This strawberry swirl cheesecake is a stunning dessert featuring a rich, creamy cheesecake baked inside a graham cracker crust and swirled with a fresh strawberry sauce.
Cheesecakes are one of my favorite desserts to make, and as much as I love a super rich, decadent red velvet or cookie butter cheesecake, it's hard to beat a classic vanilla cheesecake paired with fresh fruit!
This strawberry swirl cheesecake has the perfect combination of tangy and sweet flavors, and the homemade strawberry sauce is simple, vibrant, and so irresistible! It adds a beautiful pop of color to the cheesecake and is easy to make with fresh or frozen strawberries!
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE STRAWBERRY SWIRL CHEESECAKE
HOMEMADE STRAWBERRY SAUCE
- Strawberries: Fresh or frozen strawberries, whichever is easiest!
- Granulated sugar: Sugar sweetens the sauce and helps the strawberries release their liquid.
- Warm water + fresh-squeezed lemon juice: I like a little lemon juice to brighten the sauce, but feel free to use only water.
- Cornstarch: To thicken the sauce.
GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST
- Graham cracker crumbs: For 1 and ½ cups of graham cracker crumbs you'll need about 10 full sheets of graham crackers.
- Brown sugar: You can also use granulated sugar, but I love the slight caramel flavor brown sugar adds!
- Melted butter: Salted butter or add ¼ teaspoon of salt if your butter is unsalted.
- Cream cheese: Brick-style, full-fat, softened to room temperature. It's important the cream cheese is completely soft or you'll end up with a lumpy filling. To soften quickly, place the unwrapped cream cheese in a plastic bag and submerge the bag in a bowl of lukewarm water for 5-10 minutes.
- Sugar: Granulated.
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch helps thicken the filling so it's less likely to crack. All-purpose flour can also be used.
- Sour cream (room temperature): For a classic tangy flavor! Always use full-fat sour cream for cheesecake!
- Heavy cream (room temperature): The added richness from the cream helps balance the tanginess in the filling. Heavy cream or heavy whipping cream can be used.
- Vanilla extract: For flavor!
- Lemon juice: Fresh-squeezed. The acidity of the lemon juice thickens the filling!
- Eggs (room temperature): To quickly bring the eggs to room temperature place them in a bowl of lukewarm water for about 5 minutes.
WATER BATH FOR CHEESECAKE
A water bath (bain-marie) is a French method of baking something surrounded by boiling water. It allows for slow, gentle, even cooking, which is perfect for delicate desserts like cheesecake. Basically, no matter how hot your oven is, the temperature of the water won't get any higher than 212°F (100°C). Without a water bath, the outside of the cheesecake would be over baked and cracked before the center could finish baking.
- To keep water from seeping into the pan from the water bath, make sure you wrap it well with several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
- *Note: No matter how well you wrap your springform pan with foil, there's still a chance of water leaking in and ruining your otherwise perfectly good cheesecake. This happened to me several times, so now I always tie a slow cooker liner around the pan after wrapping it with foil. My cheesecakes have come out perfectly dry ever since!
HOW TO MAKE STRAWBERRY SWIRL CHEESECAKE
MAKE THE STRAWBERRY SAUCE
1. Add the fresh or frozen strawberries and granulated sugar to a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries start to release their juices.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the water, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and cornstarch. Add it to the saucepan and continue to cook, stirring and mashing the strawberries as you do.
3. Once the sauce is bubbling and thick, remove from heat and strain the liquid through a sieve and into a bowl. Set aside and let the sauce cool while you make the cheesecake.
Preheat your oven to 325°F and begin boiling water for the water bath.
Line the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray the sides of the pan with nonstick spray.
MAKE THE GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST
Add the graham crackers to a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Mix 1 and ½ cups of graham cracker crumbs with brown sugar and melted butter in the food processor and pulse until the mixture comes together. It should have a texture similar to wet sand. If the crust mixture is too crumbly you can add a tablespoon more melted butter.
Press the crust evenly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the springform pan.
Wrap the pan well with at least 4 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil to keep water leaking in from the water bath.
Tie a slow cooker oven liner around the pan.
If you don't have a slow cooker liner make sure the pan is wrapped very well with several layers of heavy-duty foil. Without a liner you can expect water to leak through the first few layers of foil.
Place the pan on a baking sheet and prebake the crust for 10 minutes while you make the cheesecake filling.
MAKE THE CHEESECAKE FILLING
1. Use a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment to beat the softened cream cheese until smooth. Wipe any lumps of cream cheese off of the mixers.
2. Mix in the cornstarch and granulated sugar until smooth. Wipe any lumps off of the mixer and sides of the bowl. Add the room temperature sour cream, heavy cream, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Mix until the batter is smooth with no lumps.
3. Use a whisk or spatula to gently stir in the room temperature eggs by hand, one at a time, until just combined after each. Don't overmix. After all of the eggs are added, bang the bowl on your counter several times to get rid of any trapped air bubbles in the batter.
4. Pour the cheesecake batter into the springform pan over the prebaked crust.
Dot the top of the batter with spoonfuls of strawberry sauce, then swirl the sauce around using a chopstick or butter knife.
1. Place a large roasting pan on the lower rack in your oven and add about an inch of boiling water. Carefully set the cheesecake inside the roasting pan. Bake for 1 hour without opening the oven door.
2. After 1 hour, check if the cheesecake is done by gently shaking the pan. If the cheesecake is set around the edges and there is a slightly wobbly center, then it's done. If it's still really wobbly all over, keep baking and check again in 5-minute intervals until it's done. Don't wait until it's completely set or it will be overbaked, when in doubt it's better to under-bake the cheesecake than it is to over-bake it.
