Hi everyone! I’m talking about cheesecake in my last baking article for The Toast. First, you should know that creating these recipes involved a totally normal number of open tabs related to cheesecake (roughly 10). Eating a cheesecake is essentially just eating cream cheese frosting with even more unhealthy ingredients added, plus a few stabilizers. Because of this, it’s pretty difficult to mess up on the flavors — technically, cheesecake is pretty easy.
In the course of my cheesecake research, I found that everyone is mostly panicked about the top cracking. Sudden changes in temperature, overbaking, cooling too fast, etc. will cause the top of a cheesecake to form large cracks. While I understand why this would be devastating in the context of, say, The Great British Bake Off, in regular life you can just throw some whipped cream or chopped nuts on there and call it a day.
I made two flavors — a lemon ginger cheesecake, and a chocolate marbled cheesecake. Both use the same basic cheesecake recipe with slight alterations. I cobbled my recipe together from various recipes, and relied on my Joy the Baker cookbook in making the crust.
Some major issues I ran into: this recipe uses a truly disgusting amount of cream cheese. Know beforehand whether or not this is something you can handle. It also takes way longer than you’d think, between pre-baking the crust and allowing the cheesecake time to cool afterwards. Also, during my first attempt at the chocolate marble cheesecake, my house lost power and my oven stopped working. Avoid this if at all possible!!!
2 cups Gingersnaps (you can definitely make these on your own if you’d like! I opted not to)
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar or brown sugar (brown sugar makes a crispier crust)
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 cups chocolate wafer cookies
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
24 oz full fat cream cheese (3 of those rectangular Philadelphia cheese cake things), room temperature
1 ⅓ cups sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla
⅔ – 1 cup heavy cream (depending on how smooth you want it)
For Lemon Ginger Cheesecake:
½ – 1 teaspoons ginger, or 2 teaspoons zested fresh ginger
Zest of one lemon (roughly a tablespoon)
2 teaspoons squeezed lemon juice
For Chocolate Marble Cheesecake:
2 tablespoons melted semi-sweet baking chocolate (you can substitute dark chocolate)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Springform pan recommended, but regular pie plate also fine
Roasting dish for water bath
Foil for water bath
Stand mixer or electric mixer highly recommended!
Making the Crust
There are a few different schools of thought when it comes to cheesecake crust. I’ve had some with a sponge cake crust, some with a flour crust, and some with crumbled cookie/cracker crust. The crumbled crusts are my favorite and are much much easier than a rolled dough crust.
I made the lemon ginger crust with gingersnaps and the chocolate marbled cheesecake crust with chocolate wafer cookies. For both of these, the most difficult part is keeping other people in your house from eating the cookies before you’ve had a chance to bake with them, because even if they say they’re just “having one more” they will eat at least five.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Crumble the cookies. I used a food processor, but you can also put them in a Ziploc, make sure there’s no excess air, and hammer the bag with a real hammer or heavy object (over a newspaper or paper bag) until crushed.
- Once the cookies are crumbled into a powder (try to avoid larger cookie pieces), pour into a bowl. Mix with sugar, melted butter, and salt. I used brown sugar for some, white sugar for others. A lot of this is based on the Joy the Baker graham cracker crust recipe. (By the way — if you are looking for some cookbooks with good, varied dessert recipes that aren’t too complicated, I really like hers!)
- Press the mixture into your springform pan. You don’t want the bottom to be too thick, since that becomes difficult to cut through in the finished product. Make sure there is at least a solid even coating on the bottom, and an even coating along the sides. This won’t go up the entire side of the pan.
- Bake for about 12 minutes. The gingersnap version will puff up a little bit, so you may need to poke some holes in it with a fork.
- Leave the oven at 350 if you are making your cheesecake immediately afterwards. Otherwise, turn off the oven so you don’t leave it on by accident.
- Leave your crust to cool while you make your filling. Clean up a little bit around your kitchen, put on the next episode of American Ninja Warrior, daydream about building a salmon ladder.
Making the Filling
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- You’re going to start with just some cream cheese, a little sugar, and cornstarch. In cheesecakes, you want to alternate the cream cheese and sugar a little bit, so everything is evenly mixed and creamy. It also helps to not overwhelm the mixer. So, mix the first 8 ounces of cream cheese, ⅓ cup of sugar, and all of the cornstarch until it’s creamy, probably several minutes. I found it helpful to cut my cream cheese into a few sections to mix more easily.
- Mix in the rest of the cream cheese. It’s SO MUCH CREAM CHEESE. I’m sorry. If you decide this process is too disgusting and you don’t want to go on, I don’t blame you. I’m someone who only likes cream cheese when it’s baked into other things or in frosting form.
- Mix in the rest of the sugar.
- Mix in the eggs one by one.
- Add in vanilla.
- Mix in the heavy cream slowly, pouring as you mix. Stop mixing as soon as the heavy cream is entirely poured. I took the bowl out of the stand mixer and finished folding everything by hand.
- Look at sections for Lemon Ginger or Chocolate Marble.
For the Lemon Ginger Cheesecake
- Zest the entirety of one lemon directly into the bowl.
- Cut lemon in half. Lightly squeeze half into the batter, making sure not to get seeds in the bowl.
- Pour in a little ginger (1/2 – 1 teaspoon), depending on how much you like ginger (this is also great without the ginger, if the answer is “very very little”).
For the Chocolate Marble Cheesecake
- Take out 1.5 cups of your cheesecake batter, put into a separate bowl.
- Melt your baking chocolate and let cool slightly.
- Mix in half your cocoa powder. Alternate adding cocoa powder and melted chocolate.
- I can’t officially advocate for trying the batter since this does have raw eggs in it. However, if you DO decide to try it, this tastes very similar to chocolate pudding and is extremely good.
Assembling and Baking
- Put aluminum foil around the bottom of your springform pan.
- Pour the batter into the pre-baked crust. If you’re making the chocolate marble cheesecake, pour the plain batter in first, followed by the chocolate batter. Using a knife, swirl the two batters together. If you are making the lemon ginger cheesecake, just pour the batter into the crust, then crumble some remaining gingersnaps over the top.
- Put about 1-2 inches of water into a large roasting pan. Put your cheesecake pan into the middle. Put this all in the oven. Bake for roughly 70 minutes, until the top is slightly browned on the sides and all except the middle is mostly set when you jiggle it.
There are many opinions about how to cool down a cheesecake to avoid cracking. Some people prop open the (turned-off!) oven door and let the cheesecake sit in the cooling oven for an hour before taking it out. Honestly, though, who has the friggin’ time?
I take my cheesecakes directly out of the oven and then take the pan out of the water bath. I usually take the foil off before moving it out of the pan because otherwise it’s going to drip everywhere. Leave the pan on a wire rack or your stovetop for at least an hour. Cover with plastic wrap (loosely) and put in the fridge for several more hours. I tend to make cheesecake at least a day in advance so it has time to really set in the fridge. (The sides of the cheesecake will pull apart from the pan in the fridge.)
Edge a knife or thin spatula around the whole edge to take the springform pan off before serving. And you’re done!!!! This cheesecake is extremely rich, so it should last you a long time. It’s great for large events, or if you’ve promised cheesecake to a variety of people in your life. It will keep in the fridge for at least a few days.
Thank you everyone for reading my baking articles here at The Toast, and thank you for all of your comments! It’s meant the world to me to hear how the recipes went for you all and read your comments about how much you love my dog Cassie.
Please enjoy this final picture of my beautiful dog Cassie, proudly guarding my cheesecakes in the oven.