Mama tells the story of living next door to an Italian woman, Carmella, who made the most delicious dessert my parents had ever tasted. Cheesecake. Not just any cheesecake. No dense, thick New York concoction, but a rich, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth delight.Daddy got paid once a month—$90—and Mama would go to the store to buy the ingredients for the cheesecake. It was their monthly treat. When we were growing up, she didn’t make it that often. When she did, it was a time for celebration. I started cooking when I was four. My first dessert was an apple pie, but by 4 ½ I was making the cheesecake. Had no idea it was supposedly a challenge to make until my mother-in-law gave me The Joy of Cooking. If I had read all the disclaimers on perfect cheesecake preparation before I’d attempted my first one, I never would have tried it. I’m glad Ma’s approach to learning was: just try it!
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I think there are some other body parts that lead to the heart as well, but that’s information reserved for the Internet Bordello my friend and I are going to start one day. But, I digress. Stomach—pathway to heart—I’ve gotten three marriage proposals as a result of making this dessert for functions. So, folks, prepare yourselves to become the most popular person at the potluck.
2 packages of graham crackers—crushed
1 stick of butter—melted
2 tablespoons sugar
Mix together and press into the bottom of a spring form pan.
16 oz. cream cheese—softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix together cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs—one at a time—beating well after each egg. Add vanilla.
Pour filling over crust and bake at 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. It is helpful to have a bowl of water in the oven along with the cake. It keeps the top of the cake from cracking. Remove cake from oven and cool 20 minutes. Add topping.
16 oz. sour cream
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pour topping over the top of the cake. Bake 10 minutes.
The center of the cake should be firm. It will set up a little, but not much.
Chill for at least 2 hours. It’s better if it is made the night before the event, but I’ve never known anyone able to resist the temptation to dive in.