coloring to the filling.
- Peanut butter cheesecake: Sub 1/2 package cream cheese with 1/2 cup peanut butter and use Nutter Butter cookies to create the crust.
- Pumpkin cheesecake: Replace 1/2 package cream cheese with 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, add 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the filling, and prepare the crust with gingersnaps.
- Brown sugar & spices: To give your cheesecake a festive touch, use brown sugar instead of white and add 1 to 2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice mix.
How to store Philadelphia cheesecake recipe
Store the cheesecake in the fridge. It will keep for 5 to 6 days.
I like to place the springform pan ring back on the cheesecake and put a piece of plastic wrap on top. The springform ring prevents the plastic wrap from sticking to the cake’s surface and helps your cheesecake remain pretty.
Can you freeze Philadelphia cheesecake?
Yes, Philly cheesecake freezes well for 1 to 2 months. Be sure that it has cooled completely before freezing. Cover the cake with a couple of wraps of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil.
When it’s time to eat, pop the frozen cheesecake into the fridge to thaw overnight.
Reasons to love this Philly cheesecake recipe
Classic Philadelphia cheesecake really is my favorite cheesecake, and here are just a few of the reasons why I love this recipe so much:
- Taste: Philadelphia cheesecake tastes exactly like a good cheesecake should taste like: sweet and vanillic, with a touch of tang from the sour cream.
- Texture: The texture is incredibly creamy and luscious, with a lovely contrast from the crunchy graham cracker crust.
- Effort: Despite the water bath, this cheesecake recipe is simple and straightforward. This is a good place to start if you are a beginner baker.
- Make-ahead: The Philadelphia cream cheese cheesecake filling is best to fully set overnight in the fridge, making this a wonderful make-ahead dessert for any occasion and celebration.