Angel Tears Cake

Believe it or not, this seems to be a quite a famous cake on the Russian social media. I hardly found any occurrences in Italian or English, which sort of surprised me. As it happens, I recently started to follow a food and recipe community on Vkontakte (ВКонтакте), the Russian equivalent of Facebook. This appeared in the news feed and I decided to give it a try mostly, to be perfectly honest, because the name intrigued me. More than a cake, this is a vanilla cheesecake topped by a nice layer of meringue.

The consistency of the biscuit-like base, combined with the middle, cheesy layer and the meringue on top is simply divine. Calling it heavenly would probably push it a little bit, but it still is a delicious and not overly sweet cake. The angel tears which give its iconic name to the cake are the small caramel drops which form on the surface of the meringue as it cools, making it look like a very sweet and compassionate angel was moved to tears by this simple yet elaborate cake. As you can see below, my ‘tears’ didn’t come out as well as I had hoped, but you can find more examples of the cake here.

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Ingredients (for the biscuit base)

  • 140g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 80g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 30g golden caster sugar
  • 1 large egg

Ingredients (for the cheesecake layer)

  • 500g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 100g soured cream, at room temperature
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients (for the meringue topping)

  • 3 egg whites
  • 5 tbsp caster sugar

Method

  1. Start by making the base. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and bicarbonate of soda. Add the cubed butter and use your fingertips to work the fat into the flour. Crack the egg into the mixture and combine it to make a pliable, but not wet, dough. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  2. Once the dough is ready, roll it out to to line the base of a 23cm springform tin, then chill it for another 20 minutes. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  3. To make the cheesecake filling, mix all of the ingredients and combine thoroughly. Spread the cheesecake filling over the pastry base, then bake the cheesecake for 20-30 minutes, until cooked through but with a slight wobble in the centre.
  4. Remove the cheesecake from the oven to cool slightly, but leave the oven on. In the meantime, prepare the meringue by whisking the egg whites on high speed and slowly, but gradually, adding the caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time. You are aiming for soft peaks, so don’t overbeat the meringue.
  5. Use a rubber spatula to spread it over the top of the cheesecake layer, then put back into the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden on top. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly and leave the cake to cool on the rack inside the oven for at least 50 minutes. The meringue layer will deflate, but this is normal. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. The longer it stands, the more ‘tears’ will appear on the surface.

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Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake

I might have already said this, but I used to be scared of baked cheesecakes. Something to do with the water bath, probably. It’s funny how over time you grow more confident of what you can achieve and now, as it stands, I actually prefer baked cheesecakes to their non-bake cousins. A baked cheesecakes presents several advantages: first of all, it’s sturdier, which means I can get it off the tin base quite easily almost all of the time. Also, it’s firmer, meaning that with one night in the fridge the cheesecake lasts for a good 4-5 hours at room temperature without melting, while a non-bake one would probably be cream (cheese) after a mere 30 minutes. Lastly (but I’m sure there’s many more), you can play with fruit and ripple the cheesecake with sauces and different syrupy fillings because, as it bakes, the cheesecake will hold them inside. Pure bliss.

Anyway, this is a recipe I found in the July edition of the BBC Good Food Magazine. I merely amended some of the quantities and changed the tin. The original one looked stunning in a rectangular shape, but as I don’t have a rectangular tin with a removable base, I decided to opt for the more classic round one. Be aware, though, that these quantities yield quite a big one. I used a 26cm round springform tin and it was very full. It’s also a very rich cheesecake (if you have a quick look at the amount of cream cheese you will understand why), but not too sweet and extremely delicious. Ultimately, you can play with the design on top, which is always a bonus.

