It was fourth grade. I was sitting at the kitchen table with a packet of store-bought Valentines splayed across the nylon wipe-clean placemats.
I was suddenly struck with the horrifying notion that if I gave the wrong Valentine to the right person, my non-existent reputation would be ruined. You can’t just casually say you LIKE someone. And here these cartoon cards were, boldly claiming punny things about love and like and ‘you’re cute’. The horror of potentially insinuating romantic interest caused more stress in my ten-year-old self than the multiplication tables.
Fast-forward thirteen years, and I live for punny Valentines. And for Valentine’s Day in general. While others make arguments against commercialisation and consumerism, I’m drowning in hearts, smiling at red-and-white shop windows and excitedly dying frosting pink. Love it or lump it, there’s no denying an excuse for themed bakes is exciting.
Which is where this cheesecake comes in (made for a very important boy, I might add).
He may like it better than a Valentine.
Swirled Berry Cheesecake
YOU’RE GONNA NEED: a round springform pan (that means it’s got a removable base) and at least 4 hours for refrigeration time
1 cup crushed ginger cookies (or any cookies you like)
5 tbsp melted butter
12 oz softened cream cheese (I used Philadelphia Light)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup + 1 tbs sour cream, at room temperature
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
Strawberry jam, or any flavour you prefer
1/3 cup blueberries
1/3 cup strawberries, roughly chopped with stems removed
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp strawberry jam
1/4 cup water
1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C).
2. Prepare your base: combine the crushed cookies and melted butter with your fingers. It should be moistened, but not sticky or wet. Gently press the cookie mixture into your pan, packing it up the sides and into the bottom. Bake for about 10 minutes, until just set. Set aside to cool.
3. Reduce oven temperature to 325F (160C).
4. Prepare your filling: using a stand mixer (you could also do this with a hand mixer and a sturdy-bottomed bowl), beat cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy – it’ll take around 3 minutes. Add the sour cream, flour, vanilla and salt to the cream cheese mixture and continue to beat for around 1 minute. Slowly add the eggs one at a time, beating quickly until just combined.
5. Pour the filling into the base. You may need to spread it using a spatula so it evenly covers the base.
6. Heat the jam to a boil (you can do this in the microwave: just place a few spoonfuls in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds. Careful, it’s hot!). Drop by teaspoons onto the surface of the cheesecake and drag a butter knife through to create swirls.
7. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the cream cheese filling sets. Cool and refrigerate for at least four hours, ideally overnight.
8. Prepare your compote: bring berries, sugar, jam and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium high and continue to boil for 15 minutes until it starts to thicken. Once cool, serve on top of cheesecake.
If you like lots of sauce, you may need to double this – it doesn’t make a large amount of compote.
Cheesecake filling and method adapted from Fine Cooking.
You definitely need to keep this refrigerated.