Happy National Cheesecake Day!! If cheesecake is your thing, then today must be just the best for you! If you're like me (and don't anyone get upset or offended or anything) and cheesecake is not one of your favorite desserts, then you're probably waiting for National Brownie Day or National Caramel Month, or something else that makes you swoon. But this was one of my Grammie's favorite desserts and even though it's not my ultimate, I must say it's pretty darn tasty--light, with a wonderful nut crust and a thin layer of sour cream topping, so in honor of Grammie and NCD (National Cheesecake Day) I offer up this special dessert!
It's not that I would turn down a bite or two of any cheesecake that crosses my path, but I don't really love the heavy thick texture of most of them. What sets this cheesecake apart is its incredibly airy and light consistency which comes from the fact that you fold meringue into the batter. It's almost more like a souffle in many ways.
Plus, this is fairly easy to make. If you've never attempted a cheesecake before, there's no water bath to deal with or wrapping of the pan with aluminum foil. You start by preparing a simple brown sugar almond crust and pressing it into a springform pan.
Then all you do is warm the cream cheese and fold a meringue mixture made of whipped egg whites and sugar into the softened cream cheese, along with a generous amount of vanilla extract and pour that on top of the crust.
The cake bakes for about half an hour and when it's done, you carefully spread a mixture of sour cream, sugar and vanilla across the top and return it to the oven for a few minutes, just to set it.
Then you have it let it chill at least 8 hours or better yet, overnight to really give the flavors a chance to develop. It's delicate, tangy and not too sweet, with subtle tones of vanilla and a lovely crunch from the almond crust.
It's yummy enough to make even an indifferent cheesecake individual like me, sneak a few guilty bites from the fridge. Grammie did have good taste!! Here's to a scrumptious Cheesecake Day!!
Vanilla Cloud Cheesecake
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Bake Time: 30-35 minutes; Chill Time: At least 8 hours or preferably overnight
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 1/2 pounds brick cream cheese, softened
4 egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint sour cream
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the almonds and brown sugar. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Pour the melted butter into the almond mixture and combine well. Press the mixture onto the bottom of the pan only, making sure it's evenly distributed.
3. In another small saucepan, over low heat, warm the cream cheese. Stir often. When it's very smooth, remove it from the heat and set aside.
4. Place the egg whites into the large bowl of an electric mixer. If using a stand mixer, attach the whisk attachment, otherwise just use the regular beaters for a handheld mixer. Add 1 cup of the sugar and beat on high until the whites hold soft peaks. Remove from the mixer and gently fold in the warmed cream cheese and 1 tablespoon of the vanilla extract. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out only slightly moist. You don't want the top of the cake to get brown.
5. While cake is baking, whisk sour cream and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla together in a small bowl until well combined. When cake appears done, remove from the oven, turn the heat up to 450ºF and carefully spread the sour cream mixture over the top of the cake. Once oven temperature is reached, return the cake to the oven for 5 minutes. Don't leave it in any longer or it will crack and turn brown.
6. Cool cake in pan on rack. When completely cool, wrap well and chill in refrigerator for at least 8 hours and preferably overnight. The flavors really need a chance to develop. To serve, run a knife around edge of pan and loosen sides off. Cut into wedges.
7. Cheesecake can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for several days.
Note: Recipe adapted from The Tasting Room via the NY TImes and Amanda Hesser.