Elaine's Classic New York Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce

This recipe comes from my grandma Elaine. She’s turning 90 this July, and we’re all going out to New York to celebrate. Will there be cheesecake? I sure hope so, and knowing Grams, there will be no shortage of sweets.

To call these recipe cards well-loved would be an understatement. The neat pencil script is smudged from years of use and the paper is covered in splashes and splotches of vanilla extract. My mom made this cheesecake, 4 of them to be precise, every morning before her shift at the deli in the 70’s. With a hand-mixer, no less.

She even told me that after she left her job at the deli (refusing to sell the ‘secret’ recipe to the owners), one of her regular customers begged her to share the recipe with him. He was so adamant about getting the recipe for his favorite cheesecake, that he snuck in when she wasn’t looking and copied it. The nerve! Luckily she didn’t hold a grudge as he was our family’s dentist for many years (dentists like sweets too, apparently).

Grandma Elaine's New York Cheesecake Recipe

Grandma’s index cards paired with mom’s post-it note. That about sums it up right there.

And here I am, adding my own story to the mix in the form of a blog post, making 3 generations of stories and memories written between the lines of one incredible cheesecake recipe. There’s history and tradition and plenty of love all baked up in a graham cracker crust.

Classic New York Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce

This cheesecake is perfectly imperfect. The egg whites make the cake puff, almost souffle-like, cracking and settling as it cools. Glamor shot it is not. But, as my mom says, that’s what the sauce is for.

It’s velvety smooth and surprisingly light, and not too sweet; rather, slightly tangy with a hint of almond. It could most certainly be doctored with a multitude of sauces, but for me, personally, there’s something so satisfying about the classic combo of cheesecake and strawberry.

Not your grandma’s cheesecake? No, it’s MY grandma’s cheesecake.

Elaine's New York Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce

Yield: generous 12 servings

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 6 hours

Ingredients:

For Crust:



  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 7 ounces)

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, finely ground

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


For Cheesecake:



  • 3 (8-ounce) packages plain cream cheese, room temperature (it is VERY important that the cheese be at room temperature; take the packages out of the fridge at least 1 to 2 hours or more before you start preparing the cake).

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

  • 5 large eggs, separated

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


For Sauce:



  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries, thawed

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

  • dash salt


Directions:


  1. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, ground almonds, and salt in a bowl. Drizzle melted butter and stir until evenly moistened. Press into the bottom and up the sides (as far as it'll go) of a lightly buttered 10-inch springform pan. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set.

  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

  3. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar, and salt and beat until smooth. Add flour and egg yolks and mix thoroughly. Stir in sour cream, lemon juice, vanilla, almond extract, and nutmeg and beat until smooth.

  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with remaining 1/4 cup sugar until it form stiff peaks. Fold thoroughly into cream cheese mixture (no need to be terribly gentle with it, but you do want the whites to be evenly incorporated). Pour into chilled crust.

  5. Bake cheesecake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until top is puffed and lightly golden brown. There will be cracks, but that's ok (that's what the sauce is for, right?) Without opening the oven door, turn the oven off, and let the cheesecake sit in the oven as it cools for 1 hour. Do not take the cheesecake immediately out of the hot oven or it will fall. After 1 hour, transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 1 to 2 hours or overnight before slicing.

  6. To prepare strawberry sauce, drain thawed strawberries, reserving any liquid. Add enough water so the liquid equals 1/2 cup. Place in blender along with berries and purée until smooth. Transfer mixture to a saucepan set over medium-high heat. Whisk in cornstarch and salt and cook until mixture thickens and just starts to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool before spooning over chilled cheesecake.


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70 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. This story gave me the warm fuzzies. I love that your grandmother wrote her recipe on index cards and that your mom added a little sticky note on top. This sounds like a fabulous cheesecake, especially if the family dentist sneaked in to copy the recipe!

  2. Aww recipes like this are so special! This looks super lovely too!

  3. Lindsay this is gorgeous. And I love the story telling, the stories about the dentist who stole the recipe and copied it down when your mom wasnt looking, that she made FOUR of these every shift, with a hand mixer…my goodness. And the recipe cards, the whole post is just…fabulous.

    And thanks for spilling the beans on the family recipe!

  4. This is awesome. My grandma passed away about 6 years ago, but I found her hand-written recipe card for the apple dumplings she would make for my birthday in her tin full of recipes. Thanks for inspiring me to finally make them for myself.

  5. I love that you were able to incorporate the recipe cards with this photo because of the history. Love love love old handwritten recipe cards.

  6. LOVE this. I have my Memaw’s handwritten note card recipes too. Nothing like it.

    And nothing like this CHEESECAKE, dear God.

  7. I LOVE family recipes…and I love cheesecake even more. Totally trying this one!

  8. I Love cheesecake!!!! That is all….

  9. What a special cake. With so much special meaning, Lindsay! My grandmom’s sticky pecan roll recipe is just this – on an old index card in her handwriting and the card is now yellow and has stains all over it. I will cherish it forever! The cake looks perfect, no wonder it’s a classic in your family!

