There are many styles of cheesecake. I often go for a super dense, silky smooth, custardy cheesecake, but other times I want something a bit lighter with more of a soufflé texture. This cheesecake falls into that second camp.
There’s almost two pounds of cheese in this beauty, so to call it “light cheesecake” is a bit of a stretch, but the texture honestly is. The trick is to whip the egg whites and fold it into the batter. The cake is then baked in a dry oven, as opposed to a water bath, which means the cake soufflés as it bakes, creating a more open and airy texture. This cheesecake cracks like crazy and that’s just part of it’s rustic charm. I actually like that look, but I ended up topping it with whipped cream, so no one will be the wiser if you want something a bit more polished.
I added a layer of prunes to my light cheesecake that are cooked in Armagnac and oranges to add a bit of depth to the flavor (you could also use dried cherries or apricots) and topped it with toasted almonds for a bit of texture.
This cheesecake was inspired by one I saw in Sweet by Ottolenghi and Helen Goh (they layered their cake with figs and left the top unadorned)
How to Make Super Light Cheesecake
6 ounces (170 grams) graham crackers
3/4 cup (80 grams) walnut pieces
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup raw sugar (brown sugar will work too, but will not have the same crunch)
Prune Filling (optional, but delicious):
2 cups (340 grams) Prunes (dried plums)
2 oranges, supremed
1/4 cup Armagnac (brandy will do too)
Water to cover the prunes
1 1/4 pounds (570 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
12 ounces (340 grams) mascarpone
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (homemade)
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cups sliced almonds
To make the Prune filling:
Bring the prunes, supremed oranges, Armagnac, water and cinnamon stick to a simmer. Cook, covered until the prunes are soft. Uncover the pot and continue cooking until the liquid is cooked off. Allow to cool. Can be made several days ahead.
To prepare the crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F
Place all the graham crackers in a food processor and pulse until they are completely broken up, add the walnuts and sugar, pulse until the walnuts are fine. Add the butter and pulse until it is uniformly mixed in. Press the mixture into a 9-inch Springform Pan. Bake until toasty and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool.
Pour the prune filling into the baked crust.
To prepare the cheesecake:
Mix the cream cheese in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on low speed, until smooth. Add the mascarpone, sugar and zest, continue mixing until smooth. Wipe down the bowl and paddle with a rubber spatula. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix until combined.
In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites until medium stiff. See my video to see the proper way to whip them, so they are easy to incorporate. Fold the egg whites into the cheesecake batter.
Pour over the prune filling.
Bake for about 75 minutes or until puffed, browned and set in the middle. The edges will crack as it soufflés. Once it is set, turn off the oven, prop the door open with a wooded spoon and allow the cheesecake to cool slowly in the oven, about an hour. Remove from oven, run a knife around the edge of the pan, to make removing it easier once it is cooled. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
When ready to serve, whip the cream, toast the almonds and serve.