Recipe Review

Why the Old-School “Joy of Cooking” Cheesecake Recipe Did Not Bring Me Joy

published Sep 24, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Everyone has a cookbook they turn to for timeless recipes, and for many of us it’s The Joy of Cooking. It’s filled with fuss-free, reliable classics that are always delicious, so when searching for the absolute best cheesecake recipe, I knew I needed to put The Joy of Cooking’s recipe in the running.

Within its pages (the 1975 edition, to be specific — I’m not sure which recipes made their way into the recently revised version) I found a handful of fun cheesecake iterations, from one made with ricotta to a no-bake version set with gelatin. But the most classic recipe I came across was a sour cream cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. I had to find out: Did this old-school recipe have what it takes to win a taste test in 2019?

*Note: The original version of this recipe is printed in the 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking. The above recipe is almost entirely the same, with just some minor language tweaks.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

How to Make Joy of Cooking’s Classic Cheesecake

To start, you’ll prepare your crust: Combine graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 to 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar (I ended up using 1/2 a cup), melted butter, and cinnamon. Press the mixture into a springform pan and let chill in the fridge as you prepare the cheesecake batter.

To make the batter, you’ll combine eggs, cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice or vanilla (I used vanilla), and salt and mix until smooth. The recipe doesn’t give specific directions for how to mix it, so I used an electric mixer to make things easy. Pour the mixture over the top of the chilled crust, bake for 20 minutes, then immediately dust the top with ground cinnamon and let cool. (The recipe also does not specify how much cinnamon to use; I went with half a teaspoon.)

As the cheesecake cools, combine sour cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a small bowl. Pour over the cooled cheesecake, then bake for five more minutes to “glaze” the top of the cheesecake. Let cool, then refrigerate for six to 12 hours before serving.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

My Honest Review of The Joy of Cooking’s Sour Cream Cheesecake

Sadly, this cheesecake just wasn’t very good! The texture was way too soft and it never fully set, despite chilling it for longer than the recipe called for. When sliced into, the cheesecake slowly lost its shape and began melting onto the plate. It wasn’t completely soft, but it definitely wasn’t as firm as I wanted it to be. The crust was also a bit too sweet for my taste, and when combined with the sweet filling, it was honestly a bit sickly.

Although it added a smooth and beautifully white finish to the cheesecake, the sour cream topping didn’t taste all that great. It was very loose, and it didn’t “glaze” the top of the cheesecake like the recipe said it would. It was more like pouring a loose crema on top of a freshly baked cheesecake and baking for five minutes. It made no sense!

Overall, I was disappointed with this cheesecake. It wasn’t worth the effort and never fully set, making for an overly sweet and subpar dessert.

Credit: Charli Nowak
Joy of Cooking Cheesecake

If You’re Making The Joy of Cooking’s Sour Cream Cheesecake, a Few Tips

When you’re ready to bake The Joy of Cooking’s sour cream cheesecake, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Read the recipe carefully: The way the recipes are formatted in this edition of The Joy of Cooking makes them a bit difficult to follow. Make sure to read through the recipe in full before you start, and go slow. It’s easy to skip a step.

2. Chill your crust for 30 minutes before adding the filling: This is a tip I found within The Joy of Cooking, and it prevents the crust from mixing into your batter so you end up with two distinct layers.

3. Use full-fat sour cream: Avoid anything labeled “light” and stick to the full-fat varieties.

4. Sift your confectioners’ sugar: It may seem excessive, but it prevents unwanted lumps of unmelted powdered sugar in your crust.

5. Chill the cheesecake for a full 12 hours before serving it: Because this cheesecake is looser than the others, give it enough time to set in the fridge before attempting to cut into it. Otherwise, the cheesecake will be a runny mess.

  • Difficulty to Make: 6/10
  • Taste/Texture: 2/10
  • Appearance: 7/10
  • Overall Rating: 4/10

Have you ever made The Joy of Cooking’s Sour Cream Cheesecake? Tell us what you thought! 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

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