Chapter Eight: Keylime Cheesecake
(Once upon a time, I didn’t know how to bake. Weird, right? Cooking has always come naturally to me – I rarely follow a recipe, because it’s just not needed. Baking is something completely different. The chemistry and science behind it is so complex that it must be executed perfectly to receive the desired results.
My biscuits were hockey pucks. My cookies were flat, crumbly and burnt. My pie dough wasn’t made with cold ingredients. I was epic at failing in the baking department. So many desserts just turned to a black dust.
One night while I was in an unusually stubborn and determined mood, I pulled out a cookbook and found the most challenging thing I could think of at the time. Cheesecake. You can mix it too much, or it wont be dense. You have to bake it in a particular way so the filling doesn’t crack. The crust has to be evenly packed so the filling doesn’t bleed through the crust. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.
It couldn’t have possibly turned out better. It was that moment that I realized if I paid attention to the little details, amazing things could be made.)
- 2C (230g) crushed graham cracker crumbs (you’ll need about 15 sheets)
- 3TBSP (39g) granulated white sugar
- 1/2C (113g) salted butter – diced into 1TBSP pieces and melted
- 1C + 2TBSP (236g) granulated white sugar
- 1TBSP (8g) cornstarch
- 3 (8oz) pkgs cream cheese softened well (but not melted – think, room temp)
- 4 Large eggs
- 2/3C (160g) sour cream
- 1/3C (80ml) heavy cream
- 1/2C (120ml) fresh lime or keylime juice (you can also just pick up a bottle of keylime juice from your local grocery store.)
- 1.5tsp vanilla extract
- 3 generous cups of fresh red raspberries
- 1/2C granulated white sugar
- 1tsp lime juice
- 1TBSP lime zest
- Preheat oven to 350F. Lime the outside of a 9-inch springform pan with a sheet of 18×18 heavy-duty aluminum foil (make sure the foil has no holes, you dont want any water to leak in!)
- Mix together the crushed graham crackers and sugar in a bowl – stir to combine. Then slowly pour in the butter while mixing until evenly moistened. Pour into prepared springform pan and press evenly into the bottom and up the sides, coming up about 1-inch from the top.
- Bake in preheated oven for 10min, then remove and cool on a wire rack.
- Reduce the heat of your oven to 325F. Have a large roasting pan available and ready – boil about 4-quarts of water (you may need all of it!).
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together granulated sugar and cornstarch until well combined. In a separate bowl add in softened cream cheese, then pour the sugar mixture over and mix using an electric hand mixer – blend until smooth. (Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl down occasionally so everything gets mixed together.) Mix in eggs one at a time, mixing until just combined after each addition. Add sour cream and heavy cream – mix until combined. Then finally mix in the lime juice and vanilla.
- **TIP** Tap the bowl on the counter ~30x to release any large air bubbles.
- Pour over cooked graham cracker crust and then place the cheesecake in the roasting pan, THEN place the roasting pan in the oven.
- Carefully pour the water into the roasting pan just enough until it comes half way up the sides of the cheesecake (which you hopefully still have in the springform pan…)!
- Bake in the preheated oven until the cheesecake is nearly set but still jiggly in the center (about 60-65min). Remove from oven and cook on a wire rack for an hour. Cover and chill in refrigerator for 8 hours or over night.
For the raspberry sauce:
- Sort, rinse and dry berries before measuring and using in the recipe.
- Using a food processor, puree the berries. Press berry puree through a fine mesh sieve (if you don’t have one – I used my gold cone coffee filter and it worked out pretty well!) into a medium saucepan; discard the seeds. Stir in sugar, lime juice & zest.
- Bring fruit pulp and juices to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes while skimming foam from the sizes of the saucepan while using a slotted spoon.
- Once the foam has been skimmed, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook stirring frequently until bright in color, thickened and reduced by half (about 8-10min). When done, there should be 3/4c of sauce.
- Set sauce aside to cool completely before using.
There I was, in my towel sitting on the floor of my Mom’s kitchen, crying. I hadn’t even been able to take an entire shower without bursting into tears. I had sabotaged another relationship. Another birthday in the books with me dealing with “rejection” and being “abandoned” – but no one to blame but myself.
We spent a month trying to make it work. He came to Mom and Scott’s wedding. It was great – minus me drinking too much. But what’s new there? It was a beautiful ceremony. They held it in their backyard with about 75 guests and to this day, one of the best parties they’ve ever thrown.
Somewhere between my 6th beer, attempting to roll a joint for my uncles in the bathroom, a speech, and a brief argument with Toby about my uncles drinking the bottle of rum he had stashed in the fridge – it all hit me.
I found myself upstairs in my room with tears streaming down my face. I made a call.
“We will never have what they have. Why are we doing this?”
I just kept repeating it over and over while on the phone with Lan. I knew the relationship I had with Toby was dead, at this point we were just keeping each other company until something better came along – and when it did – we would move on.
I guess I didn’t expect it to hurt as much as it did.
