Fruits of the Forest Cheesecake

Thank goodness the weather decided to perk up a little bit this week. I was starting to get horribly down in the dumps about the rain, but a little time out in the countryside, some sunshine, and of course, loads of sleep, have worked their magic.

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This cheesecake was one of the desserts I made for the housewarming party. I love unbaked cheesecakes for their simplicity, creamy texture and deliciousness. In fact, I love them so much I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to making the baked kind!

Anyway, at the housewarming party itself I never got round to taking a photo of the cheesecake, but it went down very well, and I still had plenty of ingredients leftover, so I of course, made it again.

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It was quite dark by the time I finished making it, so out came my camera to attempt some artificial light photography. I’m pretty pleased with the results!

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It’s just right for a crowd. I’d probably size it down by half if I was baking it again for just two – A and I managed to manfully eat our way through a large slice every day for a week.

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I’m a bit cheesecaked out at the moment, but as the festive season gets closer and closer I will be excited about thinking up some other variations, including peanut butter, baileys or even a spicy ginger version. Yum.

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Summer Berries and Cream Cake

Small happy thoughts towards the end to the rather wet summer…

A fresh coat of scarlet paint on my toenails, an upcoming trip to the Royal Opera House, the anticipation of annual leave in just a few weeks time, and with it, opportunities to go and explore the beautiful South Downs.

More in the present (or rather, the past, by the time this post goes up) is the prospect of delicious cake. I have lost count of how many times I have baked variations on a theme of sponge cake this summer. The combination of buttery sponge, cream and fresh fruit has an utterly delicious scent and is just irresistable to a cake-fiend like me.

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On the bank holiday weekend, A and I held our first flatwarming party. I went bake-crazy and made a grand sum of two kinds of macarons, a lemon and raspberry cake filled with lemon curd, raspberry jam and cream cheese, pumpkin pie, mixed berry cheesecake, and two kinds of chocolate tiffin. Then after all that, I had a wobble when the cheesecake base went soggy, made a second cheesecake, a backup sponge cake, and bought a pear tart from the patisserie just in case all the above wasn’t enough.

I think the moral of this story is don’t make quite so much next time!

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My parents ended up being the recipients of this, the backup cake, and very tasty it was too. It’s a very simple victoria sponge, unflavoured, and filled with whipped double cream, raspberry jam, and topped with a profusion of late summer fruit. I overwhipped the cream so it looks aesthetically less pretty, but actually I prefer it that way in terms of taste and texture.

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I was surprised to find out that my parents’ lawn was a lush verdant green, rather than the scorched gold I tend to expect at this time of year. One positive from the excessive amount of rain lately.

Sadly I didn’t actually take any pictures of the bakes at the housewarming itself! I’ll definitely be making the lemon sponge again though, as the pink lemon curd in the centre was just so girlishly pleasing. Summer might be coming to an end, but the cakes are just going to keep coming!

Summer Berry Cheesecake

I baked a variation of this strawberry cheesecake at the weekend. It’s based on this BBC Good Food cheesecake, plus some extra lemon juice, and a smattering of blueberries for some very patriotic colours (if you live in the UK, USA, France etc).

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At first, I was afraid it was too rich. But it just needed more time in the fridge to set properly, and for the flavours to mingle and settle. It was a little tricky to cut tidily.If you want to cut it into small slices for a crowd, it might be better to add the fresh fruit and coulis onto each slice after cutting. I’m keen on trying more no-bake cheesecake recipes out there, they’re just perfect for a sunny weekend.

Photo credits and Photoshop wizardry for this cheesecake again go to A.

Also a big thank you to all my readers! This week, I finally crossed the 100 followers mark, and am so excited to have such a wonderful following of fellow cake enthusiasts. It means a lot to me. 🙂

Summer Berry Cheesecake

Adapted from BBC Good Food

For the base and filling:

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 125g salted butter
  • 600g cream cheese
  • 284ml double cream
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • the juice of 1/2 lemon

For the topping:

  • 400g fresh strawberries
  • sprinkling of blueberries
  • 1 heaped tbsp icing sugar

Make the biscuit base first. Crush the biscuits to crumbs. Melt the butter and mix the two together so the consistency is like wet sand, then press into the base of a 20cm cake tin. Put in the fridge to chill.

Make the cream cheese filling next. Beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and double cream until thickened and able to hold its own shape. Beat in vanilla extract and lemon juice, adjusting to taste if needed. Spread over the biscuit base, smoothing the top, and return to the fridge to chill overnight.

Chop the strawberries into halves. Take one quarter of the strawberries and blend to a purée then sieve through to remove the seeds. Add a tbsp icing sugar, and set to one side.

