This is THE BEST strawberry cheesecake you’ll every try. With a perfectly creamy and rich strawberry filling, and a juicy and syrupy strawberry topping, it’s absolutely bursting with strawberry flavour. And it’s incredibly easy to make – no water bath needed!
Yes, I am 100% confident that this is in fact THE BEST baked strawberry cheesecake you’ll ever make or taste.
You see, I always research a recipe before I go on to develop my own version. And strawberry cheesecake recipes have become something of a pet peeve of mine – not because they’re bad but because they often don’t actually make what I consider a proper strawberry cheesecake… at least not a baked one.
Strawberry cheesecakes (like most cheesecakes) fall into two categories: no-bake and baked ones. No-bake versions often contain strawberries in the actual filling, usually in the form of a strawberry puree, either fresh or cooked down until thickened.
The baked versions, on the other hand, often seem to be just plain vanilla cheesecakes with a strawberry topping. Which, don’t get me wrong, is delicious… but it’s still just a vanilla cheesecake with a topping. Not a strawberry cheesecake. (And yes, I do have very strong opinions about cheesecake.)
And if you’ve been round these parts before, then you know that I like to super-charge my desserts with flavour. So, that’s what I did with this strawberry cheesecake – and the result is AMAZING.
Here’s why you’ll LOVE this strawberry cheesecake
- The strawberry filling. By using freeze dried strawberries in the filling, you’ll get a wonderfully intense and fresh strawberry flavour. I go into more detail about why it’s best to use freeze dried strawberries (rather than fresh ones) in the blog post below.
- The strawberry topping. Let’s put it this way: this topping is so delicious, I could eat it by the spoonful. It’s made from macerated strawberries whose juices are reduced until thickened and sticky and syrupy, and it’s seriously the best thing ever.
- It’s super creamy and rich. The texture of this cheesecake is seriously on point – the filling is velvety-smooth and perfectly creamy, the cheesecake crust is buttery and just-crumbly-enough, and the strawberry topping brings a burst of syrupy juiciness.
- Incredibly easy to make. Aside from needing a food processor or blender to transform the freeze dried strawberries into a fine powder, you don’t need any special equipment to make this cheesecake (no stand or hand mixer required). And the method itself is almost ridiculously easy: just mix it all together and bake. That’s it.
- No water bath! Like all my cheesecake recipes, this one doesn’t require a water bath to prevent your cheesecake from cracking. That means you don’t have to fuss about with boiling hot water – and you’ll still get perfect results.
- It’s SO GORGEOUS!!! The pretty pink filling, the ruby-red strawberries, the glossy strawberry syrup… it’s all so very beautiful and tempting. (That is, tempting you to have a second slice. You know you want to.)
- The flavour will blow you away. Because this isn’t just a vanilla cheesecake with a strawberry topping. This is a proper strawberry-packed strawberry cheesecake with an intense strawberry flavour and you’ll love it. Promise.
Before we get to the bits and bobs of making this wonderful cheesecake – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!
Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.
How do you make baked strawberry cheesecake from scratch?
Making this strawberry cheesecake from scratch is incredibly easy. You don’t need to use a water bath or a stand/hand mixer, though you will need a food processor or blender to blitz up the freeze dried strawberries (along with the sugar) into a fine powder.
Other than that, you’ll just need a large bowl, a balloon whisk, a few other kitchen essentials, and that’s it.
(Of course, if you want to use a stand mixer, that’s perfectly fine. You’ll need the paddle attachment, and always use the lowest speed setting to avoid whipping too much air into the mixture. I also don’t recommend using a hand mixer – but more on that below!)
First, prepare the cheesecake crust:
- Crush up digestive biscuits or graham crackers (or a gluten free alternative if you want the cheesecake to be gluten free – by the way, I have an AMAZING recipe for gluten free digestive biscuits in my book, Baked to Perfection!!) until you get fine crumbs. I used a food processor but you could easily put them into a plastic bag and bash them up with a rolling pin.
- Add the melted butter and mix well until the mixture resembles wet sand.
- Transfer into a lined 8 inch (20cm) springform pan and, using the flat bottom of a glass or measuring cup, compress them into an even layer with an approximately 1 1/2 inch (4cm) rim around the edge.
- Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for about 10 minutes, then allow to cool until warm.
Then, prepare the “strawberry sugar”
In a food processor or blender, combine the freeze dried strawberry slices and caster/superfine or granulated sugar, and process them until you get a fine powder.
Next up, prepare the strawberry cheesecake filling and assemble the cheesecake:
- To a large bowl, add the room temperature cream cheese and yoghurt.
- Use a balloon whisk to mix them together until smooth. Note that I said MIX and not whisk – don’t aerate the mixture and stop mixing the moment they’re evenly combined and smooth.
- Add the room temperature eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition until combined and smooth.
- Add the vanilla bean paste
- and mix until well combined.
- Add the “strawberry sugar”
- and cornstarch,
- and mix well.
- The final cheesecake filling will be velvety-smooth, super creamy and of a pretty light pink colour. At this stage you can correct the colour by adding a drop or two of red food colouring.
- Transfer the strawberry cheesecake filling into the slightly cooled cheesecake base,
- and use a small offset spatula to smooth out the top.
- And then: bake! The baking method outlined below doesn’t require a water bath, but it still produces a perfectly creamy cheesecake and prevents cracking every single time, resulting in a lovely smooth top.
Why is it best to use freeze dried strawberries in strawberry cheesecake?
Instead of using fresh (or frozen) strawberries that have been cooked down until thick and almost jam-like (like I did with raspberries in the Raspberry Cheesecake recipe), this recipe uses freeze dried strawberries.
Initially, I tested the recipe with a strawberry reduction but the resulting cheesecake was disappointing both in flavour and in appearance – it was very pale, almost greyish in colour and the strawberry flavour was barely there. (And believe me, I started out with a small mountain of fresh strawberries.)
Freeze dried strawberries, on the other hand, give a cheesecake filling with a wonderfully intense strawberry flavour and a gorgeous pink colour.
That said, still I like to add a drop or two of red food colouring to the strawberry cheesecake filling, just as a fail-safe to ensure a lovely, vibrant filling after the cheesecake is baked. That’s because strawberries (be that in the form of pureed fresh strawberries or in the form of ground freeze dried strawberries) tend to oxidise and lose their colour on contact with dairy products, such as milk or cream cheese. This doesn’t affect the flavour at all, but if you want your cheesecake filling to be a nice pink colour, I definitely recommend adding a bit of red food colouring.
Finally, it’s best to use freeze dried strawberry slices or pieces rather than freeze dried strawberry powder. In my experience, freeze dried strawberry slices give a much fresher, tangier strawberry flavour.
Now, you might think that using freeze dried fruit is far too expensive. But in actual fact, if you consider the HUGE amount of fresh strawberries you’d need to achieve the same intensity of flavour, using freeze dried strawberries is actually the less expensive option.
Do you really need a water bath to bake a cheesecake?
NO!!! I know that using a water bath is highly popular in cheesecake baking, but I’m personally not a fan – for two reasons. First up, it’s fussy and messing about with boiling hot water is just not fun. And if you’ve been round these parts before, you know that I’m all about no-fuss baking.
Secondly, I don’t like the texture of cheesecakes prepared using a water bath. This is very much a personal preference, but to me it’s much too smooth – almost like eating a mouthful of straight-up cream cheese.
The good news is that I’ve developed an incredibly simple method for reliably preparing crack-free cheesecakes (and cheesecake bars) without using a water bath. Read on to learn all about it!
How do you prevent your cheesecake from cracking without a water bath?
I actually developed what is now my go-to cheesecake baking method while I was writing my debut cookbook, Baked to Perfection – which you can read more about and order here.
So, to prevent your cheesecake from cracking WITHOUT a water bath:
- Make sure that all your ingredients are at room temperature – this is particularly important for the cream cheese, yoghurt and eggs (or other add-ins if you’re making another type of cheesecake).
- Don’t aerate or over-mix the cheesecake filling. That means that you shouldn’t intensively whisk the filling if using a balloon whisk and doing it by hand. I also don’t recommend using a hand mixer, as it tends to introduce too much air into the mixture. If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment and set the mixer to the lowest speed setting – again, you want to mix the cheesecake filling, rather than beat or whisk it.
