My mom first made this cheesecake in the early 80s and it immediately became a family favorite. The recipe was given to her by a friend, whose Greek family passed it down for generations. Sour cream makes the cake creamy, while whipped egg whites make it light and fluffy. It is delicate, airy and soufflé-like. While it can be served with sauces or toppings, it stands out on its own.
Although many countries now have their own version of the perfect cheesecake, it originated in Greece where athletes ate it as a source of energy and weddings used it as the celebratory cake.
Preparation time 30 minutes Bake time 1 hour (plus 1 hour of cooling) Makes one 25cm (10in) cake
6 eggs, separated
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
450 grams (16 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
470 grams (1 pint) sour cream, at room temperature
1-2 teaspoon vanilla extract
15 grams (2 tablespoons) cornstarch
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 160C (325F).
Generously butter a springform pan (size: 25cm/10in). Place a parchment circle on the bottom of the pan and butter the parchment. Place the pan on a baking sheet and set aside.
Measure all ingredients. Stir in a spoon or two of sugar into the cornstarch to prevent it from clumping when using in the recipe.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until pale and thick, a few minutes. Add the cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla, salt, lemon zest and cornstarch to the yolks gradually and beat until smooth.
In another large (and clean!) mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until the beginning stage of soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and increase the speed. Whip the egg whites until firm peaks form.
Fold egg whites gently into the yolk mixture, making sure the batter is well blended but avoiding overmixing which would deflate the egg whites.
Immediately pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Smooth out the top using a palette knife to let the cake rise evenly.
Bake for 1 hour. The cake will rise significantly while baking.
When done baking, turn off the oven and leave the cake inside with the oven door cracked open slightly to let the cake cool down. The cake will deflate significantly and the top may even crack (If this happens, don't worry. It will still taste delicious!). Leave the cake in the turned off oven for 1 hour.
When the cake is completely cool, wrap the cake pan well in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours to set. When ready to serve, take off the springform pan sides and slice. Given the delicate nature of the cake, it can not be removed from the springform base. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.