The “bomb” refers to how awesome this cheesecake is, not to the old-school French domed cake called “bombe.” This cheesecake is a blank. It’s super easy to make and it’s great for getting creative with. I’ve made literally thousands of these, adding everything from chocolate to nuts to spices and even herbs. You can even swap out the cream cheese for goat cheese. But if it’s classic you’re going for, don’t be afraid to serve it with cheap-ass canned cherry pie filling.
I bake my cheesecakes in regular cake pans, not springform pans. There’s nothing wrong with a springform pan; it’s just that most people don’t have one. That’s okay. I have a method to get the cheesecake out that totally works and will save you a trip to the store and $30 for a new pan.
This recipe is easy, but read the whole thing before you start. The directions may seem complicated, but they’re not. It’s just that the perfect cheesecake needs to be made exactly right, and all the little details in here really add up to success. —Duff
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1 stick (½ cup) butter, melted and hot
- Kosher salt
- Cooking spray
- 1 whole vanilla bean, scraped (you can use 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, but the flavor of a whole bean is extraordinary)
- 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 extra-large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
- Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature (except the butter). Don’t even try to make this cheesecake with cold ingredients. You’ll fail and blame me.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place a large cake or casserole pan full of water on the lower rack. Make sure this never goes dry during the baking process. This will help keep your cheesecake from forming a skin and cracking.
- In a medium bowl, mix 6 tablespoons of the sugar, the graham cracker crumbs, the butter, and a pinch of salt. Lay the crumb mixture in the bottom of a 10-inch cake pan and press it down very firmly and flat. Get this part right—it really affects how this cheesecake cuts later on. Using all your weight, really press down on the crust. Find something flat and heavy like a jar with a lid on it. Use the lid side to press the crust perfectly even. Also, I make the crust totally level—I don’t round it up the sides of the pan. That way it doesn’t break when you cut it.
- Once your crust is perfect, lightly spray the sides of the cake pan with cooking spray. Cut a few long strips of “parchment paper and line the sides of the cake pan. Spray the paper with the cooking spray and place the pan in the freezer.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (not the whisk!), cream the remaining ¾ cup sugar, the vanilla seeds, cream cheese, and a pinch of salt on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs, yolk, and cornstarch and slowly blend until combined, stopping and scraping the bowl at least twice. Add the sour cream and slowly mix it in, stopping and scraping the bowl twice.
- Pull the bowl off the machine and bang it hard on the counter 10 times. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Watch the top—you’ll see little air bubbles come up to the top and burst. If they don’t pop by themselves, use a bamboo skewer. Those little air bubbles will kill a cheesecake. They are evil. They will expand in the oven and instead of getting a smooth cheesecake, you’ll get a mealy one. Also, your cheesecake will soufflé in the oven and crack on top.
- Slowly pour the batter onto the crust, filling it to about ¼ inch from the top. Don’t let the mix get behind the paper.
- Bake for 30 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 315˚F and bake for 45 to 50 minutes more, until the center is set. Turn off the oven and crack the door open (this is why your oven door has that spot where it will stay open a crack) and leave the cake in the oven for 90 minutes.
- Let the cheesecake cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then freeze it for 2 hours.
GETTING CHEESECAKE OUT OF A CAKE PAN
To remove a cheesecake from a regular cake pan, run a paring knife around the edge behind the paper wrapper and make sure nothing is stuck to the sides of the cake pan. Turn on the stove and hold the bottom of the pan briefly over the flame or burner to melt anything that’s making the pan stick to the bottom of the cheesecake. Lay out a lightly sprayed piece of parchment paper and slam the pan face down on it. Punch the bottom of the pan a few times and bang the edges until the cheesecake comes out on its own. Remove any paper stuck to the cheesecake. Get your hand under the parchment and under the cheesecake, flip it over onto a flat plate, and remove the top piece of parchment. Let the cheesecake thaw before serving.