Unmould the chilled cheesecake from the tin. Arrange the remaining chopped strawberries and blueberries on top, then drizzle with the strawberry purée and serve. Tada!

Tartes aux Fraises

Picture this – it’s a balmy summer day, early afternoon. There’s a faint breeze. It’s warm, fragrant. You’re relaxed against the tickly long grass, your feet bathing in the sunshine. And packed in your bag, a picnic lunch. Cold cuts, a crusty loaf of bread, crunchy salads. And to finish off, these little tartlets. Crisp pastry, cool creamy créme mousseline, and the juiciest of the season’s strawberries.

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I used my favourite rich buttery pastry recipe. Pierre Hermé, Christophe Felder, and Dorie Greenspan in Paris Sweets all have a recipe for this, in startlingly similar proportions, so there must be something to it.

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Aside from this, I used the créme mousseline recipe from Paris Sweets, and finished off with some beautifully sweet local strawberries from the market. Finally, I garnished the tarts with a sprinkling of chopped green pistachios, and a lick of raspberry glaze for extra shine.

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These tarts are best assembled just before eating. As there were only a few mouths this week, I only made 3 tarts. Despite Dorie advising us not to reduce the quantity of créme mousseline, I reduced it by one-third because I didn’t have enough milk anyways, and it turned out fine.

Strawberry tarts are an excellent recipe to assemble in parts. I made up the pastry on Sunday, and popped it into the fridge to chill. On Monday I made up the créme patissière, and lined my tart tins with pastry. On Tuesday, I baked up the tarts, added the extra butter into the créme patissière to turn it into a créme mousseline, and voila.

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The créme mousseline caused me a little angst because when I first beat in the butter, it looked curdled and yellow – not the light cream I had envisaged. However, turns out it’s just like crème au beurre, and just requires a lot of patience, and hard work from your electric whisk. Eventually, the curdled mixture metamorphosised into the lightest of pale silky creams.

I also didn’t have any redcurrant jelly handy for the glaze, so did this instead: mixed a spoonful of raspberry jam with a spoonful of liquid glucose. Heated it until liquid, added a squeeze of lemon juice, and then sieved through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of the lumpy bits.

I’ve made many a strawberry tart before in my lifetime, but these were officially the best ever. It was unbelieveable how light the créme mousseline was, and it beautifully enhanced the crispness of the pastry, and sweetness of the strawberries. The pistachios, as well as adding a little sprinkle of greenery, also added extra flavour and textural contrast. A true taste of summer holidays in France, in the form of these very summery sweet tarts to enjoy!

Scrumptious Strawberry Cheesecake

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If you’ve ever had grief with baked cheesecakes, this little recipe is absolutely perfect. No baking is required at all, no faffing around with leaking tins and cracked tops. And did I mention it is deeeeeelicious? 🙂

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The strawberries weren’t in season, but with the rain sheeting down, and the chilly days outside, it’s rather lovely to have a taste of Summer indoors! All credit for photography and whisk wielding goes to A, who as usual, outdid himself.

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Strawberry Mascarpone Tartlets

These were more fiddly to make than I had anticipated, but oh they were worth it. Glorious summer strawberries, brushed with a light glaze of redcurrant jelly, sitting on a bed of mascarpone cream, encased in a sweet pastry case.

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I bought 2 punnets of strawberries so I could pick out the prettiest juiciest specimens.

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I still haven’t tried making creme patisserie, but that would be the more classic option, instead of the mascarpone cream I used. A word of warning – these tarts will get soggy quickly. Only assemble them just before eating, so they are at their best.

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As I have seen in patisseries, these would be great garnished with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios. Unfortunately I forgot to pick any up in the supermarket, but next year perhaps they will make an appearance. You don’t even have to use strawberries. At this time of year, the blackberries are starting to ripen on the bushes – so you could get yourself a big batch of free fruit and just go for it!

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Just for reference’s sake, if these strawberry tarts seem like a bit too much of a faff, there’s an easy-peasy and just as delicious version from last year.

Tartes aux Fruits, je t’aime

Spending my weekend lolling around reading Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Kiss, I started feeling a desperate desire for Parisian patisserie.

Given my geographical location, I have been to Paris many times over the past few years. Yet astonishingly, I have never, not once bought any patisserie in France, ever??

Knowing me, this is a TRAVESTY.

So until I read Laura Florand’s novel – I had been walking past Ladurée and the whole area of St Germain de Pres, sitting in café de thés, glancing at colourful meringues, and not once had it occurred to me that there was a whole world of edible beauty out there to be explored.

If you are heading to Paris any time soon, read The Chocolate Kiss and all will make sense. Unfortunately, I am not going to Paris, so I had to make do with what’s available here.

