Cherry Cheesecake: A Classic Dessert Like Your Grandma Used to Make

When I was growing up, holidays and special occasions were always celebrated with my grandma’s famous cheesecake. Some dinner invitations hinged on the fact that a cheesecake would be accompanying us.

Vertical image of a slice of dessert topped with red fruit on a plate with blue stripes, with text on the top and bottom.

Grandma was always very generous, and she would make pastries and pies (including this recipe) for friends and family members “just because.” She also shared her recipe with anyone who asked, so it could live on after she was gone.

I learned from an early age that making this type of dessert is an all-day process. Grandma would start baking in the morning, and we wouldn’t get a chance to sample some cake until late that night, or sometimes not until the next day.

Vertical top-down image of a whole dessert topped with round red fruit, with a slice taken out of it.

She liked to experiment with her recipe, halving it to make smaller portions, and even using ramekins instead of a larger springform pan for individually-sized servings.

She was not a big fan of toppings, and honestly, her homemade filling could stand on its own. I personally love cherry cheesecake, but then again, I love cherries on anything.

Vertical image of a perfect slice of a white dessert topped with red fruit on a white plate in front of a fork and blue napkin.

My grandma’s original version did not include a graham cracker crust – this was a later addition after it became popular, and that’s what I have included here.

Canned fruit is called for in the recipe below. But what if you want to use fresh cherries? Be sure to get one of the best cherry pitters for the best results!

Vertical top-down image of a slice of dessert topped with juicy round red fruit on a white plate with blue stripes next to a metal fork.

You can cook down fresh cherries until they have the consistency of pie filling, in a little water with some sugar and lemon juice, and then proceed with the recipe.

Vertical image of a cherry-topped cheesecake with a piece removed on a white plate next to a metal fork.

After enjoying Grandma’s homemade version and making it myself in my own kitchen, store bought options could never compare. Once you try this recipe, I can almost guarantee that you’ll never buy one from the bakery again.

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Horizontal image of a slice of a white dessert with a crust and juicy red fruit topping on a white plate with blue stripes next to a fork and a white stand.

Classic Cherry Cheesecake


  • Author: Jennifer Swartvagher
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 12 hours, 35 minutes
  • Yield: 8-10 servings 1x

Description

Tart and creamy, cherry cheesecake is a classic dessert that you must make this week. It’s the ideal sweet treat, just like Grandma’s.


Scale

Ingredients

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (10 crackers, about 5 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

For the Filling:

  • 4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 16 ounces sour cream, room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature

For the Topping:

  • 1 14.5-ounce can pitted tart cherries 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Set aside. 
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the ingredients for the crust. Press firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. 
  3. Bake for 9 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Increase oven temperature to 375˚F.
  4. Add cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until whipped and fluffy. 
  5. Add sour cream, butter, cornstarch, vanilla, lemon juice, and sugar. Beat until combined. Beat in eggs one at a time on medium speed, fully incorporating between additions.
  6. Grease the side walls of the springform pan with unsalted butter. Double wrap the base of the springform pan with aluminum foil.
  7. Place springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour in filling mixture.
  8. Fill roasting pan halfway with about 6 cups boiling water, making sure it doesn’t go up past the foil on the pan.
  9. Bake for 1 hour. The filling should be set, still wiggly but not wet in the center.
  10. Remove springform pan from water bath. Set aside to cool on the countertop for 3 hours. Then refrigerate for 6 hours. 
  11. Once the cheesecake is chilled, drain cherries, reserving the juice in a small bowl. 
  12. In a medium saucepan, combine cherry juice, sugar, and cornstarch. Bring mixture to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until thickened.
  13. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and reserved cherries. 
  14. Spread over filling. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Unmold from springform pan, slice, and serve.

  • Category: Cheesecake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Dessert

Keywords: cheesecake, cherry, cream cheese, sour cream, graham cracker

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients for the Crust and Filling

Horizontal image of eggs, butter, creamy ingredients, cream cheese, and other flavorings in dishes on a gray surface.

Crush enough graham crackers so you have 1 1/2 cups total. You will need about 10 crackers, or 5 ounces of crumbs. Homemade graham crackers are excellent for this!

I pulsed them in my food processor, but you can also smash them in a resealable bag with a meat mallet or rolling pin.

Melt 1/3 cup unsalted butter for the crust in the microwave, in a microwave-safe bowl. Set aside.

