This is a fantastic baked cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crust and berry topping. A great flavor combination that is always a crowd-pleaser. It requires no water bath and freezes beautifully so you can make it ahead. Bake it the traditional way in a round pan or use a rectangular one, and cut it into squares to serve at larger gatherings and potlucks.
This is my best cheesecake recipe, the one I always go to. The one that has people asking for the recipe all the time. Or rather, asking me to make it for them, since, you know, you are 'the baker' in the family.
Most of my other cheesecake recipes in this blog are based on this one, like the very popular Oreo Cheesecake.
The filling is wonderfully traditional and greatly enhanced by the chocolate cookie base and a mixed berry topping. Chocolate, cheesecake, and berries together are a fantastic idea. And these cheesecake bars are creamy, cheesy, not too sweet, and enough to feed a small crowd.
About this recipe
- Bake ahead: as with most cheesecake recipes, it's recommended that it’s baked a few days before eating. That means that you can serve a last-minute fabulous cheesecake for dessert with minimal fuss. It lasts for 4-5 days in the fridge, well covered, without the topping.
- Topping: can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for a week or frozen for at least a month.
- Freezing: it can be frozen for up to a month. Wrap it well in plastic and then in aluminum foil and you have cheesecake any time you want. Defrost it at room temperature without unwrapping it.
- Dessert for a crowd: cheesecake is such a favorite for most people, so bake this recipe in a rectangular pan (the cake will not be as tall as you can see in the images), and then you can cut it into smaller squares and feed many more guests. If you do two cheesecakes you can serve dessert to 24 persons or so, depending on the size of the bars.
I am very particular about not adding starches (flour, cornstarch) to my cheesecake fillings. I know the oven and refrigerator will accomplish what I want: the creamiest cheesecake that cuts perfectly.
- Cookie crust: you need cookie crumbs and butter. Choose chocolate wafers or other plain chocolate cookies, not ones with a filling.
- Cream cheese: full fat is always the best because it's creamier and adds richness. I always use Philadelphia original cream cheese.
- Sour cream: it adds a needed tanginess to balance the richness of the cream cheese and sugar.
- Eggs: fresh, large.
- Sugar: white granulated sugar works best.
- Vanilla: I use pure vanilla extract or pure vanilla paste when available, but a good vanilla essence (artificially flavored) also works.
Chocolate crust for cheesecake
This recipe uses a chocolate crumb crust (cookie crust).
- Ground cookies: I like to process them until I have very fine crumbs, so we use plain chocolate cookies. Don't be tempted to use filled cookies (like Oreo cookies) as they will be too greasy and clump and complicated to grind.
- Butter: unsalted is what I use. Any type of butter you like works.
- Sweeter crust: add a few tablespoons of sugar to the cookie mixture. Subtract it from the ground cookie amount.
- Chocolate pie crust alternative: use this chocolate pie dough for the cheesecake base.
Watch our step-by-step videos
3 secrets for a creamy cheesecake
- Cheesecake batter: the key is not beating it, so we don't incorporate much air. If the ingredients are at room temperature, you should have no problem. I use that to know if they're at the right temperature: if I cannot easily mix the batter with a hand whisk, it's because the ingredients have not softened enough.
- Oven temperature: low is better than medium. I have gone back and forth for years testing this. And even though I might bake it at the standard 350°F/180°C for ten minutes initially, the bulk of the baking is done at 300°F/150°C at the most, sometimes less than that. Like baking a flan recipe, the lower temperature ensures that the batter doesn't puff and the filling stays creamy. The cheesecake will rise slightly, but not much.
- Cooling process: this is crucial and it consists of 3 steps: letting it cool for a while in the oven after it's turned off; letting it completely cool to room temperature on a wire rack; refrigerating it for at least 8 hours (a whole day is better). I have tested this thoroughly and following all the steps it renders the creamiest cheesecake.
Berry cheesecake topping
A syrupy mixed berry topping is at the top of my list because you can use fresh and frozen berries.
It's incredibly easy to make, and I enhance it with lemon juice and some premium raspberry or blackberry jam to give it more structure. This recipe is in the recipe card at the end of this post.
Or even a mixed berry compote, which is lighter and less sweet.
