This cherry cheesecake has a smooth, silky, and creamy base topped with a sweet and sour cherry topping! It's truly the best homemade cherry cheesecake recipe that will a favorite all year round! Based on my recipe for classic New York cheesecake.
There's no better dessert than homemade cherry cheesecake! What makes this the best cherry cheesecake is the perfect balance of sweet and tart flavors from the cherry topping. It's a fantastic complement to the soft and silky-smooth interior made of cream cheese and sour cream!
If you prefer softer, creamier cheesecakes, you're going to love this recipe! I find some cheesecakes to be too dense and stiff but this recipe will give you a tall, melt-in-your-mouth cheesecake that's guaranteed to be a favorite for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any special occasions!
Best of all, this can be made ahead of time and still taste amazing! I recommend storing the cherry topping separately and topping the cheesecake right before serving.
- Mix the graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt together until it resembles wet sand. Squeeze the mixture in your hands and see if it holds its shape. If it does, it's ready. Otherwise, add a bit more melted butter. Press the crumbs into a springform pan that's been double lined with foil. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Beat the cream cheese, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, sugar, and salt on medium-high speed. If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment as the whisk attachment creates too many air bubbles.
- Pour the batter into the springform pan and tap it on the counter several times to remove air bubbles.
- Place the springform pan into a larger baking pan and pour hot water halfway up the side to create a water bath. Bake for 75 minutes.
- Turn the oven off and crack the door using a wooden spoon. This helps slowly reduce the temperature to prevent cracks. Skipping this step rapidly reduces the temperature which can cause the cheesecake to fall flat.
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to come to room temperature. You should start to see it pull away from the sides as it cools. The water bath and the additional resting time in the oven will help prevent any cracks. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for at least 4 hours to overnight.
Cherry Topping for Cheesecake
Fresh or frozen cherries can be used for the cherry topping. I used frozen pie cherries which are also called sour cherries. This is loosely based on my recipe for Cherry Pie Filling and Cherry Sauce.
To make the cherry topping, simply combine the pitted cherries, sugar, cornstarch, water, and optionally lemon juice in a pot and bring to a boil. It will thicken up into a luscious cherry glaze that's a beautiful bright red color.
As cherries naturally vary in how sweet and tart they are, you'll need to adjust with more sugar or lemon juice. Also, frozen cherries release more liquid than fresh cherries so add less water if using frozen cherries.
Once cooled, spoon the cherry topping over the cheesecake or serve it on the side. The cherry topping will keep in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days.
To serve the cherry cheesecake, use a long, thin knife that's been dipped in hot water and wiped dry. Warming up the knife will give you smooth, clean slices that easily cut through the cheesecake. Be sure to wipe the knife clean, dip it in hot water, and dry it off again before cutting another slice.
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs - See Note 1
- 2½ Tablespoons butter - melted
- 1 ½ Tablespoons sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 8oz packages cream cheese - softened, see Note 2
- 2 eggs
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ⅔ cup sour cream - see Note 3
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 lb pitted cherries - fresh or frozen; about 3½ cups
- 3 to 6 Tablespoons sugar - start with less and adjust
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 to 4 Tablespoons water - start with less and adjust
- Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter, sugar, and salt. It should resemble wet sand and hold its shape when pressed. Add the crumbs to the pan and firmly pat down to get an even layer on the bottom and sides. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside.1 cup graham cracker crumbs, 2½ Tablespoons butter, 1 ½ Tablespoons sugar, pinch of salt
- Make the batter: Reduce the oven to 325°F. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer, beat the softened cream cheese, eggs, sugar, sour cream, vanilla, and salt until smooth and creamy on medium-high speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom halfway through. Lastly, remove large air bubbles by reducing the speed to the lowest setting for 1 to 2 minutes.2 8oz packages cream cheese, 2 eggs, ⅔ cup sugar, ⅔ cup sour cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Water bath: Pour the batter into the springform pan and remove any air bubbles by banging the pan onto the kitchen counter lined with a kitchen towel. Put the springform pan into a larger roasting pan and add hot water halfway up the side to create a water bath.
- Bake: Bake at 325°F for 75 minutes. Turn off the oven and use a wooden spoon to crack open the oven door. Let the cheesecake slowly reduce in temperature for one hour then remove it from the oven.
- Chill: Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and remove the foil. Once it reaches room temperature, loosely cover and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours to overnight.
- Mix the cornstarch with water to make a cornstarch slurry (if using frozen cherries, use less water). Add the cherries, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch slurry to a pot and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to avoid burning.1 lb pitted cherries, 3 to 6 Tablespoons sugar, 1 Tablespoon cornstarch, 2 to 4 Tablespoons water, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- Once the sauce thickens, reduce the heat and taste. As cherries naturally vary in sweetness, adjust with more lemon juice, sugar, or water as needed. Sour cherries may need more sugar and sweet cherries may need more lemon juice. For a thinner sauce, add a ½ tablespoon of water at a time. Note: the sauce will thicken as it cools.
- Carefully remove the cheesecake from the springform pan and add as much or as little of the cherry topping. Cut slices using a thin knife that's been dipped in hot water and wiped dry after each slice. Enjoy!
✎ Recipe Notes
- Graham cracker crust - Reduce the amount by half if you just want a bottom crust with no sides.
- Cream cheese - Use full-fat cream cheese for best results. To soften, leave at room temperature or microwave for 20 seconds at a time until soft (my preferred method).
- Sour cream - Sour cream helps give the cheesecake a creamy, soft texture. For an even softer and silkier texture, replace half the sour cream with heavy cream. This will give you a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth cheesecake that's velvety soft. I highly recommend this for those who prefer soft cheesecakes over dense ones.
- Crust: Use a flat-bottomed measuring cup with straight sides to easily press down the graham cracker crumbs.
- Crack-free cheesecake: Cracks can form in cheesecakes due to air bubbles, over-mixing, and improper temperature. Once the batter is smooth and creamy, mix the batter on the lowest speed for 2 minutes to push out any large air bubbles. Slowly pour the batter from a height of 8 inches to pop more air bubbles and bang the pan on the kitchen counter several times. Avoid opening the oven during baking to keep the temperature consistent.
- Once it's finished baking, allow the cheesecake to rest in the oven with the door cracked for an hour to let the temperature decrease slowly. This prevents the cheesecake from collapsing and cracking.
- Once the cheesecake comes to room temperature, cover it loosely to prevent any condensation from dripping onto the cheesecake.
- Chill overnight for best results.
- Add the cherry topping once it's at room temperature. Warm cherry sauce will melt the cheesecake.
- Make-ahead for the holidays - Cherry cheesecake can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the fridge.
*Nutritional information is an estimate, calculated using online tools.
Cheesecake on its own freezes beautifully so this can be frozen for up to 2 months as long as you leave out the cherry topping. I don't recommend freezing the cherry topping and instead suggest you make it the day of or up to two days in advance.
The cherry topping is made with just four ingredients - pitted cherries, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch to thicken it up. You can use fresh or frozen cherries and either sweet or sour (pie) cherries. Simply adjust the sugar and lemon juice accordingly.
Yes! Cherry cheesecake can be made ahead of time. I recommend no longer than 3 days for maximum freshness.
Store leftovers in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.