Cheesecake and love…

As a parent you walk through many things. Some things you crawl through, on bended knee in constant prayer. From the second your child appears in your life you realize that now you are second, sometimes third or forth or fifth depending on how many children you have. I am reminded daily how important that unconditional love is. I had it from the wonderful women that raised me, my beautiful Mama, my extraordinary Granny and my amazing great Grandmother, Mimi… I never had it from my real father. Yes, that formed a hurt in me that I pick at now and then, like you do a sore tooth. But the basic strength I got in those first years have helped me to walk down my path with my son. Sometimes I crawled, making deals with God along the way, begging him to take me instead. But we made it, Nathaniel and I. I’m ready to crawl and beg again at a moments notice. Its the path you unknowingly choose when you become a parent. As I have said before, those women in the first five years of my life, are my touchstone, the souls that keep me upright or at least enable me to stand again, once I have been knocked flat. I have been knocked flat… a few times. I have crawled my way back to an upright position… a few times. Being the touchstone for my own child has made a world of difference to my son. It gave him the strength to deal with two life threatening illnesses and to walk out the other side. Not surely, unscathed. But no-one gets out of childhood unscathed. We just need to get out of childhood well loved. I was well loved. My son is well loved and in turn is a kind, loving and generous man.

So, for my dear Friend Judy, and her daughter Katie and sweet little Evan, you are in my thoughts and prayers, it takes so much giving to be a good parent, and so much strength, but I know you have it. Judy, your evidence is your 4 wonderful fully “growed” children. Katie, I know you have it in you because your Mom is such a wonderful example, and Evan is such a sweet child. Evan will be a kind, loving and generous man, and the long view is, it will all be worth it, as hard as it is to crawl through today and the days to come. I send you love, I send you strength.

When my son was diagnosed with Leukemia before he was three, my heart felt like a giant fist were going to squeeze the very life blood out of me. But the doctors had answers, pretty good ones, as it turns out. I don’t remember them telling me about the 40% chance. It wouldn’t have mattered, he was going to survive. I asked what could I do? They sent me the nutritionist, a really helpful lady who told me he needed 5000 calories a day. And if I could do that, he would do so much better with the chemo. He was already a good eater, but 5000 a day is a lot for a child that weighted 30 pounds. This was long before nutrition shakes and powdered supplements. But whipping creme and ground nuts went in everything I could get it in. You can disguise a lot of things in spaghetti sauce, and he craved spaghetti, I was making 2 very large pots of it each week, usually he ate that at 2 in the morning, I also put broccoli in it ground up, he never knew. He still craved the things children on steroids crave, one day we were at McDonalds 5 times, for a hamburger and fries. But otherwise, he was getting good nutritious food every time he opened his mouth. I had long known that food provided comfort, but it became my weapon against the leukemia. It was the thing that I could control. I could do this to help my son. I became a really good cook. His favorite was beef stroganoff and my cheesecake, lots of calories there. The end result was he never was one of those skinny chemo kids, he actually managed to gain a few pounds. And 4 1/2 years later he came off chemo and has never looked back. He also really appreciates good food.

Once when he was 5, we went to a bakery that a friend of mine opened in Murfreesboro. This was a very sweet man who had made cheesecake one of the specialties of his bakery. I seem to remember we were the only ones there. The owner brought the cheese cake slices out to the table and stood there as Nathaniel took his first bite. Nathaniel’s face crumpled as he slid the plate away, across the table, and announced that it wasn’t very good. My friend apologized and apologized. Then asked me if Nathaniel was used to the Jello kind, I said No, he was used to my kind. He called me the next day and said he’d never had anything get to him the way Nathaniel’s reaction did, it was so honest. He asked for my recipe. I gave it to him. I’m giving it to you, and yes it has lots of calories. Nathaniel’s best friend Adam loves this cheesecake too. So here you go Adam, now that you are in Boston, you can make you some. 

This has a pastry crust, use a 9 inch spring form pan, size matters. I used an 8″ one time to not good results, who knew an inch could make so much difference?

For the crust,

2 cups sifted all purpose flour (sift before measure)

1/2 cup sugar

3 teaspoons grated lemon peel (just the yellow, about 3 lemons)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup softened salted butter

In medium bowl blend together dry ingredients, make a well in the center add vanilla egg yolks and butter mix together with fingers until it forms a soft ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in refrig for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. grease bottom and sides of spring form pan, then remove sides. Roll 1/3 of the dough onto the pan bottom. Trim edges. bake 8 to 10 minutes until golden. Cool. Put sides back on pan, roll out remainder of dough, cut into strips and press onto sides of the pan kinda mashing it to the edges of the baked bottom. Trim dough so it only comes 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pan. DO NOT bake this until you fill it. I did this once and it seriously slumped. Refrigerate until the filling is ready.

before you start the next part crank the oven up to 500 degrees


5-(yes 5) 8 oz. blocks creme cheese softened to room temp(do not use the spreadable kind) Yeah baby, that 2 and 1/2 pounds of creme cheese.

1 3/4 cups of sugar

3 tablespoons AP flour

3 teaspoons finely zested lemon peel

3 teaspoons finely zested orange peel

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 large eggs(room temp)

2 egg yolks(room Temp)

1/4 cup heavy creme(room temp)

In a large bowl of the mixer, combine the creme cheese, sugar, flour, lemon and orange peel and vanilla, Beat at high speed just to blend, scrape the orange and lemon peel off the blades and stir them back in. Beat in eggs and egg yolks one at a time on med speed just until combined. Beat in heavy creme on low speed. Get the orange and lemon peel off the beaters AGAIN and stir them back in. Pour in prepared spring form pan.


bake 10 minutes at 500 degrees,

LOWER temp to 250 degrees and bake 1 hour longer.

Let cheesecake cool in pan on wire rack, then refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight. But really… who are we kidding? If you could wait overnight for the cheesecake you probably are not reading THIS blog.

I like my cheesecake simple! No syrupy topping. That’s an abomination. I didn’t go to this much trouble to only taste the topping, so I serve it plain or at the most with fresh berries.

Fresh…Delicious… perfect for Easter, and only about 500 calories a slice.

I wonder how I could send one Judy’s way….



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3 Responses to Cheesecake and love…

  1. keith miller says:

    Hey Chef thanks for the lovely desert course today, great to see another dish come from our kitchen.I know that this cheesecake will bring everyone to your feet and running for the kitchen until the last piece has been divided by at least thirds over and over. Katie our prayers are with you and Evan. Make this cheesecake with Judy whenever the time is right and you’re guaranteed smiles and love until that spring form pan is empty, love y’all.

  2. Judy says:

    Oh sweet Candace, I’m sitting on my bed, knowing that Evan is home, and I can crawl in my comfy cocoon and thought I would read your latest post. I was so touched by it. I actually went to the grocery store today and picked up dark cocoa, buttermilk and half and half…… I decided that tomorrow was to be the day I make the adult chocolate cake. I think this family needs some comfort that only chocolate can provide! It’s always been a thing in our family…. My kids tease me that I make a bath tub full of gravy for meals but especially at thanksgiving. The title of your blog especially touches me! Love you and thank you

    • Linda says:

      Judy I saw the picture you posted of the chocolate cake. It must be a really good recipe if all that was on the picture was the plate, fork and not even a crumb.

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