This is the first cheesecake I’ve ever made by myself. I should be genetically predisposed to baking cheesecake. I’ve actually baked many cheesecakes in my lifetime. Well, I assisted in baking probably about a thousand of them during my teenage years. My mother had a bakery in our home and her specialty was cheesecake. No one else made cheesecake in Northern Ontario and she supplied several restaurants and the local country club with her delicious cheesecakes and other various cakes.  My Mom had developed a secret recipe and unfortunately we don’t have a copy of it. It’s been 11 years since my Mom passed away from breast cancer and we’re still looking for that recipe.

During the cheesecake years, I was in charge of making the graham cracker crusts and prepping the eggs and vanilla. I remember several things about the lost recipe like how the cream cheese was measured by weight and how the crust was baked before adding the filling. I remember a couple of eggs, some vanilla and a couple tablespoons of margarine. I figured before I started trying to replicate that recipe that I needed to bake a cheesecake from an actual recipe and then I could tweak it from there. I had this cookbook that I had grabbed from my parent’s house hoping that it held a clue to the secret recipe. There were a few notes next to recipes but they weren’t in my Mom’s handwriting. It looks like the cookbook came from the bargain bin at the bookstore because the orange price tag on it says 69 cents. I also had a recipe that I had pulled out of a magazine but it called for five packages of cream cheese and I felt like that was a big commitment in case the recipe wasn’t great. The box of graham cracker crumbs had a recipe on the back which only needed three packages of cream cheese. In the end I chose a recipe from the cookbook called Restaurant Cheesecake with a variation on the crust.

A few weeks ago we went out to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner and my son was thrilled about trying out cheesecake for the first time. The kids also declared that they have the best pizza ever (debatable). I think the only good thing about that place is the cheesecake. My daughter decided to taste it the next day at home and she ended up eating most of the piece they gave me for free because I didn’t like my entrée. When I told my husband I could make a cheesecake for him he said “Go ahead, I dare you to make one.” Okay, that was a challenge. I had a couple springform pans but not my Mom’s Cuisinart but I decided to give it a try anyway.

Restaurant Cheesecake

(adapted from Wonderful Ways to Prepare Cheesecake, 1979)

Crust:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Filling:

  • 1 1/2 lb cream cheese (3-8 oz. bricks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • whipped cream (optional)
  • nutmeg (optional)
  • cherry pie filling (optional)

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Firmly press on the bottom and sides for a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Mix the cream cheese with the sugar until smooth and soft. (For some reason my daughter thought we were going to use our hands to do this. It’s a good thing I stopped her before she actually did it. Both kids were excited about making this and fought over who got to stand on the stool by the counter.) Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract, and eggs.

Mix well. Pout into the prepared crust and bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven until cool. (I definitely don’t remember doing this. With 2 convection ovens and a regular oven we were cycling the cheesecakes though and leaving them to cool on the counter when I was a kid. There was no way we had time to leave the cakes in the oven to cool when we were baking orders of 50 cakes a day.)

Serve topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with nutmeg. Or serve it the way my husband loves it… with a generous dollop of canned cherry pie filling.

So verdict on this cheesecake is that it’s really good but not quite the same as my Mom’s secret recipe. Now I’ve got to keep making cheesecakes until I perfect the recipe. I’m sure that I can do it. Once I do watch out… because then you’ll get to see all the delicious variations that our little bakery in Northern Ontario made. Some of the flavors were Kahlua, Creme de Menthe, Amaretto, Chocolate, Marble and Raspberry. I tell you I was sick of cheesecake by the time I left home for college and I couldn’t order it at a restaurant for many years. Even now I am dubious about cheesecake because I’ve found nothing as good as my Mom’s secret recipe.

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