The fastest, easiest cheesecake ever

Once upon a time, before Internet (a.k.a. The Information Superhighway—remember that?), recipes were shared hand-to-hand—literally. If your friend served you some awesome cookies, you asked for the recipe, and she wrote it out for you. Usually on a scrap of paper. Or if she was into it, on a recipe card imprinted with “From the kitchen of NANCY”. Or whatever name you wanted to fill in.

I still have (and use) scrapbooks filled with clipped, handwritten, and manually typed recipes. And while some of the recipes seem dated (Tuna Flying Saucers; Grapenut Pudding), there are others that are just as fresh and lively as the day they were born.

Witness this Easy Cheesecake.

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This is the way we used to collect recipes: pre-Internet, pre-virtual recipe boxes. I began this book while still in college: 1973. I well remember going through The Boston Globe Wednesday food pages (Confidential Chat; you Boston natives may remember it), and stacks of women’s magazines, clipping recipes, and sticking them in this book with Elmer’s glue.

There’s something old recipe books have that the Internet can never match: they automatically flop open to your favorite recipes. My book opens itself  to June 17 every time I pick it up. And there I find recipes for Louisiana Lady Dip (never made); Elvey Littlefield’s Mother’s Pickles (which I haven’t made in years, though Elvey was one of the best picklers I ever knew); and Strawberry Cheesecake, which I make a lot.

With all the cheesecake recipes out there, why this one? Because it’s easy. Because it uses simple ingredients—and not many, either. And because it’s my idea of the perfect cheesecake: dense, but not dry; creamy, but not gooey. Tasting of cream cheese, vanilla, graham crackers, and whatever you put on top.  In my case, a simple, two-ingredient raspberry sauce.

Have I hooked you? Will you print out this recipe and stick it in your old scrapbook? Hope so. This Easy Cheesecake is a winner.

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The very first step to successful cheesecake? Unwrap the cream cheese, and let it warm to room temperature. This will probably take a couple of hours, at normal/comfortable room temperature. Why is this important? Because cold cream cheese doesn’t combine well with the remaining ingredients; it’s lumpy, and your cheesecake will be lumpy. Room-temperature cream cheese mixes in very smoothly.

So, can’t you just beat cold cream cheese with the rest of the ingredients till everything’s nice and smooth? You can… but that beating incorporates air into the batter, and your cake will be lighter/airier, rather than nicely dense—as I prefer cheesecake to be.

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Crush your cracker crumbs. I’ve used zwieback here; graham crackers are traditional.

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Mix in sugar, melted butter, and a pinch of salt, and pour into a 9″ pie plate.

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Pat the crumbs into the bottom of the plate, and up the sides.

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Like this. Set the crust aside while you make the filling.

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This is the simplest filling: just cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.

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Look at this lovely vanilla—it’s packed with seeds and shredded seed pods, which will fleck the cheesecake filling just enough to give you that feeling of “gourmet vanilla bean.”

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This is the vanilla I use: Vanilla Bean Crush, from Sonoma Syrup in California. It’s wonderfully aromatic, aside from the seeds visual.

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Beat the filling ingredients on LOW speed till thoroughly combined and smooth. My cream cheese wasn’t quite at room temperature; see those lumps?

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I had to beat a long time (at low speed) before the filling smoothed out. Better to plan ahead and have the cream cheese at room temperature. (Did I mention the cream cheese should be at room temperature?)

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Pour the filling into the crust.

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Bake for 20 minutes.

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Add a crust shield: of your own devising, or this handy-dandy manufactured one, complete with fruit decorations around the rim. You’d be surprised how often I use this; it hangs on the pegboard by my oven, and has saved many a crust from burning before the filling was baked through.

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Remove the cake from the oven; the center won’t appear set. In fact, the whole thing will look quite jiggly towards the middle. If you have an instant-read thermometer, it should read just about 170°F when inserted into the cake 1″ from the edge.

Notice the crust is SLIGHTLY burned; I wasn’t paying attention, and didn’t get the shield on it in time.

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Cool the cake completely. Once it’s cool, cover and chill thoroughly. Remove it from the fridge half an hour or so before serving, to warm it just slightly. Look at that texture—a perfect blend of dense/creamy. And how easy was it to get there? No odd ingredients, no water bath… This is one straightforward recipe.

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Can you see those tiny vanilla-bean flecks?

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Next, the topping. This goes together in a flash; no need to prepare it too far ahead. I’ve chosen raspberries, because this brand of frozen raspberries is value-priced and VERY good; unlike many other brands, the berries are whole, not crushed.

Pour the berries into a bowl, and let them thaw at room temperature for a bit. Actually, you could start the berries thawing while the cake is cooling.

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Get out your trusty Pie Filling Enhancer. It’s not just for pie filling; it’s a great all-purpose thickener for fruit: pie, crisps/crumbles, or sauce.

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Stir the enhancer into the berries.

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Stir to combine.

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Keep stirring till the berries fall apart of their own accord; this happens easily as you stir, and they warm up.

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The Pie Filling Enhancer adds sugar, the lively bite of ascorbic acid, and thickening power—perfect!

If you don’t have Pie Filling Enhancer, no prob. Stir in confectioners’ sugar to taste. The sauce won’t thicken as much; no big deal, it’ll still taste wonderful.

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Dollop filling over each slice of cake, and serve. Yes, it IS as good as it looks.

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Looking for a really deluxe presentation? Array fresh raspberries atop the cooled cake.

Now you’re going to “beautify” the berries. “Melt” raspberry or any red jelly in the microwave…

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…and brush it over the berries.

