My Father's Make-Ahead Holiday Gift: Cheesecake, New York-Style

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One of the greatest holiday traditions at my parents' house is the making of a half dozen cheesecakes. Guided by a top-secret recipe — from an original 1980 issue of The Kansas City Star that lists a recipe for New York Cheesecake, along with years of handwritten notes and variations — my father spends a full day in the kitchen pressing graham cracker crusts into springform pans, whipping up rich cream cheese filling, and fretting over water baths.

The result: one of the most decadent holiday treats and a beautiful gift for family members.

Is there anything more impressive than presenting a fresh, homemade cheesecake wrapped in a beautiful box with a big red bow? (If there is, please send both items our way so that we can adequately compare!) While the ingredients for cheesecake can cost a pretty penny, it is one of the times when we're always ready to splurge.

For gifting, we recommend a smaller cake made in a 4.5 inch springform pan. Not only does this help out budget-wise, but because the cake is so rich it is actually the best option for a couple or small family.

One of the greatest perks about gifting cheesecake, besides of course making a small one for the cook, is its versatility in the freezer. Cheesecakes freeze brilliantly, allowing these gifts to be prepared even a few weeks ahead of time. To freeze, be sure to securely wrap in plastic wrap, and then with an outer layer of foil. Always thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and eat within 2 to 3 days.

Of course, cheesecake can be tricky. To water bath, or not to water bath? Graham cracker crust or chocolate wafer cookie crust? Does it really have to bake over an hour? So much of the key to cheesecake success lies in knowing your oven well, but for beginners, Sarah put together a great guide using Martha Stewart's New York-Style recipe.

What will you be gifting from your kitchen this holiday season?

(Image credits: Sarah Rae Trover)

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