Usually I’m a cheesecake purist. If it comes topped with any kind of sauce, compote, coulis, or anything more flavorful than, say, whipped cream, I don’t want it. Plain cheesecake is perfect already.
Weirdly, however, there are several over the top cheesecakes on The Cheesecake Factory’s menu that I do love and allow. Cheesecake topped with strawberries is somehow offensive to me and yet I love their chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake, Oreo crust and all. I won’t try to understand it.
This cheesecake, inspired by their banana cream cheesecake, is the first non-plain cheesecake I’ve ever made. That should say something about how delicious it is, and how well it strikes the balance between classic cheesecake and fun interpretation. It adds variety without detracting from what makes cheesecake great, and the sweet banana flavor never overpowers the cheesecake’s natural tang.
About six weeks ago I accepted a job offer, and I celebrated with a slice of banana cream cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. And somehow that wasn’t enough. Because about three weeks later, I found myself with an old, black, squishy banana, and when I looked at it I didn’t see potential banana bread as I’ve always seen before. I saw banana cheesecake.
So I bought cream cheese and graham crackers and set to making that potential a reality.
Cheesecake can be such a production. Springform pan, two pounds of cream cheese, water bath, accompanying toppings and/or sauces. If you want to make a tall, impressive cheesecake that serves sixteen, that’s great (and please invite me over). But I only ever want to make a simple cheesecake–something my two-person household is capable of finishing in a reasonable amount of time. Cheesecake is my favorite dessert and I won’t go through a rigmarole every time I want to make it. So I reject the idea that cheesecake must be baked in a springform pan.
There are a lot of delicious cheesecake recipes, and this one certainly isn’t remarkable compared to many of those. This isn’t the cheesecake you make when you want to feed a crowd or impress people with presentation. But if you want cheesecake and nothing more, this is an excellent recipe to use. It’s simple and straightforward, and I’ve made it so often that I have the recipe memorized. This is baked in a nine-inch pie tin and serves (“serves”) eight in manageable, pie-sized wedges. It’s smooth and creamy like all cheesecake should be, and the tablespoon of vanilla ensures that there’s plenty of flavor to complement the cream cheese tang.
I was fifteen when my best friend, Kate, told me about this ice cream. She was telling me about having dinner at her then-boyfriend’s house the night before. She glossed over the evening itself and skipped straight to the dessert, which, really, is the most important part of any story. The dessert, she said, was strawberry cheesecake ice cream, with chunks of cheesecake in it. This was a new concept to me and I knew I needed this ice cream in my life immediately. That’s when she told me it was Safeway brand, so the Vons down the street would have it.
Because my parents weren’t home, my only option was my older brother. I knocked on his door, poked my head in, and asked if he would drive me to Vons for strawberry cheesecake ice cream. I gave an attempt at a winning smile.
It did not work.
I dwelled on the ice cream for a few minutes before deciding I had no choice but to walk the mile to Vons myself. So I set off on the journey to Vons, breaking into a run halfway there because cheesecake chunks. In ice cream.