California Style Cheesecake

by Jenn on August 8, 2009

in Desserts,Gluten Free

California Style Cheesecake
That’s what my mom has always called it when she made this delicious smooth and creamy cheesecake – but then there are a number of dishes that she calls “California style”.  Sometimes I’ve even wondered if that’s just what she calls food she grew up with, since she grew up in SoCal.  But no, this is an actual style of cheesecake!

Most people think of tend to think of New York style cheesecake when they hear the word “chesecake”.  But this is what I grew up with, because it’s what my mom grew up with.  She tells me that back in southern CA when she was young, if it wasn’t specifically “New York” style, this is the type of cheesecake you would be served – if you are not a fan of New York style, don’t give up hope on cheesecake until you have tried this!

It’s creamy and rich, and a much lighter consistency compared to NY style, which is normally very dense.  It is served with a cookie crumb crust filled with rich cream cheese filling and then covered with a characteristic layer of sweet sour cream topping.

In order to make the cookie crumb crust (which traditionally would have been made from Graham crackers), I used my GF cinnamon cookie flop – I food processed the cookies until they were crumbs, and mixed it with melted butter to press into the pie plate.

My mom says she got this recipe from the inside of a cream cheese container and subsequently was printed in a cookbook from Knudsen’s, a dairy company from when she was younger.  It now looks like Knudsen is a part of Kraft and only makes sour cream and cottage cheese?  I’m not sure.  And no hint of this recipe is anywhere the Kraft/Knudsen site.  The version of the recipe I have has been paraphrased and rewritten a lot though, and I am going to do yet another adaption here to make it gluten free.
_PAG1065cheesecake copy


California Style Cheesecake

Adapted from Knudsen’s Recipes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

13-14 graham crackers or equivalent volume of GF cinnamon cookies
1/4 cup sugar (not needed if you used my GF cinnamon cookies)
1/4 cup butter, melted
12 oz. cream cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
3.5 tbs. sugar
1/4 vanilla bean

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Pulse graham crackers or GF cookies in a food processor until they are fine crumbles. Mix with melted butter and pat into pie pan.
_PAG0942crust copy
2. Combine cream cheese, eggs, lemon juice and zest, 3/4 cup sugar and vanilla extract.  Pour into crust and bake for 25-30 min.
3. While baking, make the sour cream topping – combine sour cream, 3.5 tbs. sugar and scraped out beans from the vanilla bean in a small bowl.
4. Once cheesecake is baked, let cool for 5 min.  Pour sour cream mixture on top, and bake for 10 more min.
5.  Chill in fridge until cooled (a couple hours), top with fresh berries if you like.



Jessica August 10, 2009 at 2:42 am

This looks delicious!

Linda August 15, 2009 at 12:01 am

I’ve never heard of California style. It does look less dense. I’ll have to try it some time. I like using a nut crust because I always have them on hand, and the flavor goes well with cheesecake. Thanks for the recipe!

Neel | Learn Food Photography February 8, 2010 at 10:12 am

Wonderful example. Thank you for sharing this. Depth of Field, as you know, is a wonderful way to create an attractive photograph.

I like the second photograph more than the rest of them. Love this example for depth of field.

I wonder though, in the second one, how would it look if the piece of cheesecake in the foreground was not cropped.

What do you think?

Jenn February 8, 2010 at 10:17 am

Thanks so much for the lovely compliment!

Ha this is funny – the shot was cropped because my cutting skills are terrible and I totally mucked up that part of the slice when I was taking it out of the pan! Otherwise I think it would definitely have looked better if I were able to get an entire slice of the cheesecake in the frame.

Heather @ Stuffed Pepper April 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm

I never heard of California Style cheesecake, but it certainly sounds good! :)

My mom most often refers to California Style when talking about burgers. For some reason, hamburgers with mayonnaise (instead of ketchup) are “California Burgers.” :)

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