This would be pretty for Canada Day, don’t you think? (I knew better than to attempt to arrange a maple leaf out of raspberries.) It looks pretty enough that people asked me where I bought it, but in reality if you can stand a raspberry upright, you can cover a cheesecake with them. The truth is, here they’re covering a gaping chasm of a crack in the top – something so common in cheesecakes it’s traditional to cover the plain ones with a sour cream topping to conceal any flaws.
Cheesecake was my dessert of choice back in the 90s – it was Mike’s birthday cake of choice for decades – and yet I never think to make them these days. They’re pretty low-maintenance, as far as desserts go – once baked, it needs to sit in the fridge to firm up, so it may as well just hang out in there until you’re ready for it. A plain cheesecake like this – a classic recipe I started baking from the Canadian Living Cookbook around 1987 – can be dolled up with berries, fresh or sauced, or you can douse it in chocolate or caramel, spike it with citrus or leave it plain.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs or chocolate wafer crumbs
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 8 oz. (250 g) pkg. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Grated zest of a lemon (optional)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs
1 pint fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
To make the crust, combine the graham crumbs, butter and sugar and press the mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then set it aside. Turn the oven up to 425°F.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until it’s smooth. Add the sugar, flour, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla and beat it again, just until it’s smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour the batter over the crust.
Bake the cheesecake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 250°F and continue to bake the cheesecake for another 30-35 minutes. (If you have trouble with the top of your cheesecakes cracking, spray some water inside the oven with a spray bottle before you put your cheesecake in to keep the oven humid inside as the cake bakes.) You can tell when the cheesecake is done when it’s barely firm around the edges and the center is just slightly jiggly – it will firm up as it cools. Immediately run a thin knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan, but allow it to cool completely and then refrigerate it for at least an hour before you remove the sides of the springform pan. Once chilled top with raspberries, sitting them upright and close together.
Makes one 9-inch cheesecake; serves 12.