In the spring of 2011, I interned for Penguin Group (USA) in the Penguin Audio department. The biggest perk was access to literally every book Penguin Group (USA) has published. The “take shelf” at Penguin Group (USA) is to books, what Mt. Everest is to geographical wonders.
This is where I picked up This is Where I Leave You by Jonathon Tropper. This is Where I Leave You is about a man named Judd Foxman who simultaneously mourns the death of his father, as well as his marriage to high school sweetheart Jen. Judd attempts to regain normalcy while suffering from a mental demise via an early mid-life crisis and with help from an overwhelmingly dysfunctional family.
One of my favorite scenes from this novel is when Jen’s affair is revealed. When the first line of Chapter 3 began with, “My marriage ended the way things do: with paramedics and cheesecake,” I knew it was going to be a good read.
It’s Jen’s birthday and an unassuming Judd leaves work early and picks up a strawberry cheesecake to surprise her. However, he is the one left surprised. After hearing a series of strange noises coming from he and Jen’s bedroom, he walks in, only to find his radio show host boss on top of his wife. Logically, he throws the cheesecake at his boss, which ends up in flames…. Yes, it’s an inflammable cheesecake.
I had no choice but to forever memorialize this scene as a strawberry cheesecake, but I promise this one won’t end up in flames, just in your bellies.
2 1/2 Cups crushed vanilla wafers
1/2 Cup butter, at room temperature
4- 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 Cups + 3 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 Cups milk, room temperature
3 Eggs + 1 egg yolk, room temperature
1/2 Cup sour cream
1/2 Teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 Cup flour
2 Cups (or so) of boiling water
2 Cups fresh swrawberries
** It is important that all ingredients are room temperature to prevent lumping.
Ingredients (for Simple Lemon Syrup):
1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup white sugar
3 large lemon peels
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
- Mix together crushed vanilla wafers, 3 tablespoons of sugar and butter until it forms a uniform mixture. Press this onto the bottom of a greased springform pan.
- In a mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Then add milk, followed by eggs, and egg yolk, one at a time. Gradually add sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest and flour until the mixture is creamy.
- BEFORE pouring mixture into the springform pan, place the springform pan onto a piece of tin foil, large enough to cover the perimeter of the pan. Place the springform pan onto a baking sheet. Then, pour your cheesecake mixture into the springform pan.
- Boil 2-4 cups of water.
- Place pan with cheesecake onto an oven rack. Then pour boiling water into the baking sheet until the water is at least 1/4 the way up the side of the springform pan. This prevents the cheesecake from cracking and helps it hold in moisture. It should look like this –>
- Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. You will know the cheesecake is done when the outside is firm, but the center slightly jiggles like jell-o. Then, shut the oven off and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for another two hours. Remove from oven and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. Slice strawberries and place on top of cheesecake.
- For the simple syrup for the top of the cake, bring sugar, water, and lemon peels to a boil on medium heat. Then, remove from heat and let cool.
- Brush top of cake with this syrup to prevent the color of the strawberries form turning.