sweet cheeses

i have baked several cheesecakes recently, all from the same recipe and all with varying results. as mentioned in AWOL i use the recipe from kitchn.net. have a look at their site. they really take you through every possible detail. i’m just here to tell you my personal pointers to help you navigate the process.

first off i didn’t exactly follow the recipe. the main reason is that 2 pounds of cream cheese is a lot of cream cheese. so my recipe looks like so

3 of 250g lancewood full fat cream cheese

150ml sour cream

3 eggs (large or jumbo)

1 cup castor sugar

vanilla essence

1 tblsp maizena

i use the crust recipe from annie bell’s new york cheese cake recipe. its a mix of flour, almond flour, sugar and melted butter. mix all the ingredients together and pat into the bottom of your baking tin and bake for 20 minutes till golden.

but before we get ahead of ourselves i would like to discuss the choice of baking tins. i have mentioned before that i frequently bake for our tennis club. this year i wanted to serve chocolate cheesecakes for the annual dinner. because i had to bake more than one cheesecake and i wanted to make sure the cakes were uniform, i used my springform cake pans. granted the ones i have aren’t particularly good quality but  i have to say that lightweight bakeware and cheesecake do not mix. if you go the springform route be sure to use a good quality heavy weight one. my preference is the Masterclass Non-Stick Loose Base Deep Round Cake Pan. its a great weight. there is a lip at the bottom so any potential water bath leaks are not too detrimental and the depth gives you peace of mind.

the cakes i baked in my shallower springform pans came quite high up the sides of the pan. i also suspect that the heavier metal gives you better heat conduction. all in all i really didn’t enjoy baking cheesecake for the annual dinner. i had a water leak and the top browned too much which means the cakes where over-baked. the cakes were still tasty i had no complaints from the dinner guests but i knew that things could have been better so i tried again with my preferred baking pan. i’m glad i did.

when the crust is golden leave it aside to cool before wrapping the bottom in two layers of heavy duty foil. lightweight foil tears too easily.

leaving the cream cheese to come to room temperature before you use it helps you achieve a smooth batter as the cold cream cheese is harder to mix. lola does all the hard work for me while i measure out the ingredients. if you’ve forgotten to take the cream cheese out i would highly recommend beating it till soft before you add the sugar and maizena.

i don’t use lemon juice in my cheesecake because i generally top it with chocolate. my main goal in wanting to learn how to make cheesecake was trying to emulate the Three Marys cheesecake. one of the things i miss most about Johannesburg is i no longer live down the road from Three Marys and their cheesecake.

so once the sugar, cream cheese and maizena are combined (use a paddle attachment) i add the sour cream and vanilla, beat and then add the eggs one at a time. i thinks its a bit of a balance to make sure you get the ingredients combined properly while not overbeating. while it bakes the cheesecake rises and then settles back down after it cools. i hypothesise that too much beating may incorporate too much air which may result in cracks. just a theory.

i prepare the water bath with boiling water. the reason you use boiling water is that you want the steam available from the outset. the batter is poured over the cooled crust and placed carefully into the bath. rough treatment will tear the foil resulting in a soggy crust.

i bake the cake for about 45 minutes.

i then follow the kitchn.net process of cooling.

i usually bake cheesecakes the day before they are needed, adding the topping about an hour before serving.

i top with a chocolate ganache that i make with

100g lindt 70% chocolate

about 100 to 125ml cream

1.5tblsp castor sugar.

chop the chocolate. boil the cream and sugar, remove from the heat and add the chocolate, mixing gently till all the chocolate has melted. i have tried to do this in a microwave and quite frankly its too hit and miss. the stovetop method provides more consistent results. if you are using a less dark chocolate you will be able to get away without the added castor sugar.

allow the ganache to cool slightly. while you’re waiting you can run a knife along the inside of the cake pan if you have not already done so. take your time with this so that you make sure there aren’t any areas that are sticking to the pan.



use a small offset spatula to evenly spread the ganache over the cake. once this is done i place the cake back in the fridge.

ideally the cheesecake should be taken out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving. if its a hot day you can take it out closer to serving time.


simple elegance

one thing i love about this particular recipe is that the crust is a nice thickness. i don’t know about you but for me the crust is the most important part of the cheesecake. this particular crust is buttery and the almond flour adds to the richness. the baking method (without water bath leaks) means the crust stays crispy. use a sharp (preferably non-serrated) knife to serve. you shouldn’t have any difficulty getting through the crust. keep a damp wad of paper-towel handy to clean the blade between cuts. you’ll see from the image below that i didn’t follow that last piece of advice.


isn’t she lovely…


we served the slices up with fresh raspberry and there was distinct lull in conversation while everyone tucked. that silence was such a big compliment 🙂

two of the guests were gluten intolerant so they were happy to leave the crust behind. take note that it is a good idea to let people know that there is maizena in the cake as some people who are gluten intolerant can also have a bad reaction to corn derived products. the maizena is an insurance policy. you can do without it if you have to but i haven’t tried it. if you do let me know how it turned out.

lessons learnt: bake in bakeware that you are comfortable with especially with cheesecake.




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