My friend, Martha, brought an exquisite cheesecake to dinner last weekend. It had an unusual name: Three Cities in Spain Cheesecake. But Martha’s family always called it Lola’s Lost Cheesecake. It sounded like there was a good story in there somewhere and sure enough there was. Martha showed me an article from Gourmet Magazine, (April, 1996), that explained the cake’s origins.
Once Upon a Time
Back in the 60s, a young woman (perhaps named Lola—this part of the story is vague–often enjoyed a world-class cheesecake at an artist’s hangout near Santa Fe called Three Cities in Spain. When the coffee shop closed in the 70s, Lola somehow finagled the prized cheesecake recipe. She guarded it jealously and refused to share it with anyone. Apparently, she hid it so well, she forgot where she put it.
After 20-some years, she gave up hope of ever again eating the cheesecake she once adored. That is, until one day while doing some in depth house cleaning, she uncovered the long-lost recipe! Lola was so excited that she immediately made the cake to see if it was as good as her recollections. And, indeed, it was—maybe even better. After that, she posted her find on the Internet so it would never again be lost and others could enjoy the culinary treasure as she did.
Such a Sweet Story
Fable, or not, Gourmet Magazine ran a version of the incident years ago. A slice was gracefully featured on a Ceralene George Sand porcelain dessert plate. The lush, creamy cake can also be found in Ruth Reichl’s The Gourmet Cookbook, where she subs gingersnaps for the graham cracker crust. Smitten Kitchen offers a version in bar form topped with fresh fruit.
Martha said that her mother—a home economics teacher—made the dessert for special occasions. She even submitted it for inclusion in local cookbooks along with the intriguing story. With or without a tale of origin, this cake is divine! It’s simple. And best of all, less sweet than many cheesecakes.
So, here’s the recipe. Call the dessert by its original name: Three Cities in Spain Cheesecake. Or call it by its acquired moniker: Lola’s Lost Cheesecake. Whatever name you use, stand back, because it disappears fast. Whether eaten in decadent wedges or sliver by sliver, this is a cake you’ll enjoy sharing with family and friends.
If you want to try this as an IP cake, here’s a really good YouTube clip that shows you how.
Three Cities in Spain Cheesecake
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 ½ cups graham crackers, ground fine
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 3 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs, beaten lightly
- 1 Tbs/ sugar
- 1 (16 oz.) sour cream
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, stir together crumbs, butter, sugar and salt. Sprinkle half of crumb mixture onto bottom of a buttered 9-1/2” spring-form pan near rim, pressing evenly using the bottom of a glass and extending the mixture about 1” up sides. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture onto bottom and brews evenly over bottom, joining edge.
In a bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until fluffy and add eggs a little as at time, beating on low speed until just combined. Beat in vanilla and sugar, beating on low speed until just combined. Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 45 minutes. Transfer cake in pan to a rack and let stand 5 minutes. (Cake will not be set in center, but will set as it cools.) Leave oven on.
In a bowl, stir together sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Drop spoonfuls of topping around edge of cake and spread gently over center, smoothing evenly. Bake cake 10 minutes more. Transfer cake in pan to rack and cool completely. Chill cake, covered overnight. Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate. Let cheesecake stand at room temperature 30 minutes and serve with fresh strawberries or top with cherry pie filling.