NY cheesecake: to die for!

I grew up 45 minutes outside Manhattan (yes, a true Jersey girl, from the land of Taylor Ham sandwiches and great diner food). Where I come from the cheesecake is dense, creamy, and tangy with a bit of sour cream, riding on a shortbread cookie-style crust. I still remember the incredible silkiness of the cheesecake Mrs. Weimann brought down to the beach where I was working as a lifeguard one day, just to give us a treat. And what a treat it was.

It’s funny, since we’ve been polishing up the recipes section of our website, to discover some of the things that haven’t been on it. We’ve had some gaps to address, and this bad boy is one of them. There’s really nothing hard about making a cheesecake, but there are some subtle points that can make a very big difference in the quality of the outcome. Here’s how to arrive at an eye-closing, head-tilted back, moan-of-pleasure forkful of NY Style Cheesecake.

Before you do anything, take the cream cheese out to warm up. You can leave it on the counter in its packaging overnight, or take the cold cream cheese out of its wrapper and put it in a large bowl to microwave it at low power in 20-second bursts. When you can stir it easily and there are no lumps or cold spots, you’re ready to go. The eggs should be at room temperature, too, but that one’s easy: just put them in a bowl of warm water while you’re wrestling with the cream cheese.

The crust goes together without much fuss. Cream butter and sugar, add flavorings and flour, mix. Now add an egg to bring it all together, and you have dough.

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Now plop it in the pan and press it along the bottom and up the sides. To smooth out the bottom I like to use our handy little pastry roller.
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Now dock the dough so steam can escape while the crust bakes (otherwise it will make a big dome).

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After baking, it’s set and light golden brown. We’ll let it cool while we assemble the filling. Don’t forget to turn the oven down now: the cheesecake will bake at 325°F.

Now for the filling. This is one of those points I was referring to earlier: lumpy cream cheese means lumpy filling, and that’s not what we’re after. Put the softened cream cheese in the mixer with the sugar and flour from the recipe.

Let the mixer run at low speed (you don’t want to beat air into it; you’re just trying to combine everything), until it’s smooth.

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Stop and scrape the bowl to be sure there’s no cream cheese sticking to the bottom or sides, and mix again. This part of the recipe is your best opportunity to get rid of lumps, so be sure you do so now, because after the eggs are in it’s much harder to accomplish.

Everything nice and smooth? Ok, now you can add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time. Too many eggs at once will make you a big slimy mess that won’t want to mix; you need the traction of the cream cheese mixture’s thickness to help you incorporate the egg.

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After each egg disappears, scrape the bowl to make sure everything is the same consistency, and you don’t have any thicker batter sticking to the sides and bottom.

Add the lemon zest last, so it doesn’t all get stuck to the paddle.

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Don’t forget the sour cream.

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Pour the batter over the crust in the pan.

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Smooth it out with an offset spatula.

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Now for the trickiest part: the bake. I can hear you saying, “Huh? What’s so hard about putting a pan in the oven?” Nothing. What’s hard is knowing when to turn the oven off and let the cake coast across the finish line from the retained heat (it’s called carryover cooking). Since cheesecake has a generous amount of raw eggs in it, people freak out and frequently overcook them. I did.

A little food science here: The protein in eggs begins to coagulate at 140°F for whites, 150°F for yolks. The addition of sugar and other ingredients raises that temperature, but not by much. The more you cook an egg past that temperature, the tighter the proteins become, and the more they shrink. They can contract so much that they squeeze out the liquid they’re supposed to be capturing: that’s why overcooked scrambled eggs begin to weep.

The first cheesecake I made was from a recipe I was adapting; I made a basic testing error, and didn’t set the timer for 10 minutes less than the recipe said to. When I checked the temperature of the cake an inch from the edge, it was 195°F. It was still wobbly in the middle, so I thought I was going to be ok.I propped open the oven door with a potholder, turned the oven off, and set the timer for an hour.

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When I came back, it looked like this:

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This cracked cake tasted fine, but its texture was a bit grainy and a on the dry side. Time for take two.

Take 2: another cheesecake, but this time I backed off on the bake time. When the batter measured 175°F an inch and a half from the edge, I repeated the coasting process: oven off, door propped open, timer set for 60 minutes.

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The top seemed awfully juicy (about 3 inches across in the center), but I stuck to my guns, and turned the oven off after propping it open. Here’s the way the cake finished up.

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Now that’s more like it! The blemish you see on the right is where I took the cake’s temperature, but that will be hidden by the topping. This cheesecake was incredibly silky. Dangerous to the diet, that’s for sure.

Refrigerate the cheesecake while you make the topping. You can use any kind of fruit you like, but tart cherries or fresh strawberries are classic.

Cook the water/sugar/cornstarch mixture until it’s thick,

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add a few drops of red food coloring (not critical, but it does look better if you do), remove from the heat and stir in the fruit.

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Spoon over the top of the cheesecake, and your creation is ready for prime time.

