As the child of a rather avid baker, our house was never at a loss for croissants, French breads, pastries, and cookies. While other children had to wait until a holiday to enjoy something sweet, my mother was constantly baking, or teaching others to bake, sending off sweets and treats in the mail to friends and family. There was even a period of time where candy-making and truffles abounded. Some things worked, and some didn’t, but it got all three of us hooked on cooking, and although my younger sister was the cake expert, and I was more interested in the stove top or grill (which once exploded during said experimentations), we all grew up making desserts on a regular basis.
One of my first baking attempts as a teenager was a French custard with raspberry sauce-the water bath scared me to death, but I went without scalding myself, and learned to love what it was like to cook cheesecakes and custards in this manner.
Here, the cherry cheesecake is turned up a notch with the addition of fresh cherry topping and vanilla bean paste. Use a high quality, so that the flavor really shines.
Ultimate Cherry Vanilla Cheesecake
Cassandra Rosen, Crave Local Test Kitchen
Makes 16 small slices
Graham Cracker Cheesecake Crust
- 1-3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- pinch of cinnamon
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Filling
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup low fat sour cream
- 2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
- 3 large eggs
Cherry Vanilla Cheesecake Topping
- 4 cups pitted tart red cherries, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
For the Crust:
In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the crumbs, cinnamon, butter, and sugar with a fork, or use a food processor to moisten thoroughly. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray or coconut oil, set aside.
Pour the crumbs into the pan and, using the bottom of a measuring cup or the smooth bottom of a bowl, press the crumbs down into the base and 1-inch or so up the sides. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
For the Filling:
In an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute, and lump free. Add eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat slowly until combined. Gradually add sugar, beat until golden and creamy.
Add sour cream and vanilla. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl to remove lumps. The batter should be well-beaten, but don’t over mix it. Pour the filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
Set the springform pan on a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil (Editor’s note: regular foil can leak-I learned this the hard way) and fold up the sides. Be sure no seams or open areas are exposed where water will get in, or you’ll have a soupy mess.
Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour hot to boiling water into the pan, until the water is about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake for 45 minutes, to 1 hour. The cheesecake should still jiggle slightly, but not be runny, so be careful not to overcook. Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Cover the pan, and place into the refrigerator, at least 4 hours, or overnight.
To loosen the cheesecake,wet and warm a butter knife or thin metal spatula around the inside edge. Unmold, transfer to a cake plate. Spread a layer of cherry vanilla topping over the surface.
For clean slices, slice the cherry vanilla cheesecake with a thin, non-serrated knife, dipped in hot water. Wipe dry after each cut.
To make the topping:
Place cherries into a saucepan over medium heat, warm until cherries release their juice and come to a simmer, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir frequently, so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
In a bowl, whisk the sugar with cornstarch until smooth; adding about a tablespoon or two of cold water, just to avoid lumps. Pour the mixture into the hot cherries and juice, and thoroughly combine. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the filling has thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, cool, and use as a pie filling or topping.