The first time I set out to make cheesecake I had no idea what I was doing. I actually had no idea what an intricate process it was. And thought my cheesecakes always tasted amazing, the first couple of times were an utter fail.
As I've learned there's a lot that can go wrong. Again, we're dealing with cheese and sugar here, so they'll taste good. But making a cake that looks good is a little more nuanced. Luckily, I've made all the mistakes so you don't have to! After making said mistakes and doing a good amount of research I've learned a thing or two.
Here are my six big takeaways:
1. The water bath is a must (see steps 1-2)
2. Do not cook this on high heat. Generally, between 300-350°F is standard. And once the cake is in the oven do not change the temperature.
3. Do not overmix the batter, particularly the eggs. Overmixing beats air into the batter which can cause the cake to crack.
4. Don't open the door while you're baking, no matter how tempting. The wafts of air and temperature changes are a surefire way to crack your cake. Use the oven light to stare at your beauty.
5. Don't overcook the cake either - the center of the cake will have a little jiggle when it's done. It'll continue to set in the fridge.
6. Lastly, as I mentioned below, allow the cake to cool in the oven, with the oven turned off and the door to the oven open. This, too, helps prevent cracks.
In this recipe, you'll see I've used 1/3 less fat cream cheese. With the addition of Nutella, the cake would be far too rich for me. Cutting down on some of the fat in the cheese strikes a great balance in terms of richness. But if you're of the "the richer the better" mindset, how 'bout it - go for the full fat!
This is a long process but it's actually a very simple one! Have fun and save me a slice :)
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 1.5 sleeves of graham crackers)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eight ounce packs of 1/3 less fat cream cheese
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons Nutella, divided
1. Fill an oven safe large pan (at least 12") with about 1 inch of water. Place the pan in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. The cake will bake in this pan, so make sure it is large enough to fit your cake pan.
2. Prepare your cake pan: use a 9" springform pan and cover the outside of the pan with tinfoil. This will prevent water from seeping into the cake. Generously grease the inside of the pan, particularly the sides, using butter or oil.
3. Crush the graham crackers into crumb sizes, if you haven't already. In a large bowl melt the butter. Add the crumbs and the cinnamon and stir to evenly coat. If your graham crackers are cinnamon flavored, omit the cinnamon.
4. Work the graham cracker into the springform pan and pack tightly onto the bottom. This will be the crust of the cake, so make sure to evenly spread it around the pan and pack it in tightly. Place the pan in the freezer while you continue to work.
5. Bring the cream cheese to room temperature. (I microwaved it for about 2 minutes.) In a large mixing bowl add the softened cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla and mix with a hand mixer until just combined. You do not want any lumps, but you also do not want to overmix it.
6. In a small bowl whisk the eggs. Add the eggs to the cream cheese mixture and mix until just combined. Again, do not overmix.
7. Remove the crust from the freezer and spoon 1/2 cup of Nutella onto the crust. Use a baking spatula or knife to smooth the Nutella evenly over the crust layer.
8. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pan.
9. Place the rest of the Nutella in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir the Nutella; it should stir easily and be thinner than usual. If not continue to microwave.
10. Drop spoonfuls of the softened Nutella onto the cheesecake batter and use the tip of a knife to swirl it around.
11. Place the cheesecake in the oven, into the pan with water and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes - 1 hour and 20 minutes. Do not open the oven door while the cheesecake is baking as temperature changes can cause the cake to crack. Only open it at the one hour mark to check for doneness. The cake is ready when the edge of the cake appears set, but the center is still a bit jiggly.
12. To cool the cake leave it in the oven, turn the oven off and open the oven door. Leave it there for about 30 minutes - 1 hour.
13. Transfer to the fridge to allow the cheesecake to set, at least 4 hours, up to overnight.