There’s something great about old-school recipes. By that I mean those recipes from your childhood that often came from the back of one of the ingredient packages. Things your mother made. Or in my case, since my mother was Italian, things other people’s mothers made. Like the recipe for onion dip on the side of the Liptons instant onion soup box. Or the cookies you made from the Quaker Oats box. Nothing too complicated, and definitely not gourmet. Kraft is a great source of old-school recipes, and their Philadelphia cherry cheesecake tops my list. I was looking through the Kraft website for a recipe for my friend Theresa’s Super Bowl party, and came across a recipe for mini cherry cheesecakes that I remember making in my teens. In fact, it was my go-to recipe at the time, always a sure crowd pleaser in the 80s, and easy enough for a baking beginner.
I have been bringing dessert to my friend Theresa’s Super Bowl party for years now. This party is a long-standing tradition in the neighbourhood. It’s a full-on Super Bowl event – a big crowd, card tables, TVs in every room. There was even a big screen playing the game in the garage one year. No invites go out – people just know to show up. In fact Jake and Theresa gave up tickets to the actual Super Bowl one year, knowing that they would have to be home to take care of the crowd that would show up at their door.
The best part about this party is the food. Jake and Theresa put on a big spread, and then everyone brings something to share, so the entire house becomes this giant sports smorgasbord. This is where you get to fill up on all the sports fan favourites. Believe it or not, my choice of dessert to make for this crowd has often been cheesecake, because it’s quick and easy to make large pans of it that can be cut into bite-sized squares. But it has to be old-school Kraft cheesecake. This year it was cherry cheesecake. Cause even big burly sports-lovin’ guys like cherry cheesecake.
I ended up adapting the Kraft recipe slightly. For some reason the quantity of batter gave me many more cheesecakes that expected – I made 48 instead of the 12 called for in the recipe. Part of the reason may have been that I under-filled the cups, but I don’t think that alone could account for such big discrepancy. In any case, I liked the thickness of the filling in my cheesecakes and 48 is a perfect amount for a large crowd so I was happy with this result. The only problem was that they cooked faster than called for in the recipe, and the bottoms burned easily. Because I put all 4 trays in at the same time, the ones on the lower rack all burned before the cooking time was up. Now, as it turns out, I actually ended up making two batches of these on Sunday, since I had my daughter’s volleyball team over to screen game videos earlier in the day and I decided to make a batch for them as well. So the volleyball team got the burned ones but the football fans did better. For the second batch, I cut back the cooking time and made sure to rotate the trays. I also added some vanilla since it seems necessary in this dessert.
It’s a very quick and easy recipe – only 6 ingredients! I used medium sized muffin tin liners, which were a perfect fit for the Nilla wafers.
I added about a heaping tablespoon of batter to each cup, which gave me 48 cheesecakes.
You can see here that the filling rose slightly after baking, creating the perfect height for these baking cups. I didn’t bother with cooling the cakes in the oven – I took them out right away and popped them outdoors to cool off. There were no problems with shrinking or cracking.
I topped each with 2 cherries and a little glaze, which used up the whole can of pie filling. That’s it, nothing to it! This is probably one of the easiest desserts to make for a crowd.
Here’s my final recipe. CAUTION: Be very, very careful to watch for burning. Make sure to rotate trays half way through. Check cheesecakes at the 15 minute mark. If the top starts to brown, you’ve probably gone too far. If your baking cups are larger and you use more filling, you will need to increase the baking time slightly, but watch them carefully!
Mini Cherry Cheesecakes
Adapted from Kraft’s Cupid’s Cherry Cheesecakes
48 Nilla Wafers ( about ½ box)
2 pkg. Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 can (540 ml) cherry pie filling
Medium muffin baking cups
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tin with paper baking cups. Place 1 wafer in the bottom of each muffin cup.
Beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and then vanilla, beating after every addition. Spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon of mixture into each muffin cup, making sure cups are filled evenly.
Bake 15-20 minutes, rotating trays half way through. Check cheesecakes after 15 minutes, making sure bottoms are not browning.
Remove from oven and cool. Top with a dollop of cherry pie filling. Enjoy!