Light and Moist Baked Cheesecake

Several months ago, while discussing my Unbaked Cheesecake with Vanilla with Charles (5 Euro Food), I promised that one day I would write about my baked version too. First, I must confess I grew up hating baked cheesecakes. I found them heavy, dry and so filling that they almost felt as a second main course. To make matters worse, they often contained raisins (which for me spoil most soft cakes). I also hated the ubiquitous crust, which made the whole thing even heavier. I don’t even mention chocolate glazing or other awful additions such as candied orange zest.

My grandmother made the only cheesecake I loved. It was simple, light, extremely moist, without any crust or raisins and there was something I couldn’t identify, which made it simply addictive. One day, I realised the cake was slightly worse than usually. When asked what was the modification, my grandmother answered in a very natural way: “My doctor told me to stop using pork lard, so I greased the pan with butter instead”. Can you imagine my shock? I love pork, but I would never imagine it could improve a cheesecake’s flavours. In fact, she had been using generous amount of pork fat to grease the pan for years and no one suspected it. Even though I haven’t tested this method yet (but one day I certainly will), I have been trying to copy my grandmother’s recipe for many years and this cheesecake is as close as I have ever got to hers. I shouldn’t boast, but since my grandmother died, this is the only baked cheesecake I like. It is soft, moist, light and perfect for an afternoon tea on a rainy, Autumn day.

The preparation is very easy, but the particular consistency and taste are impossible to obtain without the crucial ingredient, namely curd cheese. Sometimes called cottage cheese (meaning the non-industrial natural version, not the one with huge artificial grains) or farmer’s/farm cheese, it has a grainy texture, somewhere between ricotta and feta and is very easily obtained by souring milk and discarding the whey. Curd cheese is widely used for example in Poland (biały ser, twaróg), Russia (творог) or Hungary (turó) and used in both sweet and savoury dishes. It has a slightly tart, vibrant taste, which has nothing to do with the rather bland, heavy and cream cheese (also very fat in comparison).  When crushed with a fork, curd cheese looks like this:

I am conscious many of you might have problems with getting this important ingredient. I buy it in a Russian shop here, but Polish grocers always carry it (luckily the world is full of Polish immigrants). If you cannot get it, write to me and I’ll explain how you can make (very easily) your own curd cheese. /Update: if you find only quark (very smooth, mixed fresh cheese), you can use it instead, but add 1 tablespoon semolina and 1 tablespoon starch/ If you hate heavy, high-calorie, bland cheesecakes, trying this light, fluffy and moist version will completely change your view of this international dessert.

Other recipes I have posted which call for curd cheese:

-Potato and Curd Cheese Dumplings

-Pear and Curd/Cottage Cheese Pie

-Curd or Cottage Cheese with Chives

Preparation: 1h

Ingredients (for a 20 x 20 cm baking dish):

400 g curd cheese (do not use the light one; it should have at least 15% fat)

4 big eggs

4 flat tablespoons semolina

2 tablespoons potato starch or cornstarch

8 flat tablespoons white sugar (add 5 tablespoons if you like very sweet cakes)

50 g butter

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Melt the butter.

Put the cheese in a food processor and mix until smooth.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix once more.

Line a pan with baking paper and bake until it’s golden.

Let the cake cool down and then put into the fridge (wrapped in cling film) for a couple of hours.

It taste improves after it’s chilled.

42 Replies to “Light and Moist Baked Cheesecake”

  1. Pork fat! That’s incredible and yet still I’m salivating. I love how light this looks. I normally use ricotta, but hardly ever make cheesecake.

  2. I’ve rarely eaten baked cheesecake. Usually not very interesting but this recipe is something I will try for sure soon. Too many things from you to try now – making your herring/beet salad on Sunday. Maybe cheesecake next week.

    Pork lard vs butter, which is better? Doctors before would say butter but now some may say lard. I didn’t realise it would make such a huge difference in taste.

    Now the tricky bit – what is curd cheese. The tvorog I bought in Russia had relatively low fat content, like quark (tvorog and quark is the smae I think). It seems curd cheese is slightly different if the fat % can be 15%, or higher. When I try the recipe I think I will use tvorog or cottage cheese.

    1. Thank you, Mr. Three-Cookies. I am so proud that you, the herring specialist, want to make my herring salad! And even the cheesecake! I am really flattered.
      I didn’t mention quark because in Switzerland quark is a very smooth cheese looking like a thick yogurt… I use it to make unbaked cheesecake. The fresh cheese names are really confusing. Do use the Russian tvarog (творог), it is THE curd cheese and it’s perfect! I often buy it in the Russian food department of my “ethnic” shop. You should avoid the 0% or 9% one (the cake risks to be acid, but otherwise the consistency is ok), but the 15% fat is already great. The best results are obtained with 30% fat cheese though. If you use cottage cheese, check if it’s natural (if it has huge 2 mm grains and if there is “cream” in the ingredients list it means it is rather industrially manipulated, it exists here for example and I have never seen a natural cheese names “cottage cheese”; I have heard curd cheese is sometimes called cottage cheese in certain countries…). Good luck with the salad! I am very impatient to see if you like it. And good luck with the cheesecake, I hope you enjoy it.

