Baked Vanilla Cheesecake

My very first job after graduation was at the Lanzerac Hotel in Stellenbosch.  I was employed in the pastry department of the main hotel.  I can say with the absolute certainty of a girl who has eaten her way through many a dessert that this appointment single handedly produced some grievous changes to my young figure (a most kind and generous description).

I learnt a huge amount in that first year; not only about baking, kneading and how to produce a fridge full of baked goods to meet an immovable deadline, but also the sheer tragedy of having to wake up long before dawn in the dead of Cape winter to make my 5 am baking shift.  The only other people in the kitchen at that ridiculous hour were the twenty four hour room service lackeys, who to be honest were hardly company to look forward to.
This recipe for my baked vanilla cheesecake, which, if you omitted the vanilla and added the zest of a single lemon, could also quite possibly be my baked lemon cheesecake, almost always takes me back to my days at the Lanzerac Hotel.  

At the time of my tenure the kitchen was run by a female executive chef.  What I remember about this chef in particular is not her name, although I would hazard a guess at it beginning with the letter M, not her ability in the kitchen because I can recall that she was so very seldom in it, but what I do remember of her with spine chilling clarity is the week of the wretched cheesecake.

Chef M (no reason not to go with that I guess) was writing a new menu and had her heart set on it including a baked cheesecake, soft and smooth with the lightness of a fridge tart just like her grandma used to make. 

Apparently, we could not just go and ask said grandma for hers and I was instead set the challenge of finding such a recipe.  I went about doing just that using good old fashioned trial and error; the way we used to do things before Google and glamorous food photography.  

Some twenty to twenty five cheesecake recipes later, I managed to produce a cheesecake which pleased a fussy chef and was deemed worthy enough to be added onto the menu.  

And this is that recipe.

I cannot really recall what Chef M said to me that day, but I do remember feeling quite marvelous for it indeed.  In fact, I unashamedly nurtured the hard earned feeling of delight in this accomplishment, after what had been a very tiring and criticism laden week. 

On our trip away, an excruciating experience reminded me again that although we may not remember the words, we will always remember how they made us feel.  I recognised the importance of choosing and delivering words wisely.  Even those words which are meant for good but by definition sound quite harsh, might be spoken in a manner that allows them to land with a softness or even a certain gentleness, not unlike the touch of this cheesecake on your tongue.

What you need
150g tennis biscuits, crushed
50 g sugar
50 g butter, melted
1.250 kg smooth cream cheese (5 tubs)
350 g caster sugar
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
20 g flour
1 vanilla pod

1.       Mix together the biscuit crumbs and the sugar.2.       Mix in the butter until well blended.

3.       Press this mixture into a well-greased baking tin.

4.       Spoon all the cream cheese into the bowl of your electric mixer.

5.       Using the mixer on a medium setting, slowly add the sugar about a quarter cup at a time, beating continuously until smooth. 

6.       Turning down the speed to avoid splashing, add the whole eggs and the egg yolks one at a time.

7.       Beat in the flour.

8.       Slice the vanilla pod and use the back of a teaspoon or a small knife to scrape out the seeds and stir these into the mixture.

9.       Fill the cake tin with the mixture.

10.   Bake in a preheated oven at 120˚C for 10 minutes.

11.   Reduce the heat to 100˚C for a further 1 hour.

12.   Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.  The cake should feel set towards the outside of the pan but should still appear a little wobbly in the very center.  That is just how you want it.

13.   Refrigerate overnight.

14.   Remove from the tin and for easy slicing use a knife warmed in hot water.

Friends, I have so much to share with you about our big adventure, and I am resolute in my decision to bore you with many, many stories and drool worthy photographs, which I will, of course, deliver in small increments to prolong the torture. 
That will happen as soon as I persuade Photogirl to do my editing.
Only thing for it is to keep checking in.



8 Comments on Baked Vanilla Cheesecake

  1. Jeanne
    May 21, 2013 at 7:16 pm (7 years ago)

    A beautiful post Sam – you write with a gentleness that I love. I am sorry about the incident – it was indeed excruciating… Hope the rest of the trip was truly fab (and by virtue of this post appearing, I am assuming that you did not get so lost in Paris that you could not get home!!)

    • Sam Taylor
      May 22, 2013 at 8:28 am (7 years ago)

      Thank you Jeanne. You will be delighted / amazed to hear that my sense of direction comes into its own in a strange country where I don’t speak the language and I did not suffer any embarrassing disorientation whilst there, although I am not entirely sure that Kate believes me xx

  2. Jeanne
    May 24, 2013 at 6:04 pm (7 years ago)

    Hahaha – same as mine! When hubby drives somewhere I will take in not a single landmark and will be unable to find my way home because I don’t have to concentrate. But alone in a foreign country I can find my way from anywhere to anywhere. I think it’s called Big Match Temperament ;o)

  3. @nn@
    August 12, 2013 at 3:36 pm (6 years ago)

    mmmm… buono! quali sono le dimensioni della teglia?

    • Sam Taylor
      August 12, 2013 at 3:52 pm (6 years ago)

      Hi Anna – I needed to get my Italian friend to help me with that 🙂 but the cake tin I used is a 21cm diameter round tin and its about 6cm deep.

  4. @nn@
    August 12, 2013 at 4:24 pm (6 years ago)

    grazie della risposta veloce e precisa! (io ho usato “google traslator” 😉 )

  5. @nn@
    August 13, 2013 at 9:30 am (6 years ago)

    ciao Sam! (metto alla prova la pazienza del tuo amico italiano;) )
    Ho visto che in molte ricette del Sudafrica si usano i “tennis biscuit” che tu usi per questa cheesecake, ma non sono riuscita a trovare nessuna ricetta per farli in casa. Ho letto che tra gli ingredienti hanno la noce di cocco ed il golden syrup, che non avrei difficoltà a trovare, tu sapresti spiegarmi come fare questi biscotti?

    a presto, Anna

    • Sam Taylor
      August 13, 2013 at 4:49 pm (6 years ago)

      Hi Anna, now I am using Google translate too! Tennis biscuits are coconut biscuits that we buy in the supermarket. We simply crush them to make a biscuit base. Do you get Maria cookies? They are similar or it would be great with ginger biscuits too, or perhaps a vanilla sponge base? I will look to see if I can find a recipe for you, and will get back to you. Sam


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