Updated: Feb 4
Strawberry season is my absolute favorite season in Germany. It starts around late April and goes until the end of June. We buy our strawberries from local farmers that sell them on the side of the road. How quaint and 'old school' is that? To end this strawberry season, I made a creamy New York style cheesecake topped with a fresh strawberry filling and completed with a homemade mascarpone whipped cream. The vanilla cookie crust can also be gluten free!
The active work time for this cheesecake is only about 30 minutes. It is an easy recipe for any beginner baker. However, you do have to plan ahead. Make sure you make this cheesecake either the day before or early in the morning because the cheesecake has to chill in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours before serving.
Tip: You can make the cheesecake and the strawberry filling (keep it seperate 1-2 days ahead of time.) BUT, only do the whipped cream on the day of serving. Whipped cream can only stay stable for about 24-36 hours before it starts to break down.
What I love about this recipe is that you can change it up for whatever type of flavor combo you want in your cheesecake. Want to add chocolate chips? Great! Just add them into your filling and take out the lemon zest. Want to use fresh cherries instead of strawberries or blueberries. No problem. Only use the lemon zest if you are making a fruit topped cheesecake. The lemon zest really helps to make this cheesecake a tad lighter by breaking up the sweetness with its acidity. Who wants a heavy weighed down cheesecake in the summer?
Can we just talk about this whipped cream for a minute? I LOVE homemade whipped cream and it takes about 5 minutes of actual work. The mascarpone also adds a creamy texture making your whipped cream even more luscious. You can use this whipped cream on anything! I used it on my tiramisu and... basically any cake that I make that doesn't have buttercream. Any extra can be used for a sundae or for piping directly into your kids' mouths. When my kids see me making this whipped cream they stand there like little birds with their mouths open wide and these massive grins on their faces. They know what's good!
This cheesecake is pretty straight forward, but I do have a few tips and tricks to help you achieve a super creamy, sweet with just the right amount of tartness for the perfect summer strawberry cheesecake.
The Crust: I love making crusts for cheesecake, because the effort is incredibly minimal. Place your cookies in a food processor or just put them in a resealable plastic bag (ziplock) and use the back of a frying pan to smash them to smithereens... aka... super small cookie crumbs. Below you can see the brand of butter cookies that I used. These cookies aren't that great all on their own, but I am also not a huge fan of butter cookies. However, they are perfect for cheesecake crusts and if you are in a pinch, great for S'mores when you can't get gluten free graham crackers.
In the last picture you can see how I tightly pressed the cookies to the bottom of my pan and up along the sides. It is hard to see from the angle but the cookies are pressed up the sides, about 2 inches high.
I like to pre-bake my crust to ensure that I will NOT have a soggy bottom in my cheesecake. You want a nice firm crust for support. I bake it at 350 degrees F (175C) for about 6-7 minutes. Take it out to cool for about 10 minutes and that's it. Then I can add my filling.
The Filling: This filing is so easy, it only uses a handful of ingredients. Most importantly, you must use high quality cream cheese. I prefer Philadelphia. Most recipes will say that you have to use room temperature cream cheese, but this cream cheese (not the ones in the blocks) are fairly soft directly out of the refrigerator. I just use it cold and have never had any issues.
Make sure when you read the recipe you check the measurements. If you are in Germany, where everything is with grams, 8 ounces is 226 grams. A standard container of German cream cheese only has 175 grams, so make sure you have enough containers.
Then it is time to bake. I will say that I don't use a water bath. I have found that my cheesecakes are so amazingly creamy and truth be told, I am afraid to use a water bath. I'm sure it would work but I am terrified that the water will seep into my cheesecake. I'm sure I will try it at some point, but right now I couldn't be happier with the look and taste of this cheesecake.
Make sure your oven temperature comes down to 300 degrees F (150C) before putting your cheesecake in the oven. It needs to bake for 60 minutes. Then after the 60 minutes your cheesecake will still be slightly jiggly in the middle. This is good. Then turn off your oven but leave the cheesecake inside. Just crack open the oven door. We are letting the cheesecake come to room temperature slowly. Doing this will help prevent cracks and help prevent your cheesecake from sinking.
Tip: to prevent sinking, and this goes for normal cakes as well, always add your ROOM TEMPERATURE eggs in one at a time and mix slowly (or on the lowest setting if using a stand mixer). Also, don't over mix. You only want to mix enough to combine. Over beating your eggs can increase the risk of a sinking cake as well as make your cake too dense.
Ok everyone, I did have 1 minor crack. But, we are covering it up with this delicious fresh strawberry filling. What we can't see, never happened, right???
The Strawberry Filling: This filing is incredible and versatile. You can sub out strawberries for other fruits AND you can use this filling to go in between cake layers. It's easier than making a coulis and there is no straining necessary.
Fresh local strawberries, amazing! There is absolutely no filter or editing done to this photo. Just pure strawberry goodness.
We add our strawberries, sugar and water to a saucepan. If your strawberries are not as ripe and naturally sweet as these, then you might want to increase your sugar a bit. Try adding just 1/4 cup more if you feel like your strawberries are overly tart. We bring it to a boil and then let it simmer. I gave it a few stirs with my wooden spoon every now and then.
After the simmering and adding your cornstarch/water mixture, your strawberry filling will become thicker and more syrup like.
Let this cool out on the counter top and then transfer it to a bowl. Keep the bowl in the refrigerator for about 1-2 hours before using it to top your cheesecake. This chilling time will also help the strawberry mixture to thicken enough so that it doesn't spill over your cheesecake.
I just used my spatula to gently spread the strawberry filling on top of my cheesecake, making sure to keep it about 1/4 inch away from the border. I didn't want the filling slipping down my cake. Then I place it in the refrigerator to continue chilling.
The Mascarpone Whipped Cream: Make sure you chill your bowl and whisk before making this whipped cream. This will help you to achieve firm peaks. Below are some of the ingredients that I use to make this whipped cream. I only left out the powdered sugar and the vanilla extract in the picture but don't worry, I definitely used them in my recipe. Heavy whipping cream in Germany can be called Schlagrahm or Schlagsahne. Just make sure you see the word Schlag (which means to beat) somewhere in the name. You also want a fat percentile of at least 30%. I also always use Sahnesteif, which come in these little packets. I use one packet per 250 grams (1 cup) of heavy whipping cream. It is flavorless and acts as a stabilizer so that your whipped cream doesn't fall apart after you pipe it. Sahnesteif will also help keep your whipped cream stable for longer, so if you must make this cheesecake with the whipped cream the day before, I highly recommend using it! If you are in America you can use cream of tartar.
The brand of mascarpone is just one brand that I use. I have seen a few brands here in Germany and honestly I cannot taste the difference. They are all great.
Once your whipped cream is ready, you can pipe it along the border any way that you want. Make small swirls or roses with an open star tip or just do dollops with a Wilton 1A (large open circle) tip. They all look amazing.
This cake was just perfection. I brought it over to a friend's house where we had a spontaneous bbq party. Spontaneous in that I didn't know about the party until the night before. The next morning at 7:45am, I ran to the grocery store to buy more cream cheese and get started on this cheesecake. I had it bake and cool while I taught, and then I could let it chill during the day.
This cheesecake was the perfect slice of heaven. Not too sweet and the strawberry flavor popped!
No one could even tell that it was gluten free. All my German friends kept raving about how silky smooth the filling was and that the freshness of the strawberries were the clear heros.
Then we all had slight tears in our eyes at the thought of strawberry season coming to a close.
But that's ok, because cherry season has just arrived! I really love fresh local fruit if you haven't noticed. One of the many joys of German life.