Both of my grandmothers were awesome cooks. Mammaw – my mother’s mother – lived in another town about 4 hours away, but they still kept a house close to ours and they visited several times during the year. If I close my eyes, I can see Mammaw’s kitchen – even though I haven’t been in it for more than twenty years. It was a pretty small kitchen, made even smaller by “the kids’ table” which sat in the middle of it. How many meals did I eat at that red-formica-topped table with my brother and my cousins? But Mammaw never seemed to mind the close quarters.
On one particular day, when I was about eight years old, Mama had gone shopping with my Aunt Pat, so the kids – my big brother Stacey and I – and my cousins Todd and Randy were at Mammaw’s. The boys were outside helping Grandpa do something and I was happily in the kitchen with Mammaw. I can’t remember what she was cooking because I was absolutely entranced with the naked cake layers cooling on the counter.
“Mammaw?” I asked slowly. “What are you going to do with that cake?”
“We’re going to have it after supper tonight,” she answered. “Why?”
“Just wondering,” I said. I leaned down to smell the layers. I recognized that smell from my own mother’s cooking. Carrot cake.
I straightened when Mammaw pushed a big mixing bowl across the counter to me. “You want to frost it?” she asked.
“I don’t know how.”
“Here,” she said. “I’ll show you.” She scooped a big spoonful of velvety, white, cream cheese frosting onto one of the layers and used a butter knife to spread the frosting until it covered the whole thing. “Think you can do that?” I nodded and she placed the second layer on top of the first and handed me the spoon. “Go ahead,” she said. And she turned away and left me to do it.
When I had finished frosting that cake, I was one happy little girl. I felt like I could do anything! I had been trusted to do a grown-up job and I had done it!
When you make a successful dish, it can really boost your confidence. If the dish is a little bit difficult, mastering it will help you realize that you can certainly make anything else you want to.
The first time I decided to try to make a cheesecake, I was a little apprehensive. I had always loved cheesecake. That cool, sweet, tangy flavor combined with the creamy velvet-like texture is something that I still can’t get enough of. But making one? I soon discovered that making a cheesecake really isn’t that hard. There aren’t a ton of ingredients and once you’ve mastered fitting the bottom of the springform pan back in, making one is a snap.
Before Michael and I had kids, we went to a lot of Sunday School socials. I took a cheesecake to one and after that, I was almost always asked to bring a cheesecake to any of our gatherings. I’ve never been one to leave a recipe alone, so it wasn’t long before I started experimenting with different ingredients.
This Chocolate Chip Cheesecake was born from one of those experiments – but it has a funny/tragic memory attached to it.
The first time I made this cheesecake, I mixed the filling ingredients and poured them carefully over the chocolate crust. Because I had just baked the crust, the pan was still hot, so I used an oven mitt to put the pan back into the oven. After I set the pan on the oven rack, I pulled my hand away and the mitt got caught on the lever on the outside of the springform pan. Before I realized what had happened, the pan popped open and the chocolate chip cheesecake filling – all of it – dumped into the bottom of the oven!
My mouth and eyes opened wide in shock. For a moment, I had no idea how to react or what to do. And then I switched off the oven, sank to the floor, and wept. After a good cry, I got up and had to use an ice cream scoop to get most of the batter out of the bottom of the oven. I cleaned it as well as I could, but it was a month before all of it burned away.
By the way, that night, for the first and only time, I took a dessert that I bought at Kroger. It broke my heart.
Thank goodness, I eventually tried this recipe again, because it really is a yummy one.
Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
- 1 cup Oreo crumbs
- 3 tablespoons margarine, melted
Combine and press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 º for 10 minutes.
- 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup flour
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1 tub of ready to spread milk chocolate frosting
- 25 Hershey Hugs
Combine cream cheese, sugar and flour, mixing at no higher than medium speed to avoid air bubbles which will cause the cheesecake to crack. Add the eggs one at a time, blending well after each. Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl to avoid lumps. Blend in sour cream and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand and pour the batter over the chocolate crust. Bake at 325 º for 50 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan, release the sides of the pan, and let the cheesecake cool to room temperature while still in the pan. Once it’s at room temperature, remove to a serving plate and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Melt the frosting by placing the tub–uncovered with foil peeled off—into the microwave. Microwave on high for 1 minute, stir and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth and then pour about half of the melted frosting over the top of the cheesecake. Let cool. Garnish with 16 Hugs, placing then so that each slice will have one on it. Chop remaining Hugs and sprinkle over chocolate.
Well Duh #1: If you’re worried about cracks in the top of the cheesecake, you can always bake it in a water bath to keep it moist. Just be sure to wrap the outside of the springform pan in aluminum foil to be sure that the water won’t seep in and ruin the cheesecake. Set the wrapped pan into a bigger, deep pan and carefully pour in the water – about halfway up the sides of the pan. Be sure not to get any water into the cheesecake. I don’t use a water bath with this cheesecake because I’m going to cover it in chocolate anyway, so cracks won’t show.
Well Duh #2: If you pull the pan out and the cheesecake jiggles a little, that’s okay! It will firm up when you chill it. One of the most common cheesecake mistakes is overbaking.
Well Duh #3: If you would rather use a ganache instead of the frosting, by all means, go for it! I just really love the ease of melting a tub of frosting – and the sweet milk chocolate flavor is pretty awesome.
Don’t be intimidated by cheesecake! It’s not that hard and it’s totally worth any effort you put into it. Just be really careful when you’re putting it into the oven!