Best Classic Cheesecake Recipe With Sour Cream

Mary and Brenda Maher

By Brenda & Mary

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The homemade baked cheesecake used to be my best sidekick as I stumbled through all the beginner baking lessons, and I kept at it until the texture left no room for complaints.

Classic Cheesecake final

My mentor told me I could conquer almost anything else in baking once I mastered this classic recipe. I cannot be happier that I have taken his advice to heart!

Why Classic Cheesecake Recipe Is Our Muse

  • This cool cheesecake is a heavenly marriage of buttery, crumbly crust and dense filling. It all starts with rich, full-fat cream cheese, delicately balanced by sweet sugar and zingy lemon zest. Who in their right mind wouldn’t come back for more? 
  • It’s a blank canvas waiting to be dressed up: think fresh blueberries bursting with sweetness, a drizzle of chocolate fudge frosting for extra pop, or some whipped cream that takes it to the next level. 
  • Cheesecake is the ultimate crowd-pleaser for any special occasion, whether it’s a birthday bash, a holiday gathering, or even a random Tuesday night. Because, let’s be real, who needs an excuse to treat themselves to a slice of perfect cheesecake? You deserve it, my friend.

How To Make Classic Cheesecake

Simple Ingredients

Alright, let’s see what we need for this cheesecake recipe!

  • Cream cheese: You’ll need four bricks, full-fat. None of that reduced-fat nonsense; this is a cheesecake, after all, so we’re not skimping on flavor here!
  • Sugar: Just a cup will do. We want to balance zest and sweetness, so no need to go overboard with the latter.
  • Sour cream: A cup of it, to be exact! I played around with heavy cream once to make things softer, but nah, only sour cream brings me the right kind of richness and structure. Stick with it! 
  • Vanilla & lemon juice: Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice to give the cheesecake that perfect zing and depth of flavor.
  • Eggs: 3 of them, added one by one. Don’t go crazy mixing once the eggs are in, or you’ll end up with a cracked and deflated cheesecake. Keep it gentle!
  • Butter & crackers: Just about 5 tablespoons of butter and 12 crackers for the flavorful, crunchy crust. My go-to is graham crackers, but anything that yields similar delightful crumbs will do, like biscotti, biscuits, gingersnaps, wafer cookies, or even cornflakes.

Oh, and remember to let all your ingredients come to room temperature before you start mixing. Cold ingredients will make your batter chunky and over-beaten – definitely not the vibe we’re going for here.


Step 1.

First things first, adjust your oven rack so it’s chillin’ in the lower-middle spot, then crank the baking temperature up to 350°F (or 177°C). We’re getting it nice and toasty in there!


Step 2.

Mini Cheesecakes biscuit

Now, onto the crust. If you’ve got some graham crackers, toss them in a blender or food processor and blitz them up until they’re all crumbly. 

Dump those crumbs into a bowl, add some sugar, then mix it all up. Pour in melted butter and give it another good stir until everything is nice and sandy. No need to stress about the big chunks, if any; just give them a little squish to break them up!

Classic Cheesecake prepare cake batter

Step 3.

Grab your springform pan (grease it if you want, but I usually don’t), pour in the crust mixture, and gently pat those crumbs down up all sides and onto the bottom to make one cozy crust. And no, you don’t have to Hulk-smash it. Simply pat until it no longer feels crumbly!

Need some extra finesse? Take out a small cup and use its flat bottom to smooth things out; it worked like a charm for me.

Step 4.

Pop this bad boy in the oven and let it pre-bake (about 10 minutes). Once it’s done, take it out and let it cool a bit while we work on the cheesecake filling.

Oh, and don’t forget to plop that hot pan onto aluminum foil; that foil will wrap around it snug as a bug for our water bath in the next few stages! 


make Classic Cheesecake filling

Step 5.

Grab a big ol’ bowl and your trusty mixer. Toss in your cream cheese along with white sugar, and let them get cozy at medium-high until they’re all creamy – 2 minutes should do the trick. Next, add sour cream, vanilla, and a splash of lemon juice until it’s all mixed in.

Step 6.

Now, here’s the key: add all the eggs, one by one, mixing after each until they’re just blended. Once the last egg is in, stop mixing immediately; we want to keep things fluffy without any cracks once the cake has chilled, so don’t overdo it! You should end up with about 6 cups of this heavenly batter.

Water Bath

Step 7.

Get the water boiling; you’re gonna need about 1 inch of it for that water bath, so double-check to make sure there’s enough to go around. I usually fill up a whole kettle with hot water – saves me some time, you know.

Step 8.

