Birthday Cheesecake

Birthday cheesecake illustration for baked cheesecake recipe

I suppose birthdays are the ideal time to take stock and make plans, assess progress, plan change etc. A time to get honest about what we want from life, and what we’re deluding ourselves about.

Here’s one thing I can leave in the year behind: Pinterest Fantasy. For one whole week in late August, inspired by an online tutorial, I became convinced that I should paint the insides of oyster shells with gold leaf paint and a food-safe shellac topcoat, then give them to my friends to use as salt dishes. Luckily, Liana (actor in the sketch show I’m directing) hosts a karaoke night at a bar with 1 dollar oysters, hence lots of free shells. This will be easy! I thought. This will be fun! Maybe I’ll quit my job and start an Etsy shop! And the weeks went by, and the oyster shells started to smell a bit, so I washed them with clorox in the bathtub, and ruined my black jeans. Then I put them back in the bag, and they are still in the bag.

So this is my vow: before I blow out the candles on this year’s birthday cheesecake, I will take that bag of oyster shells and throw them away.


This recipe is a classic Ina Garten one and it’s perfect. She tops her cheesecake with a redcurrant raspberry sauce, which looks delicious in fairness, but doesn’t work for me. I want my cheesecake aggressively plain – well, maybe topped with a birthday candle, but that’s it.

For the base

1 ½ cups crushed graham cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers)
1 tbsp sugar
¾ stick butter (6 tbsp)
  • Preheat the oven to 300 F, crush the crackers and melt the butter
  • Mix with the sugar and press into a springform baking tin (about 9 inches)
  • Bake on a baking tray for 8 – 10 mins until the crust has hardened and is golden. Leave the tin on the baking tray in case of later leaks

For the filling

2 ½ lb cream cheese at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
5 large eggs at room temperature
2 large egg yolks at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1 ½ tsp good vanilla extract or seeds scraped out of 1 vanilla pod, in which case, omit the lemon)
1 tbsp lemon zest
  • Bump up the oven temperature to 450F
  • Cream the cheese and sugar together in a mixer for 5 mins until light and fluffy
  • Add the eggs and yolks 2 at a time, mixing in well – scrape down the sides to make sure everything in incorporated
  • Add the sour cream, lemon and vanilla then pour into the crust (which should be cool, not hot to the touch. Wait until it is.)
  • Bake for 15 mins
  • Turn the oven down to 225 and bake for 1 and a half hours. Turn off the oven and let the cake cool there for 45 mins with the door open
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and keep cool in the fridge overnight (this really helps it set)
  • Dip a knife in hot water and run around the cake to loosen. Open the spring form and let the cake come back to room temperature (about an hour) before serving


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