When I was at school I took Food Technology as a GCSE subject. I know, I know. Can food really be an academic subject? Should it be? Have GCSE’s gone soft? Too coursework based? I don’t know and that’s really not the point of this story. I took it because amid the histories, maths, and Spanishes of my school life it seemed like a fun option, and because, well FOOD. I was sorely disappointed by the course. 99.9% of it was learning about food theory and hygiene, and when we finally got round to doing some actual cooking/ baking we had to pick one food item to do our coursework ‘project’ on, make 101 little variations of said food item and write each one up in tedious detail.
For my project I chose cheesecake. I can’t quite remember why, at the time I think I thought it was something I could never possibly get sick of. Oh how wrong I was. Nothing takes the shine off something you love like having to analyse it’s every flaw, how it could be improved, why it has such a ludicrously high calorie count, and producing so much of it that even your three younger siblings can’t stand the sight of it any more. (Yes that little analogy ended up very specific, no that was not the intention). So, as you can well imagine, by the time I handed in Project Cheesecake I swore I’d never go near the stuff again. Then I discovered New York-style baked cheesecake. In Starbucks, during an A-Level revision session, incidentally. Baked cheesecake is a revelation. It’s cheesecake 2.0. Just as creamy and sweet yet non-sickly, but with the added bonus of a thick and luscious texture. And it holds all manner of sauces and toppings much better than regular cheesecake.
I should preface this recipe by admitting that while I’ve been a devoted eater of baked cheesecake over the years, this was my first time actually making it myself. Turns out it involves a bit more time and effort than a chilled cheesecake to whip up, but my is it worth that effort. As well as tasting great, with the blueberry sauce and a dusting of icing sugar it looks pretty as an Instagram picture – great if you want to make something cheap and non-fiddly that will still impress at a dinner party. To make mine I followed a basic baked vanilla cheesecake recipe courtesy of BBC good food (I adjusted the measurements to make it smaller) and then made a blueberry sauce to top it with. If you’re not a huge blueberry fan it would also work well with a strawberry sauce or berry compote. A word of warning on the blueberry sauce: it doesn’t last for long, mine congealed and went jelly-like the next day. I would advise making it at most a few hours before you plan to serve the cheesecake.
With the ingredients below, I’ve included the ‘official’ measurements, and how to measure it all out if, like me, you don’t actually have weighing scales. As with any recipe use your instincts with the amounts, prior to putting the raw eggs in the mixture you can taste-test and adjust to your own preference.
Baked Vanilla Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce
Serves 6-8 people (depending on portion sizes)
Preparation Time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour
For the vanilla cheesecake:
100g Digestive biscuits (use the packet weight to ‘guesstimate’)
50g Butter (one heaped tablespoon)
600g Full fat cream cheese (two 300g packs)
140g Caster sugar (one small cup, taste-test for sweetness)
150ml Soured cream
2 Tbsps plain flour
2 Eggs + one egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 Tsps vanilla extract
1 Tbsp icing sugar (for dusting)
For the blueberry sauce:
30g Caster sugar (around 1 tbsp)
1-2 Tsps lemon juice (adjust to taste)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4.
2. Line a round spring form cake tin (cake tin with a removable bottom) by greasing with butter and sticking down a carefully measured-out piece of baking paper.
3. Make your biscuit base by bashing the digestive biscuits into small crumbs, I did this by placing them in a large bowl and hitting them repeatedly with a rolling pin, it’s very satisfying. Melt your butter and add to the biscuit crumbs, mix well to coat.
4. Layer the bottom of the cake tin with the biscuit mixture until evenly covered, push down the mixture with the back of a tablespoon until it looks firm all over. Cook in the oven for ten minutes until golden.
5. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Adjust the oven to 160C/315F/Gas 2.
6. While the base cools, prepare your cheesecake filling by mixing together the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Mix in the sour cream and flour.
7. Gradually add in the eggs and vanilla essence, mixing carefully but not whipping (you don’t want to let too much air in).
8. Pour the mixture evenly over the biscuit base and put back in the oven for around 45 minutes. To check if your cheesecake is cooked through, make sure you test the middle as the sides cook a lot faster. The cheesecake should be slightly wobbly with a creamy colour in the middle and a golden brown round the edges.
9. When it is ready turn the oven off and leave it in there to cool with the door slightly ajar, this stops the top from cracking. Make sure it is completely cool before removing from the tin.
10. Up to three hours before serving the cheesecake, make your blueberry sauce by blitzing half the blueberries in a food processor along with the sugar and lemon juice. Press the sauce through a fine sieve to get rid of the bits.
11. Serve a slice of your cheesecake dusted with icing sugar and with blueberry sauce and a few fresh blueberries on top.