Buy vs. Bake

This cake certainly demonstrates the savings you can capture by baking your own dessert:

Eileen’s cheesecake (NYC) 10” plain cheesecake: $65; 20 servings, $3.25 each
Bake your own: $11.48, 20 servings, .57 each

Susan Reid
About

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.

comments

  1. Marty Jacobs

    I really enjoy reading about your cheesecake and I’m intrigued however, how do I obtain your recipe? I love cheesecake so can you email it please, thanks Susan. Signed, newbee

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Marty! We’re sorry that you’re having troubles finding the recipe. For the future, the recipes are linked in orange throughout the articles and you can also find recipes mentioned or used in our posts underneath the header photo. You can find the recipe for NY Style Cheesecake by clicking on the title that is in orange here in our response. If you find you’re still having trouble getting to the recipe and would like us to send it in a different way, please just let us know. Happy baking! Morgan@KAF

  2. Lucy O

    Do you have a suggestion for adding a sour cream topping? I’m making this recipe for my son’s groom cake and he doesn’t want any fruit toppings. I want to make sure the cake looks finished with no cracks on the top.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Happy to help, Lucy! Whisk a pint of sour cream with 2 tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract until it’s smooth, then pour it over the cheesecake and let it set up in the fridge. That’s it! You could easily use a different extract or a citrus zest in place of the vanilla if you’d like. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

    2. Jane S

      The cracks on top are from baking temperature – use a water bath; be careful not to open the oven door more than necessary and cause temperature fluctuations inside the oven. And do not overbake it – it will not look firm in the middle but will be done.

      I spread just plain sour cream with maybe 2 teaspoons of lemon juice blended in over the top to “frost” it, filling in any cracks. This is great for anyone who doesn’t want sweet fruity fillings – but for a “compromise” you can decorate it with fresh berries or other fruits.

      You are REALLY BRAVE baking this for a groom’s cake … since cheesecake does seem to taste better after it ages a day or two, as for me, I would bake it early enough so I could do something else if I wasn’t totally happy with the results!! GOOD LUCK and BEST WISHES !!!

    3. Susan Reid, post author

      All good points, Jane. Cheesecake also freezes well; if defrosted slowly in the refrigerator you really can’t tell. Susan

  3. SHIRLEY Koh

    Hi, I like to ask if King Arthur has any cheesecake recipe where we can have jello on top of the cake? Thank you

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Shirley, you can add a layer of jell-o to almost any semi-firm cheesecake recipe, but we especially like this Easy Cheesecake recipe. Simply follow the recipe and bake as directed and then let it cool completely. Put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes so that it gets nice and firm while you prepare 1 box of jell-o, the flavor of your choice. Once the jell-o is mixed, pour it onto the hardened cheesecake layer and put the whole thing in the fridge to chill. Once the jell-o is set, you’re ready to serve and easy. Enjoy! Kye@KAF

  4. Mary

    This is my first blog post ever. Today is 7/28/16. Won’t say my age but it is up there. I am so happy with this recipe, this blog and the wonderful comments and directions. I originally had several questions after reading the NY Cheesecake recipe. On a whim, I clicked the blog link. All my questions were answered. I followed the recipe exactly and it came out perfect. My cheesecake loving relatives will be visiting tomorrow. They will have no complaints. Next time I plan to eliminate the zest, switch the sour cream to heavy cream, hope it works out well. Does anyone know if some of the cream cheese may be substituted for ricotta? All my old recipe books use ricotta. Thanks to everyone and the wonderful advice.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re so glad that you found your way to the blog, Mary, and that it helped you create a pride-worthy cheesecake! Ricotta is used as a substitute for cream cheese in a lot of other circumstances, and we suspect it would work out just fine here too. You may want to consider draining it a bit before incorporating, though, as it’s likely to add more moisture than cream cheese would. Mollie@KAF

  5. Carmela Mason

    Greetings Susan.

    I saw your formula and as I am a devoted devotee of sweets particularly New York style cheesecake, I needed to experiment with your formula. Essentially being a working lady I don’t get much time to prepare thus I generally arrange online like from close-by neighborhood stores or from my spouse’s most loved pastry shop love and quiches. Conveyances take as much time as necessary, however it merits holding up. In any case, custom made cakes give you a fulfillment of making something for your crew.

    I needed to experiment with your formula like 4 times. Initial two times I really botched up the amount of fixings. Later The cheesecake was overcooked since I was occupied with my work. At that point fourth time I particularly took an ideal opportunity to do it effectively and there I was with the delightful cake with some chocolate syrup and strawberries. It was yummy. My children cherished it.

    I had a few issues first with the amount of fixings and the way hull was made. I took a stab at including squashed oreos however I think I tried too hard. Be that as it may, at any rate, a debt of gratitude is in order for the colossal formula.

    Reply
  6. Melinda

    I have extra packages of cream cheese which need to be used.
    Do you think I could freeze the unbaked cheesecake batter, in freezer bags, to be baked later? Or do you think this would ruin the consistency of the cheesecake?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Melinda,
      Cream cheese itself can be frozen, so you may want to do that instead. Freezing the baked cheesecakes would be your next best bet. ~ MJ

  7. Amanda

    Yes hello, 1st off, your cheesecake came out wonderful and everyone loved it .. I have a 2nd question, I am wanting to try to bake this in my convection oven so i was wondering at what times temp do I need to bake this at and how long. thank you for taking the time to reply back.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Amanda-you can do this in a convection oven, but you’ll reduce the temperature. You may also want to turn the fan off to prevent the top from forming a skin before the rest of the cake is set; using a traditional water bath would provide some steam that will inhibit the crust formation too early. Use a thermometer to test the cake after 30-35 minutes. If the top is browning (a hazard in the convection oven with a fan on), you can cover it with foil or lay a tray across the top to protect the top. Use the temperatures recommended in the recipe to judge doneness. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

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