This cheesecake is a classic and easy to make. I love to add ricotta to the batter for extra flavor, similar to a lot of Italian cheesecakes. The sugared berries are delicious and bring a sparkling whimsy and colorful brightness to this creamy dessert. It’s a truly beautiful cake that's worthy of a special occasion.
TIP: When mixing batter, always mix at the lowest possible speed to avoid incorporating air bubbles.
For the crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the batter
28 ounces (3 1/2 eight-ounce packs) cream cheese, at room temperature
15 ounces ricotta cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the sugared berries
3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
12 ounces fresh berries such as blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries
For the crust: Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter. Mix with a wooden spoon until the crumbs are coated and start to stick together. Press the crust into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch nonstick springform pan with the bottom of a measuring cup, aiming for an even thickness of about 1/4 inch. Press the crust about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
For the batter: Lower the oven temperature to 325°F.
Use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on the lowest speed to beat the cream cheese until smooth (see Cook’s Note). Use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixing paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again to make sure it’s smooth. Add the ricotta and sour cream and mix on low until smooth. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle again. Add the sugar and mix slowly to incorporate, again scraping the bowl, until very smooth.
Crack the eggs into a large measuring cup and use a fork to slowly mix the eggs until thoroughly combined. Try not to incorporate air into the eggs. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and pour the eggs in slowly. Turn off the mixer the moment eggs are incorporated. Use the spatula to scrape the sides, bottom and paddle and fold in any remaining streaks of egg. Add the flour and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add the vanilla, then scrape the bowl and mix slowly until the batter is uniform in color.
Tap the bowl repeatedly on the countertop to force air bubbles to the surface. You will see bubbles form and pop. Tap until no more bubbles appear. Pour the batter over the crust and use a rubber spatula to gently smooth the top.
Bake the cake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 250°F and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Turn off the oven but do not open the oven door. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour. After 1 hour, crack the door open and leave the cake in the oven to cool for another 1 hour.
Take the cheesecake out of the oven and cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
For the sugared berries: Make a simple syrup by combining 2 cups of the sugar and the water in a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat when the sugar is completely dissolved. Cover and set aside to cool.
Cover a baking sheet with paper towels. Arrange the berries in a single layer in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Pour the simple syrup over top, making sure to cover all of the berries. Let the berries sit in the syrup for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the berries from the syrup and place them on the prepared baking sheet to dry for 1 hour. Make sure they are not touching each other while they dry. Place the remaining 1 cup sugar in a small bowl.
Put it all together: Carefully release and remove the ring of the springform pan, leaving the cheesecake on the base of the pan. Place the cheesecake on a serving plate. Roll each berry in the bowl of sugar, making sure each is fully covered. Arrange the berries on top of the cheesecake. Slice and serve. For really clean, tidy slices, run a sharp knife under hot water before cutting the wedges; wipe the knife between cuts and reheat in hot water again if necessary.