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National Cheesecake Day

Who doesn't love this decadent dessert? Celebrate Cheesecake Day on July 30th by learning to make your own rich, velvety cheesecake from scratch!

When is National Cheesecake Day?

National Cheesecake Day is July 30th!

When Was Cheesecake Invented?

According to records, the first cheese-type cake (seen as an ancient iteration of the modern version) may have been created on Samos, in the Greek islands, circa 4,000 B.C. It is believed to have been served to appreciative athletes during the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C., lauded for its energy-providing properties. Greek couples also enjoyed a reasonable facsimile at weddings where it consisted of flour, wheat, honey, and cheese. The treat was also reportedly mentioned in Roman agriculture writer Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella’s De Re Rustica circa 200 B.C., and the Romans are noted to have spread cheesecake across Europe in their interpretation of manifest destiny.

In Renaissance times, the first printed cookbook in 1545 described cheesecake as a flour-based sweet food, but it wasn’t until the 18th Century that it began to resemble something close the way we conceive of it today. In the late 19th Century, cream cheese was an American addition to the product, and cheesecake as we know it found its way into culinary history.

Though creating the perfect creamy-sweet dessert may be more time consuming than the average pan of brownies, recipes vary and can be found to suit your schedule and skill level.

What’s more, the results may be etched indelibly onto your palate, as they were with mine. Try these recipes for a cherished cheesecake experience of your own to celebrate Cheesecake Day!

Easy Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake Squares

Ingredients:
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cartons (15 ounces each) ricotta cheese
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Cake:
1 package lemon cake mix (regular size)
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 eggs
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine eggs, ricotta cheese, sugar, and lemon peel; set aside.
In another large bowl, combine cake mix, water, oil, lemon juice, and eggs; beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat on medium for 2 minutes. Pour into a greased 13-x-9-in. baking pan. Carefully spoon ricotta mixture on top of cake batter.
Bake at 350° for 60-65 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack for one hour. Refrigerate overnight. Dust with confectioners’ sugar; cut into squares. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 16-20 servings.

Chef Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Cheesecake

Ingredients:
Crust:
2 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 30 squares)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
Filling:
1 pound cream cheese, 2 (8-ounce) blocks, softened
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 pint sour cream
1 lemon, zested
1 dash vanilla extract
Warm lemon blueberry topping (recipe below)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine ingredients with a fork until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the crumbs into the pan and, using the bottom of a measuring cup or the smooth bottom of a glass, press the crumbs down into the base and 1-inch up the sides. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

For the Filling:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute until smooth and free of any lumps. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat slowly until combined. Gradually add sugar and beat until creamy, for 1 to 2 minutes.

Add sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. The batter should be well-mixed but not overbeaten. Pour the filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Set the cheesecake pan on a large piece of aluminum foil and fold up the sides around it. Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan; the foil will keep the water from seeping into the cheesecake. Bake for 45 minutes. The cheesecake should still jiggle (it will firm up after chilling), so be careful not to overcook. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours. Loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the inside rim. Unmold and transfer to a cake plate. Using a spatula spread a layer of Warm Lemon Blueberry topping over the surface. Slice the cheesecake with a thin, non-serrated knife that has been dipped in hot water. Wipe dry after each cut.

Warm Lemon Blueberries:
Ingredients:
1 pint blueberries
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons sugar

Directions:
In a small saucepan add all the ingredients and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes or so until the fruit begins to break down slightly. Leave to cool before spreading on cheesecake.
Yield: 6 servings

White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake

(Great for the holidays!)
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or chocolate graham cracker crumbs)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup sour cream
4 squares white chocolate, melted
4 eggs
1 cup thawed whipped topping
16 miniature candy canes

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325°. Line 13×9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Mix graham cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar and butter; press onto bottom of pan. Bake 10 min.

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and extract in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add sour cream and chocolate; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.

Bake 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 4 hours. Use foil handles to lift cheesecake from pan before cutting to serve. Top each piece with a dollop of whipped cream and candy cane.

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