I need to preface this recipe with a warning.
This is not, I repeat, not an itty bitty city kitchen friendly dessert.
It is delicious and addictive and 200% worth the time and mess and effort.
But it’s not my usual easy peasy throw it together recipe.
This cheesecake requires 2 large mixing bowls, more ingredients than I usually throw in, a 9×13 baking pan and a two-step baking process.
You don’t need anything fancy that cheesecake generally requires like a spring form pan or bain-marie, so thumbs up there.
Here’s the thing though, every year I ask my dad what he wants me to make him for Father’s Day and every year he always says The Cheesecake Thing.
I’m sure there’s a name for it. I’m sure I could come up with something better than that, but even if I did, dad would still call it The Cheesecake Thing.
So that’s what it is.
The origins of the cheesecake thing?
My dad’s sister Mary Jane’s best friend Debbie.
Debbie made it for a family party, dad went crazy for it, got the recipe, and asked me to learn how to make it.
A bit of back story, too, on my dad’s sister. Mary Jane is one year older than my dad, the oldest of the six. It is because of her that I am here. Really.
My parents met because Mary Jane was my mom’s roommate in college.
Mom always jokes that she won my dad in a lottery, because, ya know, she drew Mary Jane as her roommate in the housing lottery.
So anyway, Aunt Mary Jane has been friends with Debbie since forever. She may as well be another aunt. And she’s crazy enough to be part of my family.
But back to the task at hand.
I would not, under normal circumstances, make this dessert. I’m not even sure if I would make it for my boyfriend if he asked. But for my dad, my dad who bought me two rocket pops and always let me get away with way more than mom ever did, for my dad I’ll do anything.
(PS sorry honey!)
For the crust you will need:
- 2/3 cup butter, softened
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350.
Cream together the butter and the brown sugar until the mix is light and fluffy. You can use a mixer, but I didn’t hit the gym today, so I’m getting in my workout with the wooden spoon.
When the butter and sugar are combined, stir in the flour, one cup at a time, combining completely.
Fold in the chopped pecans.
Turn out the mixture into a greased 9×13 baking dish, pressing down to form the crust. Reserve a handful of the mixture for later.
Bake the crust for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned.
Butter, brown sugar and pecans is a highly underrated smell.
I could totally forget about the filling part and just break up the crust into cookie bars and be very happy.
But this isn’t about me. This is about dad.
While the crust bakes, time for the filling.
You will need:
- 2 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp vanilla
Hope you arm isn’t tired because it’s time to get to beating again. Cream together the cream cheese and the sugar.
Stir in the eggs, one at a time and then add the vanilla and the lemon.
Now, you’re looking at the lemon and you’re thinking, I don’t really need lemon, do I? Well make sure you put it on your list because yes, you really do need it. This is the secret to a really good cheesecake. Without that squeeze of lemon juice, the cheesecake is just kind of one note. You need the brightness of the lemon so your palate can really appreciate the richness and creamyness of the cheesecake.
Stir until the mix is smooth.
When the crust is done, pull from the oven and pour the filling over the hot crust. The crust and the filling will start to melt together.
Sprinkle the top with the reserved crust mixture and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
Here’s the part that turns this from cheesecake to The Cheesecake Thing.
While it’s baking, break up a Heath Bar or a Skor bar. You want a chocolate toffee candy mixture. They sell heath bar bits in the baking section usually – little pieces of toffee and milk chocolate – but it’s more fun to break up a candy bar yourself.
You could totally sub in chopped up Reese’s or maybe M & Ms. But again, this is for my dad. And my dad is a very particular man. He likes things a certain way. (I can’t talk about him though, because as my mother loves to remind me, I’m just like him.)
When you pull the cheesecake out of the oven, I mean as soon as you pull it out and it’s still a million degrees, sprinkle the candy bits over the hot filling.
This is key.
You want the heat of the filling to melt the candy bits. You don’t want the candy bits to just sit on top.
You want the topping melted into the filling melted into the crust.
The second key to this, refrigerate it overnight. At least 8 hours.
This needs to be icy cold.
So if you want to make this for a special occasion, keep that in mind. Plan ahead.
It’s worth the effort to make daddy happy.