I’m not sure anyone would describe me as a perfectionist? My house is neat enough, but it is clearly lived in. I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who irons my sheets, my table clothes or even my clothes, but so far it’s just a fantasy. The only place I admit to being really obsessive is my work. I’ve been known to make a recipe over and over and over, until I am happy. It also has to pass the test of the François family, which can often feel like an episode of Chopped. They are neither shy, nor sparing with their criticism (and praise), but it seems they enjoy the criticism even more and I’ve come to trust and rely on their opinions. So, when I cut into the first round of this cheesecake, they didn’t hesitate to tell me it was “WAY TOO SWEET!” None of us are a big fans of cloyingly, teeth-on-edge, sweets. We prefer to taste the vanilla, the berries and even a touch of sour cream in cheesecake. After a bit of adjusting and a lot of testing, I’ve got it “Just right!”
Red (raspberry), white (vanilla bean) and blue (blueberry) layers of distinct flavors, all work beautifully together in this 4th of July Cheesecake. The fresh blueberry topping is held together with just enough gelatin to give it a gorgeous, glossy look and makes it easy to cut. In order to achieve the clean layers you’ll need to have some time to let each one set, so it isn’t a recipe for a last minute dinner party. It’s super easy and completely worth the extra time to present such a fun dessert at your holiday party.
Raspberry, Vanilla and Blueberry Cheesecake
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 9 crackers)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons lemon juice
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup raspberry preserves
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup blueberry preserves
1 drop each blue and red food coloring, if you want to boost the color of your stripes
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon gelatin
1/2 cup simple syrup (boil 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water until sugar dissolves)
1/2 cup blueberry preserves
To make the crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F Line an 8-inch springform pan or cake pan with parchment.
In a food processor combine the graham crackers, butter, sugar, cinnamon and salt, until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan, and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, or just until it starts to turn golden brown. Cool the crust completely, then freeze the crust.
To make the cheesecake batter: Cream together the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, and corn starch, until very smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Pour the red layer over the frozen crust and return to the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until the batter is slightly firm to the touch. While this layer is chilling, also place the other bowls of batter in the freezer to set them up as well.
Once the red layer feels thick, but not frozen solid, very carefully pour the white batter over the red, do this very slowly, in small amounts, so that it doesn’t break the surface of the red layer. Freeze the pan again for about 20 minutes. Check to make sure the blue batter isn’t getting too set up in the freezer, if it is, move it to the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Add the blue layer in the same careful way. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Place in the oven, then pour hot water in the baking sheet, which will help the cake bake evenly. (If you are using the springform pan, you will need to cover the bottom of the springform pan with foil, to prevent any water from seeping in)
Bake for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until set in the middle.
When the cake is set in the middle, remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours.
Run a hot knife blade around the edge before removing the cake from the pan. If you are using a regular cake pan, you will need to heat the bottom quickly over the stove, then cover the top with plastic, invert onto a plate, and finally transfer to the serving platter. Refrigerate the cake while you make the topping.
In a small bowl add the gelatin to the cold water, stir to combine and allow to bloom for several minutes. Once the water has absorbed all the gelatin, add it to the hot simple syrup. If you made the simple syrup ahead, heat it. Add the blueberry preserves and transfer to a clean bowl to cool.
Once the glaze has come to room temperature, it will thicken, but still be pourable.
Place the blueberries on top of the cake.
Pour the thickened glaze over the berries.
It will run down the sides, which I think is quite pretty. Refrigerate until the glaze is set up a bit.
If you prefer clean sides, use a hot metal spatula to scrape the excess off the sides, this is very easy to do.
Use a hot blade to cut the cake to keep the stripes distinct.
p.s. My husband set up the ironing board in our room last night to iron his work shirts. Dare I use it? To be continued…