Classic cheesecake

Simple, elegant and delicious, this could be the only cheesecake recipe you'll ever need.

Vegetarian. Hands-on time: 15 mins. Total time: 55 mins (plus cooling).

Contributed by Janey Macleod (February 2010).

Classic cheesecake

Photo © Veg World

This is one of the simplest cheesecake recipes I know, and one that always gives splendid results. Unlike many lesser recipes, it doesn't rely on gelatin, and is therefore completely suitable for vegetarians (and is also free of the somewhat cloying texture that gelatin often brings with it).

The secret is to use good-quality full-fat cream cheese - not the skimpy half-fat or low-fat variety. Even better, combine cream cheese with an equal quantity of mascarpone. If you're worried about the fat content, you could use ricotta instead, or half ricotta and half cream cheese; the finished product won't be quite as rich, but will still have an excellent taste and texture.

For the base, I've specified crushed digestive biscuits. These are a semi-sweet cookie, well known in Britain but hard to find elsewhere. If you're in the US, graham crackers are the nearest equivalent. Either way, check the label to make sure they're free of animal fats.

The quantities given here will make a fairly substantial cake. If you prefer a smaller one, feel free to scale down the ingredients by one third.

Ingredients

Method

Oven: pre-heat to 300F (150C)

Start by lining the base of an oiled 9-inch (25 cm) loose-bottom cake tin with parchment paper.

Gently melt the butter or margarine and mix it with the crushed biscuits. Spread the mixture onto the base of the tin and press down firmly.

Holding back a teaspoon of the sugar and a quarter of the lemon juice, thoroughly mix the cream cheese with the remaining sugar and lemon juice. Add in the beaten eggs and stir well. The mixture should be completely smooth and free of lumps. Pour the mixture into the tin.

Bake in the middle of the oven until the cheese is just beginning to harden, which should take about 40 minutes. Then turn the oven off, but leave the cake in the oven, with the door open, until it's completely cold.

While the cheesecake is cooling, make the topping. To do so, mix the sour cream with the reserved sugar and lemon juice. When the cake is cold, remove it from the tin, then spread the sour cream mixture over the top.

Finally, refrigerate the cake for at least two hours before serving.

Note on quantities and temperatures:
Quantities are given in American (cups), imperial (oz, fl oz) and metric (g, ml) units. Do not mix the units - use one or other system throughout the recipe.
See also How much does a cup weigh?
oz = ounces, fl oz = fluid ounces, g = grams, ml = milliliters, tsp = teaspoons, tbsp = tablespoons.
Oven temperatures are given in degrees F (Fahrenheit) and C (Celsius).
For fan-assisted ovens, reduce the temperature by 20F or 10C.