Mod baker cover
…in a brand new paperback edition (DK Publishing, $24.95).  Working on this book changed me forever.  It was my first foray into the world of British publishing where photos galore are the order of the day.  Writing this book was a real challenge, trying out faster and easier ways to get the same great results you might achieve with more work and more time spent in the kitchen, which few of us have to spare.

Then about two years after Modern Baker was published I heard from Phyl in Ohio that he was starting The Modern Baker Challenge, a group of baking bloggers who decided to bake their way through the whole book.  It’s still ongoing and you can visit the home blog for the challenge here.  I love seeing my recipes through the eyes of other bakers as well as reading their insightful comments and admiring the beautiful photos they take of the results.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes from Modern Baker. These little cheesecakes have all the wonderful creamy texture of a large cake in an easier to serve version.CheeseCakes07Photo credit:  Charles Schiller


The quintessential New York cheese cake is creamy and light-textured, with just a hint of an acidic bite from the presence of sour cream.  The recipe is simple, and baking them in individual molds eliminates all the potential problems of a cracked surface, especially since these are served upside down after they’re unmolded.  I usually like to decorate the top with a single strawberry half or even a spoonful of a simple berry sauce – strained frozen raspberries cooked down with a little sugar and cooled.

Makes 9 or 10 individual cheese cakes, depending on the size of the molds used

16 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 large eggs, at room temperature

One 8-ounce container sour cream

Fresh strawberries, halved and/or other berries for finishing

10 4-ounce aluminum foil cups or porcelain ramekins, buttered and the bottoms lined with a small disk of parchment paper, arranged on a jellyroll pan

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees.
  2. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat with the paddle on medium speed until well mixed, about a minute. 
  3. Decrease the speed to low and beat in one for the eggs.  After the egg is absorbed, stop and scrape the bowl and beater.
  4. Repeat step 3 for the second egg, then again for the third and fourth eggs.
  5. Beat in the sour cream.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared molds, filling them to within a quarter inch of the top.
  7. Place the pan in the oven and add about 2 cups of warm water to the pan under in cheese cakes.
  8. Bake until firm and slightly puffed, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  9. After the cheesecakes are ready, turn off the oven and leave the door ajar.  If your oven has a strong spring that snaps the door shut, place a wide metal spatula or other non-flammable object perpendicular to the door to prop it open about 4 to 6 inches.  Leave the cheesecakes in the partially open oven for another 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the pan from the oven and as soon as the molds are cool enough to handle, unmold the cheesecakes to a paper-lined pan.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap chill.

Serving:  Use a wide spatula to transfer the cheese cakes to dessert plates.  Decorate with a strawberry half, cut side up.

Storage:  Keep the cheese cakes refrigerated for up to 2 days before serving.  Plate and bring them to room temperature for an hour or two before serving.


INDIVIDUAL CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKES:  Add 6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate melted with 1/4 cup milk.  Let cool slightly before adding to the egg mixture, before beating in the sour cream.