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Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake

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Strawberry sweetness.

This strawberry cheesecake recipe couldn’t be easier: It’s a classic, New York-style vanilla cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries in their own juices. Best of all? You can make it in a regular cake pan. 

easy strawberry cheesecake recipe

Meet This Homemade Strawberry Cheesecake

Is there anything as satisfying as a good cheesecake? Sweet, creamy, and with just a little nudge of cream cheese tang flavor to cut the sugar, a good cheesecake is just about as good as a dessert gets.

My favorite type of cheesecake of all is strawberry cheesecake. Strawberry cheesecake — good vanilla cheesecake topped with fresh spring strawberries dripping with their own juices — makes a centerpiece dessert beloved by all, with seasonal and beautiful flare. And let’s not forget about that buttery graham cracker crust. You’ll love this recipe. Read on.

strawberry cheesecake recipe with fresh strawberry topping

How to Make This Strawberry Cheesecake With a Graham Cracker Crust

This recipe is not complicated, but it is made the right way, so it will take time to bake and then chill.

There are three main components to this cheesecake recipe:

  1. The graham cracker crust,
  2. The cheesecake filling,
  3. The fresh, sweet strawberry topping.

First, you’ll make the graham cracker crust. This is very simple: You’ll combine graham cracker crumbs with butter, sugar, and a little salt and bake it in the base of a greased nine-inch cake pan.

Next, you’ll make the cheesecake filling. It’s a simple batter combining these cheesecake ingredients: room temperature cream cheese, sugar, lemon, salt, vanilla bean pasta, eggs, flour, and sour cream. Pour that into the cake pan, and bake in a water bath. Cool on the counter on a wire rack until room temperature, then chill in the fridge.

While the cheesecake bakes, make the strawberry topping for the cheesecake. Some recipes call for cooking fresh strawberries with sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan, but I prefer to keep things very fresh. I simply stir together strawberries, sugar, and a little lemon juice in a mixing bowl and let everything marinate. The sugar will draw out the strawberry juices and create a fresh, vibrant strawberry sauce and topping for the cheesecake.

More details are below.

strawberry cheesecake ingredients
The ingredients you will need for this strawberry cheesecake recipe.

The ingredients you need to make this strawberry cheesecake recipe

This recipe combines classic cheesecake and graham cracker crust with a fresh strawberry topping for spring. You will need:

  • Full-fat cream cheese at room temperature for easy mixing
  • Sugar
  • Fresh lemon zest and juice
  • Salt
  • Vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • Eggs
  • Sour cream
  • All-purpose flour
  • Graham crackers
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Fresh strawberries
  • Cooking spray or butter to grease the cake pan
graham cracker cheesecake crust
Use the flat bottom of a measuring cup to evenly press the buttery, sweetened graham cracker crumbs into the cake pan before baking.

Directions for the strawberry cheesecake and topping

Equipment wise, you will need: either a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer and mixing bowl; a spatula; a cake pan (no, you do not need a springform pan!); a large casserole or deep-sided roasting pan that the cake pan can fit comfortably inside for the water bath; a food processor for grinding the graham crackers into crumbs.

Again, you do not need aluminum foil or a springform pan. I learned in pastry school to make cheesecake in a regular cake pan. This is so much easier, and works just as well as a bulky, leak-prone springform.

cheesecake batter poured into cake pan with graham crust on the bottom
Pour the vanilla cheesecake batter into the cake pan, over the graham crust.
cheesecake in water bath in oven
Not a great picture, but this is my cheesecake nestled in a water bath in the oven, for reference.

Here’s how to make the cheesecake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease an 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper for extra insurance.
  2. Make the graham cracker crust. Grind the graham crackers in a food processor into crumbs. Add the melted butter, sugar, and salt and mix until combined. The consistency should be like wet sand.
  3. Evenly press the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of the cake pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, until it’s golden brown. Cool.
  4. Make the cheesecake batter. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar, sour cream, lemon zest and juice, flour, salt, vanilla, and sugar. Bean until very smooth and light. Scrape the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth. The consistency will be like cake better.
  5. Boil a full kettle of water. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Set the cooled cake pan with the graham crust inside the casserole or roasting pan. Pour the cheesecake batter into the cake pan and place it all in the oven.
  6. Carefully pour the hot water into the casserole, creating a water bath. Fill the casserole with enough water so that the water comes halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
  7. Bake for about one hour, until the center of the cheesecake is firm. Cool on a wire cooling rack until the cheesecake is at room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours, or overnight.
  8. Make the strawberry cheesecake topping by stirring together the strawberries, sugar, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to one day.
  9. Take the cheesecake out of the fridge. Turn the cheesecake out onto a plate, and then quickly right-side up again onto a serving platter. Spoon the strawberry topping over the top of the cheesecake. Cut into slices using a warm knife.
baked cheesecake cooling on wire cooling rack
Let the baked cheesecake cool fully. You will know the cheesecake it done when it is firm in the middle, not jiggle-y.

Making the Strawberry Topping for Cheesecake

Unlike some recipes, which call for cooking strawberries in a stew of sugar and cornstarch, I prefer fresh strawberries, simply tossed with sugar and a spritz of lemon juice.

A fresh strawberry topping for cheesecake tastes fresher, looks more vibrant, and offers a welcome texture contrast to the creamy cheesecake.

To make the strawberry cheesecake topping, remove the strawberry stems and leaves. Halve or quarter the fresh strawberries. Toss with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and let it sit at room temperature or the refrigerator for up to one hour. Spoon over the finished, chilled cheesecake.

strawberry topping in bowl for cheesecake
Spoon the sugar-sweetened strawberries over the cheesecake shortly before serving.

How to make sure your cheesecake doesn’t crack in the middle (and other tips)

Cracking in the center of cheesecake and other custard desserts (such as pumpkin pie) is the result of over-baking. Over-baking a cheesecake can happen because of either 1) baking at too high of a temperature, or 2) baking for too long.

This recipe ensures a slow, even bake by baking at only 325 degrees in a water bath, which keeps the baking process very even. You’ll want to check the doneness at one hour. The center should not jiggle, but be firm and set.

Avoid creating air bubbles in the cheesecake batter. Do not use the whisk attachment, which will draw air into the batter by whipping it with air. Instead, use the paddle attachment and beat just until smooth.

easy strawberry cheesecake with fresh strawberry topping

To release the cheesecake from the cold cake pan, place the bottom of the cake pan on the bottom of a stovetop burner on low heat just long enough to warm the bottom. Use a small offset spatula and run it around the sides. The cheesecake should turn out easily.

This cheesecake can be made up to two days in advance and refrigerated, covered in plastic wrap. Do not make the strawberry topping until you are close to serving, though. The strawberries need to be very fresh.

sliced strawberry cheesecake with graham cracker crust

If you like this strawberry cheesecake recipe, you’ll also love these other strawberry dessert recipes:

strawberry cheesecake recipe with fresh strawberry topping

Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake

This is one of my favorite desserts of all time: a Classic New York-style cheesecake with a fresh strawberry topping and buttery graham cracker crust. Best of all? No springform pan needed! Just make it right in a standard cake pan. I show you how.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 10 minutes
Chilling Time3 hours
Total Time4 hours 30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keywords:: cheesecake, christmas desserts, mother's day, spring recipe ideas, strawberries
Servings: 1 9" cheesecake (serves about 8 people)
Calories: 4669kcal
Print

Ingredients

For the Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (from 9 crackers, or one sleeve)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 generous pinch salt

For the Cheesecake Batter

  • 1 pound whole-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest of one lemon (reserve lemon for strawberries, below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1 cup sour cream (not low fat)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs

For the Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake Topping

  • 1 quart fresh, ripe strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
  • Juice of half a lemon

Instructions

For the Graham Cracker Crust

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9" round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. (I buy pre-cut parchment rounds.)
    PRO TIP: If you want a little more height, you can also bake the cheesecake in a lined, greased 8"x3" cake pan. The baking time may be slightly different.
  • Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor with the sugar and salt until finely ground into crumbs. Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the melted butter to the graham crumb mixture, and stir to combine fully.
  • Gently but firmly press the graham crumb mixture into the bottom of the cake pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool to room temperature. (Can be made one or two days in advance and kept, wrapped at room temperature.)
    PRO TIP: Use the bottom of a measuring cup as a flat, even surface when pressing the crumbs into place.

