It's strawberry picking time in New Jersey so there's no better time than right now to make this incredible classic cheesecake recipe. Slice some Jersey Fresh strawberries and mix them with a just sprinkle of sugar to make the ultimate summer topping for the ultimate cheesecake!

If I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “...it’s the best cheesecake you’ve ever tasted”...I would be a millionaire and I could have a bigger life. Everybody knows somebody or knows a bakery or restaurant that has “the best cheesecake in the world”.

When I was putting together my cookbook I received close to 20 different cheesecake recipes, all different variations of cheesecake, too many to list here. Let me give you my history of cheesecake lore, I’ve had cheesecakes, many of them, and it shows. I have had cheesecakes in some of the best restaurants around the world.

I’ve also had them from world famous bakeries and homes who slave over the recipe with good results. When I decided to do this cookbook I wanted to share with you what I believe are the best possible recipes for a wide variation of dishes. When it comes to cheesecake, forget about it, it’s over, I found the cheesecake Shangri-La, the Holy Grail of cheesecake, the king of cheesecakedom, the cheesecakeanator.

I didn’t have to look far because the recipe was shared with us from my good friend, Grace Cangemi from Red Bank. Grace is a councilwoman in Red Bank and is very involved in charity work. She is amazingly brilliant and possesses a sense of humor that’s quick, fun and contagious. Grace has been a close friend for many years and we’ve had some of the best times together. This is a classic recipe that was her great grandfather’s recipe from when he was a pastry chef at The Plaza Hotel in New York.

The first time Grace brought her masterpiece over to my house, one of our friends who had the pleasure of indulging into this wonder of mankind said, “Big Joe, you haven’t had Grace’s cheesecake...it’s the best cheesecake in the world”. I said, “Give me a dollar!” but when I tasted it and it was truly the best I ever ate, I gave back the dollar and praised Grace for all eternity. Thanks to Grace and her terrific parents, Linda and Tony, for sharing this family secret recipe with all of us.

Ingredients:

4 8 oz containers whipped cream cheese
5 eggs
1⁄4 lb sweet butter
1 1⁄4 cups sugar
16 oz sour cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla
Jersey Fresh strawberries

How to put it together:

Let cream cheese, sour cream, butter and eggs stand at room temperature for at least one hour – the closer to room temperature the better. Blend cream cheese, butter, and sour cream together, and then add the cornstarch, sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice.

Beat in one egg at a time until the mixture is very smooth. Pour mixture into a greased 9 1⁄2 “spring form” pan (make sure to grease the rim). Place pan in a large roasting pan half filled with warm water. Bake at 375 for 1 1⁄4 hours or until top is golden brown. Turn off oven and let cake cool with oven door open for one hour.

Remove from oven and let stand at room temperature for 2 more hours, then cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Uncover and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, then cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving. This cake will rise and then fall. Using room temperature ingredients and changing the temperature after baking is what gives it its consistency.

Before serving, slice up the Jersey Fresh strawberries, lightly sprinkle with sugar and gently mix. Let that sit in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before serving. Top slices of the cheesecake with the strawberries or serve on the side. Enjoy!

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