The Greatness of Cheesecake

By Frank E. Vaerewijck, The Firehouse Foodie

There is greatness in us all. As I listened to the preacher at church speak positive greatness into us all during his sermon on Sunday, this was the underlying tone. His message was more directly how there was a king in all of us, but I have never considered myself a king. I’m not that much into monarchies. I’m an American, and in a democratic society we need not worry about kings, queens, princes, and princesses, but I get his point. I took away from the message the potential in all of us, for there is Greatness.

It is awesome being there to witness that light bulb moment in someone’s life. That moment when they get it, especially if they have adamantly denied their own ability. It truly is a different look in the rookies’ eyes when it clicks. When they put the how together with the why. As an instructor, I have had the privilege of seeing this phenomenon on more than one occasion, and a couple of times with a seasoned firefighter or two.

I get this look in my eyes too, on occasion, when I tackle a huge undertaking in the kitchen like Cheese Cake or some other complex recipe. I enter the undertaking determined but always feeling a bit overwhelmed. Then, after reading over directions and ensuring I have all the ingredients, I start the process of following the directions, or at least somewhat following the directions, and attempting to not burn water. Sometimes I don’t fully understand the “what” the first time I read the directions, but once I do a little research and discover the “why,” I get it, and my greatness shines through. In some people’s eyes, this example is simple and may not carry much greatness, but in my eyes, when I get it right and my family, whether at home or in the firehouse, loves what I made, I may have just won a gold medal at the Olympics. The vision in my head is that of me standing on the podium like Shawn White, ribbons adorned with medals draping my neck. You can do anything you put your mind to and believe in. If you fail because you didn’t think you could do it, well you were right. Now imagine if you could, try, and watch your Greatness shine through.

It’s complex, but you will never know unless you try, so roll up your sleeves and attempt to make this absolutely awesome cheesecake. You might just surprise yourself, and “That’s Bringing the Firehouse Home!”





  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted



  • 4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs



  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons sugar



  1. Preheat oven to 475°F. Place a large pan filled with ½-inch water in oven.
  2. Make crust: Mix graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon; add butter or margarine. Press crust onto bottom and 2/3 of the way up a 9-inch springform pan lined with parchment. Wrap a large piece of foil around bottom of pan. Freeze until filling is prepared.
  3. Make filling: Use an electric mixer to mix cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and vanilla. Blend until smooth and creamy. Scrape down sides of bowl. Whisk eggs in a bowl; add to cream cheese mixture. Blend just until eggs are incorporated.
  4. Remove crust from freezer and pour in filling. Carefully place cheesecake into preheated water bath. Bake for 12 minutes; turn oven to 350°F and bake until top of cheesecake turns golden, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove cake to a wire rack to cool.
  5. Make topping: Combine sour cream and sugar; spread over cake. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.


Frank E. Vaerewijck has had a passion for the fire service that has spanned 20 years. He has been a volunteer and career firefighter and is currently a firefighter/EMT with Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department (yes, where the bacon comes from, THAT Smithfield). He has passed on his passion for the fire service through instruction and mentorship. That same passion he has for the fire service is shared with his love of food. In 2006, Vaerewyck won an Iron Chef-style competition sponsored by a radio station in Richmond, Virginia. That is where he also furthered his education by attending a Culinary Arts Program. As the Firehouse Foodie, he has been compiling recipes to be included in a cookbook that will give others the opportunity to see their hometown heroes not just as firefighters but as the firehouse chefs they truly are.

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