The best thing about the warmer months is the abundance of fresh berries. They are so colourful and delicious and I just want to put them on every single dessert I make. This week I happened to walk past a big batch of fresh mulberries and I had to get them. For me mulberries bring back incredibly strong childhood memories of picking them off my neighbour's mulberry bush in Perth, gathering them in a big white ice cream container and washing them off with the garden hose before eating the whole lot in one go with my brother. I love them.
To go with my haul of fresh berries I made this light and fluffy Japanese Cotton Soft Cheesecake. We've talked about this type of cheesecake before. We like this cheesecake. It's the perfect balance between a cheesecake and a spongecake. It's only downside is that it doesn't have a crust. I do like a good cheesecake crust...but it's still pretty great without it.
I got a little fancier with it this time by making three separate layers, each flavoured with a different berry. I love how pretty it looks with the separate layers, almost like an ombre cheesecake. But to be honest when you're eating it with all the fresh berries you can't really taste the difference between the layers, so it's mostly just there for the visual effect.
I couldn't resist pulling out my heart-shaped tin for this one. The only time I get uneasy about baking heart-shaped things is around Valentines day. Any other time of the year it's all good! Because it was such a fluffy cheesecake it ended up rising a LOT higher than the edges of my tin, so it was a good thing I reinforced the sides higher with lots of baking paper. After topping off the cheesecake with fresh berries, I decided to add a lemon jelly glaze over the top to give it a bit of shine and an added bit of tang. I love how luscious it makes the berries look!
The important thing with this cake is to make sure you bake it for long enough and cool it down slowly so the middle doesn't collapse in on itself. You'll always get a tiny bit of shrinkage as it cools but if it's set enough and you are patient then you'll end up with a fairly smooth top. I was pretty pleased with myself this time, I usually tend to rush it and turn the middle into a pancake. This time it stayed tall and so pretty with those three distinct layers. The cheesecake on its own is not very sweet at all so it really benefitted from having all the berries on top. Ooh or you could try covering the top of it in lemon curd, that would be great!
Triple Berry Cotton Soft Cheesecake
(adapted from Diana's Desserts)
250g/9oz cream cheese
100 ml (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp) fresh milk
60g/2 oz plain/all-purpose flour
40g/1.5 oz cornflour (cornstarch)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice6 egg yolks
6 egg whites
140g/5oz fine granulated sugar (caster sugar)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3 cups (about 300g) berries, fresh or frozen (and thawed), I used 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup blackberries
Optional: Fresh berries to decorate
Puree (and strain if you prefer not to have seeds) your berries, keeping each type of berry separate if you want different flavoured layers, otherwise blend them together. Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F). Grease base and sides, and line the base and sides of a 20cm (8inch) round (or heart) baking tin with baking paper (it's best to avoid springform tins as it will be placed in a water bath). Melt cream cheese, butter and milk in a heatproof mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water, whisking until smooth. Cool the mixture. Fold in the flour, the cornflour, egg yolks, lemon juice and mix well. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add in the sugar and whisk with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add cream cheese mixture to egg white mixture and stir until combined. If making separate layers, split mixture between three bowls. Fold in berry puree.
Pour one layer of cheesecake into the prepared tin and bake in a water bath for about 10-15 minutes until the surface is just set, then pour the next layer on top carefully and bake for another 10 minutes. Pour on the final layer of cheesecake and bake for a further 50-60 minutes, until the top is turning golden and the middle is set. Gently cool the cheesecake to prevent the centre from collapsing, I did this by turning the heat down by half 10 minutes before it was done, then turning off the heat for another 10 minutes, and leaving it to cool with the oven door crack open for another 10 minutes. If you are baking a single layer cheesecake, bake for about 1hour 10-15 minutes until done.
If the top starts to brown too quickly, carefully cover with a sheet of foil. Make sure your cheesecake is set before removing from oven, don't worry about it drying out as the berries will stop this. Cool in tin and then carefully transfer to a cake plate to serve. Top with extra berries. (I also glazed the top of the cake and the berries with a lemon jelly by mixing 1 tbsp gelatine powder with 1 tbsp hot water to dissolve, plus 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp icing/powdered sugar). Keep in fridge until ready to serve.