monkey see, monkey do: cheesecake revisited…

cheesecake summary: New York style cheese cake with sour cream topping; gilding the lily by garnishing with peaches and grapes; a weakness for cheesecake; information about Not Far From the Tree; (click on image(s) to see larger views and more photos)

My sister emailed and phoned last week for clarifications about our cheesecake recipe that she planned to make as birthday cake.

Okay, I know. It’s not OUR cheesecake recipe. It’s really Ruth Reichl’s cheesecake recipe. But we feel like it’s ours. And even though we’ve made other cheesecakes, this is now the only cheesecake we ever make.

When I wrote out our recipe, I originally called for using a 6″ springform pan. I had always eyeballed the measurement…. 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″….

caketin It was with this springform pan that my sister’s difficulties arose. Because she doesn’t have a small springform pan. So she improvised using aluminum foil and parchment paper, building a circular vertical wall inside her small cast-iron frying pan. How brilliant is she?!

And judging from the photos she sent, her cake turned out fabulously.

cheesecake We kept gazing at the photos of the birthday feast and wanted to be IN those photos. We gazed and gazed. Especially at this one with the candles. And we had an idea.

Monkey see, monkey do.

We jumped on our bikes and rode to the grocery store to get cream cheese and sour cream.

I confess that we didn’t re-create my sister’s ingenious foil and parchment paper housing. We cheated and used our 6″ springform pan. That turns out to be a 6.5″ springform pan…. :lalala:

I LOVE cheesecake!!

cheesecake We usually serve our cheesecake unadorned but my sister had served hers with fresh berries.

Monkey see, monkey do.

We didn’t have any berries. So we macerated some perfectly ripe Red Haven peach slices in vodka and a little sugar and then for colour (and a very nice flavour addition as it turned out) threw on a few of the lovely green grapes that I had just picked with the Not Far From the Tree ¹ organization.

Happy Birthdays again, M’s!!

No doubt, you’d like to make some birthday cake now too. Come on. You know you want to. :-) Here is our version of Reichl’s “New York Cheesecake” recipe:

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

1. Not Far From the Tree Not Far From the Tree

“Not Far From the Tree” is a Toronto organization that includes a residential fruit-picking program to pick fruit (with permission, of course) that would otherwise go to waste.

There are lots and lots of fruit trees in Toronto!! Bearing fruit that is eaten by birds, squirrels and raccoons. If you have such a tree and would like the animalsto share the fruit with people, please do contact “Not Far From the Tree”. They will send a team of pickers to clean up your yard of fallen fruit and pick the good fruit that is still in the tree. The harvested fruit is divided evenly into 3 portions: one third going to the tree owners, one third going to the volunteer pickers and the final third going to food banks, shelters, and community kitchens.

The other day, in a very pleasant bright sunny two hours, four of us basked under the shade of small pergola in a backyard about 4 blocks from our house and picked 70 lbs of perfect grapes. My share was 7 lbs of grapes! They’re small and compact. And wonderfully sweet but not too sweet – they make GREAT juice. They’re also perfect with the peaches and cheesecake.

For more information about NFFtT and how you can donate your time and/or share your fruit, please go to

2. A Weakness for Cheesecake:

When were were growing up, we always had dessert. It was often stewed fruit. Sometimes it was fruit pudding. Sometimes it was pie. On birthdays, it was cake. On Sundays, there was always ice cream. And my dad regaled us with his tale of outrage when he was a boy studying conjunctions in grammar school. The sentence they were presented with was:

They had cake but we had fruit.

Dad could not believe the injustice. Why did they get to have cake when we only got fruit?!

And then shaking his head, Dad would happily dip his spoon into his bowl of stewed cherries or plums, smiling and murmuring “They got cake.”

However, I love that our family was usually the one that got fruit rather than cake. I’m not normally a dessert person, unless it’s good cheese and fruit. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved shortbread, fruit pies and cheesecake. Especially cheesecake.

Mmmmm… cheesecake….

The year I turned 16, I chose cheesecake as my birthday cake. It was Grandma’s recipe – much different from New York style cheesecakes. It’s a very firm cake, made with cottage cheese that has pineapple pieces and cherries studded throughout the cake all on a graham cracker crumb crust. As with all cheesecakes, a little goes a long way.

Mum made an 8 inch square cake for my birthday that year. Once the birthday feast was done, about half the cake remained.

As the others did the dishes (it was my birthday so I didn’t have to do any work), I cut off another sliver of cake. It was soooo good. I slowly shaved off bits with my fork, savouring every mouthful.

And when it was done, I gazed at my empty plate and went and cut off one more sliver of cheesecake. I savoured every mouthful.

Over the course of the next couple of hours of that first night of being sweet sixteen, I kept shaving off slivers of cheesecake, savouring every mouthful, until there was no more cake left. Yes. I, personally ate half a cheesecake. Plus one modest square. If there had been more cheesecake, I probably would have eaten that too…. :-D



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3 responses to “monkey see, monkey do: cheesecake revisited…

  1. Joanne

    After seeing these photos I want to head to the store and buy the ingredients to make this as well! Looks delicious.

    It is; it is, Joanne! Do let me know how your cheesecake turns out. (You need to make it. You know you do.) -Elizabeth

  2. Patricia

    It’s so delicious that I almost want to make another one. I’ve kept the 6 inch form to insert into the 6 inch square pan that I remembered I had the moment I put the cake in the oven. Everyone at the dinner agreed that cheesecake should only be served in a circular form and it gave me a certain amount of pleasure to make the foil/parchment wall. We also agreed that the cake was stellar and there is really no point in ever trying another cheesecake recipe.

    I’m not sure that the 6″ square pan would have worked, Patricia. Wouldn’t it be too big? It has 36 square inches. But a 6″ circle has um… let’s see now… area = Π x radius² … about 28 square inches. See? The square pan would have made the cake too shallow. (I’m just going to pretend that we didn’t make a mistake when we said the cake is for a 6″ springform pan when it’s actually for a 7″ spring form pan that is in reality a 6.5″ springform pan. :lalala:) -Elizabeth

  3. Tara Lidell

    That cheesecake looks simply AMAZING! I wish I had more time this weekend to try it, but it’ll have to wait until next weekend. I will definitely come back here and let you know how it turned out Elizabeth!!


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