A few months ago I started a Vintage Jello Pinterest board because those wacky and wonderful recipes, mostly from the 1950s and 1960s, just fascinate me. Many of them are pretty gross, and sometimes even the most unassuming and pretty Jello mold can include something like cabbage, beets, or lime Jello. There are some truly horrifying concoctions out there, let me tell you!
Here at Berserk! I’ll be making and reviewing these and other vintage recipes periodically so you don’t have to. Or perhaps you’ll be inspired to try one after I share my thoughts, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!
For the inaugural recipe I decided to start simple with the “Busy Day” Lemon Cheesecake of 1959:
Who doesn’t want a shortcut for the time and hassle it takes to make a real cheesecake, right? This recipe involves cream cheese, whole milk, lemon Jello instant pudding mix, and a graham cracker crust. It’s a super simple, easy recipe that you can make just a few hours in advance of a party or on a Friday night when you’re just hanging around with the cats and watching The Misfits on DVR (like me!).
The part that takes the longest is waiting for the cream cheese to soften. Unfortunately, there’s really no shortcut for that like there is for butter in some recipes. You can make the graham cracker crust in the meantime (or just get a storebought if you’re really in a crunch). Once the cream cheese is soft enough, you basically just plop, pour and mix everything together.
The recipe cautions not to overbeat the mixture, but it’s a cinch to avoid doing that: once it all starts to noticeably thicken up, stop mixing and simply pour into the crust! Sprinkle the remaining graham cracker crumbs on top, cover with foil, and chill in the fridge for a couple hours.
Also, in my opinion, no vintage pie such as this one is complete without a few maraschino cherries. Frankly, I don’t know why the original recipe didn’t call for them! So I added a few, and I think it makes all the difference. If you plan on taking this cheesecake to any sort of get together it would also be nice to add some dollops of whipped cream! And ta-da:
Now, if you’re going to take this pie to any sort of function you might want to carefully sprinkle some more of the crumbs around the edge of the crust as pictured in the recipe for added aplomb. But since this particular pie wouldn’t be competing in any talent competitions I just sent her on her way to the fridge. I got a little sloppy pouring the mix in the crust, too, but I was planning on eating it ASAP so I wasn’t concerned about keeping up appearances. Also, the cheesecake effect will work best if you let your cream cheese soften for at least an hour. I didn’t, and so mine turned out slightly lumpy. But, hey, that’s what the graham cracker crumbs on the top are for, right?
–Taste Score: 7 out of 10 – The lemon flavor of the Jello melds nicely with the tang of the cream cheese. Overall, it’s slightly cloying, but that’s to be expected.
–Preparation Score: 10 out of 10 – It’s kind of hard to give this one anything less than a 10 since it’s a no bake and super easy to put together.
–Overall Presentation: 6 out of 10 – The cheesecake portion of the title should really be in quotes rather than the Busy Day since nothing about the color or texture of this pie resembles cheesecake at all really. But the mixture is easy to pour into the crust and smooths out well.
Total Score: 7.6 out of 10
Final Verdict: Look, nobody is going to think this is cheesecake, that’s for sure! In fact I recommend calling it “I Can’t Believe It’s Cheesecake (Because It’s Not)” just to avoid setting anyone’s expectations too high. But it is yummy if slightly artificial tasting, and I don’t think you’ll get any complaints. It’s definitely a quick and easy and cost effective option for pot lucks and the like.