Mom’s Cheesecake

Mom's Cheesecake | Magnolia DaysCheesecakes can be tricky. This is something I know all too well after the last few days. I admit I do not bake them often. The few I’ve baked in the last few years have turned our marvelously. So I can only say I’ve learned a few things working through the disasters. But first, let’s start from the beginning. It’s National Cheesecake Day and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share my Mom’s Cheesecake recipe.

A little history on mom’s cheesecake: My mom has made this cheesecake for as long as I can remember. It is the one I use as the benchmark for all cheesecakes. It has a thin pastry crust and the cake is dense with a hint of citrus. It is one of two cheesecakes my mom makes. She refers to this one as “The Clunky One”. Why? Because her other one is whipped and lighter in texture. This cheesecake always cracked. It is those cracks that led me to my first disaster.

I’ve heard to bake cheesecakes in a water bath to reduce or eliminate cracks. My mom never baked hers in a water bath. So here I go thinking I’m going to do this water bath thing and have it not crack. All was going well until I opened the oven door to find it sitting in a pool of bubbling water. There was a hole in the foil and water leaked through. The result was a total soggy bottom and a crust that would squish when I touched it.

The next cheesecake went in the oven without a water bath. I decided to bake it just like my mom did for so many years. I looked in the oven as it was baking and oh did it ever have some cracks. They were not little ones. They were Grand Canyon cracks. The top and crust were browning way too much. I hoped it would work out in the end. I took it out of the oven, left the house, and came home to find it sank like I’ve never seen before. You can imagine my frustration at this point.

Cheesecake Disasters | Magnolia DaysOff to the store I went to get supplies for a third cheesecake. I also got a new springform pan made of aluminum and without a dark finish. Then the big decision came, bake in a water bath or not. I decided to go with the water bath and use two layers of foil. The cheesecake finished perfectly without cracking or sinking. The crust didn’t brown as much as I would like however the texture of it and the cake came out exactly as it should. Whew!

Mom's Cheesecake | Magnolia DaysMore about my mom’s cheesecake: The crust is what really makes this cake unique. It’s very thin and it is not easy to make. I repeat: not easy to make. I used one of my husband’s roller tools to get it rolled out to the edge of the pan bottom because the bottom has a lip on it and a regular rolling pin would not work right. You have to roll out the side in three strips between wax or parchment paper. You absolutely must measure the length of those strips. The dough must be rolled out to 9 inches (or perhaps 1/4-inch more). Chill the strips before trying to put them in the pan. Peel off one side of the paper, put it back, flip it over, and peel off the other side. Then lift the strip delicately and get it to the side of the pan as quickly as possible. I think it would be a miracle to get the strips to the pan without at least one of them breaking. It’s okay though. All you have to do is press the edges together.

Mom's Cheesecake | Magnolia DaysWas all that effort worth it? Sure it was! I can laugh at the disasters while I’m enjoying a slice. Mom’s cheesecake is my favorite one of all. I’ve shared a couple others; Chocolate Covered Cherry Cheesecake and Brownie Chocolate Chip Cheesecake. Scroll down to find a great big list of recipes by wonderful bloggers celebrating National Cheesecake Day. Special thanks to Roxana of Roxana’s Home Baking for putting together this tasty event. Oh, and what did I do with the two disaster cakes? Stay tuned to find out…

