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Can’t shake those cheesecake cravings? Go ahead…splurge! Surrender to this creamy, dreamy, smooth and luscious recipe for that rich, decadent dessert. No need to book a trip to New York. This one is easy enough to make at home.

A perfectly delicious cheesecake begins with a perfect crust. Preferably, one made from graham cracker crumbs that absorbs a little bit of the cheesecake batter so it stays moist, and that also remains just firm enough to break off in whole pieces like a cookie. In most recipes, butter is better, but here you have the choice of using margarine in the crust. And, don’t forget to use the best quality ingredients for the rest of the cake.

For the cheesecake filling, you’ll want to use a branded cream cheese and rich sour cream (bag the light and fat-free versions here: this is the real thing) for a smooth surface that doesn’t crack while baking. Pure vanilla, versus imitation, and the juice (and grated rind) of a fresh lemon, instead of the bottled variety, are the keys to the cheesecake’s distinctive flavor.

Follow the recipe to make your own sweet glaze or choose any type of canned fruit pie filling for the topping. Be creative! Check gourmet food stores for unusual selections—peach, plum, pear, or how about kiwi laced in brandy? If you’re a chocoholic, you can still achieve cheesecake perfection. Just top with chocolate curls, candy bar pieces or peanut butter cups. The possibilities are endless!

Take out your spring form pan and get ready to create delicious, delectable cheesecake:

Crust

1-¼ Cups crushed graham crackers
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ Cup sugar
¼ Cup melted butter or margarine

Grease a 9- or 10-inch spring form pan, covering the sides and bottom of the pan completely. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly until well blended and moist. Press graham cracker mixture into the bottom and around the sides of the pan. Refrigerate while preparing the cheesecake filling.

Cheesecake Filling

5/8 Cup sugar
1/8 Cup flour
One 8-ounce package cream cheese
One 16 ounce carton of sour cream
4 eggs, separated
Juice and grated rind of ½ a lemon
½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375.

Beat the egg yolks and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add the beaten eggs, lemon juice and rind, vanilla, flour and sour cream. Beat together until well mixed.

Beat egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until stiff. Fold egg whites into cream cheese mixture. Pour into the graham cracker crumb-lined spring form pan.

Bake at 375 for five minutes and then bake at 275 for one hour. Leave cheesecake in an open oven to cool for ½ hour and refrigerate for at least one hour before adding topping.

Glaze

One 12-ounce package frozen strawberries or raspberries, reserve juice
¼ Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 or 3 drops of red food coloring

Defrost the berries and drain for thirty minutes. Set the berries aside. Measure the reserved juice and add enough water to equal one cup. Combine sugar, cornstarch and juice/water mixture and cook over moderate flame until thick. Simmer for five minutes and add the red food coloring. Allow the sauce to cool for ten minutes.

Combine cooled sauce with the well-drained berries and carefully spoon on the top of the previously refrigerated cheesecake. Be careful not to drip the glaze on the sides of the cake.

Canned pie filling may be substituted here and spread on the top of the cheesecake in the same fashion.

Refrigerate finished cheesecake for at least 24 hours before removing spring form sides.

Voila! As appealing to the eye as it is to the taste buds. Smooth, creamy, rich and delectable: a luscious cheesecake that is, in a word, PERFECT.