Now most Cherry Cheesecake recipes use some form of canned "Cherry Pie" filling. After a particularly terrifying interaction with the ingredient list (High-Fructose Corn Syrup!) and the calorie count (12 servings per can, 250 calories each!) I decided to stay far far away from Cherry Pie Filling and venture down a different path to cheesecake bliss.
How to Make the Perfect Cheesecake
For the Crust:
- 1 1/2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs, finely ground
- 1 Tbsp Sugar
- 1/4 cup Butter, melted
- 20 oz Cream Cheese (2 1/2 packages)
- 1 1/3 cup Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Corn Starch
- Lemon Zest from 1/2 of a Lemon
- 1 large Egg
- 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
- 3/4 cup Heavy Cream
- Maraschino Cherries, sliced in half
- 2 quarter pieces Hershey's Chocolate Bar, grated
- 9 inch baking pan, or Springform Pan
- Classic Sour Cream Topping:
- 2 cups Sour Cream
- 1/3 cup Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Vanilla
*If you are using a Springform Pan, remove the bottom and cover with aluminum foil. Spray the edges with vegetable oil, or rub your pan down with butter and lightly flour. In a food processor blend your graham cracker crumbs into a fine dust. (Or you can buy them pre-crumbled to save time!) Mix the crumbs with the sugar and butter and form to the bottom of your prepared pan.
*In a mixer or a large bowl, blend the cream cheese until soft, scraping the edges frequently to remove chunks. Add the sugar and continue mixing. Add the cornstarch and grate in the lemon zest. Mix well. Add the vanilla and the egg, mixing well between each addition. Slowly pour in the cream, blending on low until creamy. Be careful to not over blend or turn the speed too high as this will cause the cream to solidify. Over-mixing can also cause air bubbles to form which are evil culprits of Cheescake crackage! Your mixture should be light and fluffy.
*Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. To keep your cake from cracking it is crucial that you resist the urge to open the oven door while it is baking. The water bath will create a nice humid atmosphere that should keep your cake safe from cracking. Your cheesecake is finished when the edges are puffy, yet set, and the center still has a slight wiggle!
[*If you are going to make the Sour Cream Topping: Mix all ingredients a few minutes before the cake is complete. As soon as you pull it out of the oven, pour the mixture over the top and immediately return it to the oven and bake an additional 10 minutes.]
*Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. Run a sharp knife along the edges before cooling. After 2 hours transfer the cake to the refrigerator and let set for 8 hours, or even better- overnight.
To Serve: Remove the cheesecake from the pan, carefully using a sharp knife and a spatula to free the edges. If the top has cracked, don't worry! You can always cover the cracks with topping or serve your cake upside down! Line the perimeter of the cake with the sliced maraschino cherries, and fill the center with a layer of grated chocolate. You can top the cheesecake any way you'd like; fresh strawberries or raspberries, melted white chocolate, or even go classic and glaze it with the Sour Cream Topping.
*Sugar-Free, Low-Fat, Diabetic-Friendly Alterations*
- Follow the same steps but replace all sugar with:
- Stevia, Equal, Splenda, or whichever sugar substitute you prefer
- For the filling only use 1 cup of sugar substitute rather than 1 1/3 cups.
- Use Margarine instead of butter, and low-fat Cream Cheese
- Top with Sugar-Free Strawberry Fruit Filling or Glaze
I had extra batter so I pressed some graham cracker crumbs into buttered tart dishes and made mini cheesecakes with the excess mix. Feel free to have fun with the toppings and if you'd like, save some for later by freezing it. Just double wrap in plastic-wrap and pop in the freezer for up to 2 months!