Strawberry Cheesecake, Celebrating Mom Day, a Birthday, and Mourning the Lakers
Strawberry season at Tanaka Farms, our local organic farm, opened in mid-March. Each year, we anticipate the season’s approach as we plan our strawberry-picking outing(s).
Bebe E’s favorite wagon display in front of the produce stand. (April 2011)
This season, Bebe E and I were fortunate to go strawberry-picking twice already. Once with “my girls” (best friends) and their families, and a second time with family (for Big Onechan’s Spring break) and more friends. Each time was equally rewarding as we came home with sweet, juicy, delicious sun-ripened organic strawberries and good memories.
These are Mama’s favorite photos of Bebe E on her first strawberry picking tour. Although Aya said she looks like she has a bad rash on her face, I love her “strawberry face” photo. :)
If you’re not local to Orange County, CA and not familiar with Tanaka Farms, it is a third generation Japanese – American family owned farm. Their ancestors immigrated from Hiroshima, Japan, the same region as my parents (no connection, and we don’t know them, personally). In addition to strawberries, Tanaka Farms grows a variety of vegetables and hosts strawberry tours, watermelon tours, a pumpkin patch and a lot of gorgeous, fresh Christmas trees every year.
My favorite season, however, is strawberry season. They have a cute little produce stand on their farm, and occasionally I stop by to buy a basket (or more) of strawberries for a special treat. Whenever we stop by to purchase strawberries, Bebe E likes to play on the hay and the wagon on display in front of the stand. As we walk in, she likes to say, “stah-boo-ries!” This is such a fun age because she is communicating so much more, although Mommy is often asked to “translate” by family members. :)
Getting back to the produce stand, Tanaka Farms sells organic fruits and vegetables that are grown on their farm, however, they also sell conventional and organic grown produce supplied by others. All produce and vegetables grown at Tanaka Farms is clearly labeled with a GREEN sign, so be sure to look for these if you shop there.
NOTE: I should also mention that there is another local farm that my brother professes has excellent organic strawberries (although smaller but apparently sweeter than Tanaka Farms’ strawberries), Smith Farms, and according to Yelp, they also sell organic and conventionally grown produce from both local and distant farms. I will have to check them out soon!
This year, we celebrated Mother’s Day with Bebe Dada’s side of the family on Mother’s Day weekend. At home, I enjoyed a blueberry pancake breakfast that Bebe Dada made for me and the girls with my favorite Krusteaz buttermilk pancake mix and fresh blueberries. Afterwards we met our family at one of our regular Chinese restaurants and enjoyed a nice, delicious dim sum lunch, and then together, we watched the Lakers completely BOMB.
In my heart, I truly hoped the Lakers would redeem themselves by winning at least ONE game in the second series against Dallas, but it wasn’t the case as they lost four straight games in a row, ending that series, and their chance for yet another NBA Championship title. I was extremely disappointed to watch Bynum, and especially Lamar exhibit such unsportsmanlike conduct. At that moment, I was embarrassed to be a Lakers fan. Dallas was clearly the superior team. Despite his hair (I know this has nothing to do with his skill), Dirk Nowitzki is very talented, and as much as I want to hate him and his hair, I just can’t. He played fantastic ball and I hope he has the chance to achieve his dream of earning a Championship ring. Their advancement to the Western Conference Championship round is well-deserved and I wish them luck.
Unfortunately, like many Lakers fans in Southern California, I was down-right depressed after that fourth game. I couldn’t even muster the energy to be mad at the Lakers because their performance was just so pathetic. It wasn’t championship level ball that they played. Sadly, they deserved to lose. My friend, and Lakers evil nemesis, we will call him, “The Laker Hatin’ Guy in the Green Jersey” (who actually shares Lakers season tickets – go figure – we keep begging him to simply give us the tickets since he hates them so much…) texted me after that fourth game to say that he couldn’t even gloat about the loss because it was just so pitiful. Believe me, after having endured heckling texts after the first three straight losses of that second series, I actually appreciated a little solemn “sympathy” after that 4th straight loss. Thanks, buddy. Now if you would just give us some tickets for the 2011-2012 season…. I know you like to watch ’em lose but you don’t like them!!! Just give it up!!! :P
Mama and Bebe E in the wagon on our way to the strawberry fields!
A friend of mine has been making Junior’s Famous Original Cheesecake for our get-togethers, and I am absolutely crazy over this rich, yet somewhat light, delectable dessert. (She’s also made variations of the original with chocolate and with apricots.) I decided I had to try making this for myself. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but cheesecake just might be my favorite dessert. I love ALL types of cheesecake but this is definitely a favorite, along with my little cheesecake cups. Unfortunately, this cheesecake is labor intensive for a gal like me who RARELY ever bakes cake from scratch, and it was SO much more work than my Mom’s little cheesecake cups.
I might be lucky if I make this Junior’s cheesecake once a year, but I find myself already thinking about how to perfect the layer of sponge cake (email inquiry already sent to cheesecake-baking-friend) or even trying it with a graham crust, and of course – – – different flavors!
This past weekend, we celebrated my Dad’s Birthday and Mother’s Day with my side of the family and this was the perfect excuse for trying my hand at making Junior’s cheesecake for the first time. It worked out well since my Dad loves cheesecake and I knew my Mom wouldn’t complain. In addition, it would be just the thing I needed for nursing my aching NBA soul that is STILL mourning the Lakers AND, after all, I’m a Mama and deserve to eat dessert that I love too! :) For a special treat, I decided to make strawberry cheesecake and I used Tanaka Farm’s strawberries.
