the moveable feasts

Dorie Greenspan’s Cheesecake

with 18 comments

perfect cheesecake

So yesterday was my best friend’s birthday. We first met a little less than 3 years ago, when we were both transfer students into the university that we’ll be graduating from in a little less than two weeks. I was lucky in that aspect—most of the other people in our transfer group were what I’ll call less than kindred spirits. But Abbey, she’s a good one. I mean, she lets me make her perhaps the fattiest, most calorically-dense treat for her birthday AND she lets me capitalize on it by taking photos of it and putting it up here to show it off.

But in all seriousness, she is one of the best friends I could ask for. Although we’ve lived in the same house together for the past two years, very soon we’ll both be off—her, to travel the world and me … to figure out how to travel the world. So I suppose that this birthday celebration of hers, and mine next week, are all wrapped up in the same end-of-the-year whirlwind of trying to come to grips with all the bittersweet feelings that come with any really big ending (and beginning). It’s a strange grab-bag of emotions.

Anyway, so a big celebration calls for a big celebration treat. I’m pretty sure this is one of her favorite desserts, and it’s also one of mine. And, come to think of it, I think it’s pretty high up there on everyone’s favorite dessert list. And if it’s not, it at least should be. It’s a universal good. I’m willing to say it’s better than cake, and better than any kind of birthday cake you can think up (I think it beats last year’s, but I guess I’d have to leave that ultimate judgement up to my friend).

puffed up in the oven

I decided to make Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for tall, creamy cheesecake, mostly because how can one not trust Dorie on these matters? But, I’m not going to lie, the pictures on this site’s creation of the recipe is what really sold me. One grocery trip and a combination of cream cheese, butter, sour cream, eggs, and heavy cream later, I too had my own creation of the recipe. I really liked it, and my friend loves it, so it was a complete success. But, with that being said, I don’t know if it’s my ideal cheesecake. It is creamy, airy, and smooth. It has a delicious flavor, and it feels dangerously light enough to want to eat a quarter of the thing in one sitting. Which is all really good, but I think I’d prefer the type of cheesecake that is insanely dense, and extremely thick. I’m thinking it might be more along the lines of this one, by Smitten Kitchen? Anyone ever try that one?

Also, a couple more notes regarding this recipe: I think if I were to do it again, I would either make the crust one layer on the bottom, without pressing it up along the sides, or I’d make it thinner so that it can go completely up to the top of the sides of the cheesecake. For some reason, I think either of those options would look more elegant. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, that weird little swooshy design along the sides of the crust are due to my running-the-knife-along-the-sides skills when trying to loosen the cheesecake from the springform pan. It was completely accidental, but I think it actually looks pretty cool. It’s what my friend Abbey would call a “happy mistake” (she went to a Waldorf school as a child, if that means anything to you). Also! I didn’t have a roasting pan big enough to hold the springform pan in for a water bath or bain-marie, so I just placed a big pan full of water on the rack below the cheesecake while it was in the oven—I hope this somehow served as a substitute, but I have a feeling this cheesecake would have been even better if it were able to have a proper water bath.


With those extensive qualifications, I think it’s important to note that it is a really, really good cheesecake. It looks dreamy (or at least I think so), and it tastes like it too. It doesn’t feature any other flavors but vanilla, and I think the creamy, smooth filling with the tangy (and addicting) sour cream topping makes for a taste that’s really satisfying, and pure. I think it’s a classic cheesecake.

PS: Song pick of the week is Wolf Parade’s I’ll Believe in Anything. It is goooood. (I kind of really like this thing I’ve gotten into, where I share a song if I feel like it. I’ve been reading a lot of Hungry and Frozen lately and she always shares what music is inspiring her at the time she’s writing the post and I really like the vibes it gives. Am I transgressing my boundaries by telling you what to listen to, on top of what to eat? Maybe, but I enjoy it! So there!

tall, creamy cheesecake

One Year Ago: Strawberry Cream Cake

Dorie Greenspan’s Tall and Creamy Cheesecake
From Dorie Greenspan, obviously, in her Baking: From My Home to Yours, with some good guidance from this post
Serves an army

Graham Cracker Crust
1 3/4 cups (I believe something like 210 grams) graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling
2 pounds (4 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two

Sour Cream Topping
2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan; wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil. Set aside.

To make the crust, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt. Pour over the melted butter and, using your hands, mix it together until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Turn the mixture out into the prepared springform pan and, using your fingers or the edge of something hard like a measuring cup, pat the mixture into an even layer along the bottom of the pan (and up the sides a little bit too, if you’d like). Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until the crust begins to get ever-so-slightly brown and fragrant. Once the crust is removed, lower the oven to 325 degrees F. Set the crust aside to cool while you prepare the cheesecake filling.

To prepare the filling, first prepare a big kettle-full of water for boiling. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the room-tempurature cream cheese at medium speed until it’s soft, smooth and lightened, about 3 or 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt, and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the mixture is even more lightened! Beat in the vanilla, followed by the eggs, one by one, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go and beating for a full minute between each egg addition. The batter should be “well-aerated.” On a low speed, add in the sour cream and heavy cream and stir until fully combined. Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula to make sure the mixture is well combined.

Place the foil-wrapped springform pan in a large roasting pan. Scrape the batter into the pan, over the crust. If you have a somewhat standard 9-inch springform pan, the batter should just reach the brim. Place the roasting pan, holding the unbaked cheesecake, in the oven. With the oven door open, carefully pour the boiled water into the roasting pan so that it reaches just halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake in the 325 degree oven for an hour and 30 minutes, until the cheesecake has risen and puffed up above the rim of the pan and has gotten slightly browned at parts (it may even have some little cracks). Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open. Let the cheesecake rest in the cooling oven for another hour—this prevents any major cracks on the cheesecake, I think.

