Cheesecake is actually not nearly as hard as people might think!  The biggest secret - do not use cold ingredients!  Allow your cream cheese to soften at room temperature, as well as your eggs and sour cream.  If you do not have a stand mixer, you may absolutely do this with a hand mixer (or even in a clean food processor, after grinding crumbs).  

Aimee's Crust:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (either store bought or ground in the food processor)
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 stick of butter, melted

Stir crumbs, cinnamon and butter together until combined.  Take a 9 inch springform pan, and pop the bottom out.  Trace the circle over a piece of parchment paper, and cut out the circle.  Lightly spray the bottom and sides of the springform pan with cooking spray, then place the parchment paper on the bottom, and secure the bottom back into the pan.  Lightly spray the top of the parchment paper now, and then add the crumbs to the pan.  (I use the bottom of a small juice glass to press the crumbs into the bottom, and along the sides (and up the sides) of the pan).  Now wrap the outside of the pan in aluminum foil.  (This is for the water bath, to keep the water away from the crust).  Place in the refrigerator while preparing cheesecake.  

Aimee's Cheesecake:

  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 whole eggs, room temperature (not cold)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 pint (16 ounces) sour cream 
  • Boiling water for the water bath, ready and waiting

In a large mixer, or bowl, beat the cream cheese until it is smooth and there are no lumps.  (If you use cold cream cheese, you will have lumps).  Slowly add the sugar and continue mixing until it is combined and creamy.  If you are using a stand mixer, you will want to stop it occasionally and scrape the sides of the bowl.  Next add the eggs, one at a time, beating slowly until everything is combined, and add the vanilla and the sour cream.  At this point, you just want the ingredients to come together, but do not over-beat or you will have too much air.  Slowly, slowly, slowly pour cheesecake batter into the prepared crust.  Secure the aluminum foil, to ensure that there are no spaces where water can leak into the pan.  Place the springform pan in a roasting pan, and then gently pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches about the halfway mark on the sides of the springform pan.  Be very careful not to splash any water into or onto the cheesecake.  Bake in a preheated 325 oven for 45 to 50 minutes.  The cheesecake will have a bit of “jiggle” to it still, but this is what you want.  Do not insert a knife or anything else to see if it is “done” or you will crack the cheesecake.  Let cool at room temperature for about 45 minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 6 hours.  Do not try to remove the cheesecake from the pan until it has set up in the refrigerator.  First, loosen the cheesecake from the pan, and slowly run a knife around the edges.  Invert the cheesecake over onto one hand that you covered with plastic wrap, removing the bottom of the pan and peeling off the parchment paper from the bottom of the crust.  Place a cake plate or server onto the bottom, and flip back over.  Garnish with fresh fruit, or whatever topping you desire.  (Homemade whipped cream is always a sure hit!)

Aimee's Garnishes:

  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Melt chips and olive oil, stirring together.  Pour melted chocolate into squeeze bottles to "write" or decorate your plate.

Aimee's Fruit Sauce:

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen fruit (any kind)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water (or you may use orange juice.  If using alcohol, remove from the stove top then add)

Cook fruit (blueberries, raspberries, peaches or strawberries) on the stove top with water and sugar.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat, stirring until mixture has softened.  Pour into another squeeze bottle to garnish the plate and cheesecake.