Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hay Hay It's Time for Cheesecake

Even though cheesecake is one of Sweetie's favorite desserts, I only bake one about once a year.

It's not that I don't enjoy cheesecake. In fact I enjoy it too much. A piece after dinner, a piece for breakfast (yes, we each had a piece this morning), a 'sliver' with afternoon tea, another good sized piece after dinner the next night and, before you know it, I've eaten half and gained another ten pounds in two days. Well, maybe not that much, but more than a few trips to the gym will burn off.

Once a year is just enough to celebrate the beginning of spring in Northern California, to celebrate Sweetie's birthday, and, this time, to celebrate my daughter's visit. Since I bake it so infrequently, I forget the best tips for making a cheesecake that doesn't crack and is dense and creamy but not overbaked. This year I had the added pleasure of making a cheesecake as part of Hay Hay It's Donna Day, hosted by the talented Peabody, at Culinary Concoctions by Peabody.

At the market I found a special on a whole bag of small but very green key limes. I love key lime pie and wondered if I could make a key lime cheesecake. After checking out the Eagle Brand site for both the classice key lime pie and their version of lemon cheesecake, I checked out cheesecake listings in at least a dozen other cookbooks and magazines. Some used all cream cheese, some added sour cream, the Eagle Brand naturally included some sweetened condensed milk.

In the end I took bits from a number of recipes, added cinnamon to the crust and some salt to the filling (ideas not found elsewhere) and began baking. Juicing those little key limes is time consuming, but key lime juice really tastes different from regular lime juice. The finished cake or pie is also a pale yellow, not green. Use key limes if you can find them.The zest added great flavor, but could barely be seen. The actual mixing of the filling goes pretty quickly. When I added the sweetened condensed milk it really looked like a thin batter, but when I added the lime juice it started to thicken. I thought, "Maybe it will work out."

Some key tips are: to have everything at room temperature, to combine everything on low or medium speed, and to only mix things just long enough to combine. A water bath keeps the filling uncurdled and running the tip of a sharp knife around the top edge right after baking, plus cooling to room temperature before refrigerating is supposed to keep it from cracking. All the tips worked!

The suspense is pretty intense before you cut it. Will it be overcooked? Will it slump when sliced because it wasn't cooked enough or the proportions from the different recipes didn't work? It looked fine once the sides were removed,

and better with the addition of some whipped cream and key lime slices.

The kitchen gods were smiling last night because the finished slices were beautiful, creamy, and really delicious. We had guests for dinner and they finished every crumb of their serving. The breakfast slice?...even better, with a more intense key lime flavor.

Key Lime Cheesecake

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs, about 10 whole crackers
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, melted

Mix the cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter together until well mixed.
Rub a little butter in the bottom of a 9” spring form pan. Line the bottom with a circle cut out of baking parchment paper. Pour the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spread out with clean fingers, making the layer as even as possible, with some of the mixture pushed up the sides about a half inch to an inch. Using the bottom of a flat bottomed glass, press the mixture down and press the mixture up against the sides. Sides will be uneven in height.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. When cool, wrap the whole pan, on the outside, in heavy duty foil. Turn oven temperature down to 325.

Have everything at room temperature.
1 ½ lbs cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons grated peel of key lime zest, colored part only
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup sour cream
½ cup key lime juice (about 8-9 limes), seeds removed
4 large eggs

Using an electric mixer, on low speed, beat the cream cheese just to soften. Scrape bowl and beaters often throughout the rest of the recipe. Add the sugar in a slow stream, beating on low just until mixed. Add the flour, salt, vanilla, zest and beat on low just to mix. Add the sweetened condensed milk and sour cream. Beat on low just until mixed. With mixer running on low speed, add the lime juice in a slow stream, beating just until mixed. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing each in before adding the next egg. Beat last egg in just until mixed.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Place the foil-wrapped pan into a large roasting pan. Place pans in oven and fill roasting pan with hot water until water is half way up the cheesecake pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until filling is set, but center is still a bit jiggly.

Remove roasting pan from oven carefully. Remove cheesecake pan from roaster water bath and place on wire rack. Run a sharp small knife around the sides of the pan to loosen and keep the cheesecake from cracking as it cools. Cool at room temperature. When cool, remove foil wrapping, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, remove from refrigerator. Remove the pan sides. Slide the cheesecake onto a serving plate and bring to room temperature. Garnish with whipped cream and thin lime slices. Serve thin slices of the cheesecake, using a knife which has been run under (or dipped into) hot water, then wiped dry.