  10. I always have trouble with getting my cheesecake not to crack, but I’ve gotta say – your’s looks pretty damn great!!

    I’ve heard that the following trick helps:

    Build your cheesecake in a springform pan. When ready to bake, fill a baking tray with a shallow layer of water (~2″) then place your springform pan inside and bake as normal. Apparently the waterbath helps the cake cook more evenly and thus prevents cracking :)

    • A water bath will definitely help with cracks, but whenever I try it I seem to have issues with my water bath ‘seeping’ into my crust. And I’d rather have cracks than a soggy crust! :)

  11. There’s nothing better than a recipe from Grandma’s recipe card! This cheesecake looks so creamy, light, and perfect. Not at all heavy like so many out there. I’m going to have to try this one!

  12. The cake looks relish.
    When you’re in NYC I recommend you visit Qi Thai Grill in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s the best location of the Thai chain let.

  13. damn autocorrect! every time I type “DELISH” it changes to “relish”

  14. Lindsay I love this post and recipe. It brought back sweet memories of my family gathering for my maternal Grandmother’s 90th birthday. I too have a collection of recipes handwritten from my Grandmother and Great Grandmother. They are so cherished not only because they were theirs but because you can extract so much more from handwriting, and it seems to be a dying art now with the internet. Best wishes to your Grandmother and a joyful celebration to you all!

  15. What a lovely story… and what a yummy cheesecake!
    Thank you so much for sharing!

  16. Sweet memories are made of this! And that’s no ordinary graham cracker crust…that’s an almond graham cracker crust!! When I saw that I knew I MUST make this cheesecake! Thanks for sharing.

  17. The cracks are what make it perfect! I love that you have those cards… they will be treasured always. Something I wish I had from my grandma’s!!

  18. Honey, this cheesecake looks, to me, like heaven.. Edible, wonderful, heaven.. Two or three slices, please, to start! I never got a chance to grab my moms cards, but I do have her pudding candy recipe from my childhood, and I make it now..gotta make this cheesecake! Blessings!

  19. I love this story! Honestly your grandma’s cheesecake looks pretty darned amazing. It’s refreshing to see a cheesecake flaunting some cracks lol. That last sentence sounds strange, but seriously, it looks incredible!

  20. The recipe has almond extract and nutmeg in it. I know it is gonna taste special and delicious!

  21. Love the story behind this! You know it’s good if someone will break the law to get the recipe :)

  22. I love the story behind this! That is what makes dessert so special :)

  23. I’m right with you on the combo of cheesecake and strawberries. Heaven! This looks fantastic, really need to make this soon, just printed it and added it to my list “to bake”!

  24. Normally I am not a plain cheesecake person, but recently I had the best plain cheesecake ever. I’ll have to try this cause it looks like it could be just as good! Grandma’s have the best recipes.

  25. Unlike The Golden Girls, I need no special reason to have a slice of cheesecake anytime of the day!

  26. I love this post. Your pictures are absolutely stunning!

  27. Such a sweet story. And, the cheesecake looks divine! I personally am in love with the rustic look. Perfect is out. Hand crafted is in. ;) I can’t wait to try your grandmothers recipe!

  28. oh i love the recipe cards…with vanilla on them…makes me think how i should be writing down some of my recipes and not just having computer print outs :-) thanks for sharing….sweet post

  29. What a great story. My mom recently sent me some recipes from my great Auntie Dot (hands down the best baker our my family). I love seeing her hand writing and the cards, like your grandmothers, are messy with finger prints and spills. What treasured items to have!

  30. Love, love, love this story, Linds! My great grandmother has passed down recipes and I’ve just never gotten around to trying them. Thank you for the inspiration!

  31. Love these stories from your Grandma Elaine and your mom, Lindsay! You told them so well, too. And, such a charming cheesecake! This cheesecake recipe is similar to one handed down to me (with flour, sour cream and almond extract in the filling, but calls for 4 packages of cream cheese clocking in at 2 pounds!), but it doesn’t have the ‘secret’ of nutmeg in the filling or the finely ground almonds in the crust! I, too, am lucky to have been the recipient of family heirloom recipes handed down from the “old country” (as my Papa would say). Such treasures! There’s even a unique torte written in my grandma’s hand and I’ve never seen the recipe published anywhere (and I’ve looked). Thank you so much for sharing! xo

  32. This looks divine Lindsay! I love me some cheesecake!

  33. Awww, I love family recipes. You absolutely did Grandma Elaine justice with this stunning cheesecake, Lindsay. What a beautiful gesture to pay tribute to her close to her 90th!

  34. This cheesecake looks soooo good! Haha, if only your dentist waited a little longer. He’d be able to get the recipe without the hastle from your blog today! (:

  35. Family recipes are always the best. Always!

    Love this cheesecake, it is so pretty!

