Swirls of cherry make this cheesecake better than "visions of sugarplums."
• 1 cup sliced almonds
• 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
• 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
• 1 (21-ounce) can cherry filling and topping
• 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
• 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
• 3 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3 eggs, slightly beaten
Toast almonds in a skillet over medium heat. Remove from heat; finely chop almonds. Combine almonds, graham cracker crumbs and butter in a medium bowl; mix well. Press crumb mixture evenly over the bottom and 2 inches up the sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Set aside.
Purée cherry filling in an electric blender or food processor until smooth. Pour puréed cherry filling into a medium saucepan. Combine 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and cornstarch; stir into cherry filling. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until mixture is thick and bubbly. Stir in almond extract. Set aside to cool.
Put cream cheese, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, amaretto, lemon juice and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed 3 to 4 minutes, or until well mixed. Add eggs all at once; beat on low just until mixed.
To assemble the cheesecake, pour one-third of the cream cheese mixture into prepared crust. Top with about 1/3 cup cherry purée. Swirl cherry mixture into cream cheese mixture, using a knife or spatula. Repeat layers twice, ending with cherry purée. Reserve remaining purée.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 60 to 65 minutes, or until the center appears nearly set when gently shaken. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, spoon a generous tablespoon of purée on serving plate. Place cheesecake wedge on top of the purée.
Makes 16 servings.