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After the many-layered efforts of our main course, it seemed sensible to keep things simple for our Christmas dessert. My cheesecake recipe comes from my mother, who got it from a friend in Berkeley about 35 years ago; the yellowed sheet of paper lives in our Joy of Cooking now. I love its texture, at once airy and dense, and its subtle sweetness and mild citrus note. The sour cream topping provides just the right contrast, and I enjoy the almost-imperceptible grit of the vanilla bean seeds (my own touch).


  • 30 graham crackers, crushed (I used Lebnitz's Vollkornkekse, available in eg Kaiser's)
  • 1/4 C. (56.5 g) melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  • 24 oz. (700 g) cream cheese (at room temperature - I leave mine out at least overnight)
  • 5 large eggs (ditto)
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 16 oz (450 g) sour cream (at room temperature)
  • seeds from one vanilla bean (use the pod to make vanilla sugar)
  • 1/4 C (50 g) sugar

Add butter and vanilla to crushed crackers. Line 10-inch/25-cm springform pan. Chill in fridge.

Beat cheese till soft and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add sugar and salt and beat thoroughly, again about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 45 seconds after each egg. Pour the cheese mixture into pan and bake at 325 F/160 C/gas mark 3 (Germany) for 45 minutes (rotate once after fifteen minutes). Cool in fridge.

Mix the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla seeds. Pour on top of cake. Bake at 325 F/160 C/gas mark 3 (Germany)for 10 minutes.


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