Happy Spring Equinox, everyone! Not sure where you are in the world, but for me here, it means two things. One, it’s within a couple of days of my birthday, so I feel festive and happy and energetically eat everything delicious in sight, and two, the sunlight has been returning noticeably for the past few weeks, the snow has been melting, and I saw snowdrop leaves poke through the ground in a sheltered spot near our building. In short, it actually is beginning to feel a little bit like spring here, and to me it’s always worth celebrating in its own right! Since I have discovered three years ago that my eight-year cheesecake deprivation had been utterly unnecessary, there have been several cheesecakes in my life. That is ‘several’ as opposed to ‘many’ cheesecakes simply because cheesecake, in my opinion –
- should not be any less rich and decadent than the most rich and decadent you can possibly make it, which means it involves no less than a kilogram (and generally more) of best-quality full-fat cream cheese and other dairy products you can buy. It isn’t a cheap dessert.
- should not, under any circumstances, be made smaller* than humongous.
- should not, gods and Little Green Apples forbid, be low-fat.
- should not, all aforementioned powers forbid, be eaten in moderation!
– it is therefore a special-occasion item.
*Making of an obscene number of mini-cheesecakes is permitted for those who so desire. I prefer one and it needs to be large. Very large.
The cheesecakes in question varied from plain vanilla to the citrus variety written about in the original post, to a white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake which was, too, utterly amazing. I haven’t revisited the post since I originally wrote it mostly because all of those things are no more than minor variations of the master recipe I put together three years ago (the raspberry and white chocolate one involved melting chocolate and pureeing raspberries and just mixing that into the batter before baking). The reason I feel like writing about cheesecake again is … do I actually need a reason? Not really, but I do feel that I have made a few improvements to the recipe over the years, and they deserve a mention. And besides, who doesn’t need another great cheesecake recipe?
This recipe is based on the aforementioned original cheesecake but with a few small changes that really dial the awesomeness of it to 11, which is what really makes the posting if it imperative. I must carry the torch of decadent to the world and share it, on this most auspicious of occasions**.
**It has occurred to me after I’ve baked the cake because it was my birthday and I wanted one, that it’s round and yellow and entirely appropriate to the solar-themed holiday that is equinox, so Equinox Cake it is. I said so myself.
After a night of setting in the refrigerator, I have now tried this creation (I cut it to photograph, of course I tried it, duh!) and it is in every way worthy of the claim. The generous helping of mascarpone and creme fraiche in a base of full-fat cream cheese give it an out-of-this-world creamy texture. It has just the right amount of tang from all the zest and the lemon juice, and a happy, creamy spring-yellow color thanks to the egg yolks, the orange zest and the coconut sugar. Upon tasting it, I decided to simply not bother with further embellishment – it is both, beautiful and delicious as it is, and needs no jam smeared on top, no fruit, no whipped cream – nothing more than its simplicity.
What you need in order to make this? A whole lot of cheese, but not really that much else.
Oh, while we are here – did I mention I dislike crumb crusts? Not in this blog post? Well, it’s not that I dislike them as that I prefer real shortbread crusts to them. So this cake, too, has a shortbread crust, but it is even crumblier and more tender than the previous.
- 2.5dl all-purpose flour
- 1.5dl potato flour (starch)
- 1tsp ground ginger (entirely optional but I like it)
- 150g butter, softened and cut into cubes
- 0.5dl sugar (I used coconut sugar which is dark and smells of tropics and caramel)
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons sourmilk (aka filmjölk aka piima). You could substitute lowfat yogurt.
- A pinch of salt
- 1/5 tsp baking powder
- 800g full-fat cream cheese (I use Philadelphia brand since it’s the nicest available around here)
- 250g full-fat mascarpone
- 150g full-fat creme fraiche
- 250g kesella aka rahka aka quark cheese (the smooth version, not the dry curds of cottage cheese!)
- 3 egg yolks
- 3dl caster sugar (I used 2.5dl white and 0.5dl coconut)
- 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
- 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice (fresh, not bottled – you just zested a lemon, seriously, squish that sucker!)
- 2-3 tablespoons cornstarch or all-purpose flour
What to do:
- Take all the dairy out of the fridge to bring it to room temperature. All the eggs, too.
- Preheat oven to 175C. Place a rack one down from the middle.
- Cut a circle from baking paper or parchment and put it in the bottom of your springform pan. I use my springform pan with the bottom part inverted to avoid the little ‘step’ bit at the bottom of the cake.
- Beat your softened butter with sugar, add the egg yolk, then all the dry ingredients for the crust, and mix till it resembles fine crumbs. Add 1-2 tablespoons of the sourmilk to make the mixture come together into coarse-crumb texture. It should be moldable when you touch it.
- Mold the mixture into the springform pan, starting from the sides and then the bottom. Note that this crust recipe is much much drier and crumblier than the one in the original post. It’s a good thing.
- Poke the bottom of the crust with a fork and bake until just turning golden, 10-17 minutes (depends on the oven, do not use fan if you can avoid it). Take the pan out of the oven and cool on a rack.
- The bottom might have cracked a little. Don’t sweat it, it’ll be entirely undetectable once you have made the cake. No, unless you have a huge gaping centimeter-wide hole in there somehow, it won’t leak. I had 1-2mm wide cracks and it didn’t. Honestly.
- Turn oven up to 230C.
- In meantime make the cheesecake batter – put all the dairy products into a large bowl and mix with a mixer on lowest speed till they are combined. Add the cornstarch, sugar, zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix until gloriously smooth and undulating in waves when you mix it.
- Spatulate all that into the prepared crust and smooth with a spatula. You can also gently lift and drop it from 2-3cm height onto the table to make sure it settles (I generally do not find this is necessary).
- Place cheesecake into the hot oven. Set timer to 12 minutes and sit yourself in front of oven. Do not leave. When 12 minutes are up or if the edges of cheesecake show any hint of puffing up or coloring, whatever is soonest, turn heat down to 95-100C and reset timer to 1hour and 10 minutes.
- Go relax, take a bath, don’t take a nap.
- When the time is up, the surface of the cake should be set but the inside should wobble slightly when you move the cake pan or the rack it sits on. Turn the oven off, leave the cake in there, and prop the door open with something if yours won’t stay cracked open on its own (my previous one didn’t, this one does. A rolling pin or a loaf pan hold it open just fine, too). Leave cake in cooling oven for an hour, then remove to a rack and cool completely.
- Wrap cake (pan and all) in plastic wrap (saran wrap) and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. If any moisture ends up on the surface of the cake through condensation, it’s entirely safe to gently blot it off with a paper towel the next day – the surface will be set and won’t show marks.
And this is it. What you do with your equinox cake is your own business. I won’t tell you to invite guests or to pour wine or coffee or anything like that. Because it’s your Equinox Cake and if you want to devour it naked in the middle of a sunspot on your livingroom floor, who am I to judge you?
I, of course, plan to put mine onto pretty platters and serve it to a few guests that sort of impromptu got invited to gather this glorious Cakeday, I mean, Equinox Friday for board games, animal sacrifices *cough* I mean, obscene amounts of pulled pork, and, well, cake.