- Organization: read the recipe first and ensure you have ingredients at the correct temperature, equipment, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier.
- Baking time: consider that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer(like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Cookies: use regular chocolate wafers or other plain chocolate cookies. Don't be tempted to use filled cookies.
- Ingredients: all filling ingredients must be at room temperature. It’s the way you ensure they can be well incorporated without overbeating the batter. This is so important and part of how you achieve a creamy consistency.
- Mixing: I recommend combining the ingredients with a whisk, but you can use an electric hand mixer for the first part, mixing cream cheese and sugar only. After that, continue by hand. If you're making a large batch (like double the recipe) and want to use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, do so at low speed and just until it's all mixed. Cheesecake batters need to be combined or stirred, not beaten.
- Creaminess: besides the ingredients, make sure you bake it in a medium/low oven, turn it off while the cheesecake still jiggles a lot, and chill it for at least 8 hours in the fridge. I suggest refrigerating it for 1 or 2 days for best results. I find the texture is superior.
- Freezing: cheesecakes can be frozen and sometimes are creamier and softer after a stay in the freezer. There’s probably a chemical explanation.
- Topping: Keep in mind the ratio of filling and berry sauce. If baked in a rectangular pan it will not render a tall cheesecake, so adding a very thick layer of sauce on top of the cheesecake will not let the filling shine.
- Flavors: this vanilla filling with chocolate crust can be customized. Make a raspberry cheesecake by topping it with fresh berries and maybe adding some to the batter before baking. Add some chocolate chips to the cream cheese mixture and serve it with chocolate ganache if you want a chocolate flavor and no berries. A few tablespoons of your favorite liquor can be added for a more sophisticated dessert.
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For the cookie base:
- 2 cups ground chocolate wafers
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
For the cream cheese filling:
- 32oz regular cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 5 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
- ¼ cup sour cream, at room temperature
- ¼ cup whipping or heavy cream, at room temperature
For the berry topping:
- 1 ½ cups mixed berries, fresh or frozen
- 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2-3 tablespoons good raspberry or blackberry jam
- For other topping options see the Notes below.
For the chocolate crust:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F /180°C.
- Spray or butter an 8x11 inches (20x27cm) rectangular pan or a 9-inch round cake pan with removable bottom. If you want to line the pans: for the rectangular one, line with a piece of parchment paper that covers the bottom and up the two long sides of the pan. You will have two short sides without paper. For the round pan, release the sides and cover the bottom part with a large piece of aluminum foil. Press so it covers the bottom and sides, making sure it doesn't tear. Put the round part on top, over the foil, and close it. It will compress the foil. Grab the excess paper and bring it up so it sticks to the sides. Both of these methods make it easier to remove the cheesecakes when they are cold; you lift the paper and take out the cheesecake.
- Grind cookies in the food processor, add the melted butter, and mix until the mixture looks like wet sand. Or mix already crushed cookies in a bowl with the melted butter and mix with a spoon.
- Put this mixture into the prepared pan and press firmly onto the bottom.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack while making the filling.
- Don't turn the oven off.
For the cheese filling:
- Mix cream cheese in a large bowl until very smooth. You can use a handheld mixer or wire whisk. If the cheese is at room temperature, mixing them by hand should not be a problem. If using a hand held electric mixer, use it only for this part and at the lowest temperature. We don't want to incorporate air into the batter.
- Gradually add sugar and beat until sugar is very well incorporated.
- Add eggs, in 2 additions, mixing until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Be patient and don't be tempted to beat much.
- Add vanilla, sour cream, and cream, stirring to incorporate.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan of choice.
- For the rectangular pan:
Bake cheesecake for 10 minutes at 325°F/165°C, turn the oven down to 275ºF/140°C and bake for another 35-40 minutes. At this point, the cheesecake should jiggle quite a lot in the center. This can vary depending on your oven. Don't be tempted to bake it longer. It will solidify as it cools.
For the round pan:
Bake cheesecake for 10 minutes at 325°F/165°C, turn the oven down to 300ºF/150°C and bake for another 50-55 minutes. At this point, the cheesecake should jiggle quite a lot in the center. This can vary depending on your oven and it can take even longer. Don't be tempted to bake it longer. It will solidify as it cools.
