I just entered this cheesecake in the 2018 Oregon State Fair and it won a Blue Ribbon and Best of Division!
What’s not to like about a slow cooker cheesecake recipe that tastes like real cheesecake, is easy to make, and is almost impossible to mess up? It also has a very satisfying creamy texture and because of the steam in the slow cooker, the top of this cheesecake doesn’t crack.
Who knew that a slow cooker with a ½- inch of water on the bottom would provide the perfect environment to bake a cheesecake?
America’s Test Kitchen outdid themselves with this Rich and Creamy Cheesecake recipe from their Complete Slow Cooker cookbook. I’ve now made this cheesecake nine times, and it has turned out perfectly each time except for once when I left it in the slow cooker until the internal temperature of the cheesecake got up to 180 degrees instead of the desired 150. It tasted fine, but was a bit tough. (My First Place/Best of Division entry in the Oregon State Fair got up to 162 degrees, so I’m rethinking the 150 degree threshold that America’s Test Kitchen recommends. But 180 was definitely too high.)
Devices and Utensils You Will Need
- A 6” diameter springform pan (see below about the 6″ Wilton Springform pan)
- A slow cooker wide enough to fit a 6” diameter springform pan (I explain more about the slowcooker options below)
- A food processor (I’ve listed my favorite model below that’s only $50)
- An instant read digital thermometer (I use this Fubosi for almost everything I cook)
- A spatula
- About 3 feet of aluminum foil scrunched into a coiled snake to make a base that the springform pan can sit on. This will raise the cheesecake about an inch from the bottom of the slow cooker floor which should have at least a half-inch of water in it.
- 6 whole graham crackers broken into pieces
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (salted butter will work just fine)
- ⅔ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 18 ounces of cream chesse (This equals 2 full packages and 2 oz of a third pakage. So be sure to get 3 packages, although I have forgotten to add the extra 2 oz of cream cheese and it turned out just fine)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions for the Crust
1. Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor, making the crumbs fine (about 20 or more pulses)
2. Add the melted butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt (or not if you use salted butter). Pulse about 4 to 8 times to mix it all together.
3. Sprinkle the crumbs into the bottom of the springform pan and press into an even layer using the bottom of a glass, cup or if you are like me, just use your fingers. Try to make the edge look neat and even.
Springform Pan Bottom Note: I’ve started spraying the bottom of the springform pan with Baker’s Joy baking spray before puttng in the graham cracker crust. This seems to make it a little easier to separate the crust once the cheesecake is done. Also, it’s easy to get confused about the position of the bottom of the springform pan– “Do I set it inside with the outside ring facing up or down?” It works both ways, but I now do it the opposite as is shown in the image of the cheesecake that I included at the start of this recipe. I now set the bottom so it’s facing up. That way, you don’t need to dig down into it to get the cheesecake out. (If you look down at the bottom when it’s in the springform, there’s a poorly stamped “Wilton” in the center of it that you will be able to read when it is facing in the correct position.)
Directions for the Filling
1. Clean out the graham cracker crumbs from the food processor. Otherwise, they will ruin the texture of the cheesecake.
2. Put the cream cheese, vanilla, ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅔ cup sugar in the empty food processor. Turn it on for about 15 seconds or more until everything is combined. Pause and scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times.
3. Add the sour cream and the eggs, and process for about 15 seconds—not much more than that, although I sometimes get obsessive and go for longer.
4. Pour the cream cheese filling into the springform pan on top of the graham cracker crust. Smooth out the top.
5. Fill the bottom of the slow cooker with ½ inch of water.
6. Place the scrunched up aluminum foil snake-like circle on the bottom of the slow cooker; make sure it’s taller than the water or the water will soak into the bottom of the springform pan and turn your cheesecake into a gooey mess.
7. Cover and turn the slow cooker on high. It should look somewhat like this, only with the glass lid all steamed up.
8. Cook on high for 1 ½ to 2 hours—until the cheesecake registers approximately 150 degrees on an instant thermometer that you stick in the center of it. You’ll find the temperate will be all over the place depending on how deep you stick the thermomenter in the cheesecake. I try to make sure the lowest temp is 150.
9. Turn off the slow cooker once the cake is 150 degrees on the inside but do not remove the cheesecake. Put the cover back on the slow cooker and let the cheesecake sit in the steamy slow cooker for another hour. This way it will continue to gently cook in a steamy environment.
