I think there are two types of people in this world...cheesecake lovers and non-dairy crazy people. I'm proud to say I'm a cheesecake lover and it is always my #1 choice on any dessert menu (unless it's a chocolate cheesecake and then you've just ruined it for me!)
I also think it's a shame that people are afraid to make cheesecake because of the annoying combo of springform pans and water baths. I don't know about you, but every time I try to put a springform pan in water, no matter how well I think I've wrapped it in foil, it leaks and it's disgusting. But guess what?? You can bake cheesecake in a regular cake pan and it's even easier! No foil, no leaking and it's easy to remove after it's chilled. You just heat up the bottom of the pan on the stove to melt the fats and put a cardboard cake plate on top of your chilled cheesecake, flip it over and the cheesecake will slide right out. Then, put another cardboard cake plate on the bottom of the cheesecake and flip it back right side up. That's it! Here is a video of the process if you are like me and need a visual.
This post is going to be a fairly long one because I am going to try and put all the tricks and tips in here that make cheesecake baking easier. It's is a very easy cake to make once you know how to navigate all the areas that can be problematic for some. Plus, I have a sour cream topping that basically hides any imperfections anyway and makes it taste so crazy good.
2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature 1 cup sugar 1 tablespoon cornstarch, or 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature 2 teaspoons lemon juice 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract 3 large eggs, room temperature 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
Optional Sour Cream Topping:
1 cup sour cream 1 Tbsp white sugar 1/2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9" or 10" cake pan with non-stick spray. Use a Cuisinart or blender to grind the cookies into crumbs. Pour the crumbs into a bowl and stir in the melted butter and brown sugar until well combined. Pour the mixture into the cake pan and flatten (I use the bottom of a juice glass to smoosh it down firmly and evenly.) Bake the crust until you notice it becomes firm and is beginning to turn darker (about 12-15 minutes - start watching at 12 mins.) **If you would rather have graham cracker crust, use 6 ounces of graham cracker crumbs and 5 tablespoons butter - omit the brown sugar and only bake for 8-10 minutes.
In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Using the paddle attachment mix on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until no lumps remain. Scrape the sides of the bowl at least once during this process.
Add the sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla paste or extract and continue mixing on medium speed. Keep scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally as to ensure your finished product is lump free.
Add the eggs and yolk one at a time. Continue mixing 1-2 minutes until the batter is smooth and silky.
Pour the batter into the cooled crust. If you didn't do a good job scraping your bowl during the mixing process and you have really thick batter on the edges of your bowl, don't scrape those bits into the pan - just get as much batter out of the bowl without touching the thick, stuck stuff.
Put a roasting pan in the oven and fill about an inch with boiling water. Place the cheesecake pan in the center of the water, making sure it doesn't splash water into the cheesecake.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 150 degrees. The center will still be a bit jiggly. If you see any cracks, it's done!
Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar for an hour.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and run a sharp knife around the edge of the cheesecake to loosen it from the sides of the pan. This allows the cheesecake to move as it cools without cracking.
Chill the cheesecake for at least 4 hours to overnight in the fridge. Meanwhile, make the sour cream topping by combining all the topping ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate while you wait for the cheesecake to cool.
When the cheesecake is cool, take it out of the fridge and let it sit on a hot burner - just long enough to feel the cake pan sides heat up. At this point, the butter should melt enough to unmold easily. Put a cardboard cake plate on top of the cheesecake and flip it over, the cheesecake should slide right out. Put another cardboard cake plate (or regular cake plate) on the bottom of the cheesecake and flip again so the cheesecake is right side up!
Spread the sour cream topping on the top of the cheesecake. This is optional, but it adds a creamy texture and adds a balanced sweet/sour flavor to the cheesecake which I love. It also hides any cracks that may have happened during baking or cooling!
Serve as-is or with a fruit puree or fresh berries.