My husband isn't a fan of birthday cake. In all the years we've been together, I only remember him asking for cake once. He requested an ice cream cake made with white cake, vanilla ice cream and vanilla frosting.
When his birthday comes around -- like it did a few days ago -- he usually asks for cherry pie. This year he requested a cherry dessert, but not cherry pie. He asked for cherry cheesecake instead.
I have several cheesecake recipes, but my husband's favorite is Sour Cream Cherry Cheesecake. Not only is it delicious, it starts with a mix so it's much faster -- and more economical -- to prepare than cheesecake made from scratch.
I'm bad about not writing down where I find a recipe. I always think I'll remember, but my memory isn't what it used to be, especially with four boxes of untried recipes. I'm trying to break this bad habit and indicated on the recipe it came from Sandra Lee. Unfortunately, I don't remember if it came from her magazine, website, TV show or one of her books. I made some changes to the method so the recipe reflects those changes.
If you've never heard of Sandra Lee, she's the author of a series of cookbooks called Semi-Homemade and hosts "Semi-Homemade Cooking" on the Food Network. The semi-homemade philosophy is to use 70% ready made ingredients and 30% fresh ingredients to create a dish that tastes homemade. This cheesecake recipe is a great example of semi-homemade cooking.
The recipe starts with a box of homestyle no bake cheesecake mix. The mix includes graham cracker crumbs and a powdered cheesecake filling. Start by combining the graham cracker crumbs with melted butter -- I use margarine -- and sugar. To keep from dirtying another bowl, I combine the ingredients in the spring-form pan and then press the mixture on the bottom of the pan.
If you were following the directions on the box, the crust would be finished at this stage. However, the recipe says to bake the crust for about 10 minutes. Baking the crust makes the cheesecake taste homemade.
I use lite pie filling which isn't as flavorful as regular pie filling. If you want to doctor up lite cherry pie filling, put it in a bowl and stir in 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and 1 tablespoon sugar. This adds an extra burst of flavor.
Sandra Lee suggests slicing the cheesecake and spooning the pie filling over each slice. I like to put the pie filling on top of the cheesecake a couple of hours before it's served. If you use a spring-form pan, don't put the pie filling all the way to the edge of the pan. If you do, the pie filling will slide off when you remove the collar. It's best to put the filling to within 1/2-inch of the edge.
If you don't like cherries, you can substitute other flavors of pie filling or leave the cheesecake plain. It's delicious either way. It's good year round and is especially refreshing in the hot summer months. It also makes a good substitute for birthday cake, but make sure you don't put candles on the top!