Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

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A Champion Cheesecake or My Quest To Make the Best Cheesecake on the Planet

posted by in Recipes

I have not met a cheesecake that is better than mine. Conversely, I have also met too many cheesecakes that I don’t like. I would like to change my fellow Filipinos’ perception that cheesecakes are gelatinous in nature. Nothing could be further from the truth and frankly, nothing could be worse, either. Some bakeshops offer cheesecakes that use unflavored gelatin to hold the whole thing together, and it’s also a way to cut costs. However, I beseech you to only patronize those cheesecakes that are made from 100% pure cream cheese. You deserve nothing less, just like this most hallowed of desserts.

My mom first taught me how to make cheesecakes when I was 11 years old. I remember tiptoeing to reach the counter, holding the mixing bowl steady while my mom cracked eggs into it. That mixer is still the same one my mom used sixteen years ago when she first introduced me to the art of making this ambrosia. While I still have the mixer, the original recipe has undergone tremendous revisions, so much so that it’s not even a shadow of its former self.

A cheesecake is deceptively simple to make. Stripped to its bare essence, it only requires cream cheese, eggs, and sugar. To make the crust you just need a cup of crushed graham crackers and some butter. Because it’s so easy to put together, this dessert lends itself to a whole world of flavor variations: Mint Almond Swirl, Neapolitan, Amaretto Chocolate, the list never ends. You can also depart from the uniform graham crust and try chocolate cookies, crushed pecans, or toasted coconut.

So what exactly did I do to create the mother of all cheesecakes? It’s a work in progress that continuously evolves. I can tell you now that I’ve used enough cream cheese to feed a small village and that my taste standards for cheesecake are so high that it’s almost impossible to please me in this dessert department. The perfect cheesecake is tall, dense, and heavy. When you place a forkful into your mouth, the silkiness of the cheese rolls languorously on your tongue, leaving a velvety-smooth path as it melts, languidly coursing down your throat. Although most people couldn’t care less about the crust or base of the cake, it makes a monumental difference to me. I am more inclined to thick crusts – half an inch or thicker – that speak volumes about the dessert it carries on its back. Most people disregard the crust, carelessly waylaying it to the side of their dessert plate. What most people don’t understand is that the crust provides an ideal foil for the cheesecake, guarding against the typical cloying taste that most cheesecakes are wont to give.

I spent about two years creating, testing, and experimenting on various mixtures. The crusts of my “first timers” would fall apart, getting reduced to a grainy mess at the bottom of the pan. To harden the crust, I tried varying the amounts of butter I put into it; I used a spatula to really press down on the crust; I also tried chilling the crust after forming it, thinking that the butter in the crust would solidify, thus “grabbing” onto the crust particles. (I swear cooks can really let the science get into their heads!) That worked, but I yearned for the crust to be more compact. Then one day, acting upon something I’d seen in a cookbook, I decided to double the amount of butter called for in the crust, packed it down hard, and then cooked it in a 350°F pre-heated oven until I could smell the butter. After it cooled, I flicked the crust with my finger. Bingo! Hard and able-bodied, just the way I like ‘em.

Now that I had the crust down pat, I turned my energies to the batter itself. The original recipe that my mom had taught me used one scant bar of cream cheese, but I increased that over time to four bars roughly equaling 32 ounces. More cream cheese used equals a creamier texture due to its high butterfat content. Others will try to use Neufchatel cheese, which is low-fat cream cheese, or cottage cheese or even ricotta. These are all acceptable substitutes except that of course the consistency will differ and the end product will be slightly more watery. I don’t waste my time on substitutes – it’s either the real deal or nothing at all, especially where cheesecake is concerned. I also introduced eggs into the batter that would hold the cake together and give it body, rendering the gelatin powder useless. I also included the juice of a few calamansi to give it that extra tang and to offset the richness somewhat.

I also found that I couldn’t afford to underestimate the importance of the cooking time and temperature when baking a cheesecake. These desserts are notorious for those great big cracks that ruin their smooth top. My numerous errors have taught me that a cheesecake should be taken out of the oven when the surface is no longer shiny and when the center is still slightly jiggly. A cheesecake cools as it hardens, starting from the outside in.

As a result of my quest to make the perfect cheesecake, I’d like to share the simplest recipe with you. You can make this with your eyes closed and the taste will make people think that you slaved half the day in the kitchen. There’s no need to go through all the trial and error like I did because I’ve done everything for you. As I said earlier, stripped to its barest, divine flavors can be had with just cream cheese, eggs, and sugar. Enjoy!