- Turn the oven off and, without opening the door, let the cheesecake inside for 1 hour.
- Remove from the oven and carefully run a smooth bladed knife around the top of the sides of the springform pan or rectangular pan to loosen up any batter that might've stuck. If it's too tender, let cool more before doing this. It will help with not developing cracks as it cools and shrinks.
- Cool completely to room temperature in the pan on a wire rack, cover in plastic wrap (still in the pan), and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. I highly recommend 1 or 2 days of refrigeration for the creamiest consistency before removing from the pan and eating it.
For the topping:
- Put berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan.
- Cook over low heat until the juices bubble and are beginning to look syrupy about 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add 2-3 tablespoons of jam. Mix well.
- Take the cheesecake from the refrigerator.
- Lift it aiding yourself with the pieces of parchment paper that overhang from the sides of the rectangular pan. For the round pan, bring down the foil that is sticking to the pan, open the side circle and remove it. Lift the foil carefully and place your hand, palm side up, between the foil and the bottom of the pan. Lift the paper carefully and you will have the cheesecake in your hand. You can also do this with a large spatula but be careful not to tear the paper and the crust. Push down the foil and transfer the cheesecake to the other hand to remove the last part. Be careful as you place it on the serving plate.
- Top with the berry topping and serve.
Organization: read the recipe first and make sure you have ingredients at the right temperatures, equipment needed, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier!
Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. Use a thermometer inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that the temperature is right. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
Dessert for a crowd: cheesecake is such a favorite for most people, so bake this recipe in a rectangular pan (the cake will not be as tall), and then you can cut it into smaller squares and feed many more guests. If you do two cheesecakes you can serve dessert to 24 people or something. It depends on the size of the servings.
Round cake pan: of course, you can go the traditional way and make a taller round cheesecake using a 9-inch springform pan. The baking time will be longer.
Ingredients: all filling ingredients must be at room temperature. It’s the way you ensure they all mix well without beating the batter. This is so important and part of how you achieve a creamy consistency.
Creaminess: besides the ingredients, make sure you bake it in a medium/low oven, turn it off while the cheesecake still jiggles a lot, and leave it at least 8 hours in the fridge. I suggest 1 or 2 days. I find the texture is superior.
Cheesecake batter: the key is not beating it so that we don't incorporate air. If the ingredients are at room temperature, you should have no problem. What I do is use that as my way of knowing if they're at the right temperature: if I'm not able to easily mix the batter with a hand whisk is because the ingredients have not softened enough.
Oven temperature: low is better than medium. I have gone back and forth for years testing this. And even though I might bake it at the standard 350°F/180°C for ten minutes initially, the bulk of the baking is done at 300°F/150°C at the most, sometimes less than that. Similar to baking a flan recipe, the lower temperature ensures that the batter doesn't puff up much. The cheesecake will slightly rise, but not much.
Cooling process: this is crucial and it consists of 3 parts: letting it cool for a while in the oven after it's turned off; letting it completely cool to room temperature on a wire rack; refrigerating it for at least 8 hours (a whole day is better). I have tested this thoroughly and it renders the creamiest cheesecakes.
Freezing: cheesecakes can be frozen and, in my opinion, many times they are creamier and softer after a stay in the freezer. There’s probably a chemical explanation. But it's just my experience. Let thaw in the fridge overnight and then at room temperature. The slower it defrosts, the better the texture.
Topping: Keep in mind the ratio of filling and berry sauce if making squares or bars. This is not a very tall cake as it's baked in a rectangular pan, so too much topping will not let the filling shine. Besides the mixed berry topping shown in the recipe card, you can also use our basic blueberry sauce, strawberry sauce (topping), or homemade cherry sauce.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cooling + refrigeration time: 8 hours
- Cook Time: 65 minutes
- Category: Cheesecakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/12
- Calories: 539
- Sugar: 32.7 g
- Sodium: 245.2 mg
- Fat: 38.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 41.2 g
- Fiber: 1.3 g
- Protein: 8.6 g
- Cholesterol: 167.4 mg
Keywords: cheesecake bars