Classic Cheesecake add frosting

While the water kettle is still heating up, pop your springform pan (wrapped snugly in aluminum foil earlier) into a larger roasting pan, then pour the creamy cheesecake batter right on your crust. Grab a spoon or offset spatula and smooth it out into one even layer! 

Step 9. 

Okay, now comes the trickiest part: pouring in the boiling water without making a mess. Some people pour water into the pan first before popping it into the oven, but I prefer the opposite and only pour water into my roasting pan once it’s already inside the oven. Whichever floats your boat!

Step 10.

Let the pan sit in the oven for 55 to 70 minutes. Keep an eye on it; if it starts getting too brown on top, cover it with some aluminum foil after 27-30 minutes. Once the center has a slight wobble when you shake the roasting pan gently, you know it’s done! 

Turn off the oven and crack the door open a tiny bit. Let your tangy cheesecake chill in its water bath for about an hour. After that, you can free it from its watery prison and let it cool completely at room temp on a wire rack!


Step 11.

Cover it up and toss it in the fridge for 4-5 hours (or, if you can wait, overnight). 

Classic Cheesecake decoration

Before serving, loosen up the cheesecake’s edges from the pan’s rim, then peel the rim off as gently as you can. Slice into that creamy goodness with a clean knife and give the knife a quick dip in warm water after each individual slice. Voila!


1. Pop the graham crackers in a food processor, but don’t go wild with the grind; just give them short pulses. We aim for coarse crumbs here -think pea-sized with a few bigger bits. 

Overdo it, and you’ll end up with dust instead of crumbs. That’s a one-way ticket to a dense, doughy crust!

2. Placement is super important when it comes to baking your cheesecake. Stick it dead center in the oven on a steady rack, and try not to keep opening the oven door like it’s a fridge during a heatwave. Sudden temperature changes can spell disaster for your beautiful cheesecake and cause it to collapse like a soufflé gone wrong. 

Still want to keep tabs on the bake? Then, use the oven door window and keep the light on.


Can I Use A Regular Baking Pan Instead Of A Springform Pan?

Technically, you can, but peeling the cheesecake off the pan might be tricky. To help with removal, line the bottom and sides of your regular pan with parchment paper!

Can I Make A Cheesecake Without A Water Bath?

It’s technically possible, but the lack of humidity might result in more cracks on the surface. So, be extra careful when mixing and cool the smooth batter as slowly as you can.

Good luck with my foolproof recipe for cheesecake!

Discover More Unique Cake Recipes:

Classic Cheesecake

Classic cheesecake is the ultimate crowd-pleaser! Its buttery graham cracker crust is the perfect partner in crime to the sweet, creamy filling – amazing either as a solo treat or a base for other delicate desserts.
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Course: Cake
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Cooling Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 7 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 16
Calories: 408kcal
Author: Brenda Maher


Graham cracker crust

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs or 12 full-sheet graham crackers
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tbsp melted, unsalted butter


  • 32 ounces softened, full-fat brick cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • (optional) 2 tsp fresh lemon juice


  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (or 177°C) and adjust the rack to lower middle.
  • Crush graham crackers, mix with sugar and melted butter, press into a springform pan, and pre-bake for ~10 minutes.
  • Beat cream cheese + sugar until creamy, then add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla. Add eggs one by one until just blended.
  • Prepare a water bath: place the springform pan in a larger roasting pan, pour in the batter, and then pour the boiling water into that roasting pan.
  • Bake for 55 to 70 minutes, covering with foil if it browns too quickly. Once done, let it sit for about 1 hour with the oven’s door cracked open, then remove it from the water bath and cool at room temperature.
  • Refrigerate it for 4-5 hours or overnight. Before serving, loosen the edges with a sharp knife, remove the pan’s rim, and slice. Enjoy your creamy cheesecake!


  • Pulse graham crackers in a food processor for coarse crumbs, avoiding over-grinding to prevent a dense crust.
  • Place your homemade cheesecake in the center of the oven. Don’t open the door frequently, as sudden temperature changes might cause it to collapse. Instead, use the oven light to monitor progress.


Calories: 408kcal | Carbohydrates: 8.2g | Protein: 7.2g | Fat: 38.7g | Saturated Fat: 24g | Cholesterol: 140mg | Sodium: 272mg | Potassium: 113mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 4.2g | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Mention @cakegirls or tag #cakegirls!

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Mary and Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher, are the founders of Cake Girls, a Chicago-based online baking shop specializing in cake supplies, party decor, and DIY cake tutorials. They are known for their elaborate and artistic cake creations, which have been featured on the Food Network Challenge and in a reality show, Amazing Wedding Cakes.

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