The world’s food occupies two major categories. 99% is what we eat every day. It’s (hopefully) both somewhat tasty and nutritious. Then there’s the other 1% that we dream about–the higher plane of food that demands you stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and fully savor everything about the moment encapsulating that bite.
That’s this cheesecake. This is easily the perfect cheesecake recipe, straight from one of my Grandma ‘Cille’s 60-year-old cookbooks. It takes time to prepare, but it results in a spectacularly creamy, not too dense but not too fluffy New York style confection that hits the higher food plane every time.
This cake has been a birthday cake many times because even when I was a child, I understood that cheesecake is far superior to more traditional options. It’s my go-to when I want a dessert that makes people think I’m a better cook than I am. And it’s the natural choice when I’m walking through Costco, see a gorgeous cheesecake in the bakery, and think, “homemade would taste 10x better.” A former college roommate is visiting this week, and we both had that thought when we made the mistake of walking through Costco while hungry the other day.
So this cheesecake was made, with no occasion for it other than the fact that sometimes you just need some of that 1% food.
When my friend asked for the recipe, it occurred to me that the only copy I know how to find is the handwritten one in my cupboard. So if, heaven forbid, my house burns down, the zombie apocalypse happens, or someone breaks in and robs me of my cookbook collection, that tragedy would be compounded by the loss of this cheesecake. I can’t deal with that, so I’m immortalizing it here for future post-catastrophe use.
This is the 10pm, kids-are-in-bed-and-I-can’t-wait-to-have-a-slice pic, which is real life but doesn’t quite capture this cheesecake’s true glory.
Graham Cracker Crust
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 T. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
3 T. butter
- In a small bowel, mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon.
- Melt butter and add to the crumb mixture.
- Mix butter in thoroughly with fingertips.
- Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan.
- Put crumb mixture in pan and, with hands, press some of the mixture evenly about 2″ up sides of pan to form a thin crust. Press the remaining mixture onto the bottom of the pan.
- Run finger around inside edge of pan to even off the top edge of the crust.
- Set crust aside while preparing the filling.
1 large lemon
24 oz. cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
5 large eggs (NOT medium or extra large)
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Zest the yellow part only of lemon rind and measure 2 tsp.
- Put the grated rind in a bowl with cream cheese and beat at medium speed until creamy.
- Add the sugar, salt, and eggs to the cream cheese mixture and beat at medium speed to blend ingredients, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula several times.
- Beat at medium speed for 10 minutes or until mixture is completely smooth and lemon-colored.
- Pour filling into the crust-lined pan.
- Make sure your oven rack is centered in your oven and bake 45 minutes or until cake is set (this almost always takes me closer to 1 hr. 15)
- Remove cake from the oven and let cool 20 minutes before moving on to the sour cream layer.
Sour Cream Topping Layer
1 1/2 cups dairy sour cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 T. sugar
- Beat all ingredients for 1 minute or until the sugar is dissolved.
- Pour over cake and carefully smooth with a spatula. Put back in oven and bake 10 more minutes.
- Remove cheesecake from oven and let stand in pan on cake rack until cool, then chill in refrigerator at least 2-3 hours before removing the outer ring of the springform pan and serving.
- To remove from pan, first run a knife around the top of the cake, then unfasten the clamp of the springform pan.
- If desired, top with strawberry or cherry sauce, curls of chocolate, or toasted almonds.