So there I was, on my 22nd birthday – crying because I had disappointed myself. I hadn’t stayed true to what I’d been telling myself all along. Don’t get attached. If you’re not attached, you can’t be hurt. Shame on you, Jacquelin. This is your own damn fault.
By believing you deserve love from others while not being brave enough to give it is just a lie you tell yourself to make yourself feel better about all the horrible things you do to others. Fact of the matter is, regardless of how much he liked to party – you didn’t deserve to be with anyone. Using someone for your own benefit never turns out right, why did you think it would this time?
Weeks go by and I can’t stand the loneliness. I dive back into seeing RP. Someone who firmly believed that he loved me – that I was the one who got away – but couldn’t seem to figure out a healthy way to show that.
I was kind of getting what I wanted. In a roundabout way. A warm body to lie next to at night, someone to spend time with so I wasn’t alone. But it wasn’t REALLY what I wanted, and I knew that. Which is why when I got a call from Lan saying that B (that gorgeous redhead) would be returning from deployment and was at the airport now heading into Seattle – I had to make a change.
So I went for it. I stopped answering RP’s calls and texts and reached out to B to see what he was up to. It’d been a year or two since we last saw each other – middle of a snow storm in December before he decided to join the Marines – but I had to take the risk, chance that there could be something there.
To my surprised, he was happy to hear from me and after dropping off a few things at his parents house – he stopped by the grocery store to grab some beer and made his way toward my parents house. Where he stayed for over a week.
My parents adored him. They thought he still had a lot of growing up to do – but it was refreshing for them to see their daughter happy and enjoying the company of someone who as actually doing SOMETHING with their life.
I was one smitten kitten. We cooked dinner together, watched movies, played games, spent time with my family, went out on an actual date, I thought this to myself, “wow – so this is what it’s like to be with someone who appreciates me.” I never wanted it to end. It was exactly what I’d been needing to get over RP and Toby and move onto the next stage of my life. My self-confidence, my ego, my self-worth. All wrapped into one – growing exponentially because I was finally happy and not stressed out being with someone.
But like all good things in my life, they come to an end.
December 31st, New Years Eve, I was in the kitchen making a keylime cheesecake with raspberry sauce. I was determined to step up my baking game and prove I could do it. Plus, I wanted to make a special treat for B before he left. He swung by to give me a kiss goodbye before starting the long drive from Seattle back to San Diego.
I didn’t want him to go, I had enjoyed our time together so much and I didn’t know when I would be seeing him again.
In an attempt to secure whatever we had, we leaped and decided to try it. Long distance. I’d done it a few years before (when we first met) with someone else, why wouldn’t I be able to do it now? It wasn’t hard to have the talk, we both wanted it – so we jumped, head first.
We talked everyday on the phone, eventually running out of things to say. You can only ask, “how was your day?” so many times before it begins to become repetitive and you’re no longer listening to the answer.
He left a few days after getting back to San Diego for Sniper School in Hawaii. He was so excited and I was excited for him. This meant we’d have to figure out time zones and how to find time to catch up – but we could do it!
It proved to be extremely stressful. He was such a mess of anxiety. The pressure to succeed was overwhelming and he was struggling to find his footing. Soon I was getting calls in the middle of the night while he was drunk from going out with his classmates – or just not returning my calls at all. Something was changing, something was up. I had an uneasy feeling and wasn’t sure how to go about it.
“I bought you a ticket to come visit for Valentine’s Day!”
“Yeah! I got us a hotel room, I’ve got the weekend planned out. You’ll get in on the 14th and we’re going to have a blast. I miss you so much! Love you, Jack!”
I was beyond excited! This was the best news I’d heard in months. We finally had a date set of when we’d be seeing each other next – we just had to make it a few more weeks and then we’d be waking up to room service.
He didn’t pass the school. He was a wreck. I had no idea how to make him feel better, cheer him up, tell him everything was going to be okay. He had this fixation on failure that he couldnt’ shake. Soon we were going days without speaking to one another. I tried, but I couldn’t reach him.
I had this great romantic weekend coming up, with a guy who had almost all but disappeared on me.
So I did what I do best – I tried not to dwell on it and started seeking out other ways to get attention.
It’s not hard to find attention when you’re serving coffee in your underwear.
I’d been working at a coffee stand for a few months at this point, slanging beans in a bikini. The money was good, it was really good, and I loved telling anyone who asked if I was seeing anyone, that I was in fact – I was dating a marine who lived in San Diego and would be seeing him in a few weeks!
Something about working in a small country town, telling people you’re dating someone in the military – they just seem to love you that much more.
That all changed two weeks before I was set to leave.
It was 7pm – time to wrap up and go home. As I was descaling the machine and counting my money – a 2006 dodge 2500 rolled up. I didn’t recognize the vehicle, so it wasn’t one of my regular customers.
I’d forgotten to turn the open sign off.
“I’ll take your largest white chocolate mocha.”