10. Take the cheesecake from the slow cooker and put it on a wire rack. Run a small knife around the edge of the cake, but do not yet remove it from the pan.
11. Let it cool in the pan to room temperature, or about an hour. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours.
12. Before serving, run a small knife around the edge of the pan once again. Then undo the latch on the side of the springboard pan, and remove it.
13. While I have never done this, the cookbook says to invert the cheesecake onto a piece of parchment paper and then do your ever loving best to flip it. Good luck with that. I just run a knife or spatula between the bottom of the crust and the bottom of the springboard pan and try to ease it onto a serving dish. Or just serve it while it’s still on the bottom of the springform pan.
Water Under the Slow Cooker Lid
The slow cooker lid collects a lot of condensation, as in little drops of water. Be mindful of this when you are removing the lid so you don’t dump water onto the top of the cheesecake. I’ve seen it recommended to tip the lid to one side before removing it, but I prefer doing a gentle vertical lift and then I pull it off to the side of the crock pot and out of harm’s way. Dry the bottom of the lid before putting it back on the crock pot after you’ve checked the cheesecake’s temperature. (It certainly won’t harm the cheesecake if you get drips of water from the lid on it. If there’s a lot, just carefully sop it up with the edge of a paper towel.)
My Slowcooker of Choice for This Cheesecake
You can probably make this cheesecake in an oven, but I’ve never done that because using a slow cooker works perfectly.
You will need a slowcooker that fits a 6” springform pan which is actually 6.5 inches in diameter. I have a dedicated 5-Quart Round Crock Pot that I use for cheesecake. I got it on sale at Kroeger/Fred Myers for less than $20 as opposed to the current $30-something on Amazon.
I measured our 7-quart oval Crock Pot, and it’s plenty wide enough to fit the 6” springform pan, although its 8-quart brother for $30 gets exceptional reviews. (As long as you’re going with a 7-quart slow cooker, why not get an 8?)
I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $19.95 for a slow cooker except for the seriously pricey Cuisinart catastrophe my wife wanted for Christmas a few years ago. Each of my low-end slow cookers tops that Cuisinart catastrophe whose teflon insert started peeling the third time we used it. And the controls on the Cuisinart slow cooker are so confusing I still haven’t figured them out.
So unless you’ve got money to burn, keep an eye out for slow cooker closeouts at Walmart and Crock Pot sales at places like Fred Myers (our version of Kroeger here in the Pacific Northwest). Also look out for coupons that will give you an additional 15% off of appliances. After-Christmas sales are even better.
The 6” Wilton Springform Pan To Cook Your Cheesecake In
I was able to find this at Amazon, Michael’s and Fred Myers. It’s a nice pan and if you like cheesecake, you’ll get lots of use out of it. But it often costs between $12 and $15. If you can find it at Michael’s, be sure to sign up to receive their coupons ahead of time. Your inbox will be spammed daily, but Michael’s will usually include a 40% or 50% off coupon for one regular priced item.
Cheapo Food Processors Work Just Fine!
When one of our livestock guard dogs was diagnosed with myasthenia graves (essentially Lew Gherig’s disease but localized to the throat), I had to find a way to effectively turn hard dog kibble into powder so I could feed him dog food soup. This wouldn’t have been problem if he had been a Chiweenie or Teacup Poodle, but Lucca was 140 pounds and that was a shitload of dry dog food to pulverize every day. For more than 3 years, I used this inexpensive Hamilton Beach Food Processor & Vegetable Chopper to do the job, and it outlasted poor Lucca.
I don’t know how much more abuse you can throw at a food processor than I threw at this one, and it performed without a single hiccup for more than 3 years. I also used it to make the winning cheesecake at this year’s Oregon State Fair, so there are good reasons why it has more 5 star reviews than any of the other Hamilton Beach food processors. It’s usually cheaper at Walmart.com than Amazon.
Amazon Affiliate Links: I make a few cents when you purchase products that I link to on Amazon. The proceeds help to pay for the food and medical care of the dogs and herd of llamas we rescue here on our small farm. However, I try to find the least expensive products for you, which runs counter to the wisdom of affiliate marketing, where they encourage bloggers to link to more expensive products so they can make more money in affiliate sales.