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Slice and serve. I prefer the raspberry sauce (I think it’s tastier than plain raspberries), but if you’re after a spectacular look (like, for a fancy dinner party), glazing the berries is the way to go.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Easy Cheesecake.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Stop & Shop supermarket in-store bakery, Strawberry Cheesecake, $6.28/lb.

Bake at home: Easy Cheesecake with raspberry topping, $2.87/lb.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Liza Jane

    I find it hard to believe it’s only $2.87 to make because the fruit & cream cheese alone is more than that & then there’s the other ingredients….

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Scary how things change! This blog post was dated June 18, 2009, and the prices reflect it! Laurie@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      I’d give it a good three hours in the fridge. But if you want to eat it right away, without chilling, no harm done; up to you if you like your cheesecake firmer and a bit cool, as opposed to softer and a bit warm. PJH

  2. Gambles

    My mother has always strongly preferred her No Bake Cheesecake recipe, and I have always preferred my aunt’s baked recipe. I tried this for an easy recipe to teach a beginning baker friend and was shocked. It meets in the middle for my mother and myself so we finally have one cheesecake we both like. That is HUGE for us so thanks very much.

    One question: I am measuring 1″ from the crust and pulling it out at 170 degrees, but the center is just slightly unset when it is cooled. Should I be measuring the temp in the center, letting it cook another minute, or just enjoying it as is??

    Thanks so much for a recipe that helped 2 cheesecake lovers meet in the middle!
    Suzanne

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That is great news! Now you are both happy! You are baking it correctly. If you are not satisfied with the slight wiggle in the center once it is cooled, bake a little longer. Try another 2-3 minutes. Elisabeth@KAF

  3. Masha

    Thank you for your detailed recipe!
    Would you please explain how to melt strawberries in a microwave?
    If you are preparing frozen strawberries for this cheesecake as an alternative to raspberries, then you can thaw and slightly heat them in the microwave until they are soft. If you would like to turn them into a puree, then you can heat them further in the microwave or on the stove top and then puree them in a blender until smooth. For a finished look to your sauce, you can strain the puree through a sieve. ~Amy

    Reply
  4. glpruett

    OH – MY – GOODNESS!!! I have been baking for most of my life (and it’s getting longer all the time–I have a BIG _0 birthday coming up soon!) and I have tried, and tried, and TRIED to find a no-fail cheesecake recipe. I’ve read all of the tips, used all of the tricks, and have finally given up the title of “cheesecake baker” in our family to our son. It would always seem that no matter what I did, SOMETIMES things would go great and I’d have a beautiful cheesecake, and sometimes…I wouldn’t have such a beautiful cheesecake!

    Our son, who has been baking with me since he was 18 months old, has his preferred method, and he makes a hum-dinger of a cheesecake. But I’ve watched him, and then I’ve followed his instructions EXACTLY, and same thing happens: sometimes it’s beautiful, and sometimes NOT!

    Thanks to this recipe, and my having picked up a few packages of Neufchatel cheese at the store yesterday just because the 8-oz. package was on sale for 99 cents, I’VE DONE IT! I’ve baked a SIMPLE, no-fuss, beautiful cheesecake! Can’t wait until we Skype with our son this evening and I can show him what his mama can do, thanks to KAF!!!
    YOU GO GIRL! Glad to hear this recipe worked splendidly for you, and we hope he is impressed with your cheesecake skills. 😉 ~Jessica

    Reply
  5. Eva

    Hi-I have made this as specified, but has anyone made it as mini’s (In mini muffin tins?) If you have can you let me know any modifications you made regarding temperature or time?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated! We haven’t tried it that way. has anyone out there have any comments for Eva? Mary@KAF

    Reply
  6. lala in tx

    yeah.. im wanting to try this recipe but theres no mesurements included??….im GUESSING 4 eggs, teaspoon vanilla , about 8 gramcrackers 1 cup of sugar and two cream cheeses…. but please give me correct mesurements asap. haha.

    Hi Lala – Please take a look at this link to our cheesecake recipe on line. It has all the information you need. Elisabeth @ KAF

    Reply
  7. Frances in CA

    Yea I used large eggs. I am not sure what went wrong there either, maybe my crust is a bit too thick, so the filling went a bit under baked. Or it could be my eggs were a bit old. I let it sit overnight, but the center never set. Oh well it is delicious nonetheless. Thanks!

    Hmmm… It’s a mystery then, I guess. Sorry, Frances – hope you try it again! PJH

    Reply
  8. Frances in CA

    How long do you have to refrigerate it for it to set? From the recipe, I get the impression that it will set right after it cools with minimal time in the fridge. I tried the recipe tonight and it doesn’t seem like the case. Maybe I under baked it? But my instant-read thermometer said it was at 168 when I pulled it out.

    Yes, Frances, the cheesecake should be pretty solid as soon as it’s cold. Did you use large eggs (not extra-large, not jumbo)? Regular cream cheese? With only four ingredients, not sure what might have happened… Maybe it set up for you overnight? PJH

    Reply
  9. Joydell Roncke

    I am so excited with this blog! You are sooo human and real. It is late in the evening, right before bed, and I had to write and tell you what fun it was to read this recipe and the blog. You write in plain language, and tell of “mistakes” one can correct. Thank you so much for all the information you give us. I feel I am a pretty experienced baker, partly due to my age :), but I always learn something new from you.
    Thanks again for all you do to make our lives easier and more fun!
    Joydell

    Oh my goodness, Joydell, thank you so much! That’s exactly what we’re trying to do – share our love of baking with friends. We’d like to be right there in your kitchen with you but, barring that – we have this blog, where we can all “meet.” I’m glad you’re enjoying it! PJH

    Reply

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