One of reasons I love the Harry Potter ‘literature’ is because of the amount of appreciation it bestows on ‘Death’. Despite being everyone’s inevitable conclusion, it is the ‘When?’s and the ‘How?’s which make ‘Death’ such an intimidating, overwhelming and somewhat of a dark force.
And then we have gems like Harry Potter (books- not movies) or Piku which provide us a much more manageable view of this great beast. In both these stories, the one who tames this beast gets their fairy tale ending.
Somewhere around the brink of my 30s, when a good amount of cynicism had set in and thoughts on magic & miracles were fading, I got to witness a similar fairy tale. The family’s grand patriarch and one of earth’s true royal beings (also known as my granddad) met this beast on his own terms (completely healthy, in his bed, on a routine day) just a couple of months before his 90th birthday. And my concepts of fairly tales and little miracles of life evolved.
The cheese cake below was something I was planning for my granddad’s 90th birthday – something which I did make around a month later for my office gang. So here goes the catalog entry.
Ok – ‘Cheese Cakes!’: I first discovered ‘cheesecakes’ in a wintry Manhattan at the tiny-but-famous Juniors right near Times Square. And honestly, it is my only supremely-powerful-tryst with cheesecake – I have not liked any other cheesecake since, but I am unable to forget this one from almost 6 years ago.
So when I found this recipe for the super famous Juniors‘s cheesecakes, I had to give it a try! My first effort (for the granddad’s 87th birthday was modest – but illuminating). Adjusting some mistakes from the first attempt, the 2nd attempt was worth all the efforts and hopefully worth my tiny ‘tribute’.
Do note the crust of this cheesecake is very very different than the other graham cracker crust recipes online. The small lemon tinge on a sponge adds a beautiful ‘zing’ to the otherwise super creamy cake.
My crust was slightly brunt at the top and had to be shaved off. But it did save the crust.
One learning from my previous attempt was that proportions and the cake pans for cheese cake are a bit more ‘super’-important than normal cakes. The awesome site referenced provides us separate recipes for a 8-inch and 9-inch pan.
But I wanted to start small – and I own a set of the tiniest spring form pans ever. Thankfully, my pans are exactly 4-inch in diameter, so I was able to exactly halve the proportions of the 8-inch recipe. Following the recipe to a tee – it worked really well!
This cake had 3 salient teachings for me:
- Water-bath – I loved the concept of a water-bath to ensure some moisture in the oven. I have since then used this in some of my (butter-based) cakes. But one needs to be careful so as not to let the water mix with the batter (DO NOT overfill the vessel).
- Philadelphia Cream Cheese: Since it was a nostalgic trip in any case, I wanted to use the authentic Philadelphia cream cheese which is available here at extravagant premiums in exactly 1 ounce packs. So 1.5 packs of the heavenly and super-extravagant Philadelphia cream cheese was the hero of my cake
- Cook-time – My earlier attempt did leave a small crack in my cake along with a burnt top. So standing next to my oven checking on the cake ensured I STOPPED the moment I saw that golden top.
Some shots straight from the oven:
Along with this, I had put around 2-3 cupcakes with left over batter which were available for immediate tasting! Once approved by the proudly-carnivorous-but-secretly-cheesecake-loving husband, the cheese cake was deemed decent enough to go public.
Already pre-cut for a slightly larger office gang and topped with 1/2 oreos, this was one of my more compact cakes (very portable in this inconspicuous box).
Still the 2nd best thing I have found in a Baskin Robbins tub!