Horizontal image of a creamy white liquid, sugar, melted butter, and crushed graham crackers in bowls on a gray surface.

Measure out the remaining ingredients listed for the crust and the filling. Allow all of the dairy products to come to room temperature, if you haven’t already.

Preheat your oven to 350˚F. Line the base of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

I like to trace the base of my springform pan onto the paper, then cut it out carefully with kitchen shears. This liner will help with easy removal when you’re ready to slice and serve.

Step 2 – Make Crust

Horizontal image of graham cracker crumbs in a metal bowl stirred by a spoon.

Stir together all of the ingredients listed for the crust in a medium-sized bowl.

Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Horizontal image of a pressed crust in a metal pan.

Place in the oven and bake for 9 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside on a wire rack to cool.

Increase oven temperature to 375˚F.

Step 3 – Make Filling

Horizontal image of a metal bowl filled with a thick white creamy liquid.

While you make the filling, put about 6 cups of water on to boil – you’ll need this later.

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer. It’s important to start with room temperature cream cheese, so it will blend smoothly.

Fit your mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed, until the cream cheese is whipped and fluffy. This will take about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the sour cream, butter, cornstarch, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and sugar. Beat on medium speed until combined.

One at a time, beat in the eggs on medium speed, until they are fully incorporated.

Cracking the eggs into a separate bowl first is recommended, so you can avoid accidentally adding any shell fragments to the filling mixture!

Step 4 – Bake

Horizontal image of a white unbaked dessert in a circular pan lined with aluminum foil in a water bath in the oven.

Grease the sides of the pan with unsalted butter and pour in the filling.

Double wrap the base of the pan with aluminum foil and place it in the center of a large roasting pan.

This dessert is baked in a water bath, so you’ll need to fill the roasting pan about halfway with boiling water. I used about 6 cups of water to accomplish this.

Be careful not to overfill the pan. The water should not come above the level of the foil, and you do not want to risk having any water reach up over the lip of the pan to ruin your filling.

To avoid spills, you can actually pull out your oven rack, place the roasting pan on top, quickly fill the pan with boiling water, and close the door. It will be heavy!

Otherwise, you can fill first, and carefully place it in the oven.

Bake for 1 hour, until the filling is set but still a little wiggly. The center should no longer be wet.

Step 5 – Chill

Horizontal image of a golden brown baked dessert in a round pan lined with aluminum foil in a water bath in an oven.

Remove the springform pan from the water bath and place it on a wire rack on the counter. Cool for 3 hours before transferring to the refrigerator to chill for 6 hours.

Step 6 – Make the Topping

Horizontal image of a pot filled with small round red fruit and liquid stirred by a metal spoon.

Measure out all of the ingredients listed for the cherry topping.

Drain the cherries and reserve the juice. Set the fruit aside in a small bowl.

Add the cherry juice, sugar, and cornstarch to a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.

Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and cherries.

Spread the cherry topping over the cheesecake.

Step 7 – Chill and Serve

Horizontal top-down image of a whole round dessert topped with small red juicy fruit next to white plates with blue stripes.

Chill for at least 2 hours. Unmold from the springform pan and serve.

What Makes This Dessert So Special?

This recipe is one that is uniquely flavorful and creamy, with the classic tart cherry topping that you likely know and love, either from childhood, your favorite restaurant, or the bakery on the corner.

Horizontal image of a slice of a white dessert with a crust and juicy red fruit topping on a white plate with blue stripes next to a fork and a white stand.

Paired with the sweet-tart fruit, I think the sour cream in this version really makes all the difference. Not only does it emphasize the tangy notes of the cherries, it also adds a silkiness to the filling that you just can’t get without it.

For more cheesecake inspiration, check out these recipes next:

What occasion will you celebrate with this recipe? Or will you bring it out on an average weekend at home to make it a little more special? Tell us in the comments below, and come back to rate the recipe once you try it for yourself!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on August 20, 2015. Last updated: October 18, 2020 at 16:27 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Jennifer Swartvagher

Jennifer is an experienced journalist and author. Her work has been featured on TODAY Parents, The New York Times Blog, BlogHer, Scary Mommy, and scores of other parenting and cooking publications.

33 thoughts on “Cherry Cheesecake: A Classic Dessert Like Your Grandma Used to Make”

  1. That looks scrumptious! I LOVE a graham cracker crust on cheesecakes, my sister and I used to make a “poor man’s version” when we were younger which included crushed crackers, some jelly and cream cheese. This looks about 10 steps above that lol. How long does it keep in the fridge for?

