A great read and the best cheesecake…

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recipe: New York style cheese cake with sour cream topping

cheesecake Now, I ask you, is there anything more wonderful than cheesecake? Even storebought cheesecake is good.

But. Homemade cheesecake is so much better. And it’s dead easy to make!

I used to make a lemon cheesecake with a chocolate swirl – with a chocolate wafer crust below. I still love that cheesecake but Someone doesn’t love it so it’s just not worth the effort. The argument? He claims it’s eggy and that the lemon is extraneous.

So we were very excited to see a New York cheesecake recipe when reading the fascinating book, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl. When I read through the recipe, I got even more excited because Reichl makes two layers – the bottom layer with cream cheese and the top layer with sour cream. Years ago, while we were on a summer course together, one of my housemates made cheesecake like that. It was insanely good; foolishly, I did not ask her for her recipe….

Reichl’s recipe sounded just like my friend’s! (I wonder if it isn’t the same.) At last!! We know how to make cheesecake that both of us think is great – no, not just “great” – let me be so bold as to say it’s the best cheesecake.

(click on image to see larger view and more photos)

cheesecake Reichl’s cheesecake doesn’t have any foofy flavours. Still, we were concerned that it might be eggy. So we made a small cake, using our 6 inch springform pan. It was so good that when we had demolished it, we just had to have it again. We still had half a package (125gm) of cream cheese in the fridge and some creamy goat’s cheese so decided to use half cream cheese and half goat’s cheese for the second cake. The result? Equally good. Exactly the same flavour. In future, we will use whichever of the cheeses is less expensive.

Here is our version of Reichl’s “New York Cheesecake”:

Cheese Cake
based on a Ruth Reichl’s recipe for “New York Cheesecake” (p.30 Garlic & Sapphires)

edit 3 April 2009: Omit the vanilla; it’s too strong a flavour for the cheesecake.

enough for a 6″ 7″ springform pan

Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.


  • ¾ c (187.5ml) graham cracker crumbs*
  • 2 Tbsp (30ml) sugar
  • ¼ c (60ml) unsalted butter, melted

bottom layer of cake

  • ¼ c (60ml) sugar
  • 250 gm (1 c) cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅛ tsp vanilla extract
  • lemon zest, optional**

top layer of cake

  • ¼ c (60ml) sugar
  • 1 c sour cream


  1. crust: Mix Graham cracker crumbs with 2 Tbsp sugar and the melted butter. Place in the bottom of an ungreased 6 inch springform pan. Use the flat of your hand to press it down and even it out. Set aside in refrigerator.
  2. bottom layer of cake: Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. Put cream cheese (or half cream cheese and half creamy goat’s cheese), ¼ c sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest, if using, into a bowl and beat until smooth. (We use our handheld mixer.)
    edit June 2015: Before mixing, separate the eggs. Beat in the yolks with the cream cheese and sugar. Then, in a separate (preferably copper) bowl, beat egg whites until they form peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
  4. Pour the mixture onto the chilled cracker crust.
  5. Bake at 350F for 40 to 50 minutes, until the cheese is set and starting to turn gold. Remove from the oven and place it on a rack to cool for 15 minutes.
  6. top layer of cake: In a small bowl, stir together sour cream and ¼ c sugar. Spread over the cooled cake.
  7. Put it back into the oven for about 10 minutes, until it’s “glossy and set“. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a rack. Cover and chill well before serving. (Reichl says “at least 8 hours” but we cut open the first cake after 6 hours. It was well chilled and firm.)

Reichl suggests that it’s good with fresh berries as a garnish and she’s probably right. So far, we’ve only ever had it as is, unadorned. It really seems like any addition would be like gilding the lily. Even so, when wild blueberries are in season, we might have to try Reichl’s suggestion.

* We haven’t tried this with this particular cheesecake but chocolate cookie crumbs can be substituted for graham cracker crumbs. A chocolate cookie crumb layer is particularly good with lemon flavoured cheesecake.

**We have never added lemon zest. But we think it wouldn’t be a bad idea….

Yes, indeed, it’s the best cheesecake. Thank you Ruth Reichl!

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

This was a recent most satisfying book for our aperitif reading. Even if it hadn’t included this fabulous cheese cake recipe, Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl is well worth reading. It’s a wonderful view into the life of a food critic, with reminders that it’s not as wonderful a job as some of us might imagine: after all, not every restaurant serves the best food. Not to mention that eating in restaurants all the time can become tiresome.

Reading Reichl’s book reinforced for me that eating at home is so much nicer and, well, homier. Think about it, what kind of restaurant would allow a person to wear her jammies, a housecoat and slippers…?


edit August 2012: We recently examined the bottom of our small springform pan and were amazed to see that it has “7” embossed on the bottom. The manufacturers must have a different ruler though. The pan measures 6.5″….

edit June 2015: We copied Uncle Tetsu‘s idea of separating the eggs. At the last minute, he folded the whipped whites into the batter. The cake rose so high that he wasn’t sure if there would be room for the sour cream layer.

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3 responses to “A great read and the best cheesecake…

  1. Bellini Valli

    My original recipe for cheesecake had a sour cream topping as well. I keep trying to find the ultimate cheesecake but keep going back to my original which has only 3 blocks of cream cheese. I like the addition of the goat cheese…I will have to be adventurous and give that a try :D

  2. ejm Post author

    It really is the best cheesecake. You’ve got to try it, Paz and Val! Use cream cheese OR a combination of cream cheese and goat cheese. There is not really any difference in flavour. Either way is stellar. -Elizabeth


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