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Surely, I can’t be all that different from everyone else. Growing up, whatever exposure I had to cheesecake must not have been very good, because I wasn’t a big fan.

Then, one day (when I was a mid-teen) I must have been starving, because I decided to eat a slice of Sara Lee cheesecake my mom brought home from the grocery store.

In truth, I don’t remember it tasting anything like the cheesecakes that I make today. But it was a gateway cheesecake. It was kind of like cheesecake lite—the White Zinfandel of the cheesecake world.

As time has gone on, my appetite for cheesecake has grown. Over the years I’ve perfected the cheesecake recipe that we now use at Nino’s, one that, in my humble opinion, is fabulous. It’s one that can be adapted to more than its original lemony/vanilla flavor (the gold standard evaluation flavor for cheesecake.)

Before I share the batter recipe with you, I want to tell you about the different crusts that can be used.

My recipe’s first crust was cookie dough (with fresh lemon zest and a little extra flour added to give the dough more firmness). The bottom crust was rolled thin and lightly pre-baked before the batter was added. Since then, however, I’ve found that the crust most people enjoy is a buttery graham cracker (which, incidentally, doesn’t have to be pre-baked). This crust is especially good for nearly any flavor of cheesecake.

Besides cookie dough and graham cracker for the crust, I’ve also used crushed ginger snaps, crushed Oreo® cookies, biscotti and Savoiardi (Italian Lady Finger cookies used to make the famous Tiramisu)—all appropriate choices depending on your choice of cheesecake batter.

Speaking of the batter, my cheesecake uses cream cheese. Buy something good. It also uses heavy cream—in mine, I use 40% butterfat (rather than the standard 36%). Yeah, I know it’s more fattening, but hey, this is cheesecake. If you’re concerned about your diet, eat a piece of fruit!

Pete’s Cheesecake

Makes 1 – 8” Round Cheesecake about 3” high

Cheesecake Filling

2 lbs Cream Cheese

1 ½ cups Granulated Sugar

1 TBSP All-Purpose Flour

2 tsp Lemon Rind, Fine Grated

2 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice

1 tsp Vanilla Extract, Pure

4 ea Eggs, Extra-Large

1 ea Egg Yolk

½ cup Heavy Cream (40% Butter Fat)

Standard Graham Cracker Crust: Makes enough for a 1 – 8” cheesecake bottom and extra to sprinkle on the sides.

2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 stick Butter
Melt butter and stir into crumbs until like wet sand.

To make the cheesecake batter, assemble and bake:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 450 °F.
  2. Line bottom of an 8-inch spring form pan with graham cracker crust (approximately ¼” thick), and then tamp down to form a solid crust. Spray the sides of the pan with non-stick vegetable spray and sprinkle some of the leftover graham cracker mixture on the sprayed sides. Swirl around to coat. Set the prepared pan on a baking sheet with a ½” high lip while you make the batter.
  3. For the cheesecake batter, beat together the first 6 ingredients with paddle until smooth.
  4. Add eggs and yolk in 3 stages, beating on low speed and scraping down often.
  5. Stir in the cream last. Be sure all ingredients are blended well.
  6. Fill the prepared spring form pan. Place cheesecake on sheet pan with at least a ½” lip and place in the 450 °F oven. Bake only until the top of the cheesecake has begun to turn golden brown. This may only take 10 minutes.
  7. Remove the cheesecake from oven once the top has browned, and reduce heat to 275 °F. Then place the pan back in the oven and add ¼” of water to create a water bath. Bake for approximately 2 hours longer.
  8. Cakes will rise slightly above their original unbaked height when done and will have a firm, jelly-like texture when touched.
  9. When fully baked, turn off the oven, open the oven door and allow to cool for 30 minutes in the oven before removing the cake to cool further at room temperature. This will allow the cheesecake to slowly settle to a flatter surface.

Here are 5 additional flavors that can be made from this base recipe:

Raspberry Swirl

This cheesecake uses the original batter recipe (above) and simply swirls in the fresh raspberry puree made from the recipe below. Before baking, pour a steady stream of this raspberry puree while swirling it into the batter with a spoon or spatula to both incorporate it and make a nice decoration.

1 pt. Fresh Raspberries

1/3 cup Granulated Sugar

¼ cup Water

  1. Bring all ingredients to a simmer and cook 5 minutes. Strain, cool and use in your cheesecake.


This is probably my ALL TIME favorite Thanksgiving dessert. I enjoy it so much more than pumpkin pie. Again, it uses the original recipe (with modifications).

To the original batter recipe, make these changes:

  1. Omit grated lemon and lemon juice.
  2. Increase flour to 2 tbsp.
  3. Add 1 ½ cups cooked canned pumpkin puree.
  4. Add 2 TBSP pumpkin pie spice.

Chocolate Chunk

What can I say about chocolate that the gods have not already said? This recipe is fabulous. You can also add toasted nuts if desired (about a half cup).

To the original batter recipe, make these changes:

  1. Omit grated lemon and lemon juice.
  2. Increase vanilla extract to 1 TBSP.
  3. Increase eggs to 5.
  4. Increase yolks to 2.
  5. Mix together 1/3 cup dark cocoa with ¼ cup hot water and beat in with cream cheese.
  6. Stir in 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks before baking.

Nutella® Banana

Elvis would have loved this recipe…

To the original batter recipe, make these changes:

  1. Omit grated lemon and lemon juice.
  2. Increase vanilla extract to 1 TBSP.
  3. Beat in 1 ripe banana and ¾ cup Nutella® with the cream cheese.
  4. Increase the eggs to 5.
  5. Slice 2 ripe bananas into ¼” disks, and stir into the finished cheesecake batter before pouring into the pan.

Cappuccino Cheesecake

Coffee lovers, this is YOUR cheesecake. An additional flavor (if you’d like it more Tiramisu style) can be made by adding 1/3 cup dark rum to the finished batter while increasing the eggs to 5.

To the original batter recipe, make these changes:

  1. Omit grated lemon and lemon juice.
  2. Increase vanilla extract to 1 TBSP.
  3. Mix together 1/3 cup instant espresso powder with ¼ cup hot water and beat in with the cream cheese.




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