- Bake your cheesecake at a relatively low temperature of 285ºF (140ºC). This bakes the cheesecake very slowly and prevents the filling from over-baking (which is the most common cause of cracking).
- Turn off the oven while the cheesecake is still wobbly in the middle. For this cheesecake, this is after about 1 hour 10 minutes in the oven. The remaining heat of the oven will fully set the cheesecake without over-baking it.
- Allow the cheesecake to cool until warm or room temperature in the turned-off oven with the oven door ajar. This slow cooling process further ensures that your cheesecake won’t crack during cooling.
That’s it! Now, I know that this might seem like a very long and slightly overwhelming list of ’do’s and ‘don’t’s, but trust me – it’s actually incredibly straightforward, as well as 100% reliable and reproducible! In fact, I’ve used this same method to prepare my Blueberry Cheesecake, Triple Chocolate Cheesecake and White Chocolate Cheesecake recipes, and they all tuned out PERFECT.
You need to chill the cheesecake for at least 4 hours (or preferably overnight) before removing it out of the springform pan onto the serving plate. Then, you could serve it as is, but I really really recommend that you also make the strawberry topping. It’s divine and takes this cheesecake to a whole new level of deliciousness.
How do you make the strawberry topping?
To get the most flavour out of the fresh strawberries (that have been halved or quartered depending on their size), it’s best to macerate them. That is, toss them with caster/superfine or granulated sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean paste and then let them do their thing for a while – I like to do this either at room temperature for 1-2 hours or overnight in the fridge.
Maceration extracts the juices from the strawberries and also enhances their flavour. And, of course, the addition of vanilla makes them even more delicious.
You then need to drain the macerated strawberries, and reduce their juices in a saucepan over medium heat until syrupy (but not quite jam-like). I always like to err on the side of over-reducing (rather than under-reducing) the juices, as it’s easy to dilute them to the right consistency with a splash of water or lemon juice.
Then, mix the slightly cooled reduced juices with the strawberries to make the strawberry topping. Finally, spoon the topping onto the cheesecake so that it’s covered in a single layer of strawberries.
Note that the topping does make cutting the cheesecake slightly messy – so what you could do is cut the cheesecake without the topping, and then spoon the strawberries and the strawberry syrup over the individual slices right before serving.
How long does strawberry cheesecake last?
The cheesecake keeps well in a closed container or wrapped in cling film in the fridge for about 5 days. But, let’s be honest… it really never lasts that long. Especially after you take that first bite and get to experience the sheer explosion of strawberry flavour.
From the creamy strawberry filling to the juicy, syrupy strawberry topping, this cheesecake is simply way too tempting for its own good. And believe me… you’ll be back for that second slice. (Yes, I’m definitely speaking from personal experience.)
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The Best Baked Strawberry Cheesecake (Gluten Free Option)
For cheesecake crust:
- 225 g (2 ¼ cups) finely crushed digestive biscuits (You can also use graham crackers. If you need the cheesecake to be gluten free, you can use gluten free digestives or rich tea biscuits, or other gluten free cookies/biscuits of choice.)
- 75 g (⅔ stick) unsalted butter, melted (The exact amount of butter you will need will depend on the type of biscuits/cookies/crackers you use.)
For strawberry cheesecake filling:
- 50 g (1 ¾ oz, about 2 cups) freeze dried strawberry slices
- 200 g (1 cup) caster/superfine or granulated sugar
- 600 g (2 ⅔ cups) full-fat cream cheese, room temperature (I used Philadelphia cream cheese.)
- 115 g (½ cup) full-fat plain or Greek-style yoghurt, room temperature (You can also use sour cream.)
- 3 UK medium/US large eggs, room temperature
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- 20 g (3 tbsp) cornflour (UK)/cornstarch (US)
- red food colouring (optional)
For strawberry topping:
- 320 g (about 2 ½ cups) strawberries, halved (for smaller strawberries) or quartered (for larger strawberries)
- 50 g (¼ cup) caster/superfine or granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
For cheesecake crust:
- Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and line an 8 inch (20cm) springform pan with baking/greaseproof paper (make sure that you line both the bottom and the sides of the pan).
