Growing up we used soft cheeses in lots of things – farm cheese in Túrós Gombóc, ricotta in spinach and ricotta filled pancakes, cottage or farm cheese in sultana filled cheese cakes, feta in salads. Cream cheese I only recall in cream cheese icing for carrot cake, or occasionally on bagels – I don’t think I ever made, or even ate, a classic New York style cheese cake with cream cheese until much later.
Unsurprisingly I became a bit of a fan when I finally tried one, and have eaten a variety of baked cheesecakes since, but have rarely made one. I’m not sure why, they’re certainly not difficult (though there are those warnings about avoiding cracking, using water baths etc). I think it’s more that they do take a while to bake, and most of them are huge, so it really seem to call for a special occasion and at least a dozen friends to help you eat one!
I got this recipe from a long ago housemate (who I also mention here), who to my mind seemed to casually whip up a cheesecake at the drop of a hat, and inspired me to at least try making one. Mr M is also a big fan of cheesecakes, which now helps.
This is a classic vanilla baked cheesecake, though I also like it with a twist of lemon in the form of extra lemon zest and a touch of limoncello. Feel free to keep it classic by omitting the liqueur and halving the zest however.
I’ve served it with some blueberry compote above, which goes beautifully with the lemon version, but again this is not essential, particularly if you’re serving for lunch or afternoon tea.
Virginia’s fabulous cheesecake
- 250g plain biscuits (Scotch Fingers are great)
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 75-90g soft butter
- 750g cream cheese
- 110g sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp salt
- zest of two lemons or limes
- 1 Tbs lemon or lime juice
- 2 tsp limoncello (optional)
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 cup cream
- 2 Tbs plain flour
Pulse biscuits in a food processor until rough crumbs. Add sugar, spice and 75g butter and pulse until fully combined. Add additional butter iff needed to make mix clump together. Press crumbs over the base and halfway up the sides of a 23-25cm springform pan. Chill while preparing the filling.
Beat cream cheese in a stand mixer until very soft. (You could do this by hand, but make sure the cream cheese is very soft to start, and be prepared to put your shoulder into it with a big bowl and wooden spoon!) Beat in the sugar, followed by the vanilla, salt, zest and juice. Add the egg yolks, then the cream and mix on low speed until smooth. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in flour with a large spoon or spatula. In a separate medium bowl, whisk egg whites until stiff and gently fold in. Pour the filling over the chilled base, and smooth.
Bake in a 150C oven for approximately 60 minutes until just firm to touch, but still with a wobble in the middle. A skewer will come out mostly clean. Cover with foil if it’s browning during baking (as you can see i didn’t do this early enough above!). Turn off oven and leave in with door ajar for another 15 minutes.
Cool on a rack, then refrigerate until completely chilled before removing from the tin. Serves 12-16.