The easiest cheesecake I know: just cream, soft cheese and bright lemon curd folded through the lot.
There are, broadly speaking, three ways to make a cheesecake. The first is to bake it, using eggs to set the cheese. This sort is usually my favourite: rich without being over-sweet, creamy and (if baked patiently and sympathetically) with a velvety smooth texture. The next method uses gelatine, but it’s not an approach that I’m keen on. Although these are fresher and brighter than baked cheesecakes, a delicate balance has to be struck if you’re to avoid a rubbery texture. Besides, the faffing around involved in using gelatine isn’t, in my eyes, worth it – especially when you can achieve a similar result without. The third approach (used in the cheesecake below) achieves the summery lightness of a gelatine-set cheesecake, without any of the fuss. The trick is double cream – whisked until firm then folded through the cheese.
You can substitute other flavours into this cheesecake but it’s crucial that you maintain a level of sharpness – perhaps with redcurrants, passionfruit or lime – to balance the creaminess of the filling. Using curds is a good way of incorporating flavour without ‘diluting’ the mixture too much, which would prevent the cheesecake from setting.
For the base:
175g ginger biscuits
90g unsalted butter
For the filling:
300g cream cheese
zest of 2-3 lemons*
150ml double cream
300g lemon curd
*if you want, you can make the curd for this recipe using the juice from these zested lemons. There’s a curd recipe over here at my Guardian column. Usually you’d use the zest and juice of the lemons in the curd, but I think that this cheesecake benefits from having the flecks of zest fresh through the mixture, so just make a juice-only curd for economy’s sake.
8″ loose-bottomed or springform cake tin
1 Line the base of the cake tin with a circle of greaseproof paper or baking parchment.
2 Crush the biscuits or blitz in a food processor until reduced to crumbs. Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat then add to the crushed biscuits, stirring to combine. The mixture needs to be just moist enough that it’ll hold in small clumps when squeezed, so add a little more butter if necessary. Press firmly into the bottom of the prepared tin, levelling the surface with the back of a spoon. Chill in the refrigerator.
3 Beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until completely smooth, then add the lemon zest. Fold in 200g of the lemon curd. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until firm (it should just about hold stiff peaks, but take care not to over-whisk) then, using a cutting motion with the spoon, gently fold this into the cream cheese mixture. Taste it now: if it needs a little extra zest or sweetness (different curds will have slightly different sugar content) add more lemon or a touch of caster sugar accordingly. Otherwise, spoon it over the chilled base, smooth the top and chill for a good few hours.
4 Once chilled and firmer, spoon the remaining lemon curd on top. Let chill for a further 20 minutes or so then carefully unmould and serve. This cheesecake is softer than a baked one, but as long as you’ve handled the mixture lightly and chilled thoroughly, it should still hold in quivering slices.