This is a combination of ideas from a number of cheesecake recipes. Some things, like the cinnamon in the crust and the salt in the filling I didn’t see elsewhere, but added anyway.


  1. Great pics! Looks delicious!

  2. Anonymous12:39 PM

    oh my, the cake looks criminal, i'm gonna try making this this weekend, if i can find graham crackers in Dubai supermarkets! what other cracker substitutes can i use?

  3. Thanks Brilynn!

    Dali, It would taste a little different, but you could use crumbs made by crushing vanilla wafers or shortbread cookies, too. I would increase the cinnamon a bit if you used those.

  4. elle

    just to let you know,
    i have made several variations on key lime cheesecakes over the years, and they are a great recipe to make for diabetics, as the use of fructose in place of sugar (decrease the volume by ~1/3) still comes out very well.

  5. I've made a crust for key lime squares out of animal crackers, and that was good. I think the Cook's Illustrated folks came up with that one.

  6. Anonymous7:53 PM

    I now know what I am going to make for my best friends birthday. She would love this! Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe.

  7. Key lime cheesecake is probably one of my most favorites of all time (next to Key lime pie of course!) Yours looks soooo beautiful, I love the pictures. =)

    And I'm so with you on not making cheesecakes often.. it's amazing how many times a day you can reason with yourself that cheesecake would be the perfect snack or meal! hee!

  8. Anonymous5:58 PM

    Your cheesecake looks wonderful Elle! Thanks for the tips on making cheesecake specially on the room temperature ingredients and the slow mixing. It'll surely help me next time.

  9. Your plates are so springy and perfect for this cheesecake. I love anything citrus and this looks wonderful!

  10. I know what to make myself for my birthday! This looks perfect!

  11. lisa, love the idea of animal crackers. it would probably be nice and crisp.

    kristen, it does make a great birthday cake.

    lis, aren't key limes fantastic? thanks for the comments about the photos. i made an extra effort since peabody is such an excellent photographer. as far as excuses, i'm good at reasons to have a little more. heehee

    veron, glad that the tips helped. they were from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri & a few other places.

    claire, thanks for the compliment. it's nice to use spring things again.

    helene, that is so sweet to hear. happy birthday in advance!

  12. That looks simply wonderful! I am printing this recipe off and putting it high up in my to make pile!

  13. quellia, hope your pile isn't as tall as mine. never know how i'm going to cook and bake the great recipes i've found. still collecting them anyway. ha!

  14. Oh Yum! That looks good! I haven't baked a cheesecake in years, and now you've tempted me! I have the same snacking problem with them.

  15. Very pretty cheesecake. I like using key limes but I hate juicing them since they're fairly small. But it's totally worth the effort.

  16. anna, brilynn gives some of hers away which is a great idea. this one would be difficult to part with...sigh.

    mary, those tiny limes were a pain to juice, but so worth it in the end.

  17. Yum! I love both key lime pie and cheesecake so this sounds like a wonderful combination.

  18. morven, it does work...great combo.

  19. A terrific combination. I think all the HHDD bloggers this month have put on a few pounds after eating all this cheescake. Thanks for joining us.

  20. Anonymous11:25 PM

    I just finished baking this recipe and I tasted just a tiny bit. OMG! Can't wait to have a slice tomorrow. What a way to start the new year! Thanks for the recipe. Definitely a keeper!

  21. I just finished baking it...can't wait to taste it tommorrow at Easter Brunch! I used the 1/3 less fat (neufetchel sp?) cheese and light sour cream. Plus the crust is my favorite, so I doubled the recipe and used almost all if to get thicker crust. I'll let you know how it tastes/comes out......

  22. Absolutely Phenominal!! My MIL even complimented me on it, and that is saying something as she never does. Only 2 slices were left... Just the right amount of key lime. I will defintely make this again. Thanks for coming up with the recipe!! (ps- thanks for checking out my blog!)

  23. Anonymous12:53 PM

    my daughter-in-law requested a key lime cheesecake for her birthday and i'm so happy i found your recipe. it turned out just great and everyone loved it. thank you!

  24. I made this today for my family reunion tomorrow! My large springform pan is missing, so I made it in a medium pan. There was extra filling, so I had to make a small one too for my boyfriend and I to keep. Sad, right? Thanks for the recipe! Yours was the only one I found that used sweetened condensed milk, which was a requirement for me. Key lime just doesn't taste right without SCM! Thanks again, and check out my blog if you want. It is brand new, but getting better every day!