One of my clearest memories of you is from when we were both little. I was excited to be on my way to school while you were standing at the window, crying because you wanted to come with me.
Just four years apart in age, we couldn’t be any more different if we tried and yet we get along like a house on fire. I love when we finish each others sentences and both make fun of ma till she erupts with the inevitable “써글년 들” which makes us giggle with glee.
We’ve had our ups and downs and been together through some incredibly tough times. You always help to calm me down when I get worked up because of something, and I hope that you’ll always remember that I’m here for you no matter what.
I consider myself blessed to be your older sister, and it has been an absolute honor and pleasure to watch you grow into the beautiful, intelligent young woman that you are today.
Happy birthday, my darling.
Me and my sister, when she was about 8 months old!
I am, without question, the birthday cake maker in our family. So when I asked my sister what cake she wanted this year and she responded with cheesecake, I had a think about what I could do.
Don’t get me wrong, the good ol’ Nigella Lawson baked London cheesecake is always well received (probably since I only make it once or twice a year at most), but I thought that it just didn’t look special enough. I’m sure you know what I mean. Cake is cake is cake, except when it’s a birthday cake. For something like this, you want to make something with a little bit of glamour to it – especially when the intended recipient is a dearly beloved little sister.
My sister and I are just about polar opposites – she despises seafood while I am crazy for everything from the ocean. She has a serious soft spot for celery while I deplore it unless it’s cooked half to death in a soup or a stew (and cut into itty bitty pieces). And she has (what she fondly calls) her “dessert” stomach, while I’m usually whimpering by the second course and in trouble by dessert.
Thankfully, she thinks Vegemite is as hideous as I do, otherwise I would have to consider disowning her
One of the things that we do have in common is a shared love of berries – strawberries, in particular. Our favourite bubble tea is strawberry milk, our favourite smoothie is a berry blast and we will rarely say no to (homemade) strawberry frozen yoghurt So making a strawberry cheesecake seemed like the right choice.
As far as berry-flavoured cheesecakes go, there are quite a few different ways of doing it. Some people just dump their berries into the cheesecake mixture, others swirl jam through it, and I’ve even seen cheesecake with a berry jelly layer on top declaring itself to be berry-flavoured.
No, this wasn’t good enough as far as I was concerned, so I set out to do something a bit different.
I knew that it had to be a baked cheesecake done in a water bath. In my opinion, this is absolutely the best kind of cheesecake that there is. Without the overwhelming “cream cheese” flavour found in chilled cheesecakes and with a sigh-inducing texture of silky smoothness, there’s something just incredibly sensual about the way that this cheesecake melts in the mouth.
The beauty here is that using real berries instead of any preserves means real strawberry flavour comes straight through in the cheesecake, and when that’s paired with the stunning look of the alternating layers…well, it makes a cheesecake worthy of being served for my sister’s birthday
Of course, since just strawberry cheesecake isn’t quite enough, I recommend pairing this with a strawberry coulis or sauce as there is nothing that looks quite as decadent as a slice of cake (or cheesecake) with a rich ruby-red sauce dripping down the sides
Strawberry zebra-striped cheesecake
200g digestive biscuits (I use Arnotts Marie biscuits)
100g unsalted butter, melted then cooled
650g cream cheese
150g caster sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
300g strawberries (fresh or frozen)
2-3 drops red food dye
1. Crush the biscuits and then stir through the melted and cooled butter till everything is evenly mixed together. Line an 18cm springform round cake tin with non-stick baking paper then press the buttered cookie crumbs into the base. Make sure you pack it together solid so the cheesecake mixture doesn’t leak through to the bottom.
2. Place 600g of cream cheese in a food processor along with the lemon juice, vanilla and sugar and process till the mixture is completely smooth. Scrape down the sides, add the eggs and egg yolks then process again till smooth and well combined.
3. Remove about 2/3 of the cheesecake mixture and set aside, then add the berries, remaining 50g of cream cheese and food dye to the 1/3 cheesecake mixture remaining in the processor and blitz till the berries are smoothly incorporated. The food dye is optional, but will help make the layers more striking once baked!
4. Pour the white and strawberry cheesecake mixtures into the cake tin, alternating flavours and trying to keep each addition fairly even. Once all the mixture has been added, drag a skewer from the edges to the middle to make a pattern as in the picture below. At this stage, you can also add a little natural strawberry preserve or roasted strawberries to be found as little surprises in each slice!
5. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and wrap the outside of the cake tin three times with foil, making sure to alternate direction. Wrap it tightly as without tight foil barrier, water *will* seep through the container and make the bottom of the cheesecake waterlogged and soggy! Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes – 1 hour, or till the top of the cheesecake feels set to the touch. Once the cake is baked, chill overnight in the fridge to allow it to set completely, then slice and serve!
While this is perfectly fine to serve as is, I love serving my cheesecakes with a simple berry sauce as I feel this just adds a little “oomph” to the presentation of the dish. Plus, I honestly believe that there is no such thing as too much berries…so why not huh?
Kitchen Wench’s Strawberry Sauce
Strawberry sauce ingredients
300g strawberries (fresh or frozen)
150g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 cup water
Wash and hull your berries, then place into a saucepan along with the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer whilst stirring occasionally. Once the liquid has thickened and the berries completely cooked through and mushy, remove the pan from heat and blitz with a stick blender or food processor till smooth.
If you don’t have a food processor or stick blender you can pour the mixture through a sieve and push the berries through a sieve to get the pulp into the sauce without the seeds