I remember the first time my mom made cheesecake. She had the pleasure at a friend or relative’s house and asked for the recipe. The particular recipe was supposed to be better because it was a “no-crust” cheesecake. I tried it and thought, eh, it tastes like cream cheese. I was not impressed.

I cannot recall at what point in my adulthood I became enamored with cheesecake. Perhaps it was around the time when the Cheesecake Factory exploded in popularity, but I am certain it was due to the recognition that tasting like cream cheese was not actually a bad thing. I also realized that the recipe is quite simple, and the result is a sophisticated dessert that easily impresses. Although I only realized my cheesecakes were not perfect from a book.

A very straightforward and still rewarding recipe is from Kraft Recipes, the PHILADELPHIA Classic Cheesecake. Butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and, of course, cream cheese. You just can’t go wrong. I love the graham cracker crust! I can buy graham crackers occasionally from the American Store in Geneva, but instead, I usually buy muesli from the local grocery store and grind it into crumbs.

In the “Helpful Hints” section of the Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, the authors explain that surface cracks appear due to over-whipping. I have, as of yet, been unable to make a perfect, non-cracked cake, although I swear I barely whip it. In fact, the next time I bake one, I think I will just blend the cream cheese with the other ingredients and skip whipping it first AT ALL and see what happens.

My mother’s recipe includes the addition of flour, cornstarch, lemon juice, and sour cream.

No Crust Cheese Cake

2 lbs. cream cheese (4- 8 oz. pkgs.)
3 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
4 eggs beaten
¼ lb. butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pint sour cream (16 oz.)
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice

Cream cheese in a bowl, gradually adding sugar. Add eggs and beat again. Stir in lemon juice, vanilla, corn starch, and flour. Finally add melted butter and sour cream. Beat until creamy. Pour into greased 9” springform pan.

Bake at 325°F for 1 hour. Turn off oven. Let cake stand in oven for 2 hours. Remove spring form pan. Sprinkle confectioners sugar on top of cooled cake.

How much does a cup of butter weigh?

I always have trouble with the American-to-European weights and measures. Food here is sold in grams. U.S. recipes often used cups (a measure of volume) rather than grams (a measure of weight). But even in a recipe such as my mom’s in which the measurement is a weight, it still uses imperial ounce and pound combo as opposed to the European norm of metric. Smartphone-enabled at the grocery store, I should be able to get the conversion correct, but I still always manage to mess it up.

I realized I was short on cream cheese so I went to the grocery store in France to get more, the only one open on Sundays. This day, the only cream cheese in stock was the Milka chocolate cheese. Thus by mixing the regular cheese I bought the day before with a few packages of chocolate cream cheese, it came to pass that I made my first chocolate cheesecake. Maybe not, the chocolate flavor was diluted, but it was still a passable dessert.

The top still cracked. I discovered that a proper topping can disguise the imperfection of the cracked cheesecake. Typically I would sift confectioners’ sugar on top, and in this example, I used a peeler to cut curls from a chocolate bar.

Today is my husband’s birthday and I decided to make him a special cheesecake for the occasion. I took the crumb topped cheesecake recipe from the Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, and added the same muesli crust to the bottom. The crumb topping is just lovely, I would use it on other cakes and pies, I think it looks just fabulous.

There is another item covered in Magnolia’s Helpful Hints: how to know when the cake is done. Yeah, this seems to be a more recent problem for me. I guess the awful stove in my midget kitchen does not work very well and the I keep under-cooking the cake. This is not a terribly uncommon problem as it is really hard to tell when a cheesecake is cooked through. And I now discovered that it is even harder to tell when you have a crumb topping on top and cannot actually see the texture of the cake.

I packed the crumb topping because I thought it might come out more grainy than crumby. So, after baking it, and then refrigerating overnight, the topping was very hard, which I have no doubt would taste delicious. While trying to cut a piece of cake for the birthday boy, the middle portion of the cake burst out. Yeah, I should’ve taken a picture of THAT, but I was a bit perplexed and grief-stricken over the destruction of this perfect-looking cheesecake.

The cake is back in the oven now, if I recall correctly, the last time I undercooked the cake, I baked it for an additional two hours. We are one hour in to the re-bake experiment. I’ll let you know what happens. And before I bake my next cheesecake I am going to invest in a cooking thermometer. The internal temperature for a cheesecake is supposed to be 160 degrees Farenheit. Just don’t ask me convert it to Celsius and it might come out OK.

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