Baked vanilla and white chocolate cheesecake

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This is an American-style cheesecake – luscious, rich, creamy and smooth. Instead of the usual crushed digestive biscuit base, we make our own biscuit: it’s designed to mimic the flavour of the classic American Graham cracker base, which is the best possible foil for the cheesecake above. If you want to save time, you can use 250g shop-bought biscuits: ginger nuts would be particularly good. This is best made the day before serving, and will take over your oven for hours, so make sure you don’t need it for anything else in the meantime.

  • Yield: 8 Servings


For the Base
  • 100 g plain flour
  • 60 g light muscovado sugar
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 35 g butter, chilled and diced, plus extra for greasing
  • 35 g clear honey
  • 2 tsp natural vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 100 g butter, melted
For the Filling
  • 180 ml double cream
  • 200 g white chocolate, chopped into rough chunks
  • 500 g full-fat white soft cheese, at room temperature
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla pod
For the Topping
  • 35 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 200 ml sour cream
  • fresh raspberries or blueberries, to decorate (optional)
How to Make It
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 and line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper. Butter a 20 cm springform cake tin and line it with baking paper too.
  2. Begin by making the base. Whisk together the flour, muscovado sugar, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl, then scatter over the cold cubes of butter and use your fingertips to rub it into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. In a separate bowl, stir together the honey, vanilla and milk. Pour this into the flour mix and stir vigorously until you’re left with a soft, paste-like dough.
  3. Press the dough out onto the lined baking sheet to a thickness of about 5 mm and bake for 20–25 minutes, until cooked through but still a little soft. Leave to cool completely – it will crisp up as it cools. Break it up and crush it into crumbs: either use a food processor or put the biscuit in a plastic bag and bash it with a rolling pin (very therapeutic). Tip the crumbs into a bowl, pour over the melted butter and stir until you have a damp, sandy mixture, then press this down evenly into the base of the cake tin and freeze while you make the filling.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C/gas mark 3. For the filling, pour the double cream into a small pan over a medium heat. Bring it gently to the boil, remove from the heat, then add the chopped white chocolate. Stir occasionally as the chocolate melts into the cream, then set aside to cool to room temperature.
  5. Meanwhile, tip the cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater, or use a handmixer and a large bowl. Beat on a medium speed until completely smooth. Add the caster sugar and carry on mixing.
  6. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Use a sharp knife to split open the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds, then whisk these into the eggs. Pour the eggs slowly into the cream cheese, beating constantly as you go. Take your time to prevent the mixture from curdling. When everything is combined, reduce the speed to slow. Now add the white chocolate cream and mix until you have a silky batter.
  7. Pour the filling into the cake tin, on top of the base, and bake for 1½ hours. The cake should stay very white. If you see it starting to brown, reduce the oven to 150°C. While the cheesecake cooks, prepare the topping. Whisk the icing sugar into the sour cream until completely smooth, then cover and chill until needed.
  8. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes to cool in its tin. Gently, taking care not to break through the top of the cheesecake, spread the topping in a neat circle in the centre with the back of a spoon, leaving a 2 cm border around the edge. Put back into the oven for 10 minutes more. It’s ready when still a little wobbly at the centre, and a pale white – don’t allow it to colour. At this stage, switch off the oven and open the door slightly. Leave the cheesecake to sit there for at least 2 hours, cooling slowly. The more slowly it cools, the less it will crack. Cracks aren’t disastrous – a cracked cheesecake is still a delicious cheesecake – but a smooth, crevice-free top is even better. When the cheesecake reaches room temperature, cover it with cling fim and chill it overnight to get nice and firm, before unmoulding and serving. For an even more impressive dessert, pile fresh raspberries or blueberries on top.

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