growing up, you could always count on my grandma to bake something yummy. for birthdays it was chocolate cake. for family dinners it was fresh chocolate chip cookies. and during long summers at camp, a box of sugar-coated short bread was sure to be smuggled in. but my very favorite of grandmas goodies were her famous mini-cheesecakes. these chesecakes only came out for the most special of occasions (i think my first experience was at my aunt linda’s baby shower where i ate way more than my fair share) because they were especially time-consuming and at some point, after one significantly large production, she declared herself done – never to be made again.
when i got married a group of my mom’s friends threw me a recipe shower and included in my cookbook was my grandma’s secret mini-cheesecake recipe (she also gifted me the mini cupcake tins necessary to make the 8 dozen!!! cakes the recipe produces – so thoughtful). they’d always been on my list of things to make one day but the opportunity had never real come up. until this year. back in may we hosted a shabbat dinner right around the holiday of shavuot (a holiday note worthy only for its celebration of the receiving of the ten commandments, but also dairy consumption). so i got to work…and let me tell you, that woman was not joking around.
RECIPE NIGHT: BITE-SIZE CHEESECAKES
important to note – while the recipe appears simple it is time and labor intensive. and the cakes must chill in the refrigerator for several hours before you add the topping. this is part of my grandmother’s original recipe but it’s hidden down in the middle (not so helpful). i’ve got a lot to say about my grandmother’s recipes – what she shares, what she doesn’t, what she leaves out…on purpose?, but i’ll leave that for another time.
yield: 8 dozen – you best be planning for a BIG party
for the crust:
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cups melted better (about 1 1/2 sticks)
3 – 8oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 pt sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
start off by mixing together the crust ingredients. let’s just say i’m not sure if anything smells better than hot butter, graham crackers and sugar. i could have stopped here and devoured the entire bowl.
next, line the pans with the mixture, about 1/8″ thick…whatever that means. this part is messy. and takes forever. 8 dozen mini cupcakes is a lot. and if you don’t have 8 cupcake tins then you’ve got to do it in rounds. and rounds requires days because before you put the final topping on the cakes need to chill for several hours. do i sound bitter? i’m not. i just strongly suggest doing this process the day before you clean your kitchen – not the day after. and you should probably get a dog to clean up the crumbs – because there are going to be lots.
confession – i only made 4 dozen. i made my crust a little thick and i got totally overwhelmed and just didn’t have time to start fresh. and believe me, 4 dozen was enough. so i had thick-ish crusted cupcakes. they were still delicious.
it’s time to make the filling. beat cream cheese until soft, then add in sugar, eggs, vanilla and lemon and continue to mix until creamy. i strongly suggest that you risk salmonella err whatever and stick your finger in and have a taste. OMG. worth the production.
fill each cup with a small spoon-full of the filling. no doubt, over filled mine. before you put them in the oven i think they should be slightly below the brim – not already brimming over. but as i noted above, my cups were slightly thicker than recommended and so it get any cheesey-goodness in, i had to take drastic measures. it worked out fine – but i’d do it differently next time. anyway, shove those suckers in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. they’ll probably rise a bit, but should fall once out of the heat. they should be firm, not jiggly, to the touch. let cool.
i bet you thought you were done – ha! time to get going on that topping. mix ingredients together and spread over the cooled cheesecakes. then return the cakes to the oven for an additional 5 minutes – so the topping sets. then find room for
4 8 dozen cheesecakes in your fridge – OVERNIGHT.
now comes the hardest part of all, getting those suckers out of the pan. the original recipe suggested using a sharp knife. below see the initial results:
sure they tasted delicious (there were plenty of halves to sample!) but no way could i serve that mess. but then a vision flashed in front of my eyes of my grandma, standing at her kitchen counter in front of mini-cheesecakes and a glass of boiling water (thanks for including that tip – grandma!). so i got my water and an even sharper knife. before each go round i dipped my knife in the hot water, and ended up with a much better result:
the cakes were a huge hit – tasted just as good as i remembered them although, again in honesty, i could only get half way through one, my tummy just isn’t what it used to be, those buggers are rich! i can’t imagine going to that effort again anytime soon, but i’m glad i made the attempt. for those of you out there with a bit more time, and a heck of a lot more patience – you won’t be disappointed!