Start by crushing the graham crackers into crumbs. I put about 10 graham cracker sheets into a ziploc bag then pounded them with a heavy object (like a rolling pin or flat meat tenderizer). You need enough to make 1 1/2 cups in crumbs.
Set aside 2 tablespoons of the crumbs (we'll use that for the topping.) In a medium bowl, combine melted butter with graham cracker crumbs.
Spread the rest of the crumbs into a 9x9-inch baking dish. Push down with your hands to make a flat layer.
Next, combine softened cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar. This is easiest if you use a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer. Set this bowl aside.
In a separate bowl (to make the whipped cream), combine the heavy whipping cream, 3 tablespoons sugar and vanilla extract. Using a stand or electric mixer, whip it until stiff peaks form. You can skip this if you are using COOL WHIP. This will take a minute or two on a high speed setting.
Combine the cream cheese mixture with the whipped cream, by hand, until combined well.
Spread half of the cream cheese/whipped cream mixture evenly over crust.
Evenly spread the cherry pie filling over the whipped cream layer. Finally, top with the remaining cream cheese/whipped cream mixture. Spread evenly. Top with reserved graham cracker crumbs.
Refrigerate for a couple hours (or overnight) before slicing and serving.
Please refer to my tips and ingredient list above for other substitutions or for the answers to the most common questions.
You can substitute the heavy whipping cream, 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract with one (8 ounce) tub of COOL WHIP, thawed.
Leftovers should be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This can also be frozen if stored properly in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months.