You’ll want a slice, and then some.

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It’s an indubitable fact: life is better with cheesecake. The moment you break the surface of a slice of cheesecake with your fork, smoothly gliding it through to the buttery brown crust and tasting the first bite of creamy decadence—few things rival it. List five things more heavenly, we dare you!

The one thing better than cheesecake is homemade cheesecake. Because you don’t need to live near a fancy bakery to have perfect cheesecake whenever you please (which should be quite often in our opinion!). We have an infallible classic cheesecake recipe that is as simple and easy as it gets, but it’ll knock your oven mitts clean off every time. Once you’ve mastered this basic recipe, possibilities in your cheesecake-making endeavors are endless. Add fresh berries, warm caramel sauce, decadent chocolate ganache, or just a dollop of homemade whipped cream for a finishing touch that’ll leave you shooing away praise like gnats in the summer and feeling like a modern-day Julia Child incarnate.

First, you’ll need a 10-inch springform pan, your ingredients (listed below), and some can-do conviction. We suggest making this a day before your occasion for optimal freshness, but cheesecake is special in that it can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for a few days before serving. Note: Don’t be scared of the roasting pan and water bath—it might seem daunting beforehand (It's not!), but it helps your cheesecake come out perfectly! Now, let’s get to it. Here’s how to make cheesecake at home.

What You’ll Need for the Crust:

2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of butter or margarine, melted
Pinch of salt

What You’ll Need for the Filling:

4 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups of sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups of sour cream
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

First, Make the Crust

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap outside of a lightly greased 10-inch springform pan in a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Stir together four ingredients in a bowl. Press onto bottom of prepared pan, using your hands or the flat bottom of a measuring cup.

Step 2: Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. (Blind baking the crust gives a better end result!) Cool on a wire rack until ready to use. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Next, Make the Filling

Step 1: Put kettle of water on stovetop and bring to boiling; pull out a roasting pan.

Step 2: Beat softened cream cheese with a heavy-duty mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add sugar, beating until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Stir in sour cream and vanilla extract at low speed. The filling must be completely smooth—think: smooth like velvet or satin—before pouring into springform pan.

Step 3: Place springform pan in roasting pan, pop in the oven. Add boiling water to reach halfway up sides of springform pan.

Step 4: Bake at 325°F until center is almost set (but still slightly wobbly), between about 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, and let cheesecake stand in oven, with door partially open, for about 1 hour.

Step 5: Remove cheesecake from roasting pan and water bath, and place on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap, using wooden picks to prevent plastic wrap from touching top of cheesecake. Chill 8 to 24 hours.

Step 6: Gently run a knife around outer edge of cheesecake to loosen from sides of pan. Remove sides of pan. Garnish as you please!

You can keep things interesting by setting out an optional topping for this classic cheesecake, such as our Apricot Glaze, Lemon Curd, or Chocolate Ganache. Like we said, any cheesecake you make from this point on will be a slight variation of this core recipe; so it’s invaluable to know the ins and outs of the original. Try our adorable Petite Blueberry Cheesecakes for Easter, our spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake for Thanksgiving, and our festive Eggnog Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust for Christmas. (What did we say about possibilities?)

WATCH: Petite Blueberry Cheesecakes

Once chilled, let your cheesecake sit for about half an hour before serving to bring it closer to room temperature. To freeze a cheesecake ahead of your party, remove the completely cool cheesecake from the pan. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to one month. Defrost it in the fridge overnight before serving!