Cheesecake full of love

Anthony requested a strawberry cheesecake for his birthday this year (which was Monday btw). I have never made a cheesecake and didn't have the first clue of how it was done. But I am not one to turn down a culinary challenge so I charged on, ready to make my man the best birthday strawberry cheesecake there ever was. And I have got to tell you, this cake was EFFing delicious. Also, how cute is he, about to blow out his candles. (yep, all 34 of 'em). A couple of things you should know about making a cheesecake (you'll find the actual recipe below).

1) Definitely set aside a whole afternoon, it is a loooooong process. 2) The oven has to be on for many hours, so perhaps August in an AC-free NYC apartment kitchen is not the most ideal time or place to give it a go. 3) Every recipe I found called for a springform pan. I do not have one so I just used a round cake pan and it worked perfectly.

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For the crust:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons
(3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

I made a quick strawberry sauce with some good strawberry jam, chopped fresh strawberries and a little lemon zest. I recommend some sort of sauce or topping. Next time I might put the sauce in with the batter. All this cheesecake talk... I'm going to go get a little slice.