This creamy cheesecake is perfection.
Cheesecake. Oh my goodness I love it. It is my all time favorite dessert, and has been since childhood. I would ask for it for my birthday instead of cake. I still much prefer it to any other dessert out there. When my sister-in-law came to see me at the hospital with a new baby and asked if I needed anything – I had her stop by Starbucks to get a piece of the Cheesecake Factory’s Pumpkin Cheesecake. I needed it. I’m sure she was expecting something more along the line of Blistex, but she’s the best and brought me my cheesecake. Bliss.
I love cheesecake so much that we had cheesecake at our wedding….and my husband and I made them ourselves! Here are my notes from the week prior to our wedding – we made 27 cheesecakes in 2 days!! What fun memories baking those cheesecakes together in an elementary school kitchen we had rented. Amazing what you can get done before you have kids. Ha.
So I’m sharing with you our wedding cheesecake recipe. I’ve made this recipe with variations for over 15 years and it still remains one of my favorites. The flavor is fantastic alone, or with fresh berries. It really is just a hint of lime and hint of almond. Not overpowering. I’ve served it most of the time all by itself with rave reviews. Every once in awhile when I happen to remember to get fresh strawberries to go with this cheesecake…. wow. You don’t want your plate to be empty.
I’ve never been a fan of graham cracker crust, so I’m always looking for an alternative. This original recipe calls for vanilla wafers – which I do think is a step up from graham crackers. But, you also have to remember to buy vanilla wafers, and well, I forget things. So, many years ago out of necessity, I decided to try a shortbread crust with the cheesecake and I was in love. A very subtle taste that pairs very well with this cheesecake. And it’s made with ingredients you always have on hand!
Flour, sugar, butter, and this recipe calls for an egg. Easy. I’ve used shortbread crusts for almost anything that calls for a graham cracker crust. Key lime pie was fabulous that way. Hmmm, I may need to make that again soon. Anyway, you basically just mix the ingredients together with your fingers. I add the egg at the end, then press it into a sprayed 10″ pan, then poke the bottom with a fork. Bake for 10ish minutes and let it cool completely before adding the cheesecake batter.
Now, on to the most important part. The cream cheese and eggs need to be at room temperature. I cannot stress this point enough. I’ll tell you that when I used to read instructions like that, I always took it as “optional”. Sure, technically optional. But when my cheesecake didn’t turn out quite like I wanted it to… maybe, just maybe, those “optional” instructions should have been followed. Ha. So, leave your cream cheese out on the counter for many hours. The eggs need to be room temperature too. About 30 minutes is all they take.
There are sooooo many ways to make cheesecake it can be mild boggling. This one is easy and if you follow the really important steps it’ll turn out great every single time. Like the room temperature ingredients. You haven’t forgotten that yet, have you?
A KitchenAid is a must for cheesecake making. Have you figured out by now how much I love my KitchenAid? A personal note on KitchenAid mixers. I looovvvvve mine. Love. This is the exact one I have and I’ve had it for almost 13 years. I got it as a gift from my family for my 30th birthday (a “Sweet 16 plus 14” party – ha!) and it was, and still is, one of my favorite things I own. At the time, there weren’t as many color choices, so now I feel like I “need” to buy another one in my favorite red. Someday. I still really love my nickel pearl one though. I makes me feel professional. Because it says so on the side. So if you don’t have a KitchenAid mixer yet… you really do need one. You will have it forever. And they come in such pretty colors!
If you plan on making cheesecake ever in your life, you need a KitchenAid. You deserve it! Ha. Anyway, you need to whip the cream cheese in a stand mixer for 5 minutes on high speed. I usually scrape the sides 2-3 times during that time to make sure all the cream cheese gets whipped. After 5 minutes, add the sugar and whip for 2 more minutes – scraping the sides at least once. Your KitchenAid is getting a workout today! Add the lime juice and pinch of salt and blend together well.
Now it’s time for the eggs. This is also really important. You don’t want to wreck all that work you just did, right? So, take the extra step and crack one egg at a time into a small bowl and then add it to your cream cheese mixture. You don’t want a random piece of shell in your cheesecake. It’s worth the step. Add one egg at a time just until it’s mixed into the batter – and mix on the very lowest speed so you don’t get too much air in your batter.
Before I pour the cheesecake batter into the pan, I like to cover the outside of the pan with foil. Just in case anything drips out. This could obviously be done before the crust part – be smarter than me and just do it right away. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 50 minutes. It shouldn’t take any longer if your ingredients are at room temperature. After 50 minutes, remove the cheesecake from the oven but keep the oven on. Let the cheesecake stand on the counter for 10 minutes while you prepare the sour cream glaze. This standing time lets the inside of the cheesecake solidify without over baking.
Every once in awhile I’ll get a small crack in the cheesecake, but most of the time there aren’t any cracks! And no messy water baths to deal with like some recipes call for. But even if there are cracks, you’re in luck because the sour cream glaze covers the entire top of the cheesecake and gives it a perfect finish. Not to mention a very lovely additional taste.
When I first read the recipe, I was skeptical about this step. I liked the look, but was a sour cream glaze really going to taste good? Yes, yes it does taste good. And bonus that it looks beautiful too. Mix the sour cream, sugar and almond in a bowl with a rubber spatula. Spread it around the edges of the cheesecake carefully and then into the center with a rubber spatula. Make sure it’s spread evenly. Return to the oven (still at 350 degrees) and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and immediately place it in the refrigerator to cool. This also prevents cracks from forming on the cheesecake. Do not cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap or foil – it will cause condensation and you definitely don’t want that. A cardboard round works well, but generally I leave it uncovered while it’s cooling. I’ve used plastic wrap after it’s cooled down with no problems.
While it cools, the cheesecake will separate from the edges. Just in case, though, I always take a sharp knife and go around the edges very gently before removing the sides of the pan. Another tip – cheesecake cuts much easier when it’s mostly frozen. If you remember, and have time to do that. I rarely remember to do this, but it works great!
This is also an important point…cheesecake is best when it sits for at least two days. In a pinch, I’ve had the cheesecake one day after baking and it was good. So don’t panic if you forgot and now only have a day before your guests arrive. It’ll taste great. It’s just not a last minute dessert.
Cheesecakes last well for a week in the refrigerator and they freeze beautifully! I’ll tell you a secret – one of my favorite ways to eat this cheesecake is partially frozen. I had some pieces in the freezer and thought it would be a “safe” place since sneaking frozen things takes more effort. Well, I couldn’t wait and tried a bite of the mostly frozen cheesecake…. oh my…yum. I know they say that cheesecake is better if it sits at room temperature for awhile, but I will admit that I just love it partially frozen too! You have to at least try it.
So, served plain is delicious. And it’s so pretty with the sour cream glaze you won’t even miss any toppings. But fresh berries are such a nice touch if you have some. They go so well with this cheesecake with its hint of lime and almond.
The downside to everyone in my family loving cheesecake is that there are rarely any leftovers for my freezer!
(Recipe adapted from The Ultimate Cheescake Cookbook)