    Reply
    • To tell the truth, this version is usually gone by the end of the first day. I would think it could last in the fridge for 3-5 days if covered and stored properly.

      Reply
  2. Cherry Cheesecake! My favorite desert of all time, ever!

    There’s this local bakery that uses (almost) this recipe and every time I go by there the smell of the cake is absolutely to kill for. Of course I can’t help it and I just order 1 or 2 slices and have the time of my life eating. Thanks for sharing the recipe, I’ll pass it to my mom, see if she can do anything similar! 🙂

    Reply
  3. This looks amazing! I have to admit, I had orange/lemon/oreo/strawberry cheesecake, and probably many others, but I never had a cherry version. And now I’m wondering why not! This recipe looks great. Since I only ever made cheesecake with pre-made crusts (or in muffin pans with an oreo cookie on the bottom liner), I am especially grateful that how to make the crust is included.

    About the cream cheese — does it have to be Philly? Or does any cream cheese do the job?

    Reply
  4. Okay, I bookmarked this one before I even had a chance to comment and say so. I’ll also be making a hard copy of it. We quite enjoy these tastes together in my family. All this tempting goodness!

    Ha, Jennifer! I don’t see it lasting 3-5 days at my house either. It *might* make it through the night, but the second day, nope. It’s a goner.

    Reply
  5. This looks so good! Its thicker than what im used to. i like that!I think it would be fun to try different fruit with. Particularly strawberries and blueberries. It’d make a great addition to my holiday dessert table. It’ll be hard to give it away, but I’m sure I’ll be sharing this recipe with a lot of other people.

    Reply
  6. Have you ever tried making a cheesecake with Neufchâtel? I did that all of last year to cut back a tad on the milk fat that’s in cream cheese & it worked out perfectly. No one can truly tell the difference between cream cheese & Neufchâtel so I wasn’t expecting anyone to gasp about the recipe. It was just nice eating decadently with a splash of ‘healthier’ in the mix.

    Reply
    • Grandma did try using Neufchâtel once and she wasn’t happy with how it turned out. I was little at the time and any cake tasted good to me, so I couldn’t tell the difference.

      Maybe i will try the recipe with Neufchâtel and see if my family notices.

      Reply
  7. This looks so delectable. I’ve always been a bit hesitant to bake a cheesecake, as the all-day process is a bit daunting, but they are definitely one of my guilty pleasures so I’ve always wanted to attempt it. I don’t think I’ve ever had a cherry variation, and I do love cherries, so this seems like a great recipe to try. I’m fond of passionfruit cheesecake myself, especially with a bit of chocolate sauce.

    Reply
  8. This looks amazing! I have never tried to make cheesecake before but everyone in this house loves it. I think I might have to try this one.

    Reply
  9. The photos look delicious! I too love cherries with everything. I just made a cheesecake for the Passover Holy Day. The creamy richness is just addictive. I see your recipe has most of the things I used, minus the eggs and milk products- replaced by light tofu. These are perfect for special occasions because they are so special. They are worth the time we put into them.

    Reply
  10. Thank you, grandma! I have this love for cheesecake that can only be satisfied by eating more. A lot of it. I’m more than happy to experiment in my options but boy the classic one is still my favorite.

    And while I’m sure your grandma’s cherry recipe is awesome, I’m not too huge of a fan of processed cherries :/ I would be willing to try it if someone else made it and I was their dinner guest, but I don’t know if I would be able to do it and eat it if I made it myself 🙁

    Reply
    • Grandma preferred her’s plain as well.

      My daughter made cheesecake balls dipped in chocolate using this recipe. They were yummy.

      Reply
  11. I am a cheese cake fool. I have one issue with it I don’t like any kind of toppings. The cake alone is enough for me. I admit I have made many from the box. My mother in-law gave me the best recipe for a easy bake version, and it’s wonderful.

