Way back when I was a baby baker, this was the first scratch cake recipe I ever made. The original recipe was given to me by a high school classmate who said her father got it from the New York Times. I can't authenticate that claim, and I've tweaked the recipe a bit over time, but I can tell you this cheesecake always turns out beautifully and has been the requested dessert for countless functions through the years.
There are two specific things that make this cheesecake special in my mind. The first, this cheesecake is NOT baked in a water bath (hooray!). The second (and most important in my humble opinion), during the last 5 minutes of baking, a creamy top layer is smoothed onto the cheesecake, serving as not only as an amazing flavor accent, but also to camouflage any surface imperfections.
I'm thrilled to be sharing this family favorite with this month's Crazy Cooking Challenge.
NYTimes Vanilla Cheesecake
makes one 10-inch cheesecake
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 12 rectangular crackers)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
16-ounces sour cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter together and press into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan; set aside.
In a medium bowl, make the topping by whisking the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla together; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater or BeaterBlade, slowly cream together sugar, vanilla, and cream cheese, being careful to incorporate as little air as possible.
Add eggs, one at a time, and continue beating until fully incorporated.
Pour mixture into springform pan and smooth; bake for 45-55 minutes (the center should still jiggle a bit, but shouldn't be liquid - interior temp should reach 150F).
Remove cheesecake from oven and smooth the topping into an even layer; return to oven for 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on a cooling for at least an hour before chilling for at least 4 hours (overnight is ideal).
Before serving, carefully run a thin knife or spatula between the cheesecake and springform pan walls.
Unclamp springform pan to unmold.
Slice with a hot knife.