At the gym this morning, Jan and I started to chat about food, family, kids, Yosemite National Park, and well, food. She mentioned that she likes to make several kinds of small desserts rather than one big one and offer smaller servings of each.
I said I have just the recipe --Marcia's Mom's Cheesecake Cups
Helene, my friend Marica's mom, would bring these to every dinner, open house, party or whatever. She topped hers with with slices of kiwi fruit or berries. Never one for leaving well-enough alone, I often play with the flavor, cookie and topping combinations. I put some of my variations below the main recipe. Put your suggestions into the comments. I am always looking for a new way to play with this recipe. (How about topping them with some kernels of candy corn and swirling in some caramel syrup for a Halloween cheesecake cup?)
3- 8 ounce packages cream cheese. Okay to use light. I recommend Philly Brand Cheese. Cheese should be at room temperature and broken into large chunks. Use brick style, not whipped. Sorry, the natural style cream cheese doesn't seem to work well here.
3 eggs, beaten
½ tsp lemon juice
1 and 1/2-tsp vanilla
24 Vanilla wafers (Nabisco, Sunshine or Mother brand recommended) more if you intend to nosh.
Line cupcake tins with paper liners. (If you don't have enough tins, use metal cupcake liners on a cookie sheet.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a large bowl, mix eggs and sugar into lemony in color with a hand or stand mixer. Add cream cheese and mix into well combined and very smooth. Add extract and juice and mix well.
Put a vanilla wafer in the bottom of each cupcake liner. Fill each cupcake liner two-thirds full. Wipe up any drips, which will burn.
Bake for 20 minutes. Center of cheesecakes should be puffed up but they should still be very pale. Turn off oven. Let cheesecakes stand in oven with door open for 30 min. Take cheesecakes out of pans and let cool on rack. Refrigerate or store in freezer.
Just before serving, top with berries or some other fruit.
Here's some variations: Replace the cookie with a chocolate wafer and add chocolate chips to batter, top with chocolate shavings. Use an amaretto cookie or ginger snap and replace vanilla extract with almond, sprinkle with toasted, chopped almonds. Replace the vanilla flavoring with lemon extract and add some finely grated lemon zest to the batter. Try making marbled cheesecake: after filling the cup with the batter, drop in a teaspoon or so of jam, preserves, Nutella, caramel topping, etc., and drag a knife through the batter.
Helene was a warm and wonderful woman. Every time I make this recipe I think of her and generosity to us "kids" (her daughter's friends) far from their own mothers during their turbulent twenties and settling down thirties. I take great pleasure in passing along this recipe and I hope you will, too.