3. Once the cheesecake is set around the edges with a slightly wobbly center, turn your oven off and crack the door. It will continue to bake and set as it cools. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour to slowly cool to room temperature.
4. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let it cool for at least another hour at room temperature before refrigerating. Once the cheesecake is completely cooled to room temperature, refrigerate it (still in the springform pan) overnight so it can set.
The next day, remove the cheesecake from the springform pan and decorate the top with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, if desired.
Use a large, sharp knife to cut the cheesecake. Wipe the knife clean between slices. Serve topped with more strawberry sauce.
TIPS FOR MAKING CHEESECAKE
- Avoid opening the oven door while the cheesecake bakes. Especially during the first hour. Opening the oven door causes sudden changes in temperature which can lead to cracks, uneven baking, or the cheesecake falling in the center.
- Don't overmix. Overmixing creates pockets of air in the batter that rise to the surface during baking and turn into cracks. This is especially important once the eggs have been added in, so add them last and mix the batter as little as possible once they're added.
- Use room temperature ingredients. Room temperature ingredients mix together more easily and evenly without overmixing!
- Don't overbake.The cheesecake is done when there is a slight wobbly center and the edges are set. It will continue to bake and become set as it cools. If you're unsure, it's better to under bake a cheesecake than it is to overbake one.
- Cool the cheesecake slowly: Sudden changes in temperature is one of the main reasons cheesecakes crack. Cooling the cheesecake as slowly as possible is the best way to avoid any drastic changes in temperature. When you turn the oven off, leave the cheesecake in with the door open for about an hour. Then take the cheesecake out of the oven and let it cool completely at room temperature for another 1-2 hours before refrigerating. It shouldn't feel warm at all when you put it in the fridge.
- Don't slice the cheesecake too soon. It's always best to make a cheesecake at least 24 hours in advance, that way it has plenty of time to set in the fridge before you cut into it!
HOW TO STORE STRAWBERRY SWIRL CHEESECAKE
Wrap the cheesecake with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
You can also freeze the cheesecake for 3 months. Wrap it well with plastic wrap and place in a container that will protect it from getting damaged. When ready to serve, thaw the frozen cheesecake in the fridge for a few hours, or thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
MORE CHEESECAKE RECIPES
Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake
- 8-inch springform pan*
- 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons warm water
- 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice, or warm water
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Graham Cracker Crust:
- 1 and ½ cups graham cracker crumbs, (about 10 full sheets of graham crackers)
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 7 tablespoons salted butter
- 24 ounces cream cheese, full-fat, softened to room temperature
- 1 and ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ cup sour cream, full-fat, room temperature
- ¼ cup heavy cream, or heavy whipping cream, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- Adjust your oven rack to the lower position. Preheat your oven to 325°F and begin boiling water for the water bath.
- Prepare the springform pan: Line the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray the sides of the pan with nonstick spray. Wrap the pan with several layers of heavy duty aluminum foil, then tie a slow-cooker oven liner around it (recommended) to keep water leaking into the pan from the water bath.
- Add the strawberries and sugar to a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook and stir until the strawberries release their juices.
- In a small bowl, whisk the water, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and cornstarch. Add it to the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil. Cook and stir until the sauce is bubbly and thick, then strain the liquid through a sieve and into a bowl while warm. Set aside and allow the sauce to cool slightly.
Graham Cracker Crust:
- In a food processor mix 1 and ½ cups of graham cracker crumbs with the brown sugar. Add the melted butter and pulse until the mixture is well combined and clumps together easily. It should have a texture similar to wet sand.
- Spread the crust mixture out in the prepared springform pan. Use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to pack it tightly and evenly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the pan.
- Prebake the crust for 12 minutes while you make the filling.
- In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the softened cream cheese until smooth with no lumps. Wipe any lumps off of the mixer and sides of the bowl. Add the granulated sugar and cornstarch and mix until well combined.
- Mix in the room temperature sour cream, heavy cream, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Wipe the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Make sure the filling is completely smooth and there aren't any lumps at this point.
- Switch to a whisk or spatula and gently stir in the room temperature eggs, one at a time, until just combined after each. Don't overmix. Once the eggs are added, bang the bowl on your counter a few times to get rid of any trapped air bubbles.
- Pour the filling into the pan over the prebaked crust.
- Strawberry swirl: Dot the top of the filling all over with spoonfuls of strawberry sauce. Run a butter knife or chopstick through the sauce to create a swirl design.
- Place a large roasting pan on the bottom rack in your oven. Add about an inch of boiling water to the pan, then gently place the cheesecake inside the pan.
- Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour. Gently shake the pan to check on it, if it looks set around the edges and there's a 2-3" wobbly center, then it's done. If it looks really wobbly all over, keep baking and check again in 5-minute intervals. Mine needed 1 hour + 15 minutes total, but the time can vary. When in doubt, it's better to slightly under-bake the cheesecake than it is to over-bake it.
- When the cheesecake looks done, turn your oven off and leave the cheesecake inside with the door open for 1 hour. It will continue to bake and set as it cools in the oven.
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven and the water bath and let it cool completely at room temperature. About 1-3 hours, it shouldn't feel warm at all when you put it in the fridge.
- Refrigerate the cheesecake overnight, uncovered and still in the springform pan.
- When ready to serve, remove the sides of the springform pan and use a large, sharp knife to slice the cheesecake. Run the knife under hot water and wipe clean between each slice.