    1. Jeno, I don’t know if you remember, but I also have small problems with lactose, however strangely this cheesecake doesn’t make me feel bad (I have problems with milk-based desserts though).

  3. Raisins? Yuck. I’ve never encountered them in cheesecake, luckily. Love the pork lard story! Aren’t Grandmother’s the best? Your curd cheese is definitely different looking (much better looking) than what we call curd cheese here. I wonder if quark – the fresh cheese you spoke about in your prior cheesecake recipe would work as a substitute here or whether it’s best to leave quark unbaked. I’m the same as you when it comes to cheesecake Sissi – it takes a lot to move me. This version looks delicious (and now I can’t stop thinking about your wonderful grandma… 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. Frankly, as a person used to a slightly tart, “dynamic” cheesecakes made by my grandmother, I have never taken to the North-American style ones, with cream cheese. Cream cheese has always seemed too “creamy” in comparison and too fat.
      Actually I should maybe update this post because you can use the smooth quark instead, although in this case I would put a bit more starch (potato or corn) and semolina to keep the cake together. I did it with quark until I discovered a nearby shop carried Polish and Russian curd cheese. Let me know if you try it!

  4. Cheese cake is something special. I don’t mind making different versions from very light and fluffy to the concrete like New York style, baked – unbaked: I love them. I don’t know what kind of curd cheese is sold in swiss but I get best results for a moist and glossy, light baked cheese cake with 40% curd cheese mixed with greek yoghurt (500 g curd cheese, 125 g Yoghurt). If you like a more “king of curd cheese” cheese cake the austrian curd cheese called Schichtkäse is the best. It contains different kinds of curd cheese like cottage cheese, low fat, whole fat curd cheese in layers. You can do many different things with one basic recipe. Sometimes I like to put something in as acid cherries, or apples, or apples and walnuts, satsumas, apricots – the amount of starch differs due to the juicyness of fruits and such. You may also adjust flavours with Amaretto, coffee, lime, creme de cacao, cocoa – always a different cake. But enough with cheese cake. I am on diet.

    1. Kiki, in Swiss shops only the very smooth mixed fresh cheese version is available (they call it quark in the German-speaking part), very close to thick yoghurt. I use it when I make unbaked cheesecakes and fruit mousses. The curd cheese I buy is produced in Poland or Russia and imported by small “multi-ethnic” shop (the funny part is that the cheese is imported first to Germany and then from Germany to Switzerland because there is always a German importer’s name on the package). Since I always pay attention to what I eat, I almost always make it with 15% curd cheese and half-artificial sugar half-normal, or recently half-stevia half-sugar…
      Thanks for the fruit suggestions. I like especially the cherry idea. I will make it next time with frozen sour cherries (fresh ones don’t exist here, I even wanted to go and bring a whole big crate from Germany this year…). My cheesecake is quite light if I use 15% fat cheese and just a bit of sugar…

  5. i love that it came from your grandmother’s old recipes! this reminds me of japanese cotton cheesecakes, they are baked but somehow taste very light and moist and fluffy, in fact lighter than those unbaked sorts. yours look just like that, and i bet it’s delicious! haha i wonder how it will taste with the lard…I really like the sound of that! maybe lard will come back into fashion again now that it’s known that sat fat is good for you!

    1. Thank you, Shuhan. I have never had the Japanese cotton cheesecake. I must find a recipe and try it. I will certainly try lard one day and if the result is like my grandmother’s, then I’ll post it. Luckily “margarine years” are over…

  6. We call unbaked cheese cake “rare” cheesecake… I think. I always prefer rare cheese cake, and when I talked about “rare” cheesecake here, people didn’t understand it. I thought that’s a universal name. I just learned from you that people call it unbaked cheesecake. lol. Looks delicious Sissi. Sorry I won’t probably make this kind of fancy cake (or even “basic” cake) for another…hmmm few years… Cake is the same level as bread in terms of cooking to me… who knows I might be making this next year. Just kidding! 😉

    1. Thank you, Nami. I have already seen a rare cheesecake on Hiroyuki’s blog and strangely it was made with eggs if I remember (my unbaked cheesecake is without eggs). Don’t be falsely modest! You have already baked several delicious looking desserts and I’m sure you are able to bake whatever you want (this cheesecake is particularly easy).

  7. I’ve only just started liking baked cheesecakes (some) after a very light version from a restaurant a few months ago. Raisins in cheesecakes doesn’t sound too good to me altho fresh grapes goes very well with cheese. Lard, eh? That ingredient really does a lot of difference especially with pastries .. who’d have thought.