- Mix together the crushed digestive biscuits and melted butter, until you get a mixture resembling wet sand. Transfer the mixture into the lined springform pan and, using the flat bottom of a glass or measuring cup, compress them into an even layer with an approximately 1 ½ inch (4cm) rim around the edge.Tip: Depending on the type and brand of cookies/biscuits you use, you might need slightly less or slightly more butter than listed in this recipe. Add the butter slowly, mixing well after each addition, until you reach the consistency of wet sand. You want a mixture that sticks together or holds its shape when pressed together, but it shouldn't feel/look greasy or oily.
- Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool until warm.
For strawberry cheesecake filling:
- Reduce the oven temperature to 285ºF (140ºC).Tip: If your springform pan isn't 100% leak-proof, I recommend that you also get a baking sheet ready to place the cheesecake on it before it goes into the oven. This will catch any small leaks of butter from the cheesecake base, and prevent any smoking or burning at the bottom of your oven.
- First, prepare the "strawberry sugar": in a food processor or blender, combine the freeze dried strawberry slices and sugar, and process them until you get a fine powder.
- In a large bowl using a balloon whisk, mix the cream cheese and yoghurt together until smooth. Tip: Make sure to MIX rather than whisk or aerate – you don't want to incorporate too much air into the mixture. If you don't want to do this by hand, use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on the lowest speed setting. (I don't recommend using a hand mixer.)
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition, until smooth.
- Add the vanilla bean paste and mix well until evenly incorporated.
- Add the "strawberry sugar" and the cornstarch, and mix well until completely incorporated and no clumps remain. The final cheesecake filling will be velvety-smooth, super creamy and of a light pink colour. At this stage you can also correct the colour by adding a drop or two of red food colouring.Tip: I like to a bit of red food colouring to the strawberry cheesecake filling, just as a fail-safe to ensure a lovely, vibrant pink filling after the cheesecake is baked. That’s because strawberries (be that in the form of pureed fresh strawberries or in the form of ground freeze dried strawberries) tend to oxidise and lose their colour on contact with dairy products, such as milk or cream cheese. This doesn’t affect the flavour, but if you want your cheesecake filling to be a nice pink colour, I definitely recommend adding a bit of red food colouring.
- Transfer the strawberry cheesecake filling into the slightly cooled cheesecake crust and smooth out the top.
- Bake at 285ºF (140ºC) for about 55 minutes, or until the edges are fully set and slightly puffed up, and the middle is still wobbly when you gently shake the baking pan.Tip: This baking time is merely a guideline – you should always judge the doneness of a cheesecake based on its physical indicators (the wobbliness of the centre, how set the edges are, etc.) rather than on the baking time, especially as each oven behaves slightly differently. You should start checking your cheesecake about 10 minutes before the recommended baking time.
- Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature in the turned-off oven with the oven door ajar.
- Once cooled to room temperature, transfer the cheesecake into the fridge for at least 4 hours (or preferably overnight) before removing it from the baking pan. Keep it in the fridge until you're ready to assemble/decorate.
For strawberry topping:
- In a large bowl, combine the halved and quartered strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix well until the strawberries are evenly coated with the sugar.
- Cover and allow to sit either at room temperature for 1-2 hours or in the fridge overnight, stirring occasionally.
- Once the strawberries have released their juices, pass them through a sieve to drain the juices, then return the strawberries back into the bowl and set aside until needed.
- Pour the juices into a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat with frequent stirring until thickened and syrupy, but not quite jam-like. This should take about 5 minutes. Once thickened, set aside to cool until warm.Tip: I always like to err on the side of over-reducing (rather than under-reducing) the juices, as it’s easy to dilute them to the right consistency with a splash of water or lemon juice.
- Mix the warm strawberry syrup with the strawberries to make the strawberry topping and set aside until needed.
Assembling the strawberry cheesecake:
- Once the cheesecake is fully chilled, remove it out of the springform pan and onto a serving plate.
- Just before serving, spoon the topping onto the cheesecake so that it’s covered in a single layer of strawberries.Tip: The topping does make cutting the cheesecake slightly messy – so, what you could do is cut the cheesecake without the topping and them spoon it over the individual slices right before serving.
- The strawberry cheesecake keeps well in a closed container in the fridge for 4-5 days.