I still rave about the slice of cheesecake I had in a mall in San Francisco back in 2000, it was one of those ‘when you least expect it’ experiences. So neither were we on a quest to find the best cheesecake at the time nor anticipating anything special, we were plain hungry after a shopping spree and cheesecake was the first item we agreed on. Unpretentiously devoured with a plastic spoon, that slice was so wonderful creamy, it became THE measure of all cheesecakes for me ever since, unrivaled for many years.
We do have great cheesecakes in Germany, too, don’t get me wrong. The typical Bavarian cheesecake (Käsekuchen) always contains curd cheese, usually has a sweet pastry crust (the sheet cake version may be paired with a yeast-dough) and there is even a no-bake version called Käsesahne (a must on every traditional bakery’s counter), that sometimes contains fruits like mandarins or peaches and is assembled with a sponge cake base.
And yet, my American cheesecake memories not only have taken a prominent position, over the years I have tried various different recipes and have come verrrry close to THE original. The crust contains a hint of nuts (if you want to walk the extra mile you can even substitute homemade brittle for the nuts) and the cream cheese filling gets its tangy note from lime zest and juice, both resulting in a balanced, wonderful creamy, not to sweet cheesecake. My favorite, probably unrivaled for many years to come…
Prepare the (spring form) cake pan (diameter 20-22 cm/8-9 inch): For easier cake removal I grease the pan AND use parchment paper on top, which I cut to fit both the bottom (one circular piece) and the sides (one long stripe) – the fat makes it stick to the pan.
Preheat the oven to 150°C (300° Fahrenheit). Melt the butter and set aside. Put graham crackers, pecans and salt into a food processor or blender and pulse until finely ground. Add the butter and blend well. Dump onto into the prepared cake pan and, using your fingers, press to form an even crust. The crust doesn’t need to come up high on the sides, about 2-3 cm (~ 1 inch) is fine.
Prepare the filling: Wash the lime, dry and grate the rind (not the bitter white part), then cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the cream cheese, the sugar, the lime zest, the lime juice and the scraped out vanilla to a mixing bowl, mix well until smooth and make sure to scrape down the sides from time to time as well. Slowly mix in the eggs and the flour, making sure not get too much air into the filling, otherwise the final cake will show more bubbles.
Pour the filling onto the crust and spread evenly, then tap the pan on the counter to remove remaining air pockets. Bake on middle level for 45 to 50 minutes until set, the center should still be a bit wobbly. Turn off the oven, but leave the cake inside to cool down for 1 hour – this ensures a gentle cool down and prevents cracks. Let cool down completely at room temperature, then keep in the fridge (covered). Serve with fresh fruits, coulis or compote.
Recipe source: own creation
Required time: prep. 20 min., baking ~50 min.
50 g butter
150 g graham crackers (I used Leibniz Vollkorn-Kekse)
25 g pecan nuts
1 pinch of salt
1 organic lime (zest and juice)
1 vanilla bean
700 g full fat cream cheese
200 g sugar
3 eggs (large)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour