I may have been the most sheltered young man on the planet when I went on a mission: I had never tasted cheesecake. 

I was raised in Clinton, Utah, when there were only 500 people and no service station (until part way through my youth).  We ate beef and venison and mashed potatoes and homemade bread.  Desserts were basic.

I had been out on my mission for about eight months when “Papa Joe” in Gainesville, Florida, served my companion and me cheesecake.  I thought I had discovered heaven!  It was a rich, New York style cheesecake (of course, I didn’t know that then) with a cherry topping.  Certainly, the gentiles knew something that we didn’t back in Clinton.  I couldn’t wait until “P-day,” Monday, so that I could write home and tell my parents about cheesecake.  

My love of cheesecakes has expanded since then.  I found that cheesecakes come in many varieties–chocolate cheesecakes, strawberry swirled cheesecakes, and pumpkin cheesecakes in a gingersnap crust.  Still, my favorite is a rich, velvety smooth slice of vanilla cheesecake with a fresh raspberry topping.  Maybe it reminds me of that first immersion in Gainesville.  Of these types, I’ve settled on a white chocolate cheesecake recipe that makes an extraordinary cheesecake.  (I‘ll share this recipe and a recipe for raspberry topping in a few moments.)

But my cheesecakes are not always pure white.  We have over 60 cheesecake recipes on our website at The Prepared Pantry and I’ve made every one of them.  When I’m feeling adventuresome or for a special occasion, I’ll go for something different.  A German Chocolate Cheesecake always impresses the guests and a Pumpkin Cheesecake in a Gingersnap Crust makes a nice alternative to pumpkin pie.  

Here are these favorite recipes.  For more recipes, visit our website or download “Easy Cheesecakes from A to Z.”    After these recipes, there is a short section about springform pans including square pans and the new silicone pans.  

White Chocolate Cheesecake

Weaver_WhiteChocChseckeThis is a great cheesecake recipe. The white chocolate makes this cake particularly rich. 

We have served this repeatedly in our test kitchen and in classes and it is always a favorite.

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the filling:

4 8-ounce packages of cream cheese
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups white chocolate wafers or 8 ounces of white chocolate baking bars

Notes about the ingredients.  

Use good quality white chocolate wafers with a high cocoa butter content.  Wafers have a finer grind and are richer and smoother than chips.   Some white chocolate chips do not melt properly.  

Purchasing graham cracker crumbs will save you time and cleanup and usually cost less than crackers.  If you use crackers, the easiest way to process them into crumbs is with a food processor.  

Directions

Preheat the oven 325 degrees.

1.    In a springform pan (see notes), mix the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar together. Press the mixture across the bottom of the pan and up the sides to form the crust. Put the crust in refrigerator while you mix the filling.
2.    With the paddle attachment of your stand-type mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Melt the chocolate. Drizzle in the melted chocolate while it is still warm and while the beaters are running. Pour into the crust.
3.    Bake for 50 minutes or until the cake is done. Let cool on a wire rack. After ten minutes, loosen the sides with a spatula and remove the ring. Refrigerate the cheesecake to cool completely.

     

    How to Make Raspberry Sauce

    Raspberries alone are not tart enough and not flavored enough for a dessert sauce even when thickened with a starch.  There are two possible solutions:  Cooking the fruit down to concentrate the flavors or adding a jelly for thickness and flavor.  This recipe uses the latter.

    12 ounces, about 3 cups frozen, unsweetened raspberries

    2/3 cup red currant jelly about 1/4 cup sugar.

    1.    Thaw and puree the raspberries.  Strain them twice through a sieve/strainer or until nearly all of the seeds are removed.  Place the puree in a small saucepan.  Add the jelly.

    2.    Cook, stirring occasionally, until the jelly is completely melted and blended with the fruit.  Sweeten to taste with the sugar while it is still hot.  Stir to make sure that the sugar is dissolved.  Let cool.

    Yield: About 1 1/3 cups of raspberry sauce.  

    German Chocolate Cheesecake

    Weaver_germchoccheesecake

    This is an easy recipe to put together and the German chocolate and caramel makes for a scrumptious and very attractive cheesecake dessert.

    You can make the caramel topping from melted caramels and the chocolate topping with the recipe but ice cream toppings work just as well and save a little time.

    This recipe can be made a day or two in advance.