Oh, and I should mention that NOBODY wanted to talk about the Lakers at our family get together. We’re all still depressed about it. Bebe Dada dared to ask M-kun what happened to the Lakers, and he simply responded with, “let’s talk about it next season”. So funny.
The strawberries above were eaten within a day of being picked on the farm. Some of them were dipped in chocolate while others were eaten plain or with whip cream or atop vanilla bean ice cream. SO yummy! We had to buy more strawberries for the cheesecake.
I used Junior’s Famous Cheesecake recipe (found here), but the sponge cake doesn’t produce a thin layer of cake like the original Junior’s cheesecake. Instead, the cake is a thick, 1/2 inch layer.
When baking the cheesecake, it will rise because of the eggs and should look somewhat firm and cooked. If you shake the pan and it jiggles like it’s still raw in the center, continue to bake it. I ended-up baking this cheesecake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes in order to get it cooked through. The top of the cheesecake browned, but it was not burnt, either on the bottom or the top. The cheesecake will fall as it cools.
The cheesecake would have been fine without the preserves drizzled on top of the sliced strawberries, if you want to skip this step entirely. The sauce, likely because I used strawberry preserves instead of jelly, was thick and a little globby. There is also a macaroon crunch recipe included with the original Junior’s strawberry cheesecake recipe but I omitted this.
There’s nothing like a good slice of cheesecake to celebrate with… or mourn the end of the Lakers season. :)
Have a great week!
Judy | Bebe mama
- FOR 9-INCH SPONGE CAKE LAYER:
- ½ cup sifted cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 3 extra-large eggs, separated
- ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 drops pure lemon extract (substitute: fresh lemon juice drops)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Unsalted butter to grease pan
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- FOR CREAM CHEESE FILLING:
- 4 8-ounce packages regular cream cheese (not light Neufchatel cream cheese), at room temperature
- 1⅔ cups sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 extra-large eggs
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
- FOR FRESH STRAWBERRY TOPPING:
- About 8 -10 ripe strawberries
- 1 cup strawberry jelly (I used ¾ cup of reduced sugar organic strawberry preserves from Trader Joes)
- ½ cup apricot preserves (I used ¼ cup of reduced sugar organic apricot preserves, also from Trader Joes)
- FOR CAKE:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously butter a 9-inch springform pan. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
- Beat the egg yolks together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes. Then, with the mixer still running, gradually add the ⅓ cup of sugar and continue beating until thick light-yellow ribbons form in the bowl, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
- NOTE: For some reason I used the electric hand mixer, but I recommend using a stand mixer.
- Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand until no more white flecks appear. Then blend in the melted butter.
- In a clean bowl, using clean dry beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high until frothy. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites should stand up in stiff peaks, but not be dry).
- Stir about ⅓ cup of the whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites (don't worry if a few white specks remain).
- Gently spoon the batter into the pan. Bake the cake just until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched for about 10 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack. Do not remove the cake from the pan. Set aside while you make the cream cheese filling.
- NOTE: I baked the sponge cake for about 20 minutes because it didn't "spring back" when touched. It looked raw and very undercooked. This recipe for the sponge cake doesn't produce a thin layer of cake, but rather a thick, ½ inch layer of cake.
- FOR FILLING:
- Place one 8-ounce package of the cream cheese, ⅓ cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 mintues, then beat in the remaining 3 packages of cream cheese.
- Increase the mixer speed to high and beat in the remaining 1½ cups of the sugar, then beat in the vanilla and heavy cream. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating the bating only until completely blended. Be careful not to overmix the batter.
- Gently spoon the cheese filling on top of the baked sponge cake layer. Place the springform pan in a largeshallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Bake the cheesecake until the center barely jiggles when you shake the pan, about 1 hour. NOTE: The cheesecake will rise because of the eggs and should look somewhat firm and cooked. If you shake the pan and it jiggles like it's still raw in the center, continue to bake it. I ended-up baking this cheesecake for an
- additional 20 to 30 minutes in order to get it cooked through. The cheesecake will fall as it cools.
- Leave the cheesecake in the springform pan and cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Then cover the cake with plastic wrap, making sure that the wrap doesn't touch the top of the cheesecake, and refrigerate until it's completely cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.
- When you're ready to serve the cheesecake, remove the springform pan and slide the cake off of the bottom of the pan onto a serving plate. I left the cake on the removable pan bottom when I served it. If you're going to garnish it with strawberries, simply leave the cheesecake in the spring form pan until you've decorated it and it's ready to serve. It's easier to handle the cheesecake if it remains in the pan until it's ready to serve. If any cake is left over, cover it with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
- FOR FRESH STRAWBERRY TOPPING:
- Wash strawberries then pat them dry with paper towels. Slice strawberries lengthwise, then starting at the outside edge of the cheesecake, arrange the slices flat, in rows, with ends pointing toward the center of the cake. Continue to work towards the center until the until the top of the cake is completely covered by strawberries.
- NOTE: The original Junior's recipe calls for whole, hulled strawberries, but given how challenging it is to slice cake with whole strawberries on top, I opted to slice the strawberries instead.
- Melt the strawberry jelly and apricot preserves together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Strain and drizzle the warm jelly over the berries.
- NOTE: The cheesecake would have been just fine without the preserves drizzled on top of the sliced strawberries, if you want to skip this step entirely. The sauce, likely because I used strawberry preserves instead of jelly, was thick and a little globby. There is also a macaroon crunch recipe included with the original Junior's strawberry cheesecake recipe but I omitted this.
- Refrigerate the cake until it's completely cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the cake from the pan and serve it chilled. Wrap any leftover cake in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.