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Ingredients

  • 300g digestive biscuits
  • 140g butter
  • 250 + 25g golden caster sugar
  • 200g blueberries
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 900g cream cheese, full fat
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200ml sour cream

Method

  1. Start with the base. If you have a food processor, tip the biscuits and the butter (even chilled is fine) inside, then whiz until you get a sandy mixture. If you don’t have a food processor, put the biscuits in a bag, seal it, then have a proper go at them with a rolling pin (or a big glass, but use the base and don’t smash it). Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat, then let it cool for a good 5 minutes. Transfer the biscuit crumbs to a big bowl, pour the melted butter on top and mix to combine.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 200C. Butter your springform tin (especially the sides).
  3. Transfer the biscuit crumble to the tin and use the back of your hands to press it down firmly onto the base. Aim for an even layer.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  5. Move on to the blueberry sauce. Tip the 25g sugar and half the blueberries in a saucepan. Mix the cornflour with a tablespoon of water, then pour that in as well. Heat on a low to medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then increase to heat to high and let the mixture bubble away for a few minutes, until thickened. Keep an eye on it as it might stick to the pan. Once ready and jam-like, remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  6. In the meantime, prepare the filling. If you have a freestanding mixer, tip the ingredients in the bowl and use the paddle attachment. Otherwise, use a big bowl and electric whisks (it can also be done manually, but it will take time and patience).
  7. Put all of the cream cheese in the mixing bowl, then mix on low speed until the mixture is smooth. Add the remaining sugar and whisk again, then add the eggs, vanilla extract, flour and sour cream. Mix well to combine.
  8. Pour half of the cheesecake mixture over the now cooled base, then spoon over half of the blueberry jam and half of the leftover blueberries. Cover with the rest of the cheesecake mixture, then add the rest of the blueberry jam in big blobs and the remaining blueberries.
  9. Take a toothpick (or a skewer) and use it to ripple the blobs into the cheesecake.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 110C and bake for another 30 minutes.
  11. Turn off the oven (but don’t open the door!) and leave the cheesecake to set for 1 hour, then leave the oven door ajar and let the cheesecake cool for another hour.
  12. Transfer to the fridge for a good couple of hours or, even better, overnight.
  13. When ready, unmould from the tin and serve.

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Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

Here is a recipe inspired from Emma’s take on it, although mine is a baked cheesecake, mostly because I did not trust adding raw eggs into the mixture. I therefore omitted gelatine altogether. The result is a very creamy and moreish cheesecake which, surprisingly enough, is not too sweet. If you look at the list of ingredients, you will see that there is no added sugar. The sweetness is provided only by the inner treacliness of dulce de leche which, let’s be frank, I could eat on its own – and have, in fact, done (tablespoon after tablespoon).

If you like me could not find dulce de leche at your local supermarket, you can easily make your own. All you need is a tin of condensed caramel and a water bath. You can find the information on how to make it here. I used the oven method as I couldn’t be bothered having to check over the stove every once in a while whether the caramel-like cream was ready. It worked perfectly.

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Ingredients

  • 130g digestive biscuits
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 130g full-fat cream cheese
  • 200g dulce de leche
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp dulce de leche (for the decoration)
  • icing sugar (for the decoration)

Method

  1. Grease a 20cm springform tin and set aside. Pre-heat your oven to 150C.
  2. Put the biscuits in a bag and bash with a rolling pin until reduced to very fine crumbs or put in a food processor and whiz for about 1 minute. Add the melted butter and stir to combine.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the tin and press it down to create an even layer. Place it in the fridge to firm up while you make the filling.
  4. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, combine the mascarpone with the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add the dulce de leche, eggs, vanilla and double cream, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides from time to time. The mixture will be fairly runny but that is fine.
  5. Take the prepared tin out of the oven and pour the filling on the biscuit base, then place in the oven and bake for 1 hour or until set.
  6. Once cooked, turn the oven off but leave the cheesecake in. Ideally, you should allow the cheesecake to come to room temperature in the cooling oven, but in my case I left it in for 20 minutes and then chilled it in the fridge.
  7. To decorate the cheesecake, fill a piping bag with the dulce de leche, then snip the end off and draw your favourite pattern on top. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

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Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

You know, I used to think baked cheesecakes were some sort of baking masterwork no-one could tackle. I’m not sure exactly what is was, maybe the idea of actually baking cream cheese, which I still find kind of hard to digest. However, I have to say that if you follow a few very easy steps, a baked cheesecake can be as easy as a non-bake one.

First of all, the oven temperature, which cannot be as high as for a victoria sponge. The reason behind it is that the cheese has been mixed up with eggs (and other ingredients, most of the time), so by increasing the temperature above 160 degrees Celsius you usually overbake the cheesecake and this results in cracks on the surface.

