My First New York Cheesecake

by Barry Lewis


For the cheesecake crust

90g butter, melted

150g digestive biscuits

For the cheesecake filling

900g full fat cream cheese / soft cheese, room temperature

350g sugar

3tbsp plain flour

3tsp vanilla extract

1 lemon, zest and 2tsp juice

6 eggs, room temperature

Pinch salt

120g sour cream, room temperature

It’s not my first time around the cheesecake block, but this is my first time trying a New York Cheesecake. How hard can it be, I’ve done a grilled “cheesecake” before and that didn’t turn out too badly! I’ve wanted to make one for years but I was genuinely a little bit scared about it. 

There’s something so decadent about a baked cheesecake with its buttery biscuit base and the baked creamy whipped goodness on top, but weirdly this one actually turned out feeling pretty fluffy and light.

There are loads of different methods of making a New York cheesecake so I spent a while researching them all and I think the one I’ve tried is the best way for a newbie like me. The biggest thing I’ve learned from this one is probably that I should have used a little bit of baking parchment with a lip on the base to stop the biscuit base from sticking – apparently it wasn’t quite as buttery as it seemed!

But how about if you open the oven to find your baked cheesecake has cracked? We’ve all been there, you know I have! If your New York Cheesecake decides to crack (hey, it’s got a mind of its own sometimes), don’t panic! A little crack in the top of the cheesecake just adds to its character. I left mine to cool in the water bath and the crack actually sort of shrunk a bit so you can’t really see it. I’ve seen recipes that recommend leaving it in the oven to cool too. I also left all my ingredients including the full fat cream cheese (don’t even think about the lower fat stuff apparently!) and eggs at room temperature for 2 hours before to give it the best chance of not cracking on top. I didn’t add my eggs until the last minute then only beat them until they were just combined. Then there’s the water bath to stop it drying out and cracking and finally use the middle shelf in the oven. All we can do is try, folks!

And if you do have a big old crack across the top of your New York cheesecake? Here’s a little trick to save the day: simply whip up a nice sour cream topping to cover up those imperfections, top it with a few berries and a dash of coulis if that takes your fancy. Not only will it add a tangy twist to your cheesecake, but it’ll also make it look absolutely stonkin’!

So, grab the oven gloves (hey, I finally treated myself to some new ones!), preheat the oven, and let’s conquer the art of New York Cheesecake together. It’s time to impress your friends, family, or maybe just yourself (because, let’s be honest, you deserve it). 

And all I can say is, don’t try and cover it with foil in the middle of baking…maybe you should just watch the video to find out why.

How to make a New York Cheesecake (including some hints and tips!)

Alright lets get started, but the first tip is to make sure all the ingredients (for the cheesecake filling) are at room temperature, so don’t take them straight from the fridge. Make the crust first anyway, wrap a 9 inch springform tin in foil and line the bottom with baking parchment if you wish to make removing easier (I wish I did that!). Make sure the foil really covers the tin all the way and use 2 layers of foil as needed as per the video, it goes in water later so this will help make it water tight.

Add the digestive biscuits to a food processor and whizz up until fine crumbs are achieved. Pour in the melted butter and stir well to combine / coat evenly in the butter. Press into the prepared tin and compact / level it to form an even crust. Bake for 10 minutes at 170fan/190c/375f to firm up. It should be deeper golden brown, leave to cool in the tin to one side. Now lower the oven to 140fan/160c/325F or equivalent as you prepare to make the cheesecake base.

For the cheesecake add in the cream cheese, sugar, flour, vanilla, lemon zest and juice, plus salt and stir with a spatula to just combine, try not to over stir it. Add the eggs 1 or 2 at a time, just whisking to incorporate it, no more, do this very carefully, too much whisking will drive in too much air and increase the chance of cracking! So add the eggs gradually and whisk, until just combined and uniform in colour, check that no ingredients are sat at the bottom of the bowl and whisk through if necessary.

Grease the sides of the tin well with a little butter to prevent it sticking during baking / cooling. Then carefully pour the mixture into the greased tin on top of the biscuit base and give a little shimmy of the tin for it to settle and level. Place the cake tin into a large high sided roasting tin, add water to your kettle and boil. Pour water into the roasting tin and fill the roasting tin about 1.5 inches up the side of the pan – the foil will help stop it getting in. This water bath helps keep develop moisture and help with it not cracking.

Bake in the lower temperature oven from earlier on the middle shelf for approx. 1 hour 45 minutes or until golden brown on top, I can’t guarantee it won’t be cracked but you have a good chance! If it starts to catch, one side rotate the dish in the water bath carefully or add foil on top if you like. Remember this is for a cheesecake for a golden brown top, some other methods have a pale top and bake for less and then leave the cheesecake to set in the oven as it cools down with the oven door open. We are going for a golden crust baby.

Remove from the oven and leave it in the water bath to cool to room temperature. This will help prevent ‘shocking’ the cheesecake and again help with a sudden temperature change that can crack the cheesecake. As it cools, run a knife around the edge of the cake tin to loosen from the pan and again stop it clinging / potentially gripping to the pan and yep, cracking.

Once at room temperature, remove from the water bath and allow to chill in the fridge for 4 hours at least to properly firm up. Slice away serving chilled, absolutely gorgeous – you can top with sauces, fruit, icing sugar etc if you get cracks, don’t worry though it all tastes the same!