Deborah’s Cheesecake

I was told “This is the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten” by the birthday friend who requested it, and my husband, who wasn’t at all fond of cheesecake, went back for seconds after eating his polite sliver. Ha! I love it when I get him to take a bite of something he doesn’t like, then discovers that he does like it after all! I did the same thing with Split Pea Soup! 🙂 Anyway, he’s actually requested it several times since, so I’d say it’s a winner.

I actually combined two recipes to get what I wanted, and adapted a bit–so I’d say that this would count as an original recipe. From the first, I adapted the sponge cake bottom (and top!) and from the second, the actual cheesecake part. When I discovered that I didn’t have a pan big enough to fit my springform pan into for the bain marie, I decided to bake it in a regular cake pan with parchment on the bottom so it’d come out, and cut the recipe in half. So, this is what I did. You can, of course, double it and use the more traditional 9″ springform pan, if you’re feeding a real crowd.  This one fed 7 and still left enough over for breakfast for the two of us.

This certainly could be done gluten-free, either with a substitute flour or with a different crust entirely.

Cake base & top:
• 1/3 cup sifted cake flour
• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 2 extra-large eggs, separated
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 Tablespoons ghee or butter, melted
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and generously butter the bottom and sides of two 9-inch cake pans.  Line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter that, as well, then lightly flour.
2. In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
3. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar into the bowl and beat with the mixer on high until frothy. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites will stand up and look glossy, not dry).
4. Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes.
5. With the mixer running, slowly add 2 Tablespoons of the sugar and beat until thick light yellow ribbons form, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the vanilla.
6. Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand, just until no more white flecks appear. Blend in the melted ghee.
7. Fold about one-third of the whites into the batter, then the remaining whites. Don’t worry if you still see a few white specks, they’ll disappear during baking.
8. Gently spread out the batter over the bottom of the pan, and bake just until set and golden (not wet or sticky), about 10 minutes. Touch the cake gently in the center. If it springs back, it’s done. Watch carefully and don’t let the top brown.
9. Leave the crust in the pan and place on a wire rack to cool. Leave the oven on while you prepare the cheesecake batter.

Cheesecake filling:
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1. Wrap the outside of the cake pan with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending all the way up the sides.  The cake pan isn’t going to leak water into it, but the foil also helps to even out the temperature.
2. Place the cream cheese into a mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed for 4 minutes  or until smooth, soft and creamy.
3. Add the sugar, beat for 4 minutes more or until sugar is completely incorporated, no grit. Add the salt and vanilla, beating after each addition.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
5. Add the sour cream, beat until incorporated. Add the heavy cream, beat until incorporated. Remember to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl, and scrape up any thicker bits of cream cheese that have stuck to the bottom of the mixer.
6. Pour into cake pan, right over the cake that’s already there.
7. Place the cake pan into a larger, deep pan on top of a folded towel in the lower third of the oven. Pour boiling water into outer pan to approximately half the depth of the cake pan.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until done.  Cake will still look moist in the middle and jiggle a bit.
8. Turn off the oven, and open it just a little—like an inch or so.  A wooden spoon inserted at the top will do well.  Leave the cake in there for an hour, letting it cool slowly with the oven.  This will help prevent cracking.
9. Place other cake layer on top of cheesecake and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
10. To unmold, slide a knife around the edges of the cake, then flip it onto a serving plate.  Apply heat to the bottom of the pan briefly to loosen.  I have placed a pot of soup on it because it was handy, but some people would use a blow dryer.  A hot dishrag works, too.  Imagination is a fine thing in cooking!
11. Serve plain or with fruit toppings.

My Favorite Cherry Topping:
1 can tart cherries, drained, reserve juice
¼ – 1/3 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Combine the juice from the cherries, sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add the cherries and almond extract. Cool. Makes about 1 3/4 cup.

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