Simply Sinful Cheesecake

2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 can condensed milk (I like Alaska Condensada because it doesn’t leave a “milky” aftertaste)
3 eggs
juice of 2 calamansi or 2 tsps. lemon juice (if available)

Preheat oven to 300ºF. Combine crumbs, sugar and margarine; press firmly on bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside.
With mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in condensed milk until smooth. Add eggs and calamansi or lemon juice. Mix well.
Pour into prepared pan — it doesn’t matter if crust is still warm. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until center is slightly jiggly but perimeter is set. Cool 1 hour. Chill at least 4 hours to let flavors develop. Will keep in refrigerator for two weeks (but do you really think it will last that long?)

82 Responses to “A Champion Cheesecake or My Quest To Make the Best Cheesecake on the Planet”

  • Hi Lori,

    Love your website – your cheesecakes look fabulous! I’m curious: I’ve always used cheesecake recipes where the main filling ingredients are cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and eggs. But I see that you, and many others use sweetened, condensed milk in place of sour cream and sugar. Can you tell me how these different ingredients change the flavor and/or texture of the cake?

    Thanks!

    -Christina

    [Reply]

  • Hi Lori,

    I love baking, but unfortunately I don’t have an oven. In fact I started baking way back in 2003 with choco banana bread.

    At first, I only used free-mixed, but then I started to mix my own ingredients and I am proud that I did well.

    The catch here is that I’m only using the oven toaster and will just cover the pan with aluminum foil. My son loves cookies and banana bread that’s why.

    Anyways, I like cheesecake and wanted to make one for my 8 year old son. Favor, please email me and if i can make a no- bake cheesecake and other applicable flavors to it?

    I wanted to try this cheesecake recipe of yours using only the oven toaster, but having second thought of making a big mistake here. Do you think it will work though?

    Would really appreciate your response.

    Sincerely,

    Joy Montible
    email: joy.montible@yahoo.com

    [Reply]

  • Hi there. I’ve noticed that you used 3 whole eggs for this recipe, I just want to know if using egg yolks would make it richer. thanks :)

    [Reply]

  • Thanks for the recipe! It tastes really good!

    Here’s the result
    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3253/3015174851_0ac9ee10f1.jpg
    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3281/3015174577_65f30086e9.jpg

    I wonder if putting some coffee and chocolate would give this a nice mocha flavor. Next time maybe

    Thanks again!

    [Reply]

  • Hi Lori!

    I’m a very new baker (Asia!) and I would really want to try making a good cheesecake. But just wanted to ask if you could advise how long to bake a cheesecake which is in a 6″ round pan? I will be halving the above recipe too. My small family can only manage such small portions, unfortunately. thanks in advance!

    [Reply]

  • Hi!
    I’m an amateur baker. This may sound dumb for you. But, I just want to know how do you measure the temperature of your oven? Is there a device that could do this for me? =D

    thanks thanks! =D

    [Reply]

  • Has anyone tried this with a turbo broiler yet? Advice on temperature and baking time if so?

    [Reply]

  • hi lori!

    can you (or anyone) please help me with my problem in making cheese cake.

    i can follow the recipe and instructions to the letter; however, as i cool my cake, the middle layer somewhat “sag”..making my rounded cheese cake look like a coliseum with a slight sag in the middle, with only the outer ring keeping its form.

    after the baking time, it came out perfect and nice, without any cracks or any blemishes. But, after removing from the oven and letting it cool, after around 15 minutes, the middle started to sag.

    what did i do wrong?

    please..someone, help me..

    -vince

    [Reply]

  • hi lori!
    after my refrigerated cake (mango float) last Christmas, I suddenly felt this urge to learn how to bake.

    I will try your recipe soon…just need to figure out some stuffs first…
    We have this oven-like toaster. Says in the manual that it can bake cakes. Just a few questions though that I hope you will gladly answer:

    I did not see any thermometer in the “oven”, just a dial with the temperatures in Celsius. Can I use that oven? how do I do the pre-heating, how long and on what temperature do I need to bake the cake?

    Thanks

    [Reply]

  • I’ve used this recipe several times, often tweaking the ingredients (I add cream cheese or reduce the condensed milk because I prefer a bit less sweetness). I’ve also used this to make a “bullseye” (reg mix & chocolate) or “target” cheesecake, ie rings of chocolate and lemon. anyway, this recipe rocks the house every time, people love it! Thank you!

    [Reply]

  • Hi, Lori! I’m into baking and a big fan of cheesecakes, and I agree: a big NO to gelatin. The better cheesecakes I’ve tried are at Gourmet’s Cafe in Silang and Bag of Beans in Tagaytay. The best cheesecake I’ve tasted was baked by my bestfriend, using YOUR recipe.:) I’ve also tried adding cinnamon to the graham crust, because I love cinnamon.

