Soft, light and refreshing zesty cheesecake.
Forget dense and heavy cheesecakes. This zesty cheesecake is creamy but in the same time light and airy with soft, melt-in-your-mouth ricotta filling. Lemon zest and cardamom are bringing additional flavour dimension. In this post, we are also sharing with you our usual go-to cheesecake crusts - choose your favourite. Ours is wholemeal spelt crust!
In this simple bake, traditional Polish creamed cheesecake blends in with Italian ricotta and sour cream. We have covered different angles of recipe testing here - so that you can bake that perfect, soft and light ricotta cheesecake.
Whether it’s going to be a centre piece of a celebration or your casual weekend bake - we know you will love it!
For a good bake:
Ricotta - many ricotta cheesecake recipes use a blend of cream cheese and ricotta. Not this one. Our cheesecake relies only on ricotta cheese. Thanks to that, the filling is light, moist and less tangy. For a good bake here, make sure to leave ricotta at room temperature (20-21C) for 3-5 hours before baking. It will ooze a good bit of juice which needs to be removed before adding ricotta to the rest of ingredients. It will also allow ricotta to ‘relax’ at room temperature, which will make it easier to cream it in with zesty butter.
Sour cream - adds extra moisture and creamy lightness to this cheesecake. Use it straight from the fridge.
Flavour here comes from creaming butter with zesty sugar scented with cardamom. Creaming is a traditional way of preparing Polish cheesecakes. Mix zest and cardamom with sugar and using your finger tips rub the mixture to release flavour.
Creaming - use butter at room temperature. For a good texture - cream butter with half amount of sugar first (otherwise you will end up with thick and hard sugary paste). Then, add the rest of sugar and cream for few more minutes (all included in the recipe).
Eggs - full eggs are added to zesty butter. No need to separate egg yolks and egg whites. Add eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated.
Flour - tiny amount of flour is added to creamed butter/eggs. Add sifted flour in 2-3 go’s to avoid flour pockets. Use all purpose (plain) flour. If you want to make this cheesecake gluten free - use tapioca, cornflour or potato starch. Flour here is added to lock in some air bubbles formed when eggs are added to creamed butter. Too much air will cause cheesecake to raise spectacularly in the oven. However, it also increases risk of deflation and cracks. Because the butter is creamed with sugar and eggs (creating airy volume), this needs to be knocked back slightly before adding cream cheese.
When incorporating cream cheese, take it slow, add 1-2 Tablespoons of ricotta at a time. Mix on lowest speed. In this recipe, slow incorporation works better than adding everything at once and then ending up over-mixing the filling while trying to bring it to smooth consistency.
Baking - temperature control is the key to your good bake here. Bake this cheesecake at 150C (130C fan forced) for 60 minutes. You will have wobbly centre - about 3cm in the middle and internal temperature will reach 70-72C (slightly higher than in your regular cream cheese cheesecakes). When done baking, leave the door of the oven closed for 15 minutes for cheesecake to cool down slowly. Then, open ajar oven door and cool in the oven for another 15 minutes.
Cooling - when ready, remove cheesecake from the oven and run thin knife around the edges (this will prevent sticky edges from pulling the centre) and cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Refrigerate for 12 hours before serving. This cheesecake tastes best when chilled fully.
Storage - store refrigerated for up to 7 days.
You may also opt to try:
Ricotta Cheesecake Recipe
Yield: 16 servings
Time: 45 min prep + 60 min baking (+ cooling time)
Tin: 21 or 23cm round tin with removable base
(8-10cm tall, or use tin collar)
Wholemeal spelt crust:
90g wholemeal spelt flour
60g light brown sugar
1/3 tsp coarse sea salt
1/3 tsp ground cinnamon
75g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
150g all purpose (plain) flour
40g icing sugar
1/3 tsp coarse sea salt
100g unsalted butter, cold
1 egg yolk
250g cookies (digestive wholemeal, graham crackers, Oreo, gingersnaps)
40g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1kg Ricotta, room temperature
115g unsalted butter, room temperature
280g caster sugar
Zest from 2 lemons
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
6 large eggs (360g)
2 tsps vanilla bean paste
1/4 tsp sea salt
50g all-purpose flour (8-10g protein)
400g sour cream, straight from the fridge
1. Prepare ricotta: Leave ricotta cheese at room temperature (20-21C) for 3-5 hours. It will ooze quite a lot of juice - remove it before adding to the rest of ingredients. Alternatively, you can bring ricotta to room temperature (about 1 hr) and squeeze it using cotton/linen towel to remove the juice.
2. Preheat the oven to 150C (130C fan forced). Brush tin, bottom and sides, with butter, line the bottom with parchment paper. The tin should be 8-10 cm tall, otherwise - prepare tin collar.
