Ellen Convissar, a dentist in Manhattan, lives in Great Neck with her husband, son and daughter.
When did you start baking?
I started baking when I was a teenager. I always just loved to feed people. I'd bake for my staff for their birthdays, for the kids when they were having different events in their lives. It has just been a constant. A number of years ago, I was sick and couldn't practice. I started taking classes, with the idea of maybe changing careers and becoming a cake decorator. I thought I'd be great at it, but I wasn't. Still, I enjoyed learning about baking. I've taken all kinds of classes, in Italian desserts, making macarons, decorating.
What are your specialties?
I'm always trying something new. A week doesn't go by when I don't pull a recipe from the newspaper or a cookbook or a magazine. Easy, challenging, I try to tackle a little of both. If it's something I think someone in particular will like, I go for it. My daughter loves Nutella, so I look out for Nutella recipes. My eldest son is a coffee lover, the other son's girlfriend loves chocolate.
Where did this recipe come from?
It's been in my recipe repertoire for over 20 years. It's written on a wrinkly piece of paper. Someone must have given it to me and said, "Try this." And it never fails.
Any tips for success with this cake?
I always grease the pan and line it with a circle of parchment paper. I'd rather be extra careful so the cake won't stick than take a chance. If it cracks on top, that doesn't really bother me or my family. But if I'm bringing it somewhere I'll cover the top with a layer of fresh fruit, or a layer of whipped cream, or some raspberries just cooked a little with some orange marmalade and then allowed to cool.
For the crust:
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup (1 stick) melted butter
¼ cup sugar
For the cake:
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons sour cream
1. Make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and ¼ cup sugar in a bowl and mix well. Pat evenly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the prepared pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.
2. Make cake: Turn the oven down to 275 degrees. Combine the cream cheese, eggs, vanilla, sugar, lemon zest, flour and sour cream in a blender and blend on medium until smooth.
3. Pour into cooled crust and bake for 1 hour. Raise oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until the edges of the cake are set but the center is still a little jiggly, about 20 minutes longer.
4. Transfer cake to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan. Wrap cake, still in pan, in plastic so that plastic does not touch surface of cake and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight before releasing from pan, slicing, and serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.