    1. Ping, it’s true, I have just thought about all the traditional British pies made with lard, but at the time my grandmother told me this I didn’t know anything about British traditional pastry 😉

    1. Thank you, Helene. I like unbaked cheesecakes, but without any jelly (they are often made with jelly on top).

  8. Ah, Sissi – it’s so lovely to see your baked cheesecake. To be honest, I haven’t had so many baked cheesecakes in my life (if ever actually)… it looks a bit like a french “flan”? Is it anything like that? How interesting that your grandmother was using pork lard which made the flavour so good – you know, I was talking to a friend recently about something else and she also was telling me how her grandmother had been using pork fat for something and it was making the flavour incredible and like you, she was SO surprised when she found out 🙂

    You know, I’m really happy because I found, finally, a place selling quark so now I can try these things out 😀

    By the way, does this type of cheesecake (baked) never have a biscuit base? I thought maybe I’d seen some before which had a biscuit base AND were baked too, so I think I’m getting confused by the world’s many cheesecakes 😀

    1. Thank you so much, Charles. Flan is usually much softer, I think, like a dense crème brûlée… (I am not a big fan of flan actually). This is more like… I have no idea what I should compare it to, maybe closer to a far breton? (In texture at least). It’s simply lighter and fluffier than a popular American-style cheesecake.
      It has very often a crunchy base, something like a thicker “pâte sablée”, but I never liked this combination since after several hours the base becomes less crunchy under the moist cheesecake and only adds heaviness. On the other hand maybe I have never tasted a good cheesecake base?

    1. Thank you! I also don’t have a very sweet tooth, which doesn’t mean I don’t like desserts. I simply put much less sugar and most of the time I don’t take desserts in restaurants (usually too sweet).

  9. My favorite dessert is cheesecake! Add chocolate to it and I’m on my knees.
    Love your low-calorie version. I have a hard time eating something lard, my family always bakes desserts with lard specially around Christmas. Never though is can add flavor to cheesecake.

    1. Thank you, Roxana. This is an almost guiltless dessert for me, especially when I use stevia instead of sugar.

  10. haha chinese use a lot of pork lard in cooking too, dishes do taste better with pieces of fried pork fat 🙂
    I love light japanese cheesecake, but i try to take too much cheese.. in my dictionary, cheese is fattening haha
    The curd cheese reminds me of Indian paneer. it’s quite easy to make at home, add vinegar or lemon juice to boiling milk and the milk will curdle into curd. drain into a muslin cloth for a few hours to get the dried curd.

    1. I think curd cheese is not fattening. (Unless you buy a very fat version, I usually buy 15% fat). On the contrary, I have always read that it stops you from being hungry (and I think it’s true!). Of course other types of cheese (ripening) are fattening.
      Paneer process sounds similar, but when I tasted it once it wasn’t exactly like curd cheese. Somehow it was smoother.

  11. Hey Sissi!
    Were you reading my mind when you wrote the first paragraph? Chocolate glaze, candied peel and raisins were 3 things I used to scrape off/ pick out of my cousin’s delicious moist baked cheesecake… Every time I go back to Poland I ask her to make some, or I head to one of my favourite patisseries (cukiernia) and get a couple of Cracow cheesecake. YUUUUM. Will make your version for sure.

    PS In Australia, twarog is called farm cheese and is a bit hard to come by. Eastern European delis sell it though.
    PPS Love that you have also made lazy dumplings 🙂

    1. Martyna, thank you so much for such a kind comment! I am really happy you approve of my recipe. I hope you test it one day and tell me what you think (I’m not sure if the lightness of this cheesecake suits everyone).
      It’s funny because when my cousin saw this photo she said she hates cheesecake, but would love to taste my cake which according to her doesn’t look like cheesecake at all (too light 😉 ) This was the ultimate compliment for me!
      Thank you for the Australian term, I will update the post (apparently the name is different in different English speaking countries too).
      Now that you have written lazy dumplings, I want to make them! They are the absolute number one on my comfort food list.

  12. I like this Sissi! I am going to give this one a try in a couple of weeks. I will have to make turo [hungarian curd cheese] first. Thank you for putting the picture of the curd cheese product you were using. This is really helpful. I cannot get anything like that here. Moist and light cheesecake – ooooh that really appeals to me! I am not a fan of New York style cheesecakes. I find them way too heavy.

    1. Thank you, Zsuzsa! I hate heavy cheesecakes (as I wrote in my post the only one I never refused was my grandmother’s: moist and light, without any crust or chocolate or raisins), so if you make some turo, I hope you will enjoy this one.

  13. Beautiful!
    Now did you know that cheese cakes originated in Greece!
    The interesting thing is that the Japanese have made it their specialty.
    In Vancouver, Canada, all Japanese izakayas serve it to the point the Canadians believe it is a Japanese invention!

    1. Thank you, Robert-Gilles. Yes, I have read about Greece, but had no idea about Japan. You know, in Poland there is not a single cake shop or café not serving cold or baked cheesecakes and Poles are convinced it’s a Polish specialty. (Of course they didn’t copy it from Japan or US…). I think it was developed in many countries.

  14. Thanks for the link Sissi; come to think of it, my Mom only used quark or cottage cheese from the Hungarian deli for her cheesecakes! Thanks for the reminder, I’m going to try it.
    Come to think of it, I did make an Easter Pie using fresh cheese a couple of years ago that was lovely.

    1. Hi, Eva. I see it’s nothing new to you! For me nothing equals a cheesecake made with real fresh cheese…

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