I’d only known lofty, dense New York cheesecakes topped with a layer of sour cream. I didn’t get the big deal. But a real New York cheesecake? Now that’s a different thing altogether: smooth, creamy, just sweet, and decadent without feeling cloying. In other words: perfection. There doesn’t seem to be one definition for the style, but the best I read described it as ‘unadulterated’ – just cream cheese, cream (or sour cream), sugar and eggs. As with anything simple, the art is in the act of balance, each ingredient in just the right proportion, and fastidiousness when baking. I don’t think you’ve really tried a New York cheesecake until you’ve had one at Two Little Red Hens, Eileen’s, Veniero’s or, my favourite (just), recklessly covered with uber-thick whipped cream known as schlag at Peter Luger’s – they all just nail it. I also read that New York cheesecake gets its name from the simple but all-defining fact it’s made in New York. But this guy, it comes really close.
Real-deal New York cheesecake: smooth, creamy, just sweet, and decadent without feeling cloying.
- 375 ml (12½ fl oz/1½ cups) pouring (whipping/heavy) cream
- 220 g (8 oz/1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 tbsp natural vanilla extract
- 1 kg (12 lb 3 oz) cream cheese, chopped, softened
- 80 g (2 ¾ oz) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
- 200 g (7 oz) Graham crackers or digestive biscuits
- 75 g (2 ¾ oz/⅓ cup) golden caster (superfine) sugar (or organic cane sugar)
- 125 g (4 ½ oz) unsalted butter, melted
- 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) thickened (whipping) cream
- 35 g (1¼ oz/¼ cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar
- 1 tsp natural vanilla extract
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time: 4 hours
Standing time: 20 minutes
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven, then preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Wrap foil around the outside of a 23 cm (9 in) springform tin to prevent batter dripping out, then grease the tin and line the base with baking paper.
To make the crumb base, place the crackers or biscuits and sugar in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the melted butter and process until well combined. Tip into the prepared tin and press until evenly spread and compact.
In a clean large food processor (or in batches if your processor isn’t large enough), process the cream, sugar, eggs and vanilla for 1 minute or until combined. Add the cream cheese and process for 1 minute or until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl to remove any lumps. With the motor running, add the cooled melted butter and process until just combined. Pour into the tin, smooth the top, then gently tap the tin on a work surface to remove air bubbles. Tap again after 1 minute.
Bake the cheesecake for 45–50 minutes or until slightly risen and just set on top (it will wobble slightly if the tin is gently shaken or the top is gently touched). Remove from the oven and cool completely in the tin. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight until completely chilled.
Meanwhile, to make the whipped cream, using an electric mixer, whisk the cream, sugar and vanilla extract until soft peaks form.
Turn the cheesecake out onto a serving platter and bring to room temperature 20 minutes before serving. Cut into pieces and serve with the whipped cream.
• The key to a smooth, silky cheesecake without cracks is minimal air in the batter. Use a food processor, as it blends rather than whips, but only process until just combined. Mild heat and slow cooling are also critical, so monitor the temperature and follow the instructions in the recipe closely.
Recipe from The Desserts Of New York by Yasmin Newman (Hardie Grant Books, $39.99). Photography © by Yasmin Newman (location) and Alicia Taylor (studio).
This recipe is part of our feature, Readable feasts: The Desserts of New York.