Sunday, July 26, 2009

Raspberry Blueberry Vanilla Cheesecake

One of my coworkers has her birthday at the end of July – blueberry season here. The last couple of years I have made blueberry pies for the occasion. This year I decided to try something a little different. The idea of doing a blueberry cheesecake occurred to me. I went looking online for a recipe and found this one that also includes raspberries. The reviews were really positive, so I decided to try it.

Since I already had some almonds, I decided to use them instead of hazelnuts. I also left out the vanilla beans, which are expensive, and skipped the heating-the-cream step; instead, I added another teaspoon of vanilla extract to the filling. I also used lowfat sour cream. I didn’t want to try using lowfat cream cheese or substituting anything for the whipping cream because I wasn’t sure how that would affect the texture of the cake.

Like the recipe for Nanaimo Bars, this recipe takes a long time, but can be done in stages. In this case, I needed the cake for a Friday afternoon, but was able to make it over three evenings.

The recipe is pretty well written, but a few comments may be helpful. First, it tells you to use a 9-inch springform pan with 2 ¾ inch high sides. The reason for this is that the pan is FULL by the time you add the sour cream topping. Fortunately, when I refrigerated the cake before adding the final fruit layer, it shrank down about ¼ inch from the top of the pan, which gave me room to add the jam and fruit. Speaking of which, the directions say to “brush” the jam onto the cake, and then “brush” the rest of the jam over the fruit. I just dripped the jam on with a spoon, and then spread it over the top of the cake with the back of the spoon. This worked okay for the first application, but using a soft pastry brush would probably have been better for glazing the fruit.

As you see in the photo, I had run the crust only about halfway up the sides of the pan, not realizing how much space the filling was going to take. Whether I should have spread the crust out thinner, or whether the crust recipe ought to be enlarged to make maybe 1 ½ times as much, I’m not sure. The crust seemed hard when I ate it, and I was thinking I should have spread it thinner, but my boss said he thought it was just right, and I wasn’t inclined to argue with him.

When I realized the pan was going to be FULL, I was afraid that, because the crust didn’t go all the way up the sides, the filling would leak out during baking, but it didn’t. Well, actually, when I removed the foil from around the bottom of the pan, it was buttery (both the foil and the bottom of the pan). I think some of the butter seeped down when the crust baked. But I don’t think the batter itself leaked out. In any case, wrapping the bottom of the pan with foil is a good idea.

This cheesecake came out beautifully, with a lighter, creamier texture than cheesecakes often have. It went over very well with my coworkers. Even the woman who doesn’t care for cheesecake liked it. The vanilla beans might have added something if I’d used them; as it was, the vanilla flavor wasn’t that pronounced, but then it didn’t dominate either. This is a great cake for a summer party.

Verdict: Yum!! This one's a keeper!!

Raspberry Blueberry Vanilla Cheesecake
(source:; originally published in Bon Appetit, August 1997)

For crust
1 1/2 cups ground shortbread cookies
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For filling
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
1/3 cup whipping cream

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs

2 6-ounce baskets fresh raspberries
2 6-ounce baskets fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch

For topping

1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind ground cookies, nuts and sugar in processor. Add butter and vanilla; process until moist crumbs form. Press onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Wrap outside of pan with foil. Bake until crust is light golden, about 15 minutes. Cool. Maintain oven temperature.

Make filling:
Scrape seeds from vanilla beans into heavy small saucepan; add beans. Add cream and bring to boil. Cool completely. Discard beans.

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Add vanilla-cream mixture, sour cream and vanilla extract and beat until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time.

Gently mix 1 basket raspberries, 1 basket blueberries and cornstarch in medium bowl. Pour 2/3 of filling into crust. Sprinkle berry mixture over. Pour remaining filling over berries to cover. Bake until cake is golden and begins to crack around edges but still moves slightly in center when pan is shaken, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes (cake will fall).

Make topping:
Mix sour cream, sugar and vanilla in small bowl to blend.

Gently press down any raised edges of cake. Spoon topping evenly over cake. Bake 10 minutes. Cool cake on rack. Refrigerate overnight. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Melt jam in small saucepan over low heat. Brush some jam over top of cake. Arrange remaining berries atop cake. Gently brush berries with remaining jam. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Keep chilled.)

Run small sharp knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Remove pan sides. Place cake on platter. Serve cold.

Recycle: vanilla bottle, sour cream container, berry baskets (if possible), jam jar

Compost: eggshells, hazelnut husks, vanilla beans