When I first moved to Chicago, my then boyfriend and I used to spend our weekends studying at the Borders in the corner of Clark, Broadway and Diversey. Every Sunday before leaving, I would go through the clearance sections, where I was always able to find hidden, cheap and colorful treasures.
The most valued of all of them was what became our most used dessert
cookbook. By now, that book, The Essential Dessert Cookbook, is 17 years old, and we have misplaced it a couple of moves, but after frantic searches we always manage to find it.
Of all the recipes I attempted, the one that became a favorite was their baked cheesecake, which inspired the recipe I am sharing today. It didn’t need much tweaking, and it turns out perfect every single time. Or so I hear, because I don’t like cheesecakes. I taste them, and I can appreciate which ones are better, but they are not my favorite dessert. Unless there is chocolate involved, nothing is a favorite, or even a like. By now I have made it for birthdays, parties, barbecues and dinners. And it goes so quickly that I normally make an extra couple of little ramekin cheesecakes with the remainders of the crust and filling so my guys have some leftovers for breakfast.
You can decorate it any way you want (thus the parenthesis), and adapt it for any occasion. But for Memorial Day I stick to red and blue berries of all kinds. And I normally let the kids help placing them, and get a berry commission while they do. It doesn’t make for perfect decoration, but it makes for happy kids.
It is easy, and it will please your crowd. It doesn’t require fancy equipment or rare ingredients. It is as straightforward as it looks. Practical. American. The cake next door.
(Memorial Day) cheesecake
- Electric beater
- 8 inch springform
- Baking paper
- 18 Graham crackers
- 1 stick butter Around 4 oz
- 1 tsp dry ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1 lb cream cheese This is two normal cream cheese bricks. Room temperature works better.
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 ts vanilla essence
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 ts vanilla essence
- 2 Tbs lemon juice
- 1 Tbs sugar
- Melt the butter in a saucepan or in the microwave.
- Crush the graham crackers. I place them in a ziploc bag and crush them with a hard object. I have used a saucepan, a tin can, Thor's hammer... It is a good way of releasing tension, and also perfect for the kids to tackle.
- Mix the crushed crackers with the spices, and then with the butter.
- Butter the bottom of the springform and cover it with the cracker mix. Then pack it, lifting it up the sides. I use a glass to help me get an even result.
- Place it on the fridge.
- Preheat the oven at 350º.
- Beat the cream cheese.
- Add the sugar, vanilla essence and lemon juice, and beat some more.
- Incorporate the eggs, one at a time, and beat after you add each egg.
- Pour the filling in the crust.
- Pop in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.
- Mix well the sour cream, sugar and lemon juice.
- When the cheesecake is done, spread the topping on top and bake it for 7 more minutes.
- Let it cool and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
- Decorate it any way you want.
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