Ocean City Today

Vanilla cheesecake with graham cracker crust

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Jan 11, 2018

(Jan. 12, 2018) Who loves cheesecake? If one says “I do,” continue on.

The degree of difficulty when making a cheesecake can be quite varied. The purpose of this article is to focus on those who prefer an uncomplicated approach.

That being said, let us review a few tips to ensure yummy cheesecake.

The first consideration is the type of cream cheese. Some bakers will only use Philadelphia cream cheese. There is no question this particular cream cheese yields a silky and lush cheesecake, but that is not to say other brands are inferior.  The key is to use full-fat cream cheese. This is not the time to skimp on calories.

As appetizing as cream cheese is, it needs a little complexity for the final product. Most recipes either use heavy cream or sour cream. Either will do the job of softening the texture of the cheese and adding some moisture. That being said, sour cream probably edges out heavy cream.

Cracks in cheesecakes are common and also undesirable. There are three main reasons why the dessert might form this undesirable look: overbeating the cream cheese mixture, overcooking and cooling the cake too fast. All are entirely preventable.

You want to mix your ingredients thoroughly, but not too thoroughly. Overbeating incorporates too much air which can cause the cheesecake to crack.

Cook your cheesecake until the outer ring of the cake is slightly puffed and fairly firm, but the inner circle still jiggles like barely set Jell-O. If a few golden spots appear do not be concerned, but if you see any small cracks starting to form, immediately move on to the cooling step.

When cooling this dessert, do it gradually. Allow the cheesecake to sit in a turned off oven. This detailed step is extremely important.

The best pan for baking a cheesecake is a springform pan. These types of pans have removable sides so you can release the cake without having to flip the whole pan over.

Do not open the oven door under any circumstances while baking, otherwise you will be letting the steamy air out which can cause dryness.

Do not poke the cheesecake with anything such as an instant-read thermometer to see if the cheesecake is done. Again, this can dry out the cheesecake. Remember, if the edges are firm and center wobbles, it is done.

A successful cheesecake depends not only on its delicious filling which is the star of the dessert, but also its coarse crust which is the supporting cast. In other words, the crusts should enhance the overall dish, but not steal the show.

Making a homemade graham cracker crust is quite simple: just blend graham crackers, sugar and butter in a food processor. But if time is an issue, store-bought graham cracker crusts are perfectly acceptable.

Cook’s Illustrated did a tasting on ready-made graham crusts. If you guessed Keebler Ready Crust (Graham), you are correct. The tasters felt the crust had a wonderful balance of sugary and wheaty notes and at the same time had the perfect ratio of saltiness and vanilla. In addition, the texture was crisp and yet tender. This combination allowed the crust to be neatly cut for picture-perfect slices.

Water baths are suggested, but optional. Baking a cheesecake in a pan of water generates steam which is another way to prevent the cheesecake from drying out and cracking.

Do not be concerned if perfection does not come your way. Chances are, your cheesecake will still taste great. Mishaps can be covered up.

For example, if the cake comes out a little cracked, you can always cover the cracks with a fruit topping or cream frosting.

In closing, it’s always good to have a few foolproof recipes at your hand in case of unexpected company.

Credit must be given where credit is due. My friend, Katie, is quite a baker and has shared her delicious cheesecake recipe with me. For those who relish the thought of indulging in tempting cheesecake, you must give this recipe a try.  Enjoy!

Vanilla Cheesecake


1 ½ pounds plain cream cheese (room temperature)

1 ¾ cups sugar

5 large eggs (room temperature)

2 pints regular sour cream (room temperature)

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 graham cracker crust (pie)


1. Mix together the sugar and cream cheese.

2. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg.

3. Stir in sour cream and vanilla and mix well.

4. Pour into a 10-inch springform pan lined with a graham cracker crust.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour in a water bath (optional).

6. When baking time is up, turn off oven and leave cake in there until oven reaches room temperature. Refrigerate overnight.


Secret Ingredient – Spontaneity. “If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.”

— Win Bordon

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