I teased him about coming to see me when we were closing and how he caught me at a bad time cause I had thrown on my sweatpants and was getting ready to head out the door. But I stayed, made him his $9.00 coffee and proceeded to chat with him for another 30 minutes.
There was something about this guy. Everything I’d learned from him during our quick chat just made me want to know more. He was in town looking at a car to buy his sister, he owned his own company, and he’d just gone through a messy breakup with his fiance a few months before that.
So of course, I slipped him my number – told him I’d like to get to know him more, and that was that.
He didn’t call or text, and I didn’t dwell on it. I had a boyfriend anyway who I was seeing in just 2 weeks and I kept telling myself how excited I was for that.
Around a week later, as I’m working on a puzzle with my grandma and great grandma, I get a text.
“Hey – It’s Mark, from the coffee stand.”
I called him immediately and asked, “what the heck!? You waited a whole week to get in touch with me!?”
“Well – to be honest, I thought you gave me a fake number.”
“Why the hell would I do that?”
“I don’t know. Want to grab dinner tonight?”
“Yes – 7?”
“Sounds great, How about purple cafe in Kirkland?”
“See you there!”
I spent $250 on an orange dress from my favorite boutique in downtown Kirkland, paired it with gorgeous brown booties, a brown leather belt, and an extra long topaz colored crystal beaded necklace. I hugged my parents goodbye who quickly questioned where I was off to and I responded with, “Just meeting up with Autumn, I’ll be back later!”
I parked the truck, patiently waiting to see if I saw his. I did. My anxiety was turned all the way up. Here I was again, about to get myself into trouble when I had a great guy 2000mi away.
We walked in together, grabbed a table in the restaurant and proceeded to order. We shared too many glasses of wine and delicious antipasta. I was in heaven. Who was this man? He was so charming, confident, and seemed to only have eyes for me – how did I prevent this from ending?
We were there until they closed. I had a few beers in the back seat of my truck that I had planned on shipping to B to give him a little taste of home while he was so far away, but I grabbed them anyway and off Mark and I drove on an adventure.
We found ourselves parked next to a coffee stand about 15 miles away from the restaurant, drinking our beers, singing along to the radio, and laughing until we cried.
In typical Jacquelin fashion, I had one thing on my mind – the best way to let him know I’m interested is to attempt to seduce him. I was quickly rejected and did not take kindly to that.
“Are you gay?”
“Well what’s the matter? Are you impotent!?”
“Uhh – no.”
And then I quickly, drunkenly, passed out naked in the seat beside him.
Yes, you read that correctly. I attacked him for not taking advantage me while I was intoxicated, and then passed out. Classy, right?
I woke up around 6am freezing. His truck’s battery had died in an attempt to keep it running so the heater would stay on and I wouldn’t get cold. I grabbed my clothes and started dressing myself when he woke up.
It was raining, we were in the middle of nowhere, and now we were stuck.
Patiently waiting for the grocery store down the street to open so we could ask them if someone there could jump our car, we bashfully laughed at last nights adventure.
We finally got the truck jumped and he looked over and asked me, “Do you want to drive?”
I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to drive, being the control freak that I am, so I promptly said yes and we were on our way back to my truck.
I kissed him goodbye, hopped out of his truck and that was that. I didn’t know if I’d ever see him again and frankly, I didn’t really care. I just knew I had to get home and shower before heading to my friend’s house to watch the Superbowl.
I arrived at my friend’s house just in time for kick-off. Cozied myself up on the couch with a giant sheet pan of nachos on my lap, and once again – passed out. Waking up only to 2 minutes left in the 4th quarter and a missed text from, you guessed it, Mark.
The guilt was debilitating, but the excitement overpowered that guilt and provided me with drive to see where it would go.
I called B the day before I was set to leave to San Diego, told him some bullshit lie about my Grandma getting sick and I had to stay home and take care of her. He didn’t believe me, why would he?
Valentine’s Day came, and because I wasn’t going to San Diego anymore, I volunteered to babysit my friends 5 month old baby for the night. Mark called me that night, we chatted for a bit, just getting to know one another. While we were on the phone, B called me, I kept it short and sweet, wanting to get back on the other line to keep talking to this new mystery man. Once B and I ended our conversation, Mark’s first response was, “So who was that? Your boyfriend?”
Feeling like I had been caught, and put off by his immediate jealous and insecure remark, I told him, “No. But I have to get back to taking care of the baby, I’ll talk to you later.”
A few weeks went by and I was ignoring B at this point. I received a call from Lan telling me that B had been with someone else while he was in Sniper School in Hawaii. I suddenly didn’t feel quite so bad. I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t hurt, but I felt my actions were somehow excusable at that point.
It was only then that I decided B and I were never going to make this work and I started to see if Mark and I were really going to go anywhere.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was excited to find out. I’d never been with someone who just seemed to be such… an adult. To be fair, he was nine years older than me, so there’s that.
But how could someone so appeared to be so put together, be interested in me? What did I have to offer?