My very favorite group of recipes are those that come from family members… whether they were something I grew up eating every week or holiday season, or a recipe my grandma saved from a newspaper clipping, there’s nothing I love more than making something that has made its rounds at our family table.
Over Mother’s Day weekend, my mom made this cheesecake, which originated with her cousin, Fran. My mom has talked about this cheesecake recipe before, but I never remembered eating it (Fran, like most of my mom’s extended family, lived in Chicago, so we only saw her once a year). I was thrilled that my mom made it so I could finally taste the legendary cheesecake with walnuts and cherries.
With the exception of the 15 minutes that the crust needs in the oven, the rest of this is a no-bake recipe, which I LOVE for summer! The crust is an easy shortbread-style crust that includes ground walnuts; the nutty texture is a fantastic base for the sweetened cream cheese layer. More chopped walnuts are scattered over the cream cheese, then topped with Cool Whip and cherry pie filling.
This is definitely one of those old-school recipes that I’m sure was passed around a million times over among friends and family members. I love the combination of nuts, creamy cheesecake, shortbread, cherry pie… it’s fantastic and it reminds me a little bit of the Russian pound cake made with walnuts and maraschino cherries my mom, grandma and aunt would make every year for Christmas.
Recipes that bring back sweet family memories are my favorite of all.
[For more nostalgic recipes, check out the Family Recipes category in my recipe index.]
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.
Make the Crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and ground walnuts. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is crumbly and no pieces of butter remain larger than a pea. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake until lightly brown around the edges, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Make the Cheesecake: Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and milk until smooth and light, 2 to 3 minutes. Spread in an even layer over the cooled crust.
Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the cream cheese layer, then spread the Cool Whip in an even layer on top of the walnuts. Spoon the cherry pie filling on top of the Cool Whip. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before serving. Leftovers should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.