BY JUDITH FERTIG
THERE’S NO better dessert than cheesecake to celebrate Mother’s Day—or any
day. Chiffon-like or dense, baked or unbaked, with or without a topping, cheesecake is an international dessert star.
But it’s far from being a modern invention. Fourteenth-century English nobility
enjoyed cheesecake flavored with elder-flower, and it was later exported to the U.S.
In the late 1600s, the British founder of
Pennsylvania, William Penn, relished his
wife Gulielma’s cast-iron-skillet cheesecake flavored with rosewater and currants.
Over time, different American cooks
evolved it into the flavors and varieties we
see today. We’ve been obsessed ever since.
If you’re making your own, experts will
tell you that a toothsome cheesecake is
more than the sum of its parts.
First, there’s the crust, usually made of
finely ground cookies—take your pick from
graham crackers, chocolate wafers, spice
cookies or speculoos—mixed with melted
butter. Mary Berry, cookbook author and
Costco member based in London, England,
showed millions of viewers worldwide how
to make white chocolate and ginger cheesecake on PBS’s popular The Great British
Baking Show: Masterclass, on which she is
also a judge. She advises using a metal
spoon to squash the crust into the bottom
and up the sides of a pie or springform pan.
A baked cheesecake combines eggs,
sugar, cream cheese and flavoring ingredients. “Mix gently until smooth,” suggests
Berry. “You’ll get big cracks in the final
cheesecake if you give it too much volume.”
An unbaked, chiffon-like cheesecake
often uses gelatin or white chocolate in
place of eggs to set the dessert in the refrigerator, with no baking involved.
Let a baked cheesecake cool very gradually on a counterop for at least one hour,
suggests George Geary, Costco member
and author of The Cheesecake Bible (Robert
One dessert’s trek from
the UK to your kitchen
FOR YOUR TABLE
No time to bake? Your local Costco bakery
has classic plain (Item #37839) and fresh-strawberry-topped (Item #14529) cheesecake, plus ingredients for making your own.
Rose, 2008; not available at Costco). Geary
baked the cheesecakes that The Golden
Girls made famous in over 100 episodes
(see recipe above). To chill the cheesecake,
cover it with plastic wrap and place in the
refrigerator for at least two hours before
slicing. (If a crack does occur despite your
diligence, simply spoon on a topping
“The topping is the final flourish,” says
Berry. She favors a mound of fresh berries
with mint leaves in the center of an
A classic baked-on sour cream topping,
colorful sweetened fruit sauces, candied
pecans and caramel, chocolate ganache or
rosettes of whipped cream are just a few
possible crowning glories. C
Judith Fertig is a Costco member and author
of The Cake Therapist (Berkley, 2015; not
available at Costco).
GOLDEN GIRLS CHEESECAKE
1/3 pound graham crackers, crushed
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
2 pounds cream cheese, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Prepare the crust: Mix the graham crackers
and the melted butter. Press into a cheesecake
pan, and freeze.
Prepare the filling: Position the rack in the
center of the oven, and preheat to 350 F. Using
a mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until
creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, while mixing. Add the lemon juice and vanilla, and blend
well. Pour batter into frozen cheesecake bottom.
Place it in the oven and bake until the top starts
to pull away from the sides and still looks a bit
loose in the center, about 35 to 40 minutes. It
will look like it is puffed up. Take the cheesecake
out of the oven (do not turn the oven off), and
set it on a rack for 10 minutes. This will cause the
cake to sink slightly, which is normal.
Prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine
the sour cream, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla.
Pour into center of the cheesecake and spread
evenly, after the cheesecake has cooled for 10
minutes. Place the cheesecake back into the
oven for 5 minutes only; cool for 1 hour prior
to serving. Makes one 10-inch cheesecake.
Courtesy of George Geary.