Or, to put a romantic spin on it, cake de la cheese.
Smart cooking and dessert tend to be oxymoronic, but not so with cheesecake. With regular cake, a steady succession of flops is the normal route before you hit upon a low or no-fat alternative you can live with. Cheesecake is different. This is one cake you can have right from the git-go and eat it, too.
McMan’s Valentine’s Cake de la Cheese (New York Baked Cheesecake)
Break up a package or a package and a quarter of no-fat cinnamon graham crackers, and blend at low speed till you have crumbs. In a bowl, stir in a quarter cup or so of melted light butter into the crumbs, then press mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a nine-inch springform cake pan. Don’t worry about uniformity of thickness. The filling will cover up any embarrassments. Bake for five minutes to set into a crust.
Toss three 8 oz packages of softened no-fat cream cheese into a mixing bowl with a half cup of Splenda and beat with a hand mixer till light (don’t overdo it). Add the equivalent of four eggs (read the directions on the container of an egg substitute), a pint of no-fat sour cream, and a dash of vanilla or lemon (or both), beating as you add.
The secret to smart cooking is intelligently adding back taste. No-fat cooking can be extreme for many, so there is no shame in substituting one real cream cheese for one of the no-fat ones. You would be surprised how just a little fat can go a long way, with little or no compromise to taste.
To go the complete no-fat route, you might want to experiment with some of your favorite spices, such as ginger or nutmeg or cinnamon or zest of orange (try all of them together). Also, an extra splash of vanilla or lemon. Subtle is the watchword here, just enough spice to infuse the filling with flavor, but not enough so your two-year-old thinks he’s slurping melted ice cream.
Pour filling over the crust into pan and bake at 300 to 350 degrees for 30 minutes to an hour till top is golden brown, depending on conditions of oven. Allow to cool in the oven for an hour or so, then transfer to the fridge for another few hours. The cheesecake may have surface cracks which you can cover up with no-fat whipped cream and fruit. My personal preference is no-frills, cracks showing and all. Sometimes I can’t resist sprinkling on a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. And since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’ll be going with drizzled chocolate.