One of the ever-present cooking dilemmas of modern life is the question of what to bring to office events that require food. For years, my dad answered this question with the same cherry cheesecake recipe. Everyone always raved about it at his office and when I got older I would request it for a birthday cake. This recipe has mysterious and unknowable origins. Perhaps a cooking magazine from the early 90s? Who knows. It lives on in instructions from my dad, tweaked and perfected over the course of years of being made.
A coworker recently requested cheesecake for his birthday at work, so I got out this recipe and gave it a go myself. The verdict of 2016 office workers? It hasn’t lost its magic! This got the highest praise of any recipe I’ve ever brought to work.
My dad’s typical method was to make a plain cheesecake and then top it with a can of cherry pie filling. But, surely, we can do better than whatever lurks inside those cans. Using fresh cherries, I made the pie filling from scratch and, wow, it was worth it. I never really liked the mushy, scary canned cherries. But fresh? It was amazing. And while pitting the cherries is time consuming, otherwise making pie filling is very easy.
Classic Cherry Cheesecake a la Dad
- 2 cups ground graham crackers (cinnamon graham crackers are extra nice)
- 4-6 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 (or more) cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 F. Made using a 9 inch springform pan.
Combine above until slightly sticky, but not gooey consistency. Mold into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. The sides of the crust should be about 2 to 2.5 inches tall. Keep the thickness of the bottom and sides of the crust similar.
Bake at 350 F for 8-10 minutes, until very slightly dark, but not burned. Let cool.
- 24 oz cream cheese, softened (“let it sit out til it feels sorta gooshey” as per Dad instructions)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2-3 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 3 large eggs
- Nutmeg (optional)
Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
Combine cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Add flour a Tbsp at a time and blend well. Add eggs and beat until well blended. Mix in a pinch of nutmeg if desired, but a little goes a long way.
Pour evening into the crust. If you love nutmeg, sprinkle a little on top.
Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes. Then decrease temperature to 250 F and cook for 30 minutes. Finally, turn off the oven and leave in the oven for another 30 minutes. Important: Do not open the oven door during any of this!
Take cheesecake from oven and chill at least for several hours, overnight is best. Finally, top with cherry pie filling. You can use canned or make the recipe below. Before serving the cheesecake, remove outer ring of springform pan carefully. It sometimes helps to run a thin knife around the edge.
Cherry Pie Filling
Excerpted from “Cherry Pie” from Me, Myself, and Pie by Sherry Gore
- 4 cups fresh or frozen cherries, pitted
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Combine cherries, water, sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan on the stovetop. Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring occasionally. Add the butter and salt, the remove from heat. Add almond extract and vanilla.
Filling should be somewhat cool before pouring over cheesecake, but I would advise not letting it cool fully. I did and instead of staying nice and smooth it got a little curdled looking as the thickened, cooled sauce broke up. It tasted great, nonetheless!
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