    Ingredients

    For the crust:

    2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
    6 tablespoons butter, melted

    For the filling:

    2 1/2 eight-ounce packages of cream cheese
    1 cup granulated sugar
    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3 large eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2 tablespoons milk

    For the toppings:

    • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
    • For the chocolate topping, combine four ounces of sweet German chocolate with two tablespoons whipping cream and one tablespoon butter. Melt in a small saucepan and stir until smooth.  Or use chocolate ice cream topping.
    • For the caramel topping, melt 12 caramels with 1/3 cup cream in a small saucepan, stirring until smooth. Or use caramel ice cream topping.

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

    1.  In a nine-inch springform pan, mix the crumbs and the melted butter. (We prefer a Candy Apple Red Silicone Springform Pan.)  Press the crumb mixture into a crust across the bottom and about one inch up the sides. Bake the crust for eight minutes.
    2.  In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese with the sugar. Add the flour and salt. Add the eggs, vanilla, and milk all at once. Mix until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Pour the filling mix into the crust.
    3.  Bake for ten minutes at 450 degrees. Lower the temperature to 200 degrees and bake for an additional 35 to 40 minutes or until the cheesecake filling is set.
    4.  After the cheesecake has cooled for ten minutes, with a thin bladed spatula, loosen the edges of the cheesecake from the pan so that the cake will pull away from the pan as it cools. Remove the rim of the pan after it has cooled for about forty-five minutes.  (If you use the silicone pan, you can merely peal the silicone shell away from the cheesecake without disturbing the crust.
    5.  Drizzle the cheesecake with caramel and then with chocolate.

      Sprinkle nuts on the cake. Refrigerate until completely cool before serving.

    Pumpkin Cheesecake in a Gingersnap Crust

    Weaver_PumpkinCheesecake

    Looking for something different for the holidays? This pumpkin cheesecake is absolutely phenomenal.

    It has a pumpkin cheesecake filling with a vanilla cheesecake top layer. The crust is made with gingersnaps which complement the spicy pumpkin filling perfectly. If you are not in love with gingersnaps, substitute vanilla wafers for the crumbs.

    This scrumptious cheesecake is best made the night before so that it can thoroughly chill in the refrigerator.

    You will need a nine or ten-inch springform pan for this recipe. (The nine-inch size is perfect.) The cake pictured was baked and served in a nine-inch glass-base springform pan.

    For the crust

    1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnaps
    1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    4 tablespoons butter, melted

    For the filling

    3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese
    3 large eggs
    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
    1/4 cup whipping cream or yogurt
    1/2 teaspoon allspice
    1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    1. Crush the gingersnaps. Mix the crumbs with the nuts, brown sugar, and melted butter in a nine or ten-inch springform pan. Press the mixture into a crust across the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Put the crust in the refrigerator to set up while you prepare the filling.
    2. Mix the cream cheese, eggs, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla together with your stand-type mixer using the whisk attachment. Beat until smooth and fluffy, six to eight minutes. Set about 1 1/2 cups of the mixture aside for the topping.
    3. To the remaining filling, add the pumpkin, whipping cream or yogurt, and spices. Beat until well-mixed. Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Carefully spoon the set-aside topping over the top of the pumpkin-cheesecake filling.
    4. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes or until the top starts to brown and the center of the cake is just barely jiggly.
    5. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for ten minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. Remove the ring and let the cheesecake cool completely.  Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

    Notes about springform pans.  


    Springform pans are essential for cheesecakes.  A springform pan consists of a glass or metal base with a ring that snaps around the base to create a pan.  You form the crust within the pan and then pour the filling into the crust.  Once baked, you unsnap the ring and remove it from the cake.

    You can buy springform pans in different sizes and shapes.  In our store and on our website, we sell pans from six inches to ten and in round, square, rectangular, and heart shaped.  A six or seven inch pan is perfect when you want to cut a recipe in half and make a smaller dessert.

    The new silicone springform pans are marvelous.  They are essentially leak proof and the ring peals off just like a candy wrapper.
    We most often use glass based springform pans.  You can slip the cake on the glass bottom onto a serving palter for easy cutting and serving.  A glass base avoids the metallic taste that sometimes comes from metal bottoms.  You can buy glass based springform pans with either metal or silicone rings.  

    Dennis is the founder and general manager of The Prepared Pantry www.preparedpantry.com  in Rigby, Idaho, a full-line kitchen store and online retailer of food, baking mixes and ingredients, and kitchen tools.  The Prepared Pantry sells over 250 different baking mixes.