Make the Cheesecake Batter and Bake

  • When the graham cracker crust is done, lower the oven temperature to 325°F.
    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar, lemon zest, salt, vanilla extract, sour cream, and two tablespoons of flour. Beat until smooth. Scrape the bowl.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each. The batter should be smooth and ribbony. Pour the cheesecake batter into the graham cracker crust-lined cake pan. Give it a couple of taps on the countertop to release any air bubbles.
    PRO TIP: Now's a good time to heat a kettle full of water to a simmer.
  • Create a water bath for the cheesecake: Nestle the unbaked cheesecake into a standard, high-walled casserole pan wide enough for the cake pan to not touch the sides. Place the casserole into the oven. Pour hot water into the casserole pan until the water comes halfway up the sides of the cake pan. That's your water bath.
    PRO TIP: It's much better to add the water to the casserole once it's in the oven. This saves you having to slosh a heavy casserole of hot water and cheesecake into the oven.
  • Bake for one hour, give or take 5 minutes, until fully set in the middle. Remove from the oven. Let fully cool at room temperature, then place in the fridge, uncovered until fully chilled, at least 3 hours.
    PRO TIP: The best and safest way I have found to get the cheesecake out of the oven and water bath is to lift the cheesecake from the water bath pan directly from the oven using oven mitts. Then I let the water cool and pour it out later. Be careful!
    PRO TIP: Leave the cheesecake uncovered in the fridge so the top does not form condensation, giving it a wet appearance.

Unmold the Cheesecake

  • Tightly wrap a flat surface (a little wider than the cake pan) in plastic wrap. I use a cardboard cake round or cake pan that is 1 inch wider than the cheesecake.
    Run a paring knife or small offset spatula all the way around the side of the cheesecake. Place the bottom of the cheesecake cake pan over a low burner for about 20 seconds, swirling it constantly on the burner, to release the cold butter in the crust. Watch your hands!
    TIP: Placing the cake pan on the burner is my super quick way to release the cold bottom of a cake or cheesecake. Alternatively, set the bottom in warm water for a minute or two.
    Have your serving platter ready. With gusto and purpose, invert the cheesecake onto your flat, plastic-wrapped surface. Peel the parchment from the bottom. Then, place the serving plate over the upside-down cheesecake and immediately flip the cheesecake right-side up onto the serving platter. Chill until ready to add the strawberries and serve.

Make the Strawberry Topping and Finish the Cheesecake

  • Wash and fully dry the strawberries. Remove the strawberry stems and leaves. Use a paring knife to halve or quarter the fresh strawberries. Toss with 2 tablespoons of sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Let it sit at room temperature or in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes or up to one hour. Taste; you may need a little more sugar depending on the sweetness of the berries.
    Spoon over the finished, chilled cheesecake and serve.

Notes

Making the cheesecake in advance: The cheesecake can be made up to two days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
The strawberry topping is best made the day the cheesecake is served, however. The longer the strawberries sit "marinating" in the sugar, the more water will be drawn out. Over time, the strawberries will go limp and taste a little off. 
sliced strawberry cheesecake with graham cracker crust

Nutrition

Calories: 4669kcal | Carbohydrates: 473g | Protein: 72g | Fat: 289g | Saturated Fat: 158g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g | Monounsaturated Fat: 76g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 1399mg | Sodium: 4009mg | Potassium: 2813mg | Fiber: 23g | Sugar: 369g | Vitamin A: 10338IU | Vitamin C: 559mg | Calcium: 1029mg | Iron: 13mg

Disclaimer: Nutrition information is provided for courtesy purposes only, and is an estimate not verified by medical or nutrition experts. Read the full nutrition disclaimer.

2 comments

  • 5 stars
    Outstanding cheesecake recipe. I was nervous to flip it out of the cake pan and rightside up again, but it worked just fine! I always thought you needed a springform pan for cheesecake, so I was glad to learn how to make it this way instead. The cheesecake itself tasted wonderful. Thank you, Lisa!

  • Allison B

    5 stars
    This is so good. I made this last weekend to GREAT acclaim, and the strawberries were so much better fresh and in season that the cooked, thickened kind you sometimes see.

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