Cakes & Puddings Sweet

Classic Vanilla Cheesecake

Smooth, sweet, and easy as pie - or, in this case, cheesecake.

My husband fits most of the standard male stereotypes. He is the partner who is stronger and taller, the one who likes cars and enjoys sports. He is chivalrous, often opening the door ahead of me, and like many husbands, he does not always pick up on subtle hints. There is one stereotype that he defies, and for that I am glad – my husband is an excellent baker, and this cheesecake is his most famous dish. It was the dessert he brought to the meal where he first met my parents…and needless to say, he made a good first impression.

Jump to Recipe

Hubby has made versions of this cheesecake for a decade and a half and has gradually perfected the recipe along the way. It doesn’t require a fancy springform pan or a water bath; just a few simple ingredients, a 9″ pie plate, and an oven will let you, too, use this cheesecake to make a good first impression.

For many years, we have used pre-made graham cracker or shortbread crusts from the grocery store in this recipe. While those work fine, we’ve found that it is worth the extra effort to make your own crust. The graham cracker crust we make here is much less prone to cracking than the store-bought variety, and the added hint of cinnamon perfectly balances the pronounced vanilla flavor of your cheesecake.

I know that some of you, dear readers, have specialty diets that the below recipe sadly won’t accommodate. Thankfully, my friend Freya at Sweeter than Oats has a wonderful plant-based, gluten-free pumpkin pie cheesecake recipe that might satisfy the same cravings.

Back to the traditional cheesecake! Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees F and pulverizing 1 1/2 sleeves of graham crackers using a blender or food processor. (Funnily enough, this comes out to exactly 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs. Amazing.) Once they have transformed into a powder, transfer them to a mixing bowl and combine with your melted butter. Mix until all of the dry ingredients have been anointed with buttery goodness and the batter resembles wet sand. Press this into the bottom and sides of your pie plate and bake for 7 minutes. Immediately remove from oven to cool.

Reduce your oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Using an electric mixer, cream together your cream cheese and sugar. Beat in your eggs one at a time before adding the vanilla bean paste. Continue to beat until the mixture is creamy, and all of the lumps have been eliminated. This is crucial for achieving the perfect cheesecake!

A few tips for this step:

  • Use cold cream cheese. I know this is counterintuitive if you have ever baked with cream cheese, but it truly works best for this recipe.
  • Vanilla bean paste is usually interchangeable with vanilla extract; switching them out rarely impact the final product. This cheesecake is different. Because vanilla is the star of this show, it’s important that you use high-quality, strong vanilla flavor in this recipe, and vanilla bean paste provides that in ways vanilla extract can only imagine. Vanilla sugar — granulated sugar that has been left to marinate with a vanilla bean — would be an excellent substitution for basic granulated sugar in this recipe.
  • I highly recommend using a KitchenAid mixer with a paddle attachment. For years – out of habit and easy access – my husband has used a handheld electric mixer (with great results) for this recipe. When he recently used my KitchenAid, a look of sheer joy came over his face and he swore he would never use the handheld mixer again. Per his assertion, the Kitchen Aid makes it an order of magnitude easier to remove all of the small lumps of cream cheese when beating your batter, leading to a creamy, perfectly textured final product.

Once your batter is lump-free, pour into your prepared crust and bake in the center rack of your oven set to 325 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. If at the end of the bake time, you shut the door of your oven and the cheesecake jiggles wildly, appearing soggy in the center, it still needs more time. If it only jiggles a little bit, it is done. But do not remove it from the oven! Turn off your oven and walk away. Allow the cheesecake to rest in the cooling oven for another 20-25 minutes. Carefully remove the slightly-less-hot cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

This cheesecake is truly versatile. You can swap out the vanilla for your favorite flavor – perhaps lemon or almond extracts, as some family members favor. For a double chocolate cheesecake, swap the graham crackers for Oreos and the vanilla for 1/2 cup cocoa powder. Whatever flavor you choose, this recipe is worth saving.

If you made this recipe at home, please tag @WhiskAverseBaking on social media, or leave a message in the comments below.

Classic Vanilla Cheesecake

Smooth, sweet, and easy as pie – or, in this case, cheesecake.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Resting Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 45 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 slices

Equipment

  • 9" pie plate

Ingredients
  

Graham cracker crust

  • 1 ½ cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs 1.5 sleeves of crackers
  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons butter melted

Cheesecake

  • 2 8 oz bricks of Philadelphia cream cheese cold
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste

Instructions
 

Graham Cracker Crust

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Pulverize graham crackers using a blender or food processor.
  • Combine graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.
  • Mix in melted butter until the batter is completely saturated and resembles wet sand.
  • Press batter into bottom and along side of pie plate.
  • Bake at 375 for 7 minutes and allow to cool.

Cheesecake

  • Cream together sugar and cream cheese using an electric mixer.
  • Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla bean paste.
  • Bake at 325 for 25-30 min. Turn off oven, but do not open door. Allow to rest in the oven for another 20-25 minutes, until the cheesecake no longer "jiggles". Chill in refrigerator before slicing and serving.

Notes

Feel free to use a store-bought crust!
This recipe can be made gluten free by using gluten free graham crackers or a gluten free store-bought crust.
This cheesecake was formulated for a pie plate. Please don’t use a springform pan. You will be sad. Your oven will be sad. Everyone will be sad.
This recipe is endlessly versatile. The graham cracker crumbs can be substituted for Oreo cookies to create a more cookies n’ cream cheesecake. We love to substitute the vanilla bean paste for other flavorings with the same ratio – our favorite being lemon extract. For a chocolate cheesecake, substitute ½ cup cocoa for the vanilla bean paste
Keyword cheesecake, graham cracker, vanilla

2 comments on “Classic Vanilla Cheesecake

  1. Annette Fulton

    This looks delicious! So nice to have all these recipes so readily avaialble!

  2. Pingback: Cowboy Caviar – Whisk Averse Baking

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