  36. What a wonderful story to go with a wonderful recipe! I love family recipes!

  37. Most cheesecakes are far too dense for me, might have to give this one a try. Thanks!

  38. This is mom!!!! I LOVE this post. Your dad had tears in his eyes as he read it.
    I am about to call my mom, your grandma Elaine, and be sure someone helps her get online (haha) to see this very special post. She will have tears in her eyes for sure and will probably be calling you too!!!
    Now I only wish you had told the story of your first attempt at making this cheesecake, in several different size pans, all in the oven together!!! And your texts asking my advice about how full to make them. Of course I was out golfing and by the time I replied it was too late, WAY TOO LATE. Now go ahead and show the behind the scenes photos and story of your first attempt at Grandma’s Cheesecake! And you can not even use high altitude as your excuse!! Love you! Mom

  39. What a beautiful gift, Lindsay! I love that you shared your grandma’s cheesecake recipe with us! I can’t wait to see that picture of you and her at her birthday party this summer! xoxo

  40. Love this story. Reminds me of how I got my cooking genes…from my maternal grandmother. I miss her everyday and each time I pick up a knife to chop on a cutting board I can hear her voice instructing me. I’m a good friend of your mother’s and often inquire about your Grandma who coincidentally shares my birthdate. She is exactly 30 years older than me. Best wishes to you, your family and most of all, Happy 90th Birthday to your Grandma.

  41. Ah, Elaine!!!!
    And there’s nothing like the old handwritten 3×5 recipe cards. I don’t care how beautiful your blog is, 50 years from now, we’ll miss seeing your recipes handwritten. Bettie always forgot to put a few things down (as you’ve figured out) so there was a little bit of guessing!
    Thanks for this recipe, it is very different from your grandma Bettie’s. (sour cream topping!) Wonder if it’s a regional thing?

  42. Cheesecake is my favorite! But I am so afraid to make it on my own.

  43. YES. This is exactly the recipe I’ve been looking for! I’ve been put in charge of dessert for my friend’s baby shower, and cheesecake with strawberry sauce just screams springtime. Thank you for sharing!

    Would be so flattered if you would take a look at my blog: http://sagebrushgazette.blogspot.com/

    xo

  44. I went on a market few days ago and bought a wooden box, perfect for recipes. I does not contain any but I’ll built it with time. Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe.

  45. I love that you don’t care about the cracking… its sooo hard to not crack the top, and your mom is right… that’s what the sauce is for!

  46. Love cheesecake! Yours looks fantastic!

  47. Now this is a classic cheesecake. This is perfect. Traditional is sometimes best.

  48. What a lovely story. There’s nothing like handed down recipes. Happy Birthday, in advance, Elaine! What a blessing to have her in your life for so long!

  49. Looks delicious, but I’m not that into cheesecake. All though family recipes are always the best ;).

    Anyway, I love the tablecloth! It’s so pretty :).

  50. Those types of memories through recipes just make my heart sing. I got my great grandma’s ham hock and bean soup recipe cards as a bridal shower gift last year. I cried. Yup, I’m a sap. This looks divine.

  51. Okay, I was hoping your Mom would comment on this post. And she didn’t disappoint! Now I’m all choked up. Being gluten free, there are no heirloom recipes, sadly. Check back with my kids in a couple generations, though.

    Nicole

  52. Gorgeous, I love the strawberry sauce!

  53. This looks amazing. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

  54. I never knew the difference between regular and NY Cheesecake. Now I do! Thanks! —and now I know why it is oh so much more delicious, hehe.

  55. This sounds amazing! I can’t wait to try it!

  56. If this recipe has been in your family for this long, it must be amazing. I’m definitely going to try it.

  57. I love this :) grandmas recipes are always wonderful!

  58. What an awesome story, and a delicious looking cheesecake!

    PS. My grandma just turned 90 this year too! :)

  59. I love the story behind your cheesecake! :) I also have an old recipe book from my mum, a real treasure :D Hope one day my kids will bake my recipes as well… ;)

  60. I love cheesecake and your story! I will have to try your Grandmother’s recipe. My cheesecake almost always cracks but it tastes just as good as if it didn’t!

  61. Looking forward to making this for a Saturday night get together. Just want to make sure that there is no need for a water bath?

    Thanks!!

  62. A lighter version of a new york cheesecake sounds so appealing! Looks so smooth and fluffy

  63. We already have a family recipe for New York Cheesecake, and it is perfect. But the story so intrigued me that I sent my mum and siblings your recipe and said “This is a cheesecake that has been served in a real New York deli- we’ve got to try it!”.
    So we did- and now we have TWO perfect recipes- yours is somehow lighter/fresher. So delicious- thanks for sharing.

  64. I love that you are sharing this family recipe that has spanned the generations. Thank you so much. I am definitely going to make this soon.

  65. Hello! I adoore your grandmas shop in NY! And i sure love the recipie! I want to make some minicheesecakes, does this recipe work for that?

  66. I just used this recipe to make cheesecake cupcakes over the weekend. It came out excellent and was a huge hit with all my friends and family. It tastes just like the cheesecake from my favorite cheesecake store in NYC (I live in NYC).  This is hands down the best cheesecake recipe on the web. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe!. 

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