    [Reply]

  • I’ve been using this recipe in every occasion.. I don’t have a plan to bake it for business but after some visitors tasted it.. They want me to bake for their birthdays..wow..additional income!!!
    This cheesecake recipe for me is the best..and so simple to make!!!
    Thanks!!!

    [Reply]

  • I love the sweet and creamy taste of cheesecakes. I will have to make some of these sweet things using your procedures. :) – Pinoy Pride

    [Reply]

  • I have been baking cheesecakes using a recipe book from the US. It uses sour cream instead of condensed milk. Is there going to be a taste difference if I use condensed milk? There have been orders already for my cheesecakes. My problem is how to transfer the cheesecake from the springform pan to the cake board without damaging the cake appearance. Do you have source of cake boxes I can buy from? Thanks for sharing your great recipe.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:

    Alma -
    I wouldn’t advise substituting one for the other. They’re quite different structurally speaking, plus sour cream is tangy. I transfer my cheesecake with a huge metal cake spatula. If you’re based in the Philippines, you can get this in Gourdo’s and Rustan’s Department Store. For cake boxes, Scala is the best.

    –lori

    [Reply]

  • It was my first time to bake a cheesecake and I used this recipe. But since I wasn’t confident with my baking skills I divided it into 2 pans. I kept checking every 5 minutes because I learned from another website that overbaking will cause cracks. I kept taking them out so I could shake the pans because it’s supposed to be a bit wobbly in the center when done. My cheesecakes were ready in just 30 minutes. And I couldn’t believe it but they were perfect and yummy! I’ll be baking another batch next week =) Thank you very much for this recipe =)

    [Reply]

  • Hey. I’m planning to try this out for I have a weakness when it comes to cheesecakes. Haha. Just want to know how many servings does this make? :)

    [Reply]

  • Hi lori! I’m a novice when it comes to baking but i would definutely want to try baking your recipe!:) but i have a few questions i’d like to clarify. Is ut necessary to make use of a water batj when baking this cake? You see i’ve just recently began baking cupcakes and the most recent one was a cheesecake cupcake. Through reading several books, some people advise water bathing since it reduces cracks?:) do you do that?

    Also i’m also confused with the baking temperature?;)

    once the cake is baked, i have to leave it for almost an hour in the oven with its door closed right? Afterwhich how long before i can place it in the refrigerator?

    Lastly, when is the best time to remove the cake from the pan? Please reply to my email and thank you so so much lori!:) i love your blogs!:)

    [Reply]

  • hi lori.
    great blog.
    i also love cheesecake, especially baked one. i don’t have spring form pans, i just line my regular baking pan w/ aluminum foil. after chilling i can pull the cake up w/ the foil.
    i not using Philadelphia cream cheese, to pricey for me. i use austratilian and its less expensive.
    i dont use electric mixer when i make one, a wooden spoon would work for me nicely. i make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature before i smooth it on a bowl. i also cut them into smaller cubes, its alot easier to mix when i do this. =) well, that’s just me. those might work for you also. happy baking =)

    [Reply]

  • and i forgot… my brother shared his Japanese cotton cheesecake… its light and yummy… its also available at bread talk.

    [Reply]

  • I tried this cheesecake recipe and it’s awesome! I topped it with white and dark chocolate shavings.

    May I know if we can bake cheesecakes on a pan w/o the removable bottom? If so, how are we going to be able to take it out of the pan? Have you ever tried it before? I’m asking these questions because I’d like to try baking cheesecake on different shapes of pans. Thanks.

    [Reply]

  • Hello there! Is it possible to use a ready made 9″ graham crust? Still the same baking time? Thanks a lot!

    [Reply]

  • Hi! What is the size of the can of condensed milk? Thank you! :D

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:

    Hi Hanie,
    300ml can.

    [Reply]

  • Hi I’m planning to do a chocolate version of this.. is it okay if I just add melted chocolate to the mixture? Do you have any advice for measurement? Thanks..

    PS I have tried your recipe already and it did not last longer than a day.. my family liked it that much haha. Thank you..

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Hi Reish –
    Start off with 12 ounces (3/4 cup) of melted chocolate chips or chocolate of your choice and adjust to your taste.

    [Reply]

  • Hi Lori!

    I noticed that in the text above you increased your cream cheese to 32 oz, but in the recipe you used only 16 oz?

    Please clarify, thank you!!! Can’t wait to try this out!!!

    Tanya

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Sorry Tan, correct amount is 16 ozs.

    [Reply]

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