The best cheesecake I ever had in my life. I first encountered it in New York City this past spring when I was performing at Carnegie Hall and had a few hours of downtime between performances and rehearsals. I later made it from scratch following an approximation of the recipe they use at Junior's in Brooklyn, and now it is my present to all of you. Happy holidays, TFS.
First of all, YOU WILL NEED AN ELECTRIC MIXER. Trust me on this. I tried doing this by hand for like two minutes before my wrists threatened a coup d'etat, and in the interest of preserving my hands and fingers for art-related endeavors, I gave in and found an old mixer. Ideally a stand mixer would be great, but Kailan is poor and just used an old 70's hand-held.
Second, you will probably want a springform pan. This is not difficult to find; most stores with household appliances and cookingwares carry them, and it's useful to own anyway if you bake like I do. The other item that might be useful here is a sifter, but it's not vital. I don't actually have one and I made this fine with no problems (just a little extra work).
Lastly, these are technically two separate recipes because there are two components to this cake. This cheesecake recipe uses a sponge cake layer rather than the hard cracker crust Southerners like me are accustomed to. It was a different experience from start to finish, but I think I prefer the results. Sponge Cake Crust Ingredients
• 1/3 cup sifted cake flour
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 2 extra-large eggs, separated
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 drops pure lemon extract
• 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartarCheesecake Filling Ingredients
• 4 8-ounce packages cream cheese (use only full fat), at room temperature
• 1 2/3 cups sugar
• 1/4 cup cornstarch
• 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 extra-large eggs
• 3/4 cup heavy or whipping creamSponge Cake Crust Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan (preferably a nonstick one). Wrap the outside with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending all the way up the sides.
2. In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
3. Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes.
4. With the mixer running, slowly
add 2 tbsp of the sugar and beat until thick light yellow ribbons form, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the extracts.
5. Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand, just until no more white flecks appear. Blend in the melted butter.
6. Wash the mixing bowl and beaters really well (if even a little fat is left, this can cause the egg whites not to whip).
7. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar into the bowl and beat with the mixer on high until frothy. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites will stand up and look glossy, not dry).
8. Fold about one-third of the whites into the batter, then the remaining whites. Don't worry if you still see a few white specks, they'll disappear during baking.
9. Gently spread out the batter over the bottom of the pan, and bake just until set and golden (not wet or sticky), about 10 minutes. Touch the cake gently in the center. If it springs back, it's done. Watch carefully and don't let the top brown.
10. Leave the crust in the pan and place on a wire rack to cool. Leave the oven on while you prepare the cheesecake batter.Cheesecake Filling Directions
1. Place one package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl and beat with an electic mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl several times.
2. Blend in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping down the bowl after each one.
3. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each one.
4. Beat in the cream just until completely blended. Be careful not to overmix! Gently spoon the batter over the crust.
5. Place the cake in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1 inch up the sides of the springform. Bake until the edges are light golden brown and the top is slightly golden tan, about 1 1/4 hours.
6. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 2 hours (don't move it at all).
7. After two hours, leave the cake in the pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely cold, preferably overnight or for at least 4 hours.
8. To serve, release and remove the sides of the springform, leaving the cake on the bottom of the pan. Place on a cake plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice the cold cake with a sharp straight-edge knife, not a serrated one. Cover any leftover cake and refrigerate or wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.
A few tips, courtesy of Junior's:
• Bake the cheesecake crust in the same spring-form pan you're using for the cheesecake. Watch the crust very closely; since it's so thin, it needs only 10-12 minutes to bake.
bake the cheesecake in a water bath. It keeps the heat in the oven moist and helps the cake bake slowly, gently, and evenly. This helps ensure that your cheesecake comes out of the oven with a smooth top and no large cracks.
I swear this recipe isn't that complicated, it's just that you have to be careful about the sponge cake. It's a bit more effort than most of the baking I do, but totally worth the results.