FOR THE CRUST
Butter for the pan
1/3 cup sifted cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of table salt
2 extra-large eggs, separated
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 drops pure lemon extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
FOR THE CHEESCAKE
Four 8-ounce packages PHILADELPHIA cream cheese (use only full fat), at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
FOR THE CRUST
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter the bottom and side of a 9- or 8-inch springform pan (preferably a nonstick one). Wrap the outside with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending it all the way up the side.
- In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks on high for 3 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue beating until thick light yellow ribbons form in the bowl, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the extracts.
- Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand, just until there are no remaining white flecks. Blend in the melted butter.
- In another clean bowl, using clean, dry beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high until frothy. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites will stand up and look glossy, not dry). Fold about one-third of the whites into the batter, then the remaining whites. Don’t worry if you still see a few white specks, as they’ll disappear during baking.
- Gently spread the batter over the bottom of the prepared pan and bake just until set and golden (not wet or sticky), about 10 minutes. Touch the cake gently in the center. If it springs back, it’s done. Watch carefully and don’t let the top brown. Leave the crust in the pan and place on a wire rack to cool. Leave the oven on while you prepare the batter for the cheesecake.
FOR THE CHEESECAKE
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Make and bake the cake crust as directed and leave it in the pan. Keep the oven on.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment if your mixer has one, beat 1 package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch together on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl several times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in the cream just until completely blended. The filling will look light, creamy, airy, and almost like billowy clouds. Be careful not to overmix! Gently spoon the batter over the crust.
- Place the cake pan in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes halfway (about 1 inch) up the side of the springform. Bake until the edge is light golden brown, the top is light gold, and the center barely jiggles, about 1 1/4 hours. If the cake still feels soft around the edge, let it bake for 10 minutes more (the cooking time will be about the same for both the 8- and 9-inch cheesecakes). Remove the cheesecake from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 2 hours (just walk away—don’t move it). Then, leave the cake in the pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely cold before serving, preferably overnight or for at least 6 hours.
** RECIPE MODIFIED FROM JUNIOR’S