As Homer Simpson might say ‘Cheesecake … mmmm.’
Cheesecake has been around for a long time: the ancient Greeks had their version as did the Romans. And by 1000 AD, it had become popular in Western Europe after being introduced by the invading Roman forces.
By the beginning of the twentieth century cheesecake had found its way to New York. In fact, New Yorkers say that cheesecake wasn’t really cheesecake until it was cheesecake in New York.
The true New York Cheesecake is a simple, unadorned, biscuit-based cheesecake. Today’s cheesecakes come with a variety of toppings, and, indeed, a choice of fillings, but one thing is for sure: the frozen sort, available from any supermarket, bears little resemblance to a home-made cheesecake, full of good, simple ingredients.
There are lots of choices to be made in cooking a cheesecake.
Baked or chilled, biscuit or Pastry Crust, sharp or sweet flavour? There are plenty of simple, quick and easy recipes for chilled cheesecake, but for an authentic taste, it’ll have to be baked.
The initial choice here is between shortcrust pastry and a biscuit base. If you go for the crushed biscuits mixed with melted butter option, you’ll find digestive biscuits suitable for most fillings, while gingernuts or chocolate biscuits are tasty if you’re planning on having a Flavoured Filling.
If you decide on pastry, you will need to pre-cook the base, before adding the filling, to stop it becoming soggy.
The most important ingredient is… cheese! But which one?
- Cream cheese has the highest fat content, is smoothest and gives the richest flavour.
- Cottage cheese has a distinctive lumpiness, is low in fat and bland to taste.
- Curd cheese is somewhere in between the other two!
Curd cheese is very good for cheesecakes but isn’t easily available from many supermarkets. One alternative is to mix cream and cottage cheese.
For a simple cheesecake the only other ingredients you will need are eggs and caster sugar, and maybe a teaspoon of vanilla essence.
Soured cream, fruit purées, fresh fruit and cream, grated chocolate… the list is limited only by your imagination – and taste buds!
Any sort of fruit topping adds a sharpness to the taste, counteracting the richness of the cheese filling; cream also balances what can sometimes be a sensation of cloyingness.
The Perfect Recipe!
You want to know how to make the perfect cheesecake. This is the recipe that we at Cake Baker have used for years. It never fails to impress. The recipe’s been passed on to many people, it will earn you the reputation of Queen of Puddings, and best of all, it’s simple to make!
- 225g (8oz) digestive biscuits
- 50g (2oz) butter
- 700g (1lb 8oz) cheese (curd or a mixture of cream and cottage)
- 225g (8oz) caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 150oC, gas mark 2, and make sure you have a shelf in the middle of the oven with enough room above it for your tin to fit in.
- Put the biscuits in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin until they’re finely crushed.
- Melt the butter (in the microwave or a saucepan) and add the biscuit crumbs, mixing well so that all are nicely coated.
- Press the mixture into the base of a 9” loose-bottomed tin. Flatten it down and make sure the base is evenly covered, taking the mixture up the sides just a little.
- Whisk the cheese, eggs and sugar together until you have a smooth mixture. If you’ve used cottage cheese, there are bound to be some lumps in it, but don’t worry as these will mostly smooth out during cooking.
- Add the vanilla essence, if using, and pour the mixture onto the biscuit base.
- Cook for 30 minutes by which time there should just be a hint of a wobble about the centre. Turn the oven off, leaving the cheesecake inside to go completely cold. If you leave the oven door ajar during this time, your cake will have a creamier, less dry centre. It also helps prevent cracks forming.
- Then refrigerate for at least two hours before removing the cheesecake from the tin.
Don’t Crack Up!
Lots of recipes suggest ways to stop the surface of your cheesecake cracking, but we say, ‘Don’t worry if it does!’ It’s not going to alter the taste and you’re probably going to cover it with a topping, so no-one will see it anyway.
We like to cover the cheesecake with a layer of whipped cream and fresh fruit – slices of kiwi, peaches and strawberries are a good mix. Alternatively you could try this.
Soured Cream Topping
- 200ml (7fl oz) soured cream
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- Mix all together and spread over the cheesecake.
- Refrigerate for 8 hours before eating – if you can wait that long! Serve with fresh strawberries.
- Slices should be small as this is rich and it’s better for people to go back for seconds than to have to throw leftovers away!
- Offer around a jug of pouring cream to accompany it, and you’ll be everybody’s favourite person!
Try a Non-baked Cheesecake
Impress your family and friends with another mouth-watering cheesecake by making this White Chocolate Cheesecake. You don’t need to bake it in the oven, so you’ll be able to tuck in sooner!