Mom’s Cheesecake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Yield: Makes 12 to 16 servings
For the crust:
  • 1 cup sifted bleached all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the filling:
  • 24 ounces cream cheese (not whipped), at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream (at room temperature)
  • Very hot water (for baking cheesecake in a water bath)
For the crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Remove side of the pan.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Sprinkle vanilla over the mixture.
  3. Make a well in the center and add egg yolk and butter. Use a fork to cut in the butter and yolk until it is combined and crumbly.
  4. Form ½ of the dough into a ball. Place the dough ball on the pan bottom. Cover with wax or parchment paper. Roll dough out to the edge (it will be very thin).
  5. Bake until golden, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Assemble pan after the bottom crust has cooled completely.
  6. Divide the remaining dough into 3 equal parts, pressing each one together into a log. Cut 6 strips of wax or parchment paper 3 inches wide.
  7. Place each dough log between 2 strips of the paper. Roll out each dough log to 2¼ inches wide by 9 inches long (it will be very thin). The length is important so measure to be accurate. The width should be 2 inches at a minimum. Chill the strips for at least 10 minutes.
  8. Transfer the dough strips to the sides of the pan. It is best to pull off the top paper, lay it back on top, flip it over, and pull off the other paper. If the strips break (which they probably will), press them back together once in the pan.
For the filling:
  1. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
  2. Blend together cream cheese, sugar, flour, sugar, lemon zest, orange zest, and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth, using a hand mixer at medium speed.
  3. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add cream and stir or blend to combine.
  4. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
  5. Wrap heavy duty aluminum foil around the sides and bottom of the pan (2 layers to be safe).
  6. Place the foil-wrapped springform pan into a larger deep baking pan (at least 2 to 3 inches deep) that it fits into easily.
  7. Place both pans in the oven. Pour hot water into the large pan so that is about halfway up, about 1½ to 2 inches.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes.
  9. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees F and bake for 1 hour.
  10. Lift foil wrapped pan out of the water bath and place on a rack.
  11. Carefully lift the pan with water out of the oven and discard water.
  12. Cool cheesecake completely to room temperature, about 2 hours.
  13. Chill cheesecake thoroughly, at least 3 hours or overnight.
  14. Remove foil and side of pan before serving.
Time stated includes cooling and chilling after baking. Hands-on and baking time is about 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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  1. says

    At first I thought your cheesecake is crustless. You’re right! The crust is so thin I believe it’s a lot of work but the final result looks incredible! No wonder your mom made it so many time.
    Thanks for joining us Renee (and for organizing the list)

  2. says

    Oh, my goodness, Renee! I knew about your first fiasco, but you were are a trooper to make two more attempts. It definitely looks worth the effort!!

  3. says

    I don’t think I’ve seen a cheesecake with a crust like this before. Glad you kept trying and got it perfect! Cheesecakes are so finicky (but at least the leftovers still taste good, right?)

    • says

      I was wondering if you had ever seen a crust like this since you make so many different cheesecakes. Glad I could introduce you to a different one.

  4. says

    Thank goodness you are so organized, Renee, and had time to try and try again. That last cheesecake is perfection and I love the fresh fruit piled all over it.

  5. says

    Thank you for showing us the disasters – it is so great to see that I’m not alone in my baking failures! And your final product turned out so well – it looks perfect! Pinning! Happy Cheesecake Day!

    • says

      I think it is important to share disasters because it is how we learn what causes them. Glad you enjoyed them and the successful one too.

  6. says

    Renee, I loved this post so much. I was totally sympathizing with you on the Facebook wall when you were telling us about the disastrous water bath (mine leaks all the time and it drives me nuts, no matter how many layers of foil I wrap my pan in). The two photos of the disasters shows how incredibly varied the results with be given what materials and techniques we use. Thank goodness you persevered because the final cheesecake is a masterpiece. It’s gorgeous! That thin buttery crust, that perfect rich, dense texture of the cheesecake. Lovely job recreating your mom’s cheesecake, my friend!

  7. says

    Really beautiful, Renee! Oh, and I hear you about the crust not being easy. Mine is a thick crust but there’s no easy way to do it. My mother’s signature cheesecake was a no-bake. Smart woman, no? :)

    • says

      Yes, smart woman to have a no-bake cheesecake. I think that is what the other one my mom makes is too. I need to look into that recipe more and post it one day.

  8. says

    You were definitely determined to share this cake and I’m glad you did! It looks delicious and thank you! Now you can share it with you mom and let her know it is possible to make it without cracks and be beautiful!

  9. says

    Oh, I love that you documented this! And while I’m sorry for the “fails,” it looks totally worth the effort. It’s awesome that your mom has recipes to pass onto you! Love it!

  10. says

    wow you are so patient to have tried many times! I on the other hand, anticipated the fail and just made a martini to save the trouble :)
    I do want to try it out myself though, so I’m pinning for later!


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