This recipe has been one of my grandmother’s favorites for years.
We followed a recipe for it one day a long time ago when we both had a longing for cheesecake, but did not know how to make it. We made it over and over again, substituting the fruit for different flavors to try new things. They were all great (guava was my personal favorite!) Sadly, some time ago, we lost the recipe. We looked for it high and low, but nothing. It was gone. So I knew it was time for us to come up with something.
This recipe is truly an easy one for anyone to put together. No need to spend hours perfecting a cheesecake that takes too long to make. It is far too difficult and not worth it. This cheesecake may even be better than the classic cheesecake I have slaved over making in the past.
In my house, cheesecake has always been served for Thanksgiving. The problem is, my mom spends far too long (and by that I mean over 8 hours) preparing a cheesecake that is devoured in 30 minutes. This cheesecake is ready to eat in 4 hours tops and has far fewer ingredients. Another great thing about this delicious citrus cheesecake is that you can use oranges instead of mandarins if you prefer. Even lemon would be nice.
3 cups crushed Keebler graham crackers, loosely packed (about 18 crackers; two sleeves)
½ cup crushed pecans or almonds
¼ teaspoon McCormick ground cloves
½ cup Kerrygold butter, melted
1.5 pounds cream cheese at very soft room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar*
3 Eggland’s Best eggs
¼ teaspoon pure orange oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
10 seedless mandarins (about 1.5 – 2 pounds)
See below for more ingredients if decorating the top (optional but pretty!)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease sides and bottom of 9” springform pan. Peel and split the mandarins into segments, tasting a few to make sure you have a sweet batch. Discard any easy-to-pull white strands (no need to be too finicky); set oranges aside. Stir together the first four ingredients well, then push mixture into pan evenly and very firmly. You should have enough to cover the bottom and about ¾ of the way up the sides. Bake crust for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant and edges are just starting to brown; set aside to cool. Separately, on low speed, beat the softened cream cheese, orange oil, and vanilla just until smooth, adding eggs one at a time while
beating. Sift the powdered sugar over the batter and mix until just even and incorporated. Spread half of the batter into the cooled crust. Top with half of the orange segments (about 40-50), then spread remaining batter over oranges to the edges of the pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until center is set. Cheesecake will be golden brown and domed around sides; it will flatten a bit as it cools. Let cool for at least 3 or 4 hours before removing from pan.
At this point, you can serve each slice chilled or at room temperature, topped with a generous handful of the remaining orange segments. Or, if you’re like me and have the urge to decorate your cheesecake (let alone any dessert), then reach for:
8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese at soft room temperature
½ cup powdered Domino sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure orange oil
1 dash ground cloves
½ cup apricot preserves
2 tablespoons water
On high speed, beat together the first five ingredients until fluffy and well beaten. Spread onto top of cooled cheesecake, then use a pastry bag to pipe a border if desired. In a small saucepan, heat the preserves and water until bubbling. Reduce heat to simmer and whisk well for about 30 seconds, then turn heat off. Let the apricot glaze cool a bit while you arrange the remaining mandarins on your cheesecake. Whisk glaze again and use a pastry brush to coat the oranges with shiny sweetness. If desired, use the extra apricot glaze to brush the sides of the crust, or serve your cheesecake with a drizzle to temper its tartness.