A) Wholemeal spelt crust: Mix wholemeal spelt flour with light brown sugar, coarse sea salt, ground cinnamon. Add cooled melted butter and mix until crumbly texture forms. Transfer to the baking tin and using Tablespoon spread and even out to cover the bottom. Bake at 150C (130C) for 25-27 minutes. Cool down fully before filling with cream cheese.
B) Shortbread crust: Sift flour with icing sugar, mix in coarse sea salt. Grate cold butter into the mix and using finger tips and palms of your hands rub butter into flour mixture until crumbly meal forms. Add egg yolk and bring the dough together. Place pieces of the dough at the bottom of the tin and using Tablespoon even out the surface. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes, in that time preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan forced). Bake for 20 minutes. Cool down fully before filling with cream cheese.
C) Cookie crust: Process cookies into fine crumbs (if you are using Oreos - no need to remove the cream, process full cookie), mix in coarse sea salt, add melted and cooled butter and combine until crumbly texture forms. Transfer to the baking tin and using Tablespoon smooth out the surface. Refrigerate until ready to proceed.
4. Prepare zesty sugar: Mix sugar with lemon zest and ground cardamom. Using finger tips rub the mixture to release zesty flavour.
5. Ricotta filling: Place soft butter in your main mixing bowl. Beat (medium speed) for 1-2 minutes until creamy. Add half of zesty sugar and beat for 2-3 minutes until pale and creamy. Then, add the remaining part of sugar and beat for 2-3 minutes. Scrape sides of the bowl every so often to make sure the mixture is creaming evenly. Start adding eggs - one at a time (low-medium speed, scrape sides 2-3 times). When all eggs are incorporated add vanilla bean paste and salt - mix until combined. Then, add sifted flour in 2-3 turns, mix until incorporated. When done, start adding Ricotta - 1-2 Tbsp at a time (low-medium speed). At the end, add sour cream (all at once) and mix until combined. If you are using stand mixer, make sure there is no buttery residue at the bottom of the bowl. Pour mixture onto the baking tin.
6. Bake at 150C (130C fan forced) for 60 minutes. Then, switch off the oven and cool in closed oven for 15 minutes, after that time - open ajar oven door and cool for another 15 minutes. When done, remove from the oven and run thin knife around the edges.
7. Cooling and storage: Cool your ricotta cheesecake for 1 hour at room temperature and then refrigerate for 8-12 hours before serving. Store refrigerated (loosely covered) for up to 7 days.
Why cheesecakes crack? There are two main causes: over-beating (too much air) and over-baking (internal temperature is too high). Baking cheesecake low and slow is one of the options to avoid cracks. If you like creamy, dense and heavier cheesecakes - it’s the way to go (usually baked at 110-120C for 90min to 2hrs). Water bath is one of the options to keep moisture in tact - this will slightly reduce the risk of cracks (but if you over-bake it, the cheesecake will crack anyway). In this recipe, cheesecake is baked in a moderate oven (hello old cookery books!). It does not need water bath. What it does need is for you to know your oven - actual working temperature of your oven. Make sure that if you set it at 150C it actually works at 150C. The cheesecake, when baked, should have 2-3cm wide wobble in the centre. When measured with thermometer, the internal temp (measured in the middle) will reach 72C (slightly higher than cream cheese cheesecake, which registers at between 66-70C when done). You will cool this cheesecake gradually in closed oven, then open ajar oven door to cool further. Don’t forget to take it out after that time - otherwise you will end up with a crack in the middle (it will over-heat). If you follow timing and instructions you should bake lovely moon cheesecake with airy, moist and light crumb (even better if you have kitchen and oven thermometer, if you don’t - you should be grand too).
What to do if your cheesecake cracks? You forgot to take the cheesecake out of the oven (happened to me few times), your oven is a fiery beast and works at 30C higher than indicated (and you always wonder why you can’t bake proper fudge chocolate cakes or fudgy brownies), your oven blows air into one part of the oven rather than circulate it evenly… anyway - you have a cracked cheesecake. Whipped cream and fruit or whatever topping you wish is one option. However, one of my favourite options for minor cracks is sour cream or cream fraîche topping. Cool baked cheesecake for 30 minutes at room temperature then mix 300g sour cream or cream fraîche with 1 Tbsp sugar or vanilla sugar (to taste) until smooth and then pour on top of the cheesecake (starting from edges and evening out to the centre), smooth out and bake for 6 minutes at 150C (130C fan forced). It will form delicious, white baked layer on top of your cheesecake and will cover minor cracks.
Cheesecakes baked at higher temperature - Basque-style cheesecakes, soufflé cheesecakes or 'burnt', custardy and wobbly Turkish-style cheesecakes. All these cheesecakes use ratios (cream:cheese:eggs) and temperature control to deliver light crumb and creamy texture. You can see a sample recipe here - Rustic Cheesecake. That whole category is worth a separate post.