    Reply
  12. I am ashamed to admit that I don’t have much taste for cheesecakes. It’s not that I don’t love cheesecakes, but probably the ones I’ve tried has this bit of sourness that isn’t quite to my liking. I love my desserts super sweet. But truly, when I opened this page and browsing through the recipes, I am drooling just looking at this one. I think I will be that early riser in order to have this breakfast and start the day with happiness. Im positively sure that just eating this equates to happiness 🙂 The graham base I think is what will balance out the taste for me. That, or I just love Grahams, hehe…

    Reply
  13. “Grandma would start baking in the morning and we couldn’t sample some cake until later that night, or sometimes, even the next day”……..if my Grandma ever attempted this in our household there’d be a riot… we are a bunch of impatient people…no offense! 😀
    This is the first type of cake to read about taking eternity to prepare… i’d need to throw my impatient cloak out the door for this one 😉

    Question, can i do chocolate gratings or colored vermicelli on top? 🙂

    Reply
  14. I absolutely love cheesecake but I have to admit I like my cheesecake plain however this just looks divine! Ive never actually made one from scratch but I’m interested in tackling it since cheesecake is house hold favorite!

    Reply
  15. Thanks for sharing! I’ve never had cherry cheesecake as it’s always plain for me or a fruit variant, or chocolate/peanut butter.

    I’ve never understood why cheesecake needs to be baked with a water bath though. Can anyone explain why?

    Reply
  16. I have made a variation of this luscious delicacy, but without the sour cream. That has probably been an oversight on my part! I’m going to try it with the sour cream. Also the topping looks wonderful. This is just a beautiful dessert!

    Reply
  17. Cheesecake is a dessert that I absolutely love, but I get really intimated with this dessert. I really want to try and make it, but for some reason I get scared I’m going to mess it up. I’m going to try to get over my fear and one day I’ll make my very own cheesecake.

    Reply
  18. Thanks so much Jennifer for sharing s recipe so close to home. I will certainly help in making your Grandma’s recipe live on, because I will definitely baking and sharing it. It looks so good! I’m a total cheesecake lover, in fact I’m eating some right now. Mine is guava flavored and tastes awesome, but your Grandma’s looks so much better. I can’t wait to give it a try! Thanks again!

    Reply
  19. I’m not gonna lie, I actually screamed and then teared up a little when I saw the picture on this. It’s just so beautiful! My life’s mission is to find the best cheesecake ever. This means that I’ve had to deal with crushing disappointment every time a cheesecake isn’t what I want it to be. That being said, I’ve never actually tried to make a cheesecake myself. I’ll have to try this one so that I’ll never be let down again! 😛

    Reply
  20. We make cherry clafoutis which I adore. I also love to just eat the fruit and there are loads of cherry trees locally in public places and along the edges of the vineyards so we never have to buy any. But there is rarely enough left to bake a cake with by the time we get home.

    Reply
  21. Your grandma sounds like a wonderful human being, it’s great that you have this recipe to remember her, thank you so much for sharing.
    I have never tried making cheesecake before because it actually sounded a little bit too complicated, but while I was reading this recipe I realized that is not such a big deal, it just takes some time. I’m going to give it a try maybe on my mother’s birthday. 🙂

    Reply
  22. Cheesecake is one of my favourite desserts. We don’t have Graham Crackers in the UK, so I use crushed up digestive biscuits instead; binding them with melted butter – yum!

    Reply
  23. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Cheesecake! I would certainly love to have some of this cherry cheesecake, but I don’t really like that kind of cherry… I like the dark red cherries more, but I guess it wouldn’t fit this recipe as much as this one 😛 I’ll try this recipe out once I get the time -and maybe I’ll try putting it on yogurt ice cream, too! <3 Thanks for the recipe!

    Reply
  24. I love cheesecake, too. I think it’s one of those foods that you either love or hate. There’s nothing in between. I have been making cheesecake for a long time and will tell you that this recipe yields a fairly large cheesecake. When it comes to cheesecake, I’m sort of a purist. I don’t really care for fruit toppings or anything fancy, I just like it plain.

    Reply
  25. Our absolute favorite dessert in this house, is a homemade cheesecake. It never last longer than a day. This is a very similar recipe to the one I use, though at times, instead of making a cherry cheesecake, we make a pineapple cheesecake. On a side note, the picture of your cheesecake, looks stunning!! I’m fighting the urge to make one tonight, as its already past 10pm.

    Reply
  26. So I didn’t have a springform pan, and cheated and got premade crusts, I did 3 due to large amount of batter, I put them in a water bath for 30 mins at the 375 and they came out perfect! Hopefully they taste as good as they look I don’t care for cheesecake but they had a clean toothpick when tested! Thank you for recipe!

    Reply

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