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Dorothy Dean presents: Decadent Three Cities of Spain dessert takes the cheesecake

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

Cheesecake lovers, unite! July 30 is our day to indulge in our favorite creamy confection with National Cheesecake Day.

I’ve shared a variety of cheesecake recipes throughout the years, from cheesecake bars and dips to cheesecake made in a slow cooker – and even tossed in a salad.

But this recipe takes the cheesecake, for sure. And with a name like Three Cities of Spain cheesecake, you know it’s got to be something special and have an interesting backstory. The recipe hails from a coffeehouse of the same name in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

Three Cities of Spain was a popular artsy hangout in the 1960s hosting a diverse mix of poets, musicians and foreign films. After closing in the mid-1970s, one of the cheesecake-loving patrons tracked down the coveted recipe and refused to share it with anyone.

This led her to selfishly hide it – and apparently too well, as she herself could not remember where. Twenty-something odd years later, she stumbled across the hidden treasure of a recipe while cleaning, immediately making it to see if it was as good as she remembered.

Surpassing her recollections, she then shared the rediscovered prized recipe on the internet so that others could enjoy it and it wouldn’t be lost again.

This story, with a version told in Gourmet Magazine, had me intrigued to try it. Light, creamy and downright decadent, I totally understand why she wanted it for herself. The silky, luscious filling is sandwiched between a crisp, buttery graham cracker crust and glossy sour cream glaze.

Be sure your filling ingredients (cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla) are room temperature and that you don’t over beat the batter. This yields a smoother cheesecake that won’t be overly airy, which can cause cracks as it settles.

However, cracks are a thing of the past with this cheesecake as the accompanying sour cream layer not only balances the flavor of the cake, it also hides any imperfection, ensuring a flawless presentation every time.

It serves beautifully as is, or it can be dressed up with fresh berries, fruit compote, a drizzle of caramel or chocolate sauce or a dusting of powdered sugar. Fun fact: The three cities for which this dessert is reportedly named are Barcelona, Madrid and Seville. Salud!

Three Cities of Spain Cheesecake

Adapted from

For the crust:

1½ cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs

⅓ cup white sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

For the topping:

16 ounces sour cream

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

To make the crust, mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter and salt until combined. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of an 8- or 9-inch springform pan; set aside.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.

For the filling, beat together the cream cheese and sugar in a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer) until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated (scraping down the bowl as needed), and then add the vanilla extract.

Pour the filling onto the crust in the prepared springform pan and place the pan on a baking sheet (this makes it easier to transfer in and out of the oven).

Place in the middle of an oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake is set 3 inches from the edge but the center is still slightly wobbly when the pan is gently shaken. Remove the cake from the oven, but do not turn off the oven.

To make the topping, whisk together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Spoon the mixture onto the cheesecake and spread evenly with an offset spatula or knife. Return the cake to the oven and bake for 10 additional minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. Transfer the cake to a refrigerator to chill, loosely covered, for at least 6 hours or overnight. Run a knife around the top edge of the cake to loosen before removing from the springform pan.

Serve with fresh berries, fruit compote and/or a dusting of powdered sugar.

Audrey Alfaro can be reached at