• Crust:
  • 2 2/3c vanilla/Nilla wafers
  • 1/3c butter, unsalted
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Cheesecake batter:
  • 2 lbs cream cheese (4 packages), softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted, softened
  • 1/4 sour cream
  • 1c sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs, separated and at room temperature

**I’ve added a new page called the Small Bites Gallery. You can find it in the top left corner of the screen. Some of the things I make are tasty, but not necessarily blog-worthy. Maybe it’s something too obvious to explain, or something I’ve made and blogged before that I’m still excited about. Or maybe there’s something I bought or had at a restaurant that was too good to keep to myself. I want a place where I can share these meals with you, so that’s that ! If you see something you like and want a more in-depth explanation, feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email at katy@toothandkale.com. Expect the layout of the page to change sporadically as I set it up, and enjoy !**

After a weeklong break, I am back ! Last week was crazy–between planning my birthday and working a full schedule to accomodate the busyness of Easter at the bakery, I certainly had my hands full. I had a wonderful  birthday on Saturday filled with the best foods and friends, and the most lazy Sunday of all time. Now I’m back, refreshed, and ready to share some delicious cheesecake knowledge.

Cheesecake is something I only make once or twice a year. I love it SO much that I refrain from making it more often because I will seriously go through half of a cake in an evening.  Plus it’s kind of a long process, so getting the motivation to actually make one can take months. I figured my birthday (the big 2-3) would be the perfect excuse to make one, though this particular cheesecake  put me through the ringer. While I was making it, my rinkydink hand mixer started smelling like it was about to explode. I let the batter sit and soften while I did other things, hoping a softer batter would mean less work for my worse-for-the-wear mixer. But, oh no no, that didn’t help. As soon as I turned it on, the terrifying pre-fire smell came back. So then there was a brief hiatus where my emotions got intense, and my roommate ended up running out and returning with a new Kitchen Aid hand mixer ! (!!!!!)

I ripped it from it’s packaging and finished the cake, only to discover I didn’t have any tin foil. To really do a cheesecake right, you should wrap the springform in foil, then submerge the pan in a water bath while it cooks. I wasn’t willing to leave the batter sitting around anymore, so I went without. The cake cracked and looked a little browner than usual on the top, but it could easily be hidden under a layer of caramel or chocolate. It also didn’t rise quite as high as normal, probably because the batter sat around so long while my mixer tried to die. But it was my birthday cake, so I wasn’t too concerned about the look of it as long as it tasted delicious. And it does ! And the proof is in the 4-5 slices that I’ve eaten since Saturday.

My cheesecake is a mix of several different influences–I rely mostly on a great recipe from tartelette, but also pull ideas from my father’s turtle cheesecake, and my own ideas. The cheesecake itself comes from tartelette, the flavoring comes from me, and the use of Nilla Wafers for the crust is my dad’s secret, so it has become mine. It’s delicious, just trust me.

Birthday Pillow Cheesecake
(adapted from tartelette)

Start by making the crust. Preheat the oven to 350.

Place the wafers in a plastic bag. Think about someone who did you wrong. Now, using a rolling pin or food processor, smash the bejesus out of the wafers. I’m not too particular about getting every cookie smashed evenly–bigger pieces give the cake a little crunch in the end ! When you are satisfied with your crushing, pour the crumbs into a bowl and set aside.

Cut the butter into uniform chunks and add to a small saucepan over medium heat. Brown the butter–let it melt and give the pan a swirl every now and then to prevent the butter from burning as it continues to foam. Once you see brown bits forming at the bottom of the pan and the foam starts to subside (5-7 minutes), take it off the heat and pour it on top of the crushed wafers. Add the vanilla, then combine all the ingredients gently with your hands. Press the crumb-butter mixture into the bottom of the springform, making sure it is evenly distributed. Then pop it into the oven to bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove the pan from the oven to cool, and turn the oven down to 325 while you begin the cheesecake.

Before you start, let me stress this: make sure your cream cheese and butter are soft. You will overbeat the batter if your ingredients aren’t soft enough to combine easily.

Put the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla into a large bowl. Beat on medium speed just until combined. Add the egg yolks one at a time, making sure not to overbeat the batter in between each egg.

In another bowl, whip the egg whites first on medium speed for about two minutes, then on high speed for another three to four, until stiff peaks form. Once they are whipped, immediately pour them into the batter and gently fold them in to incorporate. Pour the batter into your springform pan, and smooth out the top with a spatula.

At this point, you should wrap your springform with aluminum foil and place it in a ovenproof pan. Carefully add enough water to come up about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way up the springform, then place in the oven to bake. Let bake for 1 and 1/2 hours. Then turn off the oven, crack the door, and let the cheesecake continue to cook and cool for another 30 minutes. This helps prevent it from cracking, though mine did either way ! Let the cake cool at room temperature before lightly wrapping it and putting it in the fridge. Put it in the fridge overnight (or at least 6 hours if you are in a rush or very impatient) before serving. Trust me, it’s worth it.

The lemon in the batter plays up the tangy-ness of the cream cheese without being overwhelming, and the vanilla in the crust and batter gives the cake a light, refreshing flavor. Everyone that tried it commented on the amazing consistency, which is super light (like a pillow, go figure !) but still cake-y. After all, cheesecake should still remind you of a cake–I’ve never liked those thin, dense cheesecakes. And after trying this one, you probably won’t either !

Enjoy the cheesecake, the Spring, and my new food gallery !