I should have been upset from the experience, but laughed instead.
It was the Saturday before Mother's Day 2009, and I decided to bake a cheesecake for my family. It was an experience that should have been unsettling. Instead, I laughed so hard. My son, Pat, came into the kitchen, and wanted to know what was so funny. I didn't have to say anything. He just muttered, "What a waste!"
I was so careful in my measurements for this family cheesecake that called for four 8 oz. bars of cream cheese, two sticks of unsalted butter, 2 cups of heavy cream, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and six eggs. I was supposed to use a 10 inch spring form pan, lightly greased. The cake required one hour of cooking time at 350 degrees, or until its top was golden brown.
It wasn’t the first time I made this delicious cheesecake. It was a recipe that I had cut out of a Family Circle Magazine in 2005. It was submitted by Mary-Ellen Cocchi of East Williston, NY. She had received it from her Mother-In-Law when she first married over 26 years ago, and has been relying on it ever since. I definitely agreed with her. My family loved it the first time I made it.
Headstrong as I am sometimes, I took it upon myself to alter the ingredients this time, and substituted one of the sticks of butter with 1/2 cup of Crisco all-vegetable shortening for a healthier version. I also replaced part of the sugar with ½ cup of Splenda granules. I thought I was being modest in curtailing some of the ingredients.
I used a nine inch spring form pan; because I forgot that I threw out the old 10 inch pan a few months ago. The filling came up to the very top. I wrapped the outside of the pan with foil, and placed it into a larger pan filled with one inch of water. I baked the cake for one hour and 10 minutes to make up for the smaller pan, and then removed it from the oven to cool for three hours before releasing the sides. The cheesecake stood tall. It was a deep golden brown on top. With pride, I removed it from the oven, and placed the cake on a wire rack to cool on the kitchen counter. It had just a slight hint of wiggle in the middle, and I thought nothing of it.
Then it was time to remove it from its confinement, cover it, and place it in the refrigerator. I planned on keeping it there for about four days in order to bring out the best flavor.
I never had a chance. I placed the cake on the kitchen table, released the sides of the spring form pan, and removed it. I stood back and admired the cake's short term of perfection for only a few moments. Then the cheesecake slowly started to crack and erupt like an earthquake; first on one side, then again on two other sides. I made a frantic attempt to hold the sides together, but the instant effort on my part was futile. The inner filling spilled out running relentlessly like white lava over the surface of the table toward the edge. The thick liquid was as wide as the cake, and there was no stopping it. I quickly headed it off with a cookie sheet held under the table’s edge, which prevented the flow from reaching the kitchen floor.
I did manage to salvage the cooked outer parts of the cheesecake, sliced them into oversized wedges, and placed them into a Pyrex casserole pan. This was a first for me. I guess the substitutions that I made were responsible for the unfortunate collapse of this cake. Using the wrong sized pan may have played a bigger part. Still, I laughed it off. It wasn’t a total loss, though. What was saved in the aftermath was absolutely delicious. I’ll make it again, but I’ll use the proper sized pan, or two smaller ones.
Footnote for Tuesday, February 21, 2012:
Yes, I did make this cheesecake again a few weeks ago. I used the correct pan that was called for in the recipe, and it came out perfect. However, I used only Splenda Granules in place of the white sugar. I felt the cake wasn't sweet enough. I'm making this cake again within the next two months. This time, I'll adhere to the precise ingredients called for in the recipe. Afterall, it's the proper thing to do.