A classic cheesecake recipe is something every baker should have in his or her repertoire. It’s one of those crowd-pleasing desserts that can be tailored to fit the season or whatever you have on hand. However, finding the perfect cheesecake base can be a bit of a Goldilocks situation: this one’s too dense, that on’es too soft, too tart, too sweet… Well, friends, I think this one is juuuuust right!
The actual cheesecake portion is adapted from my friend Fanny’s cookbook, Oh Sweet Day! (You may remember this cranberry lime tart from there as well.) To me, it is cheesecake texture perfection: beautifully smooth and creamy but with a lightness as well, thanks to folded in egg whites and a long, gentle bake in a low oven. I love the textural contrast of a cookie crumb crust, so that’s what I’ve gone with here. And because it’s currently citrus season and I always seem to have a jar or three of lemon or lime curd in the fridge, this version is gussied up with a smooth lime glaze, the perfect tart foil for the creamy dreamy cheesecake base.
A few notes:
- The cookie crust is fairly straightforward; you can really use whatever dry cookie you like or have on hand: graham crackers, gingersnaps, shortbread, Oreos without the middle, etc. You can even sub in some nuts if you like. Depending on the type/brand of cookie you use, you may need to adjust the ratio of butter to crumbs. I usually start with the amounts listed and go from there. I’m basically looking for a mixture that holds together when squeezed but doesn’t feel overly wet or greasy.
- One key to a successful cheesecake is room temperature ingredients. This helps everything combine easily and smoothly for the most even, creamy texture. Make sure to take out your cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs ahead of time! Cream cheese especially needs a bit of time to get to temperature — I like to take it out at least a couple of hours before mixing and baking.
- While Fanny doesn’t instruct to use a water bath, I’ve always used one and have never had a dry or cracked cheesecake — so I always do it! Instead of putting the cheesecake pan directly in the water, I just put a large roasting or 9×13 pan with a couple inches of hot water on the rack below the cheesecake.
- I don’t have many springform pans so I usually bake cheesecakes in regular cake pans — in this case, I used an 8×3 round cake pan. Just grease your pan well and line the bottom with parchment, and don’t try to remove the cake until it is thoroughly chilled and set. To release, have ready a flat, large plate or cutting board covered with plastic wrap and your eventual serving plate. Warm the bottom of the pan on a burner and run a thin offset spatula all around the cake. Overturn onto the plastic lined plate/board, peel off the parchment, and flip back onto your serving plate.
- Glazing is easiest when your cheesecake is completely chilled and the glaze is just barely warm. If some glaze drips over the edge, no big deal — just wipe it off!
Classic Cheesecake with Lime Curd Glaze
For the cookie crumb crust:
- 175g cookie crumbs (approx. — see notes above)
- 60g melted butter (approx. — see notes above)
- Pinch of salt
For the classic cheesecake base:
- 500g cream cheese (2 blocks — not the tub kind; I use Philadelphia brand), at room temperature
- 240g (1 c) sour cream, at room temperature
- 200g (1 c) sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
For the lime curd glaze:
- 100g lime curd (homemade or store-bought), at room temperature
- 100g sugar
- 100g water
- 5g powdered pectin
- Preheat the oven to 350F with one rack in the middle and one below. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan (springform or regular works) and line the bottom with parchment paper.
- In a food processor, combine the cookie crumbs, salt, and melted butter. The mixture should hold together if you squeeze it in your hand, but shouldn’t feel overly greasy. If the mixture doesn’t hold together, add more melted butter a teaspoon at a time until it does. If overly greasy, add more cookie crumbs a teaspoon at a time until you get the right texture.
- Press the cookie crumbs into the bottom of the pan and slightly up the sides, if desired. Use a measuring cup or shot glass to press the crumbs in firmly and evenly.
- Bake until just set, about 12 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.
- Lower the oven temperature to 250F. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, salt, vanilla, and lemon/lime juice in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. Scrape down the sides, add the sour cream and pulse until smooth. Add the egg yolks one at a time, pulsing after each yolk just to combine. Scrape the batter into a large bowl.
- Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium low until frothy. Turn up the speed to medium-high and whip until soft peaks.
- Fold the meringue into the cream cheese batter in three stages. Fold just until the batter is homogeneous and no white streaks remain.
- Pour the batter into the pan with the prepared crust. Tap the pan on the counter several times to dislodge any large air bubbles.
- Transfer the cheesecake to the middle rack in the oven. On the rack below, place a roasting pan or 9×13 baking pan filled with a couple inches of hot water.
- Bake for about 80-90 minutes, or until the edges of the cheesecake are set and puffed but the very center still looks wet and wobbly. Turn off the oven, crack open the oven door (I use a wooden spoon to prop it open) and allow the cheesecake to cool completely, at least an hour.
- Remove the cooled cheesecake from the oven. Run an offset spatula around the edges to loosen (but keep the cake in its pan) and refrigerate at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).
- To make the lime curd glaze, bring 100g water to a boil over medium heat. Whisk together the sugar and pectin.
- When the water reaches a boil, slowly add the sugar and pectin, whisking continuously. Cook the mixture, still whisking, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool until barely warm.
- Remove the cheesecake from the pan and transfer to a serving plate / cake stand. Use an offset spatula to smooth the sides if needed.
- Gently whisk together the 100g of room-temperature lime curd and 50g of the barely warm pectin simple syrup (the remainder of the syrup can be refrigerated for another use). Do this slowly so as not to introduce air bubbles into the mixture, which could show up in the final glaze.
- Carefully pour the glaze into the center of the cheesecake and use a small offset spatula to gently spread it to the edges. Refrigerate until ready to serve.