The same applies to the baking time. Bake it until the cheesecake still has a little wobble in the middle. I know it sounds off-putting, but the cake will keep on cooking upon cooling and the wobbly bit will set as nicely as the rest of the cake.

Last, the resting time. Allow the cheesecake to cool completely in the oven, then put it in the fridge and allow plenty of cooling time there. The cold of the fridge not only allows the cheese to become firm again, but also stabilises the whole cake so that when you try to unmould it the cheesecake doesn’t collapse and, most importantly, doesn’t melt.

This recipe is taken from the GBBO book, but can serve as a basic recipe to personalise your cheesecake and come up with unusual flavour combinations.

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Ingredients

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 100g dark chocolate + some for the decoration
  • 50g white chocolate + some for the decoration
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 500g full-fat cream cheese
  • 250ml soured cream

Method

  1. Crush the biscuits to a fine powder. I find the easiest way to do this is in a food processor, but feel free to put them in a sealed bag and unwind all of your frustrations on them with either a rolling pin or the bottom of a glass. Once reduced to a fine crumb, combine with the butter to create a sand-like consistency. If using a food processor, add the butter directly from the fridge as it will combine better and the mixture will hold together. If doing it by hand, then use room temperature butter.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a 23cm springform tin and line both the base and the sides. Try and push the buttery crumbs up the sides as much as possible to create a crater-like biscuit base. Chill in the fridge until set.
  3. In the meantime, pre-heat the ovnen to 150 degrees Celsius.
  4. Chop the dark and white chocolate as finely as you can, the put on one side.
  5. Put the cream cheese, vanilla extract and sugar into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix those in until thoroughly combined.
  6. Stir in the soured cream and the chopped chocolate, then transfer the mixture to the prepared biscuit base and spread evenly on top.
  7. Bake for 1 hour or until set. As said, the cheesecake should still have a bit of a wobble to it in the centre. Turn off the oven, the take the cheesecake out of the oven and shut the door. Use a round bladed knife or a palette to run around the sides and loosen them, then pop back into the oven and leave to cool down with the door closed.
  8. Once cold, take out from the oven and pop in the fridge to set completely for at least 3 hours, if not overnight.
  9. When ready to serve, unmould the cheesecake and use a potato peeler to shave curls from the rest of the white and dark chocolate.

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Marbled Lemon Squares

I will be honest, I made the lemon curd of the previous post because I wanted to make these. Think of them as a lemony and cheesecakey (is that even a word?) kind of brownies. The assembling bit is more or less the same of a cheesecake, and the flavour is as well. Very moreish, these will disappear in a flash! Recipe, again, from The Great British Bake Off: The Showstoppers book.

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Ingredients

  • 200g ginger biscuits
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 500g full-fat cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
  • about 225g lemon curd (use homemade if you can)

Method

  1. Line and grease a square or rectangular brownie tin (approximately 25 x 25cm).
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
  3. To make the base, put the biscuits and the butter in a food processor and blitz until you get a sandy consistency. Alternatively, put the biscuits in a bag, seal it and bash them with a rolling pin (very therapeutic), then mix in the butter.
  4. Bake the base for 10 minutes, then take out of the oven and leave to cool for 15. You can leave the oven on or turn it off while you get started with the cheesecake filling.
  5. To make the cheesecake mixture, put the cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and eggs into a large bowl and beat them until creamy and combined. You can do this by hand, no need to waste electricity 🙂
  6. Once the base has cooled down, pour the cheesecake mixture over it and spread it evenly.
  7. Dollop the lemon curd on the surface – quite randomly – and then use a cocktail stick (a skewer, a knife or even a teaspoon will do) to swirl it around and obtain a marbled effect. Don’t overdo it, though, as you want to keep some of the big lumps of lemon curd.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes, until just set. Remember to turn on the oven again if you switched it off before.
  9. Leave to cool in the tin. To extract it, run a round bladed knife all around the edges, then cut into squares.

Tips

  • The recipe says to cook it for 25 minutes, but I’ve opted for slightly more on here simply because when I checked mine after that time it was still wobbly and, I feared, uncooked. Feel free to take it out of the oven slightly before.
  • Keep this dessert in the fridge as it will melt/go weird if left outside. Needless to say, the earlier you eat it, the better.