We had a work barbecue recently and I was quick to snap up dessert responsibilities. Dessert is one of my favourite things to make, but I like to make it for a crowd so I can eat one serving and share the rest, and we don’t get into the pattern of eating all the dessert all the time. And it had been awhile since I tried a new lemon dessert recipe!
This was actually Gemma’s idea – when I told her we were bringing dessert, she asked if we could make some kind of lemon cheesecake with a berry swirl. (I was planning on Chocolate Ecstasy, which is easy and always a hit, and we ended up making both, which was a good thing since both disappeared!) She’ll be taking over from me here soon enough, I imagine.
We looked at a few recipes, assessed the state of the fridge (lacking), and made a plan. I picked up ingredients on my way home from work and promised we would put the cheesecake together after dinner. Our dinner company stayed longer than I’d anticipated, which I always take as a wonderful compliment, but that meant we were starting cheesecake production around 9 pm. Having not put a lot of thought into timing and wanting to keep my word, we started mixing things together and got it in the oven. Then I considered more fully and realized it needed to bake for an hour, then slowly cool in the oven for another hour, and finally cool on the counter for a further hour or two before being wrapped and refrigerated for the next day.
In for a penny, in for a pound, I sent Gemma to bed and harassed Carl into playing Scrabble and Battleship with me to pass the time. Around midnight, I conceded that this was a bit too much commitment for a cheesecake and wrapped it, still too warm, to put in the fridge.
As I’d anticipated, the beautiful perfection of the night before had an unsightly crack down the center the next morning, as cheesecakes need to cool slowly to prevent cracking. But it was nothing a little (okay, more than a little) whipped cream couldn’t fix!
This cheesecake is a perfect spring or summer showstopper. It’s so bright and fresh and creamy, and the berry swirl can be done with whatever berries you have on hand. We had strawberries, but raspberries or blueberries or a combination of berries would all be fantastic. I plan to try raspberries next…our love of the lemon raspberry combo is well documented :) We also all agreed that the Golden Oreo crust was a serious level up from a graham crust, and well worth the extra step of grinding up a package of Oreos.
Cheesecake is always best made the day before you want to serve it, so it has the a full night to chill in the fridge, making it easier to slice and maximizing the best flavour and texture.
I also think homemade whipped cream makes all the difference on desserts, and have discovered that a bit of cream of tartar (the same thing I use to stabilize meringues!) is the perfect stabilizer to make your whipped cream hold up and not melt or soften. You can pipe this whipped cream a full day or two in advance and it will stay beautiful. I kept the cheesecake in the springform pan (I released it first, then re-closed it) to decorate and transport, which gave enough height that I could wrap it without pressing down on the whipped cream.
Summer is around for a few weeks yet, and I hope you’ll have a chance to make this and let me know what you think!
- 1 package Golden Oreos (about 12 oz/340 grams)
- ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp butter, melted
- 500 grams (2 packages) full fat cream cheese, completely softened to room temperature
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 3 Tablespoons heavy cream/whipping cream
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- Zest of two medium lemons
- Juice of 2 medium lemons (about ⅓ Cup)
- ¼ tsp lemon extract (optional)
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- STRAWBERRY PUREE:
- 6-8 oz fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed if frozen
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- WHIPPED CREAM:
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2-3 Tbsp icing sugar/confectioner's sugar
- ⅛ tsp cream of tartar
- Pinch of salt
- **Make sure your cream cheese is fully at room temperature before starting - 2-3 hours on the counter in a fairly warm kitchen. This is important for the cream cheese to whip up properly. You can take your eggs out at the same time to reach room temperature. Also, allow yourself 3.5 hours to prepare/bake/cool the cheesecake, and consider that it is best chilled overnight in the fridge before serving.
- Lightly grease a 9" springform pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- MAKE THE CRUST: Dump the Oreos into a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs. Alternatively, put them in a large freezer bag and smash them with a rolling pin or hammer - more fun, but slightly less effective :) In medium bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in the Oreo crumbs and press the mixture into the prepared pan, fully covering the bottom and going slightly up the sides. Set in the fridge while you prepare the rest.
- FOR THE CHEESECAKE: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 3 minutes on medium to high speed, until very creamy. Add granulated sugar and beat on medium for another 3 minutes. Add heavy cream, sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice and lemon extract, if using. Mix until fully combined. Add in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter should be very creamy with no lumps. Pour batter into prepared pan.
- STRAWBERRY PUREE: In small food processor or blender, blend together berries and sugar until smooth. Spoon dollops of the strawberry puree on top of the cheesecake batter and pull a knife back and forth through the batter to swirl the dollops around.
- Wrap the bottom of the springform pan with a layer of foil, being careful to avoid tears. Do a double layer if you're unsure. Place the foil-wrapped pan onto a large baking sheet or in a large baking pan and fill the larger dish about halfway with water.
- Carefully put the pan in the oven and bake for 60-70 minutes. The middle of the cheesecake should jiggle just a little bit, and the rest should look set. Turn the oven off, crack the door open with a wooden spoon to let some heat escape, and let cool in the oven for 1 hour.
- Remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature for 1-2 hours. Wrap with plastic wrap and let cool in the fridge overnight, or for at least 6 hours before serving.
- Once the cheesecake is chilled, beat whipping cream with icing sugar, cream of tartar, and small pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Transfer to piping bag (I used a 1mm tip) to decorate.
*Adapted from Confessions of a Baking Queen.