Last Tuesday, Lee turned 25 years old. A good age, I think! We skipped off to York to celebrate, drinking in the cool night air and twinkly Christmas lights. However, our holiday meant that we weren’t at home to bake a cake or sing Lee happy birthday, much to my dismay.
But, my mum being my mum came to the rescue when we returned at the weekend. Squeezing yet another bake-off session into her already-packed afternoon, she made a Vanilla Cheesecake – one of Lee’s favourite desserts. Made with fresh vanilla pods and much love, Lee enjoyed carving up slice (after slice, after slice!) of it on Sunday afternoon while we lounged beside the fire and listened to the rain fall on the windows. It’s a popular cheesecake with my brothers too, and invariably makes an appearance at Christmas.
Ingredients for vanilla cheesecake:
285ml pot of double cream
Fresh fruit to top
1. Put the biscuits in a zip-lock bag, squeeze out the air and hold the top so biscuit crumbs don’t come flying out. Use a rolling pin to crush the biscuits into crumbs. Then put the crumbs in a bowl and pour on the melted butter. Combine thoroughly – this is important, else your base might not set properly.
2. Pour the crumbs into a lined loose-bottomed tin. Work the biscuits crumbs right up to the edge, using the back of a spoon to push down so it forms a compact layer. Try to keep it all even so there’s not a mound in the centre.
3. Put the biscuit crumbs in the tin into the fridge. It will need at least an hour to firm up.
4. While the biscuit base is firming up, scoop out the vanilla seeds from both the pods. Many recipes only call for one pod, but Lee loves vanilla and this is the perfect amount in his opinion! You’ll need to split the pods in half lengthways with the point of a sharp blade. Then scrape the seeds along the length of each pod with a flat (unserrated) blade. Do this several times to get every single bit.
5. Place the cream cheese in a bowl along with the icing sugar and vanilla seeds. Beat together until smooth, or use an electric mixer. Then add the double cream little by little, continuing to beat it until the mixture is totally combined.
6. Remove the biscuit base from the fridge and spoon the mixture on top of it. Apply it in dollops, starting from the edges, working your way inwards. Build up in layers to ensure there aren’t any air bubbles, and use a spatula to smooth the top.
7. Put the cheesecake in the fridge and leave it to firm up overnight.
When you’re ready to cut the cake, take it out of the fridge and let it warm a little – for fifteen minutes, if the room isn’t too warm.
Some final top tips:
If you have a food processor, chuck the digestives and melted butter into processor to blitz it rather than using the rolling bin and plastic bag method.
Use a spring-form tin when making this cheesecake to make it easier to remove before serving.
You’ll need 150g of icing sugar rather than the 100g many other recipes taste for – otherwise it’ll taste too sour – this recipe replies on vanilla alone without any sweetness from fruit.
The cream cheese needs to be room temperature before you beat it, or it will be too stiff in comparison to the lightly beaten double cream and it won’t combine evenly.
When spreading the mixture across the base, try placing the spatula in a mug of boiling hot water first. A moistened spatula will prevent the cream cheese from sticking to the utensil and dragging off the biscuit base. The same trick works well if you’re icing a cake or heaping golden syrup into a bowl with a measuring spoon.
We topped Lee’s cheesecake with raspberries and a birthday candle, but you could make a fruit coulis or simply melt some dark chocolate and drizzle it on top instead. Happy birthday, Lee, and a big thank you to my very talented mum for making such a lovely birthday cheesecake (and for sharing her top tips with us too!).