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How to make the perfect baked cheesecake

Beth O’Brien tried out six recipes from giants of the baking recipe world before creating her own hazelnut ricotta cheesecake

Baked cheesecakes are, in my opinion, far superior to their refrigerated counterparts. I thought for a long time that I didn’t like cheesecake, because I had only ever been exposed to the gelatine-set, wobbly filling set over an often soggy biscuit base. These usually had a flavour profile of white chocolate and raspberry or similar, often with a layer of berry jelly on top.

In recent years, I have discovered the world of baked cheesecakes, and I’m never going back. I especially love Basque cheesecake, but I have omitted it from this recipe test as I feel the criteria are different and it deserves its own in-depth analysis.

The contenders

When I was whittling down my list of cheesecakes to test, the New York cheesecake quickly emerged as a popular contender. New York cheesecakes tend to be dense, rich and creamy, often with a Graham cracker crust (you can use digestive biscuits), and usually flavoured simply, if at all.

I’ve tested two of these: Junior’s (a Brooklyn restaurant), whose recipe has stayed the same since the 1950s, and Stella Parks’s Epic New York Cheesecake. Parks developed her cheesecake starting with a recipe that is more than 100 years old (tweaking the method but keeping the ingredient proportions intact), while Junior’s cheesecake has a sponge base, topped with a light, tangy filling.


Donna Hay’s and Rachel Allen’s cheesecakes are accompanied by berries (with the blueberries baked into the topping in Allen’s case), while Natalie Paull and Nigella Lawson opt for a multi-layer approach (in Lawson’s case it is called the London cheesecake), with the cheesecake topping baked on top of the biscuit base, before a second, sour-cream-based layer is added and baked on top halfway through.

The base

There seems to be three schools of thought for the base of a baked cheesecake: Junior’s New York cheesecake uses a génoise-style sponge base, which is baked before the topping is added. I had never tried this type of cheesecake base before, and found that it was beautifully light, while also stable enough to hold up the topping. Nigella Lawson and Rachel Allen use a biscuit base, where digestive biscuits are blended with melted butter before being pressed into the cake tin. Hay opts for a crumble-style base with flour, sugar and butter combined into a rough dough which is pressed into the cake tin and blind baked. A biscuit base generally doesn’t need to be blind baked, while a home-made base (with flour, sugar and butter) does need to be baked before the filling is added.

My favourite base was Stella Parks’s (Graham cracker or digestive biscuits), which was stable enough to support the cheesecake topping, but still crumbly and light. She goes a step further and makes her own Graham crackers, but you could easily replicate this with shop-bought biscuits.

The filling

The basic filling for a baked cheesecake consists of cream cheese, sugar and egg, but each recipe writer adds their own twist to improve flavour and texture. Cornflour is a welcome addition, as it improves the stability of the cheesecake (and in my opinion, makes the texture less eggy). Vanilla and lemon juice are popular additions, and Parks adds orange blossom water for a delicious, fragrant cheesecake.

Some of the recipes I tested use alternative dairy options such as ricotta (Donna Hay), sour cream (Natalie Paull) or goat’s cheese (Stella Parks – this one was really tangy and delicious), which bring both acidity and flavour. I love the addition of berries, whether they’re baked into the filling (Rachel Allen) or fresh berries served on top (Donna Hay).


Some of the recipes (Natalie Paull, Nigella Lawson) require a bain-marie, which allows the cheesecake to bake more gently, and prevents it from drying out. While this does ensure slow and steady baking, I found that these cheesecakes stood a higher risk of a soggy bottom, and would therefore recommend no water bath, and instead, a slightly lower temperature for the duration of the bake, and possibly a rotation halfway through.

Recipe: Beth O’Brien’s hazelnut ricotta cheesecake

Junior’s New York Cheesecake

Donna Hay’s Classic Baked Cheesecake

Stella Parks’s Epic New York Cheesecake: Bravetart

Nigella Lawson’s London Cheesecake

Natalie Paull’s The cheesecake you will love the most: Beatrix Bakes

Rachel Allen’s Blueberry Cheesecake