This is what I did:

  1. Wander around London gormlessly and fruitlessly 
  2. End up in Pierre Hermé and blow a small fortune on macarons
  3. Bake

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Et voila!

We have here a pâté sucrée case filled with mascarpone cream, a profusion of fruit and a dusting of icing sugar on top to finish. I do feel a small pang of guilt at buying so much out-of-season fresh fruit, but fortunately for my carbon footprint, none of them came from too far away – I’m assuming the environs of the Mediterranean are fair game.

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I’m so pleased with how these turned out! They certainly sated my patisserie craving….for a while. I’m guessing the lure of Paris will still continue to pull. Let’s see if I can purchase a proper patisserie cookbook and see where my baking projects go from there!

Strasberry Triple Layer Cake

Spring really is in the air now. There are snowdrops clustered in the garden, vibrant purple and gold crocuses, and daffodils proudly standing tall. For me, pink and spring have always seemed to go hand in hand. I wanted to make a pink cake, and here’s the beautiful result.

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This cake already wins the award for “Most Rapidly Consumed Cake of the Year.” I baked it in the afternoon, but 2 hours later, more than half of it had already vanished.

The name was a bit of a conundrum. Calling it a Strawberry and Raspberry Triple Layer Yoghurt Cake seemed a bit long-winded, so straspberry it is.

The recipe for the sponge itself was adapted from the yoghurt cake from Chocolate & Zucchini, an excellent French foodie blog. I made a few modifications – I didn’t know the volume of yoghurt in Muller Strawberry Corners, for instance, so I used 2 and hoped for the best.

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Anyway, the speed at which it was consumed should be testimony to how delicious this cake was. It was light and fresh, but substantial and satisfying all at the same time. The flavours are very delicate, with the tang from the yoghurt complimenting the strawberry and raspberry flavours beautifully. The crust does darken considerably (in fact, in the photo it looks alarmingly black) but I assure you it definitely wasn’t burnt.

Also another note for this who prefer to healthify their baking – I tried making the cake a 2nd time using fat-free fromage frais, and the results weren’t nearly as tender or light, so here, I would highly recommend using the full-fat version for the best results.

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Straspberry Triple Layer Cake

Cake recipe adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini.

For the cake:

  • 2 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 pots of yoghurt (I used Muller Strawberry Corners – save the compote for filling the cakes with)
  • 80ml vegetable oil
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20g finely chopped, freeze-dried strawberries/raspberries

For the filling and icing:

  • strawberry compote from 2 Muller Corners 
  • strawberry jam
  • milk/water (optional)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 3-4 powdered freeze-dried raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line 3 x 15cm cake tins.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together. Whisk in the yoghurt, followed by the oil, and vanilla extract. Mix the flour, baking powder, and bicarbonate of soda together. Add it to the liquid mixture in one go, and fold in gently, just until the flour disappears, even if the batter is still lumpy. Fold in the freeze-dried fruit. Divide between the tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and springy.

Remove the cakes from the tins and leave to cool. Trim the cakes flat with a bread knife.

Make the buttercream by beating together butter and sugar until fluffy, then adding a little milk if it is too stiff. Add a spoonful of compote or jam, to tint the icing pink. Pipe a ring of buttercream on each cake layer, and a spiral going into the centre of the cake. Smooth out to form a smooth layer with a palette knife. On the 2 middle layers, sprinkle over half the powdered freeze-dried strawberries, then top with a thin layer of compote/jam. Stack the layers on top of each other. Finally, on the top layer, sprinkle with the remaining freeze-dried raspberries.

Sweet Summer, and Strawberry Tarts

One of the best bits of summer in London is going out for a leisurely (Boris) bike ride along the quiet streets of central London, the warm evening summer sun gently stopping you from getting too cold.

Another one of the best bits is the vast abundance of cheap strawberries. Which means …making these delectably moreish strawberry tarts! Once again in endeavouring to use up squirreled-away ingredients, I found a ball of shortcrust pastry in the freezer and used this for the tartlet cases.

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Strawberry Tarts

  • shortcrust pastry
  • good quality strawberry jam
  • fresh strawberries, sliced

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Roll out the pastry thinly and stamp out circles with a large cookie cutter. Line the holes in a muffin tin. Prick the bases of each case well with a fork, and bake until golden brown. Leave to cool on a cooling rack.

Put a spoonful of strawberry jam into each case, and top with several strawberry slices.

On a slightly sad note, summer has highlighted to me how un-green fingered I am. I planted some coriander and pepper seeds earlier which were given to me as a gift. They germinated beautifully but I clumsily dropped one of the pots on the ground, and …well, it appears that the coriander didn’t quite survive the trauma. The peppers are seem to have PTSD, and are probably going the same way. It’s very saddening. On the other hand, if I cannot garden, at least I can bake.