Classic New York Cheesecake is a heavenly cloud of silky perfection. Rich, creamy, and ethereally light, this tall and proud cheesecake is crowned with stunning browned edges and sits atop a buttery, crunchy shortbread crust.
The quintessential Classic New York cheesecake ranks among Gotham’s most iconic foods. The proper New York cheesecake has a simple and unchanging list of ingredients: cream cheese, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and cream. The result is rich yet light, and the perfect balance of tart and sweet.
This Classic New York Cheesecake uses a full 2 ½ pounds of cream cheese. That's a whopping 5 packs! The result is a tall, gorgeous cake that is decadently rich and creamy. Shortbread cookie crumbs used in the crust don't get soggy and complement the flavor of the cheesecake perfectly without distracting from it.
I use two different methods for baking a Classic New York Cheesecake. Both are from Cook's Illustrated. This is the more traditional, yet riskier method. The cheesecake initially bakes for 10 minutes in a 500 degree F oven. This is what gives the gorgeous brown, puffy edges and golden top. Then the oven is turned to 200 degrees to finish baking for about an hour and a half. This slow bake at a low temperature gives the cheesecake a soft, silky texture and does away with the need for using a water bath.
The reason this method is risky is that different ovens will reduce their temperature from 500 degrees to 200 degrees at different rates. If your oven is very efficient at retaining heat, it will not cool to 200 degrees quickly enough, possibly not even before the cheesecake is finished. This can result in baking too quickly in a too hot oven, which can lead to cracks. (Or an enormous gash. Done that.) It is essential to use both an oven thermometer and an instant read thermometer when baking the cheesecake. My oven releases heat too slowly, so I open the oven door until the temperature reaches 200 degrees. I have found this to be the safest way of using this method. The most foolproof way of testing the cheesecake for doneness is by taking its temperature with an instant read thermometer. Cook's Illustrated says to take the cheesecake out of the oven at 150 degrees F. I've taken mine up to 158 degrees with beautiful results.
While I love the puffy brown edges and authentic look of the "risky" method, the "foolproof" method also gives very good, very reliable results. I'll share this method with you in an upcoming post. Stay tuned! 🙂
For the purist, Classic New York Cheesecake is most satisfying unadorned and unadulterated so that nothing distracts from the perfectly balanced flavors. If you prefer, a dollop of whipped cream or a spoonful of Roasted Cherries makes a perfect topping.
For the crust:
- 1 ½ cups shortbread cookie crumbs, finely ground (6.75oz, 191g)
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted (1.5oz, 43g)
For the filling:
- 2 ½ pounds full fat Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature (40oz, 1134g)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar (10.5oz, 298g)
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup sour cream, room temperature (2.5oz, 72g)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
For the crust:
- Adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Mix the cookie crumbs and the melted butter until well combined and moistened.
- Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Using a flat bottomed measuring cup, press the crust firmly and evenly into the bottom of the pan,
- Bake on a lower-middle rack until golden brown around the edges and fragrant, about 13 minutes. Set aside to cool.
For the filling:
- Make sure the cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs are at room temperature for a silky smooth texture.
- Increase the oven to 500 degrees F.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, salt, and one half of the sugar on medium-low speed for about 1 minute, until combined.
- Beat in remaining sugar and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the paddle and the bowl well.
- Add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla and beat at low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the paddle and the bowl well.
- Add egg yolks and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the paddle and the bowl well.
- Add whole eggs, two at a time, and beat for about 30 seconds after each addition, scraping the paddle and the bowl after each addition.
- Strain filling in a wire mesh strainer set over a bowl.
- Tap bowl on the counter several times so that any large air bubbles come up.
- Brush the sides of the springform pan with butter and place on a baking sheet. Pour the filling into the pan and set aside for 10 minutes, allowing any air bubbles to rise to the top. Pop any unpopped bubbles with a fork.
- Bake in a 500 degree F oven, checking with an oven thermometer, for 10 minutes.
- Reduce the temperature to 200 degrees F and continue to bake until the center of the cheesecake registers 150 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 ½ hours.
- Keep an eye on the oven thermometer to be sure the temperature is dropping to 200 degrees F. If it doesn't drop, crack the oven door open until the 200 degrees is reached.
- Place the pan on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the cake to loosen it from the edges of the pan. Allow to cool to room temperature, 2 ½-3 hours.
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold and firmly set, at least 6 hours.
- Gently unmold cheesecake and remove the sides of the pan. Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and pan bottom. Gently slide cheesecake onto a serving platter. If the bottom of your pan has a small lip around it, it may be easier to leave the pan bottom under the cheesecake and place it on the serving plate.
Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated The Science of Good Cooking.