I went to another fantastic potluck last night. The menu went like so:
Getting to the potluck was an adventure in itself. It's hard to be conspicuous on public transportation when you're carrying a large spice cake in a clear acrylic container. I sat directly across from a woman who took one look at the cake and wistfully said "I'm diabetic."
I really enjoyed dinner. There were clear progressions between appetizers, main courses, and desserts, with nice breaks in between. Conversation was pleasant and we stayed up until after 1am playing trivial pursuit.
Before dessert, I worried about the cakes. I worried the cheesecake's crust would be soggy because it leaked some water when I unwrapped it. I worried people wouldn't like the meringue frosting because I used a different vanilla extract that overpowered the maple flavor.
Siobhan took a bite of cheesecake and said "this is the best cheesecake i've ever had." It definitely stole the show- there was one tiny piece left (the one in the photo). We managed to work through 3/4ths of the spice cake too. I felt pretty proud of myself.
I topped the cheesecake with the blueberry topping from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course. The fruit and sour cream topping were a nice touch. I recommend lining the bottom of the springform pan with a circle of parchment. This will ensure neat slicing and easy removal. While I love my cheesecakes really cold, I do suggest pulling this one out twenty minutes ahead of time. It's very firm, and I think you can taste it better when it's warmed up a little.
adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp or 5 ounces graham crackers
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted or very soft
20 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
8 inch springform pan
Heavy duty aluminum foil
for the topping:
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Process the crackers until they are crumbs at this point, then add the butter and pulse again. Line the bottom of the springform pan, pressing the crumbs in with your hands or the back of a spoon. Put the pan in the refrigerator to set, and preheat the oven to 350F.
Beat the cream cheese gently until it's smooth, then add the sugar. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks, then finally the vanilla and lemon juice. Put the kettle on.
Line the outside of the chilled pan with foil so that it covers the bottom and sides in one large piece, then do the same again and put it in into a roasting pan. This will protect the cheesecake from the water as it is cooked in its water bath.
Pour the cream cheese filling into the chilled base, and then pour hot water from the recently boiled kettle into the roasting pan around the cheesecake. It should come about halfway up; don't overfill as it will be difficult to lift up the pan. Put it into the oven and cook for 50 minutes. It should feel set, but not rigidly so: you just need to feel confident that when you pour the sour cream over, it will sit on the surface and not sink in. Whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla for the topping and pour over the cheesecake. Put it back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
Take the roasting pan out of the oven, then gingerly remove the springform, unwrap it, and stand it on a rack to cool. When it's cooled down completely, put it in the refrigerator, removing it 20 minutes before eating to take the chill off. Unmold and when you cut into it, plunge a knife in hot water first. Serves 8.