After an hour, carefully pull the roasting pan out of the oven, making sure not to slosh any water onto the precious cheesecake! Carefully lift the springform pan out of the water bath and let the cheesecake cool on a wire rack until it comes to room temperature.

Once the cake is cool, cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill the cake (I know, the waiting! it never ends!) for at least 4 hours, or overnight. When ready to serve, run a butter knife along the edges and carefully open the springform latch and remove the pan sides.

For the sour cream topping, combine the sour cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl until well mixed. Dollop the mixture on top of the chilled cheesecake and smooth it out into an even layer. Store the cheesecake in the fridge, and always serve cold.

abbey and I

Happy Birthday, Abbey! x

Written by Amy

May 1, 2013 at 6:01 am

Posted in Other Treats and Desserts

Tagged with

18 Responses

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  1. Happy Birthday Abbey and wow, what a beautiful and perfect cheesecake! Love this!


    May 1, 2013 at 6:44 am

  2. Amy, you’re such a sweet friend. This is one serious-looking cheesecake! I think I might be with you on the impossibly dense cheesecake thing. But I have to confess, my family only makes cheesecake from a recipe torn from what looks like a Philly cream cheese ad from a magazine. (The original copy is now very ripped and lives in a plastic page-protector in a cookie tin sitting on top of my mom’s fridge.) It inevitably cracks like crazy all over the top and sinks in the middle, but it is good. So I’ve never used any recipe except that one, but I have been tempted to try that SK one.

    P.S. The photo of the two of you is super-cute!


    May 1, 2013 at 8:30 am

    • Sometimes those recipes are the best… now I’m curious as to how that one tastes! If I do ever get a chance to make the SK one, I’ll let you know.

      And thanks, Katie. :)


      May 1, 2013 at 6:46 pm

  3. Aw, I’ve been reading a lot of you lately, too! Good luck with all those emotions, bittersweetness is tough to deal with sometimes.

    (Listening to Wolf Parade now, I really like it. I love big drum beats.)

    I hardly ever make cheesecake because there are so many elements that can go wrong, and I’m so clumsy, but it was my favourite food as a child. It has been years since I’ve made one, maybe I’ll try it again.


    May 1, 2013 at 11:52 am

    • Haha, I thought it was so genius to share music along with food and pictures. I mean… the borders of taste are so blurry, are they not?! And you should give this recipe a try! It’s very easy and straightforward. The whole bain-marie is pretty tricky… but you could also just be like me and forgo the whole operation. ;)


      May 1, 2013 at 6:45 pm

  4. What a lovely post for a lovely friend. And that cheesecake looks completely gorgeous.
    Much happiness to you both as you celebrate birthdays and embark on the next leg of your journey in this wild and crazy thing called life. It’s just beginning!
    PS. Can’t wait to check out the music pairing.

    • Ah thank you, Amanda. I have to keep telling myself to focus on the beginnings and not the endings!


      May 1, 2013 at 6:43 pm

  5. Definitely dreamy, this one. I love the shot of the puffed up cake in the oven!

  6. I totally get what you mean about finding a kindred spirit. They’re so hard to come by, especially once you’ve graduated from school (not to dishearten you or anything. But it really is true). Gotta hold on tight to the keepers, I always tell myself! (But I still have trouble keeping in touch… it’s awful.)

    The cheesecake looks super-gorgeous! Though I don’t think I’ve ever given it serious thought, I *think* I’d prefer a lighter cheesecake rather than a denser one, so this one is right up my alley! The one on Smitten Kitchen sounds a little too intense for me, haha.


    May 1, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    • Ah, I had a feeling it’d only get harder finding kindred spirits. But I’m the same way as you– I’m god-awful at keeping in touch, even though it makes me sad when I lose contact with people. It’s like I want to doom myself to unhappiness!

      And thanks. If lighter, smoother is your thing, then this is definitely the recipe for you.


      May 1, 2013 at 6:42 pm

  7. Even if this isn’t your favourite ever cheesecake, it looks pretty scrumptious. I’ve never tried the Smitten Kitchen one but that looks very good too – look forward to seeing if you try it!


    May 2, 2013 at 12:32 am

  8. Your cheesecake looks so delicious, I really love the look of the sour cream topping too! What a perfect birthday treat!

  9. I think you might be in the running for best friend ever. I’ve never had a friend make me a cheesecake (or cake…or anything). I can’t wait to see what life has in store for you post-graduation. It’s all so exciting.

    PS – time to make the Smitten Kitchen one…for comparison’s sake.


    May 2, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    • Haha! Yes, for comparison’s sake!

      And thanks Michelle, I’m glad you’re excited for me — I think it’s rubbing off on me slowly.


      May 2, 2013 at 4:21 pm

  10. That photo of the slice with the strawberries looks mouth watering! I ate a lot of cheesecake when I was pregnant with you (and your sista), so that must be the reason you love it so much, haha. Funny how Lindsey doesn’t care for it like you do. You got all the “cheesecake gene.”


    May 2, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    • I HATE IT. but this is gorgeous and i am so happy i have the prettiest twin sister ever. that last photo could make me cry. miss you and love you!!! xx!!!


      May 2, 2013 at 7:09 pm

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