This recipe’s appeal can be traced to two ingenious techniques.
First, an airy meringue helps lighten the heavy cream-cheese load. Second, a top layer of sweetened sour cream, spread just before the cake comes out of the oven, provides a tangy finishing touch. It also sweeps a pristine, snow-white blanket across the cake’s top, an effective trick for concealing any unwanted cracks.
The recipe is from “The Joy of Cheesecake,” by Dana Bovbjerg and Jeremy Iggers. Iggers chuckled when I asked him if he recalled the origins of the cake’s mountainous nomenclature. Was it the reference in the recipe’s introduction to that “ivory-white” top? You know: ivory ... elephants ... Africa ... Mount Kilimanjaro?
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“We were sitting around making up names,” he said with a laugh. “We ended up calling it that because it’s very tall. I wish it were something more than that.”
Despite his status as a bestselling cheesecake authority, the dessert has disappeared from Iggers’ radar.
“Most restaurant cheesecakes just aren’t very good,” he said. “They cut corners. For one reason or another, I’m usually disappointed. There’s a reason why people like cheesecake. They’re rich, they’re sensual. And they’re surprisingly easy to make.”
Makes 1 (9-inch) cheesecake.
Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. Adapted from “The Joy of Cheesecake” by Dana Bovbjerg and Jeremy Iggers.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 cups sour cream
To prepare crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse graham crackers into fine crumbs. Add butter and 1/4 cup sugar, and pulse until thoroughly combined (alternately, place graham crackers in a tightly sealed plastic bag and break into crumbs with a rolling pin, then transfer crumbs to a bowl, add 1/4 cup sugar and 6 tablespoons melted better and stir to combine). Press crumb mixture evenly across bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, using a spatula or spoon to smooth crumb mixture to an even thickness. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare filling: In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and vanilla extract until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Slowly add 1 cup sugar and beat until whites form stiff, glossy peaks.
Gently fold egg whites into cream cheese mixture, taking care to preserve the egg whites’ volume. Pour mixture evenly into prepared crust and bake for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together sour cream and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar until thoroughly combined.
After cake has baked for 25 minutes, remove cake from oven and increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Spread sour cream topping evenly over top of cake. Return cake to oven and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer springform pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap springform pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled (at least 4 hours) before serving. Release and remove side of pan before cutting. Serve chilled.